Saturday, 5 May 2012

State of the Blog: template improvement

Saturday, 5 May 2012

By now you'll have noticed a few changes here at Dan's Media Digest. I always like to keep the blog's template looking shipshape, so this was a mid-year clean to make everything more attractive and useful for readers.

The changes are as follows:

  • Larger preview-images. The front page's preview images for each post have been enlarged to 400px and centralized. In some ways this is a return to the original few versions of DMD, for those who've been reading long enough to remember.
  • More social buttons. The front page's preview images are now flanked by four "social buttons" (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook and Google+). This doubles the ways you can disseminate a post you like, quickly, and thus attract more readers. Please do try to use these, if you're happy to.
  • No share, but LIKE. The Facebook "share" button that existed wasn't being used, and I assume this is because people prefer to acknowledge than share. So now the button's a "like", which means it's faster and easier to register your love of a post (if you don't have time to leave a comment).
  • 'Read more' returns. The "read more" link has returned at the foot of preview for each post, mainly because the new format felt more confusing about how readers access each individual post. But maybe that's just me. But you can click-through via the post title or the "read more" text.
  • Sidebar banners. The "In Review" section of the sidebar still exists, but each show has been given a bigger and glossier image. This is purely an atheistic thing, but I hope you like it.
  • Bigger cloud. The Label Cloud now includes every label that's ever been tagged at DMD, although this may shrink to "selected labels" to save space in the future. But do you prefer seeing everything?
  • More comments. These changes mean DMD's front page is much longer now, so I've filled the sidebar's extra space by adding more previews of your comments.
  • Currently popular. I've added a Blogger widget that displays DMD's "most popular pages" over the past month, with a handy thumbnail and preview text. This will hopefully help people see things they've missed over the past 30 days, or else give you an idea what's drawing most people to DMD each month. There's a chance I may adapt or drop this widget, if I feel the results don't change often enough. Maybe a seven-day version would be better? Let me know what you think.
  • No membership badges. I've ditched the badges that used to cluster in the blog's footer, indicating DMD's a member of various blog indexes. After so many years blogging in the Web 2.0 world, I'm of the opinion index sites are unnecessary and rarely drove traffic to DMD. It just felt time to drop them entirely.
That's about it for now. There may be some other changes to come, especially if you leave a comment to complain about something, or suggest another brilliant improvement that's doable. I won't bow to every whim, but I'll certainly consider people's opinions—especially if they seem to be shared by a large number of readers. Coincidentally, Disqus is also introducing some major changes over the next few months, which should make the interactive part of DMD even more enjoyable. I can't wait for that, having seen what's in store.

A big thank you to Alan Woodward, who once again spent a few days tinkering with DMD's template to produce most of the improvements you see today. He's a star!