It’s been a busy fall here at Slate. We’ve been covering the financial crisis, launching a new Web site, and obsessing over every last detail of the presidential campaign. But we’ve also found time to primp: Today, we’re launching a site redesign. Our new look features a cleaner, less cluttered home page and airier article pages. We think you’ll find it makes the site easier to navigate and more pleasant to read.
Why the makeover? Since Slate last redesigned the site, two and a half years ago, the magazine has expanded at a rapid clip. We’ve added new writers and columns. We’ve launched six blogs. We’ve been publishing more video, more slide shows, and more widgets, tools, and interactive features. And we’ve gained a few sister sites: Slate V, our video magazine; The Root, a magazine about the African-American experience, and The Big Money, a magazine about business and finance. As a result, our home page has been looking, well, crowded.
Our new design accommodates Slate’s growth, organizing all this material so it’s easy for you to find. The redesigned home page will allow us to promote more pieces. Instead of one cover story, we’ll have three: You can scroll through them by clicking the numbered tabs on each. And the space right below the cover—the row of small photos and headlines that we call, for mysterious ancient reasons, the “TAP3s”—has grown from five to eight articles. (You toggle from the first four articles to the next four by clicking the arrows beside them.)
We’ve also made it easier to tell what’s an article and what’s a blog post. Articles will continue to appear in reverse chronological order on the table of contents, under the header “Today in Slate.” To find our blogs, toggle over to the “Slate Blogs” tab, which will showcase the most recent posts from “Kausfiles,” “XX Factor,” and the rest. And our daily visual features (Today’s Pictures, Today’s Cartoons, Doonesbury) will no longer appear on the home page in a rotating Flash pane that’s devilishly hard to click. They’ll be showcased—along with daily videos from Slate V—in a big, handsome tabbed module on both the home page and article pages. Click through the tabs to check out all four features.
We’ve also rethought our flyout menus, which used to drive readers batty, popping up whenever you wanted them to disappear. They’ve relocated from a vertical column at the left side of the page to a horizontal row at the top, so you’re less likely to mouse over them by accident. You’ll also notice that we’ve tweaked the sections slightly. All of our daily briefings—”Today’s Papers,” “Today’s Business Press,” “Explainer,” and the like—can be found in the new Briefings flyout. Because our Arts & Life coverage has grown over the past few years, we’ve broken out our Arts coverage (“Books,” “Movies,” “Television,” “Art,” “Architecture,” etc.) into its own section. We’ve also folded a few smaller sections (Travel & Food, Style & Shopping, and Sports) into a new Life section that will also include old favorites such as “Family,” “Human Guinea Pig,” and “Dear Prudence.” Finally, we’ve added new flyouts for Podcasts & Video and Blogs, so it’s easier to find the latest “Political Gabfest” from any page on the site. (Note: As of launch time, we were still working out a few kinks with these menus, so please bear with us.)
The redesign also makes it easier to find particular columns or writers without scrolling through days’ worth of content. A new list of columnists to the left of the table of contents is an easy way to track a favorite writer’s work. The new flyout menus also feature dedicated slots for all our regular features. Can’t live without “Pressbox”? You’ll always find Jack Shafer’s most recent column in the second spot on the News & Politics flyout. Dying for a dose of Prudie’s advice? Her latest will always be listed last on the Life flyout.
Our article pages have been designed to increase readability. They feature a wider well for the article text and a newly prominent tools box, so you’ll be able e-mail or print articles—or (hallelujah!) view them on a single page—without scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the piece. We also increased the prominence of our Digg/Yahoo! Buzz box to make it easier for you to recommend Slate pieces to other Web readers.
It’s important to remember that this redesign is a makeover, not reconstructive surgery. All the features you love are still here on Slate and should be easier to find. It’s also important to remember that this is just a starting point. We’ll be making ongoing improvements to the site as we see how readers like the new arrangements. And for that reason, we’d love to hear your responses, positive and negative; please post such comments here in the Fray. (If you’re having a technical problem, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Thanks for giving the new site a shot. We hope you like it, and we’re eager to hear what you think.