Today you’re seeing the result of a months-long process to present the powerful ideas and practical actions you’ve come to expect from us in a fresh, clean, accessible way.
The last time we redesigned our site was in 2009. In Internet time, six years ago may as well be a century ago. Smartphones weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they are now, social media drove only a small portion of web traffic, the iPad hadn’t come out yet, and multimedia and blogs were still considered novel. Our site redesign in 2009 reflected the trends of that era.
The gorgeous photos, infographics, and videos we’re posting deserve a contemporary presentation.
The biggest motivation for redesigning our site was an external one—the growth in mobile users. Just two years ago, only 20 percent of our visits were from a mobile device. Now, despite our old site’s mobile-unfriendly design, that’s doubled to 40 percent. To address this, our new site is responsive—that is, it displays content differently depending on the size of your screen. This should release you from the “pinch-zoom hell” you were trapped in when viewing our old site on your phone.
The other motivation was more internal—we’ve changed. At the time of our 2009 redesign, our goal was to move from posting quarterly print articles to publishing online daily. We had about 60,000 site visitors a month, and launched a weekly email roundup of our best articles called YES! This Week.
Since then, the number of visitors has almost quadrupled, we have more than 90,000 people receiving our weekly email newsletter, and close to 150,000 people accessing our stories via social media. The volume and sophistication of our online coverage has grown tremendously, offering in-depth coverage of positive social change you won’t find anywhere else.
We wanted to make it easier for you to read and share this coverage with your friends and networks—and to engage with us and each other via our commenting section. The gorgeous photos, infographics, and videos we’re posting deserve a contemporary presentation. For those of you who somehow avoid the allure of our award-winning print magazine (you can subscribe here—hint, hint), the only face of YES! you see is digital, and we want to present our content to you with the same attention to reader experience as we do in our print magazine.
The redesign process mostly involved a team of YES! editorial, IT, design, and marketing staff and interns. We met weekly for two months, studying our site analytics, trends in digital media, and doing case studies of other media sites. The resulting list of requirements and features were debated and honed before our creative director, Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn, began creating mock-ups. Through several rounds of feedback, we converged on the final site design. We were fortunate to be able to work with Bryan Wilson—a web programmer with expertise in our open-source content management system, Plone—who implemented the responsive design, converted the thousands of pages from our old site, and with some help from Alec Mitchell and the folks at Jazkarta, upgraded our web hosting.
It’s also fortunate for us that many of you answered our call for donations to fund this redesign. Thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you!
- Mobile-friendly: Visit us from your phone and you’ll find all our content at a readable, touch-friendly size with minimal fuss. An external test site shows that our mobile user experience has gone from a score of 65/100 to 99/100. With the luxurious width of a tablet or laptop, you’ll get enhanced options for navigation and interaction, plus big, beautiful photos. (For our geeky readers, we used the Bootstrap framework and Diazo theme engine.)
- Enjoyable reading experience: We wanted a more contemporary, spacious feel to make reading our articles a pleasure. Moving from a 3-column layout to a 2-column layout allowed us to make the content well wider and reduce distractions from side columns, giving the words some room to breathe, and allowing bigger, high-resolution images.
- Easy to share: Above and below every article, you’ll find a simplified share bar, with the tools our readers have been using the most—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and email.
- Speed: Page load times are important, especially when using mobile data. We’ve upgraded our web hosting to be much faster and more scalable, and optimized the number and size of images, fonts, and code we download in each page. Much of this still needs to be tweaked, so bear with us in the coming weeks.
- Fewer, clearer options: When we analyzed our old site, we found many redundant navigation options and calls to action that simply weren’t getting clicked. So we started with a clean slate and added only the most essential items, effectively decluttering the site.
- A homepage that’s always current: Our old homepage required our editors to manually choose articles to slot into various boxes. It was time-consuming and often got put off, leaving older content on the homepage. The new homepage automatically puts the freshest content front and center.
- Lifting up key voices: We have a number of prolific contributors to our site that have developed their own following, and now we can feature them in the new Voices section, in the right-hand column.
- Easy to follow us: When you want to get more of our unique brand of solutions-oriented content, we make it easy by putting our email signup and links to our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages right at the top of the right column.
So why the “Beta” tag above the logo? With thousands of pages created by dozens of editors over our 20-year history, you can imagine that there are inconsistencies in how pages were posted. Some could be easily converted to the new system; some could not. While most newer articles will look great, many older ones have issues. In addition, it’ll take us a few months to fully work out the kinks in the site.
Therefore, we ask you, our readers, for your patience and feedback. If you have general comments, please join the conversation by commenting below. If you have specific issues to report, please email us at [email protected]. We may not be able to answer every message, but we’ll be sure to read them all and use them to make improvements.
Thanks, and we hope you enjoy the new site.