Dear Front Pagers

We are doing a lot of stuff with the current categories. Don’t create any new ones. Pretty please.








Balloon Juice Site Rebuild – Thursday Update

Hey, everyone. Anybody interested in an update on the site rebuild?  Lots of site rebuild news to share, and all good, I think!

First, some fun facts from Google Analytics:

– 87% of the Balloon Juice traffic starts at the home page. Good thing I didn’t bet on that; I would have lost my house.

– 70% of the traffic is direct to the site; 15% comes from Google.

– 54% of users are on desktops, about one-third are on mobile, 14% are on tablets.

Before moving on to more interesting news… You guys have my sincere apologies for my not doing my google analytics homework in advance; if I had, the Monday night worries most certainly could have been avoided.

Those of you who were here for the Monday night thread will know that by bedtime on Monday we had kicked front page options #1-5 to the curb. Today I can confirm that the decision to go with full posts on the front page has been finalized, and we have the full support of the developers on that. As the saying goes, if the 87% ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

More news. The kickoff meeting was on Friday, May 3, the mockup phase began just a week ago on Monday, May 6, and the mockup phase ended just 8 days later on Tuesday, May 14. And the development phase started first thing on Wednesday morning!

This is the most competent, professional and personable team I have ever worked with on a website development project. Every one of them is sharp as a tack, and they totally rolled with the punches when I wrote to them on Friday night. Many of us are old enough to remember when Sally Field won an academy award, and she swooned in her speech: “You like me, you really like me!” Well, this was kind of the anti-Sally-Field email. “They hate it, they really HATE it!” (meaning the Front Page mockup) We were really happy that most of you really liked the Individual Thread mockups, so no take-backs on that, please!

I’ll be putting up a thread at some point over the weekend, asking for testers. We are looking for folks who have time to do some serious testing: pressing every button, clicking every link, trying the same things on multiple devices, operating systems or multiple browsers. So think about whether you’re interested and whether you might have some time for that, and maybe start thinking about the devices etc that you are able to test on because in the testing volunteers thread we will be asking you to provide specific information about your devices, operating systems, and browsers.

My best guess is that testing could start as early as 2 weeks from now, but I expect to have a better idea about that by the end of next week.

The developers use a program called BrowserStack, which says it gives users a seamless experience by testing on 2000+ real devices and browsers instead of using emulators and simulators.

So the developers may well have it covered, but in my opinion there’s nothing like real people who know the ins and outs of a site and the particulars of how we use Balloon Juice to verify that all is good. No rollout of any system has ever been perfect, probably in the history of the world, so I don’t expect this one to be, either. We have some pretty sophisticated users here, so I say we do our best to help find anything there is to find before rollout.

I’ll be taking names and detailed information from testing volunteers on the weekend training thread. In the meantime, have at it.

Edit: every thread needs a photo, right?  My tree peony blooms opened today.








Balloon Juice Site Rebuild – Sneak Peek #2

Update at 11:15

Public Service Announcement:  Due to popular UN-demand, the front page mockup displayed in this post has been cancelled.

We will not be going with the front page design in the mockup below.  Carry on.

Original Post:

Hey, everyone. WaterGirl here with a bit more information and another mockup for you from the site rebuild. Yesterday we looked at a mockup of a single thread with comments. Today is a mockup of the front page.

In case you missed yesterday’s thread, it’s called:

Balloon Juice Site Rebuild – Sneak Peek

I explained a bit about the process in Sundays site rebuild thread, so I won’t repeat myself here except to say that we’re going for here is streamlined and zippy, not flashy with a lot of bells and whistles. We still want it to feel like home, and we’re kind of excited about how it is shaping up. This is your second chance to see what it looks like so far and let us know how you feel about the design.

We are nearing the end of the design and mockup phase and we will likely be moving on to development on Wednesday. Once the programming begins, there’s not a lot of room for adding functionality or changing the look, the fonts, the overall design, etc. So this is your chance to share your thoughts in a way that could influence the outcome is right now, over the next couple of days, not once development starts or when the site goes live.

There were four basic choices for the front page:

1) what we have now on BJ, where the whole page and all the images display no matter how long the post is and how many images there are.

2) titles and one large featured image (regardless of how many images or twitter comments are in the post) and 5-7 lines of text from the post.

3) titles and 5-7 lines of text from the post, but no images, with several multiple posts appearing on the screen.

4) titles and 5-7 lines of text from the post and a thumbnail image, with several multiple posts appearing on the screen.

We saw mockups of all of them, and the site rebuild is moving forward door #4. Some things have already changed from the front page mockup below, but this should give you a rough idea of what it will look like.

What I wrote yesterday still holds:

So jump in and tell us what you really think, and don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. Oh, wait, this is Balloon Juice, never mind, I’m pretty sure that last part goes without saying. If you prefer to share your thoughts privately, you can send email to BJfestivus at that google mail place. Whichever way you share your thoughts, I promise we will read every word. Scratch that. I can’t speak for John, but I promise I will read every word.

 








Balloon Juice Site Rebuild – Sneak Peek

[Update at 3:30 Eastern:  I’ll be back at 6pm Eastern time to answer any questions or comments that come in then, or that came in during my afternoon siesta.]

Hey, everyone. WaterGirl here with an update on the site rebuild.

I’ll start with a tiny bit of information about the process. The kickoff meeting with the web developers was just over a week ago on Friday, May 3, and we started the design phase on Monday. The design phase lasts no more than 2 weeks, so it’s a whirlwind! In that time, we decide on all the features and functionality, as well as the look and the overall design, right down to the choice of fonts and exactly where everything will be and what it will look like. The actual programming starts right after that.

So we are in the design phase for just a few more days. Once the programming begins, there’s not a lot of room for adding functionality or changing the look, the fonts, the overall design, or anything, really. So your chance to share your thoughts in a way that could influence the outcome is right now, over the next few days, not once the site goes live.

Maybe you’ll want to know a bit about where we’re coming from? On other political blogs, there has never been a site redesign or site overhaul that I have liked; I always feel like they’ve ruined the blog. So the main goal here was to not do that. First on our spec list to potential developers:

“We don’t want a new DESIGN. We want better functionality. Our primary goal: a speedy, responsive, reliable, aesthetically pleasing site with a reliable commenting system that works consistently, and well — on mobile devices and desktops — with the features outlined in this document.”

What we’re going for here is streamlined and zippy, not flashy with a lot of bells and whistles. We still want it to feel like home, and we’re kind of excited about how it is shaping up. Now we get to find out whether you guys feel that way, too.

So jump in and tell us what you really think, and don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. Oh, wait, this is Balloon Juice, never mind, I’m pretty sure that last part goes without saying. If you prefer to share your thoughts privately, you can send email to BJfestivus at that google mail place. Whichever way you share your thoughts, I promise we will read every word. Scratch that. I can’t speak for John, but I promise I will read every word.

You never want to give up functionality in an upgrade unless there’s a darn good reason, and we’ve tried to stay true to that. So, for example, you’ll still be able to contact a front pager, but you’ll do it in a different way. We are going with email hosting using the balloon-juice.com domain, so instead of a contact form you’ll send email to directly to a front pager using their name. If their name is Humpty Dumpty, you’ll add a dash between the two parts of the name. (Each front pager can choose whether to keep their front pager email separate or to forward it to another account with their personal mail.)

You’ll see that Quick Links is gone, but there’s a floating bar and a category bar and some links that perform the same functions. So take a look and let us know what you think, but please understand that things are moving quickly and there have already been some changes that aren’t reflected in the mockup posted here, such as the reply button, which will always show for each comment even though the mockup indicates that it will only show up if you hover on a comment. And you’ll see that the checkbox to save your nym is on there, but not to worry, nyms etc will be permanent again and the little checkbox will be gone in the next mockup. If we waited to show you the mockup until it’s perfect, we would lose the window for your input.








New Site Preview

Despite wanting to, I am not going to steal Watergirl’s thunder and post the screen shots I have seen, but I am just super excited about how it looks so far. What I like the most is it stays true the site over the past two decades- it isn’t one of those new shit layouts that everyone seems to have done that ruins their site. The best way I can say it is that looking at the pictures, it feels like the same house, but you had the designer upgrade the kitchen and dining room and fix where the floor was starting to lean a little bit and then had the cleaners and decorators over. But it’s still the same house and not some new joint and you aren’t going from a cozy craftsman or farmhouse and moving into a modern condo.