As regular readers may have noticed, Slate turned 10 last week. Today, we begin decade No. 2 with a redesign. As you click around on the site, you’ll see a host of changes. A new logo, our first in 10 years. More and bigger images. An expanded home page that showcases more of our content. And a number of other modifications that should make Slate easier to navigate and read—at least once you get used to them.
Why the makeover? Well, it was about time. It’s been more than three years since we last updated the look of our “cover” (and longer than that since we’ve tinkered with the basic appearance of our article pages). A lot has changed since then. For one thing, we’re no longer owned by Microsoft, which for some reason seems to make it easier for us to build a site that works as well in Firefox and Safari as it does in Internet Explorer. And now that larger computer screens and broadband have become commonplace, we felt Slate could do more to take advantage of both. The new home page, for example, is wider than the old one and has graphics so numerous that a dial-up modem would have choked on them. We’ve used the additional real estate to give permanent homes to Explainer, the Has-Been, Doonesbury, Today’s Pictures, and our editorial cartoons—regular features that have sometimes been hard to find.
When we started work on this project last year, we had a long list of changes we wanted to make. But we also enlisted the help of Slate readers, asking you to tell us how we could improve the site. Hundreds of you responded, with comments both helpful (you hated the way our old flyout menus worked) and not so much (sorry, folks, we’re keeping the ads). This redesign is in large part a reflection of your great suggestions. The flyout menus, for example, which used to require precision mousework and surgeon-steady hands, have been revamped. Just as important, you told us what not to change. Many of Slate’s most loyal readers remain attached to the complete, week-long reverse chronological listing of stories that we publish on the home page. It starts a bit further down than it used to, but we’re keeping it.
Armed with your input, we brought in an outside design firm, Helicopter, to help us refresh our look. Our talented friends at Helicopter get credit for the site’s new visual sensibility. They encouraged us to scrap our spindly old logo and limit our use of maroon. They came up with a number of appealing new typographical treatments and, through many iterations, helped us reorganize the features on our home page. They also created airier new article pages, with bigger headlines and more space for graphics. Those of us who’ve been working with these new pages on our beta site love how easy they are to read.
Other changes you should check out: a new home-page module that keeps track of our most read, most e-mailed, and most blogged-about stories. Each of these rankings tells you something different: “most read” tells you what’s most popular in an obvious way—what gets the largest number of clicks. “Most e-mailed” tells you something potentially more interesting: which stories our readers thought were worth passing along to their friends. And the “most-blogged” ranking tells you not only which Slate articles have the most buzz in the blogosphere, but also lets you tap in, via Technorati, to the conversation about them elsewhere on the Web (we’ll soon be adding Technorati links to our story pages, as well). We’ve also introduced something we’ve been calling the “magic box”—a new navigational tool for our multipart articles (among them Dispatches, Book Clubs, and Dialogues) that makes it easier to tell who’s saying what and to whom. We’ve also put a list of our newest podcasts on the home page.
As you poke around, keep in mind that what you see on the site today is just the first phase in an ongoing renovation. The house is ready for occupancy, but we haven’t finished hanging the curtains and re-arranging the furniture. In the coming months, Slate’s design will continue to evolve in response to your feedback. We’re already planning improvements to our search function, our slide shows, the Fray, and other areas of the site.
We hope you like it, but either way, please let us know. The best place to offer a comment or suggestion is here, in the Slate Fare Fray. If you’re having a technical problem, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be patient! Our crack team of developers and designers has been working nearly around the clock in recent weeks to bring this project to fruition. It takes a while to get these things right, but with your input, we fully intend to.