Grist is cooking up a new site; what do you want to see in it?
I have exciting matters to discuss, but first, two apologies.
Lately, my blogging has been cursory, rushed, incomplete, and a little sucky. I haven’t been responding to emails, writing the longer pieces I’ve promised various people, or otherwise keeping up with my professional obligations.
"What’s new?" you ask.
What’s new is that I have a really good excuse. More on that in a moment.
We are well aware — I’d even go so far as to say painfully aware — that the site has been slow lately. Hell, sometimes it stops altogether. Not cool. We’re doing little things here and there to prevent downtime and speed the site up, but for the most part, we’re putting all our time and energy into … into …
A new site!
Behind the scenes, Grist is in the midst of a full-scale redesign. And I mean full-scale: we’re completely retooling the look and feel of the site’s front end; we’re switching over to a new content management system (CMS) on the back end; we’re moving to a new, speedier server setup; and to boot, we’re making some changes to our editorial practices and focus.
All of this is invisible to you for the time being, Dear Reader, but trust me, it’s a sh*tload of work. (That’s why I didn’t respond to your email / link to your whatsit / return your call.)
It will all be worth it, though! I’m going to go with the "under-promise, over-deliver" principle and not reveal too awful much about what’s happening, but I can share a few details, for those who are interested. (Obviously there will be tons more to say when it goes live.)
We are working with a delightful group of folks called Happy Cog for both the front- and back-end stuff. If there are any web design nerds out there, you’ve probably heard of HC — they employ some of the world’s leading theorists and practitioners on design, web standards, and usability. You may have heard of their web design publication, A List Apart.
Right now our site is a patched-together product of two separate CMSs. To avoid profanity, I’ll just say that the arrangement is … suboptimal. We are, with HC’s help, moving everything over to a single CMS: Expression Engine. Ask around in the website biz and you’ll soon discover that everyone hates the CMS they’re using, so our expectation here is that we’re trading a large set of awful problems for a smaller set of more manageable problems. Whee!
What about the actual, you know, publication? Yes, there are going to be some substantial changes in how Grist and the Grist community (that’s you) operate. The division between site and blog — which has always been an artifact of back-end differences more than significant content differences — will largely disappear. The content itself will focus in on six core subject areas (you’ll just have to wait to find out which six). Our guest contributors are going to have a much easier time of it: they will be able to manage and edit their posts in one place, and moderate comments if they so choose. All logged-in readers will be able to track individual stories and authors, and ignore commenters they don’t like — that means you never have to be bothered by trolls again! Generally speaking, you’ll find the site much more immersive, social, useful, and aesthetically pleasing. We’ll be eager for feedback, obviously.
Anyway, I guess I’ll leave it at that.
Hm, what’s that? When will you see it? Uh … er … [tugs at collar] … let’s be very safe and say: within the next year.
Are there features you’d love to see included in the new site? Let us know in comments.