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Jan
8
2014

The changing face of CC - Basic Layout -- by Jon Bjarnason

There has been some discussion lately about how dated CC has become since the look-and-feel of the site hasn't much in the last ten years or so. I will make it my new-years resolution to slap on a new coat of paint and make some visual adjustments.

I will write a few short blogs over the next few weeks where I outline some of the changes that I want to make in the Year 2014 with regards to the look-and-feel of our beloved writing website. Many of our members have (rightly so) strong opinions on how CC should look like so I decided to involve you guys and to crowd-source some of the decision making a bit. :-)

These are not laid out in a priority order, or in the order in which they will be implemented. Also keep in mind that while I want to do all this stuff I cannot promise when it will happen, how it will happen, in what order it will happen or indeed if it will happen. :o)

Alrighty, on to the topic for today!

Better support for mobile platforms

One of the big things that I need to work on is to make CC better on mobile. We have a lot of people using CC on tablet and their phones and now that I've finally bought myself an ipad (which is the most wonderful thing in the world by the way) I have a platform to test this out.

There is a lot of stuff I can do so that critting and working the forums from a tablet can be better. It's not bad at all right now mind you, but it could be better using some new spiffy reactive css tricks.

For example I need to make hover-links work with click-interfaces (which don't have the concept of hover), Also, I need to make it easier to read stories and crit so that you don't need to fiddle around with zoom levels and stuff when reading; I'm looking at the kindle app on the iPad to draw inspiration from.

With a whopping 20% of our visits on tablet and mobile, I will need to support these platforms better. It should be awesome to crit stories on the iPad.

Vertical layout

The main menu is on the right side of the page and most websites have moved to having the menu at the top instead. This makes a lot of sense for mobile platforms and is becoming the way people expect websites to behave.

I'm also reducing the number of top-level items in the menu. I will probably end up with something like four big categories which will then contain all the rest of the pages. This will help remove clutter and should appeal to new members. I will need to try to reorganize the content so that this will make sense to new people while not making navigation harder (e.g. more clicks) for the veterans.

The new vertical layout will also be slimmer so the main content of each page has more space to work with. Hopefully this new layout will also be a bit lighter meaning you will have slightly reduced load times, since I will be refactoring some of the logic to make it more... logical.

This new layouting scheme should go down well with new users and make the site a bit easier to navigate for those that are not used to CC.

So that you can get an idea of what I'm talking about here, we will be turning this:

into something like this:

It won't be exactly like this mind you, but you get the idea. The menu stuff is all above the content area and clicking on the handful of top-level menu items will reveal a menu with the relevant subpages.

Fixed-width layout

CC used to use all the horizontal space on your screen which was fine when 800x600 was the norm but since then resolutions have gotten higher and I made the content fixed-width a couple of years ago, while the menu was to the far-left and we have an ad to the far-right.

This doesn´t look so good on high-resolution monitors and makes layouting rather difficult between different devices. Since I'm moving the menu to the top I'm also thinking of having the layout fixed width, possibly with the right-hand ad outside of the main container. I might also experiment with horizontal ad banners inside the content area.

This won't be a big usability change but hopefully the site will look a bit nicer.

The dark side of change

Change can be difficult, especially when you have grown accustomed to a certain way of doing things for many-a-year. I've used CC for ten years myself and radically changing the layout scares me a bit. Going from menu-on-the-left to menu-on-the-top won't be a big programming change but it might be a difficult transition.

I also bet some people are cursing me right now saying something like "I only use CC on my computer, why do I have to suffer for the tablet users???", to which I respond that the online world is changing fast and CC needs to catch up or be left behind. I will need to support mobile users and hopefully I will manage to make the desktop experience a bit better at the same time.

Not to worry though, if you are passionate about CC's layout you will have your voice and I would urge you to add your thoughts to the comment section on this blog so that I can digest it.

Next episode

Be sure to tune in next week when I will be discussing the heart of CC; the story view and the critique process.

Posted by Jon Bjarnason 8 Jan 2014 at 01:08
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