Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

New Site Design

5. May 2005 • Scott Trudeau
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Holy Crap! We have a new site design, folks. This is really an interim version of a larger work-in-progress. Hopefully you all find this one slightly more appealing. The monochrome is a bit of an homage to Rob’s old site. The header graphic is from Flickr. Feedback, as always, is welcome. And while we’re at in, please leave any other suggestions you might have for us.



  1. Too stark.
       —Dale    May. 5 '05 - 10:36PM    #
  2. I liked the old one better with the blue on the sides. Dale is right about it being to stark. The top part is really nice, so I hope you keep that.
       —Bob Dascola    May. 5 '05 - 10:41PM    #
  3. Argh! More modern looking, but it needs color! Color is good, really.
       —Lisa    May. 5 '05 - 10:43PM    #
  4. Hi Lisa.
       —Bob Dascola    May. 5 '05 - 10:46PM    #
  5. How about with the green on the sides? I don’t think I could bring myself to bring that godawful blue back, really.
       —Scott    May. 5 '05 - 10:56PM    #
  6. Green’s an improvement. Maybe something very pale for the main background?
       —Dale    May. 6 '05 - 12:29AM    #
  7. I’d go sans serif on the header font, and probably use gutters on both sides, sending the main text down the middle. It’s off-balance now.
    And for me, the blue was never the worst part: it was that ugly green with it.
    (I’d guess that since this is html, there probably isn’t much that can be done with fontography within the main text, so my modernist sensibilities of stark design but interesting [yet clean] font can’t be realized).
    Remember what De La Soul said: To me MC means ‘make it clean.’
       —js    May. 6 '05 - 12:29AM    #
  8. while i agree that sex is good, i’m not convinced you want it in your header graphic.

    also, i’m a fan of the new style.

    however, it would be nice if i wasn’t forced to preview posts. i think that’s been happening for a while, though.
       —kelli    May. 6 '05 - 12:37AM    #
  9. I like it a lot, it’s a big improvement. Maybe make the header sans serif, and change the header graphic (sex and planning?), but that’s about it. I like the sidebars as is.
       —KGS    May. 6 '05 - 09:28AM    #
  10. You definitely need some contrast somewhere on the page. Perhaps a negative of the header background?
       —Marc R.    May. 6 '05 - 09:47AM    #
  11. Hey, who says land use and school board debates aren’t sexy?

    js, some degree of font control is possible. Generally, you want to define it, “best font, second best font, font family”, so that the browser can say, “Nope, don’t have the best one. Nope, don’t have the second best one. Oh! ‘Sans serif’ I can do!” I, though, don’t have the taste to play with fonts.

    And Kelli is officially the first “no forced preview” complaint! We’ll look into having two separate “main” pages, one for the folks who like previews and one for the folks who don’t.
       —Murph    May. 6 '05 - 09:56AM    #
  12. :) That is totally do-able, though if we held a vote, I think the “Read More” people would win. Perhaps we should be more frugal with it, using it for things like the long-ass Greden letters and not for things like the Mott post. Or maybe we should be a little more liberal than we have been in the past couple of days in allowing for longer-than-one-sentence posts.
       —Scott    May. 6 '05 - 10:12AM    #
  13. I like it.
       —JennyD    May. 6 '05 - 02:31PM    #
  14. I’d put the Welcome message in the header and scoot up the double columns for New Comments and Site Tools, including removing a line or two of the extra white space below the Copyright message (which could go down below somewhere.)

    I’d also prefer Local Blogs and (then) Local Media above Site Library.

    I prefer pale colors to greys, especially when green (like the side borderlines) and grey are both used—they tend to look similarly dull. (Scott, go to gp.org to see an example of how they ignored the same input I gave them. Then go to the International Committee page for [somewhat overdone] use of pale colors that I find attractive. The Lavender Caucus page has a cool header that I hadn’t seen before, btw.)

    I agree with others that “Sex Is GOOD (GOD?)” ought to be replaced.
       —Steve Bean    May. 6 '05 - 02:54PM    #
  15. I like the design, I don’t care for the “read more” thing, and I think sex is good.

    But I’m also not good enough with tech/design whatnot to bother to get involved in it. It works… and is much better than the gross old blue and pink.
       —Brandon    May. 6 '05 - 04:24PM    #
  16. Has anyone figured out where the header is from? I really like it because I figured out which building the image is showing. Don’t change it!
    Color would be good, go with green and not blue.
       —Lizz    May. 6 '05 - 04:29PM    #
  17. Lizz, the article says: ‘The header graphic is from Flickr ’—with a link, even. ;)
       —Scott    May. 6 '05 - 05:22PM    #
  18. Thanks for all your feedback folks. Keep in mind this is an interim change—I just couldn’t handle the old look any more and decided to make a few changes. More to come in the future, assuming I have time.
       —Scott    May. 6 '05 - 05:28PM    #
  19. sorry, i wasn’t clear in my complaint.

    i have no problem with the “Read More” thing. i was referring to the lack of a “submit” button when i’m making a comment. there’s only “preview”, which i really don’t need.
       —kelli    May. 6 '05 - 06:24PM    #
  20. now i’m wondering though—is that a spam-fighting technique, or is it simply an oversight?
       —kelli    May. 6 '05 - 06:25PM    #
  21. “sorry, i wasn’t clear in my complaint.”

    Kelli, it’s a mechanism to prevent the above to a greater extent. :-)

    I like it. I like that others are forced to at least consider proofing their comments before I see them. (And even then there are some doozies.) I’ll continue to preview my own in any case.

    It’s particularly useful for catching unintended Textile formatting that results in unintelligible garbage. I think it’s worth the extra click to avoid those (of which I’ve caught several in my own, including this one, in just the past few days) and the subsequent, mostly redundant, correction comment.
       —Steve Bean    May. 6 '05 - 07:10PM    #
  22. I might consider having a default Preview with a submit button if you actually click on it, but it’s there mostly to make sure you don’t accidentally post garbage… textile is a tool that interprets things like asterisks and quotes in certain ways to generate html and sometimes it does unexpected things.
       —Scott    May. 6 '05 - 07:42PM    #
  23. So Ari Paul does graffiti in some dust on a greenhouse, and that’s good enough to be the AU front page. Feh.
       —David Boyle    May. 6 '05 - 08:07PM    #
  24. I just changed the upcoming.org events listing includes dates. I know it takes the mystery out of it all, but my inner utilitarian insisted…
       —Scott    May. 6 '05 - 09:15PM    #
  25. Scott,
    Looks good, and thanks for finally cleaning the site up a bit. However I think the two bars on the left side of the page needed to be moved. Particularly I think the local media / friend blogs should be on the right hand side and have small graphics associated with them. The part on the top bar that says “Ann Arbor Area Community News” is too dark and is hard to see against the background. Finally the next story / previous story links need to be above the comments.

    At some point you and I should have a sit down to talk about running a web server out of Arbor Vitae. I would really like to improve my skills w/r/t apache and php and if I can help out AU all the better.
       —Kat    May. 6 '05 - 10:28PM    #
  26. Kat,

    We can do some Apache + php jam sessions. It’s hard to keep up your sysadmin chops unless you do sysadmin stuff every day, I’ve found.

    I agree on the tagline .. I think I’m going to redo the header soon to fix that problem.

    Tweak, tweak, tweak…
       —Scott    May. 6 '05 - 10:34PM    #
  27. Ha,

    I thought Murph owned this site. Who the heck owns Arbor Update?!
       —Todd Leopold    May. 8 '05 - 01:26PM    #
  28. Todd,

    Scott’s the closest thing to an “owner”, considering that we’re using his hardware (or used to?) and he pays all of the various charges associated with running a website.

    Goodspeed gets “founder” credit. Ari P., Brandon, Mark Dilley, Juliew, Matt Hollerbach, and I (and various others, to less active extent) are “maintainers” or some such random title. I’m just the one who wastes the most time the most visibly on the site. (Scott wastes way more time on the back end. :) )
       —Murph    May. 8 '05 - 03:03PM    #
  29. Scott,

    Half hour ago was my first visit to your site. My first impression was that it’s attractive. I noticed “sex” in the banner too, and wouldn’t have you leave it there.

    What I’d have you do is add a navigation bar under the banner. I came in through another site, and after a few moments wanted to see your home page, about us, and archives. Navigation wasn’t obvious.

    I think it’s a cool site, and put it right in my favorites. I’m looking forward to making a regular stop, and hopefully participate in the discussions.
       —Al Braun    May. 8 '05 - 11:57PM    #
  30. What’s with all of the prudes around here? What’s wrong with sex, anyway? And how come nobody has yet complained about the “Home Grown” allusion to marijuana? Or the anarcho-syndicalist star? ;)
       —Scott    May. 9 '05 - 09:35AM    #
  31. And since we all can’t get enough advertising in our lives, I added some (text only) Google Ads to the site. I don’t expect these to generate much more than what it costs to pay for hosting for the site, but it’ll be nice to at least recoup those costs.
       —Scott    May. 9 '05 - 10:55AM    #
  32. The sex is fine. It’s inconspicuous, and really, if you’re offended by that you shouldn’t be on the internet.
    I don’t like the over-use of the “read more,” but that’s just my bag. I used to hate the forced preview, but I’ve gotten over it. (It’s like Metafilter!)
       —js    May. 9 '05 - 10:55AM    #
  33. Scott,

    I don’t think wanting a serious banner is as much about prudishness as about breadth of audience. I guess whether that matters depends on if you want your site to make a difference beyond entertaining friends whose sensibilities match your own.

    You have a forum on which people can discuss serious issues facing Ann Arbor, without being censored by the editors of the Ann Arbor News (which is privately owned by corporate giant, Advance Communications (more on Advance: http://www.cjr.org/tools/owners/advance-timeline.asp)).

    There are a lot of smart, thoughtful people who wouldn’t read or participate on a site with your banner. Personally, I see value in being earnest. I’d prefer that you be inclusive, by avoiding being needlessly off-putting.
       —Al Braun    May. 9 '05 - 10:27PM    #
  34. Oh, I overlooked giving a link to the list of Advance’s publications: http://www.cjr.org/tools/owners/advance.asp

    I’m sure the folks at A2News would say their owners don’t impact the paper’s editorial decisions, but I’m just as sure we’d be naive to believe them.
       —Al Braun    May. 9 '05 - 10:39PM    #
  35. Scott, The back ground at the top looks like some thing I’ve seen in the diag. Is that where you got it? I like the green on the side. You’ve done a very nice job fixing up the site. Congratulations!
       —Bob Dascola    May. 9 '05 - 11:23PM    #
  36. Al- You’re employing the Adolph Ochs model. I tend to think that anyone so offended by “Sex is good” that they can’t contribute to a discussion of, say, urban planning, is already going to be turned off by the posts about Coca Cola death squads or asking Scalia if he fucks his wife in the ass.
    The site also has google ads, despite the fact that some people are offended by the idea of advertising.
    I think that the content is good enough on this site that people will come and notice that first, rather than the tiny “sex is good.” Think of it as an Easter Egg for observant viewers.
       —js    May. 10 '05 - 09:34AM    #
  37. And that said, I am working on a redesign that will replace the header banner, not because I think the current one is inappropriate, but because I’ve got an even better idea. :)
       —Scott    May. 10 '05 - 10:42AM    #
  38. JS,

    I suppose I could find myself in worse company than the NYT. Though I’m not familiar with the Adolf Ochs model as a term, I think I know what you mean. But there are so many issues, like suburbanization (rather than just the sprawl aspect of it) that are literally too contentious to discuss in most forums, that being offensive without reason (like funding for this site) seems capricious. And that said, I’ll give it a rest.

    Scott,

    The message I was more intent on communicating, before we got off on everyone’s favorite subject, was that a navigation bar would be nice. Any possibility there?
       —Al Braun    May. 10 '05 - 04:07PM    #
  39. Al- The Ochs model is the one that gave us objective journalism, but not because it was superior in communicating or more truthful. The objective tone was in implimented in order to avoid offending advertisers. Ochs would cut anything that he thought might decrease circulation or annoy the folks that ran the circulars.
    But the point seems moot now.
       —js    May. 10 '05 - 04:25PM    #
  40. Al,

    I’m planning a nav bar for the things currently under “site tools” and using the Flickr annarbor tag to feed a design element (i.e., the site design will be dynamically updated with photos from Flickr)—rather than a static header image. I’m also planning on “liquifying” the main column (i.e., it’ll get wider if you make your browser window wider; shifting things around in the left hand columns a little; and moving around the google ads.

    And Josh & Al,

    Yeah, we’re definitely not Ochs-style “objective” journalists (I’ll leave the now “our we journalists” cliched conversation for another day). We don’t deny we have biases—we’re all lefties of varying stripes. I do think our posts work best when we keep the editorializing out of them, though. I’d rather our bias show through what we choose to cover, rather than hitting you all over the head with what we think.
       —Scott    May. 10 '05 - 05:04PM    #
  41. Shame your name is on that crappy, editorializing, sarcastic Wal-Mart post then.
       —js    May. 10 '05 - 05:09PM    #
  42. :) Yeah, I didn’t even write that one… I just started it with the link. Did you finish it, Josh?
       —Scott    May. 10 '05 - 07:51PM    #
  43. Scott,

    I’ve been following the Sherriff discussion, and was considering participating. I’d really like to print out the discussion so far, to allow me to reread it, make notes in the margins, etc. It’d be great if the site had a printer-friendly version button. Copying and pasting into Word works, but then it needs to be reformatted to get rid of the double spacing, etc.

    Second, When somebody gets too far off-subject, why don’t you just delete their entries (other than that we’d miss Josh’s ‘colorful’ rants)?

    Third, it’d be great if you had some feature to allow easy navigation between recent postings. I like the new comments list, and think it’d be nice if you had a postings list between it and the local events list.

    I’m reminding myself of a T-shirt I saw a kid wearing last Sunday at Gallop. It read, “So much work to do, and so few people to do it for me.” Thanks for programming, managing and financing the site.

    BTW, What are the # signs at the end of each entry supposed to do?
       —Al Braun    May. 12 '05 - 10:58PM    #
  44. Aww, Al. You’re gonna hurt my feelings.
    The printable page idea is a neat one, though. Those ”#” pound signs allow you to add a link to a particular comment. (Though you have to do it in the non-standard textile formatting, which I don’t like.)
       —js    May. 13 '05 - 08:05AM    #
  45. I think we’re trying really hard to avoid managing the conversation, since decisions about when a converstation has really gone “off-topic” is almost arbitrary. I think things have gone surprisingly well, so far. And what’s a community without a few weirdos who don’t quite grasp community norms? :)
       —Scott    May. 13 '05 - 09:58AM    #
  46. Hey, something that I’d like is to add just a few more comments to that recent comments line. Maybe bump it from 10 to 15? When there are high traffic days, I lose things that I might be interested in.
       —js    May. 13 '05 - 04:45PM    #
  47. Scott,

    At the risk of being a little over the top, it’d be great if there was a facility on the site for looking at all the posts by a particular participant.

    I dissed a young lady over on the “Hiller’s” thread, and felt afterword that maybe I should have looked at her other posts before being harsh. Also:

    Blaine’s missing!!!!

    As far as I can tell he hasn’t posted in almost 20 hours! Somebody ought to file a missing persons report. Kidding aside (no harm intended, Blaine), it’d be great to see if he’s posting elsewhere without checking the New Comments list repeatedly.
    -
       —Al Braun    May. 20 '05 - 09:17AM    #
  48. Scott, the New Comments links don’t seem to consistently take me to the comment I select. Sometimes it just goes to the top of that page. Is that due to the ads? If so, I’d lose them and ask for donations, simply because it’s worth five bucks to me to not have to scroll that much. Otherwise, I don’t mind the ads.

    Another nice feature would be for the New Comments to indicate (by color, I suppose) if I’ve clicked on them already. Sometimes it’s hard to determine if I have or if it’s just another round of comments from the same group of people who commented previously.
       —Steve Bean    May. 20 '05 - 09:54AM    #
  49. Al, I think what you’re asking for might be tricky, since the “Name” field is just a text field in the database that isn’t separately indexed. That kind of thing is easier on a site that requires users to register before posting. I’ll put it on the list of things to consider, though.

    Steve, I’ll look in to the new comments links, and you’re right, visited comment links should be a different color, so next time I revise the style sheets, I’ll change that, as well.
       —Scott    May. 20 '05 - 10:15AM    #
  50. Scott,

    Not that I know anything about it, but I thought that it could be done by the email field. That’d get around people gaming the name field too.
    -
       —Al Braun    May. 20 '05 - 12:15PM    #
  51. Al, but we hide the email field from the public to thwart spammers and stalkers. We might use the URL field, but it’d be some heavier lifting than I’ve done so far. (most of the stuff I’ve done to the site has been small tweaks using the platform this site is built on—I think what you’re asking for would essentially require building a new module for the platform, though I’m still learning, so maybe not).
       —Scott    May. 20 '05 - 03:22PM    #
  52. Scott,

    Just checked in, and the conversation in which I’m engaged (Non-Motorized Transportation Plan nearing completion) has 7 comments since I last looked. A couple of them are longish. It’d be great to have that printer friendly version…

    Thanks!
    -
       —Al Braun    May. 25 '05 - 07:45PM    #
  53. Oh, and while I’m making requests (hopefully this one’s easier)...

    A “Home” link under site tools would be awesome!
    -
       —Al Braun    May. 25 '05 - 07:47PM    #
  54. Hey Scott,

    Now that Arbor Update’s getting older, maybe it’s time to add the year to the posts, if not comments. Thanks.
    _
       —Al Braun    Jun. 5 '05 - 05:58AM    #