Yes, this is The Sand Trap. We've redesigned a little bit. Our design goals for this go-round were quite simple:
1. Have a good-looking menu.
If you dropped by before, you remember the little menu we had at the top. It served its purpose, but it wasn't very attractive, it didn't tempt people to look at the site, and it didn't work in most versions of Internet Explorer. Our new menu, the "Article Topics" to the right, is far more attractive and user-friendly.
2. Move away from traditional "blog" look.
"Blogs" have a typical look. They emphasize the date, they have a strong "category" presence. They use usernames like "blingo" and "caseycat" (I've made those up, so if that's your name, please take no offense). The line between a "blog" and a "news site" is blurry. We wanted to be on the latter side of that blur. I think we've succeeded.
3. Maintain "multi-author" feel so that people know who wrote the articles.
What I had originally meant by this was retaining, in some capacity, the "personal icons" or "avatars" we were using in our last design. They were 150 x 150 JPEGs that we could change on a whim. The thing is, they kind of looked a little junky sometimes, and detracted from the stories. Our new look uses real names ("professionalism" is good, after all) and is posted right there at the top. I think people will know who wrote what.
4. Emphasize the categories a bit more.
The old look had "Category: PGA" in small greenish text on the left. The word "PGA" (or whatever category happened to be represented) linked to the category. Our new approach: put the category name in front of the title (i.e. "Site News: Re-Design") and let the menu to the right be used for navigation to the categories. If we want, we could eventually make the category name in the title link to them as well, but then links will look different, and I'm trying to avoid confusing things.
We've nailed this one, I think. I like a nice, clean site that's easy to read, puts information at your fingertips, and pretty much just stays out of the way.
6. Flexibility with Images.
We have two types of images on the site, currently: right-aligned images and the larger center-aligned images (which approach 500px in width) look good. My goal is to eventually enable captioning, but until everyone on our staff is comfortable with the minimal PHP and/or HTML necessary to do this, it'll have to wait. But soon…
7. White background.
Not too tough a goal to meet, and one I think we've met. White backgrounds provide for easy reading and maximum flexibility when it comes to content.
8. Consistency across the various pages.
This is pretty easy, but it's important to maintain consistency. I still need to work in a "Home" link, but we'll get to that soon. Perhaps a "Quick Navigation" section on the right that offers breadcrumbs or something will work…
9. Area for "hot topics."
Because we are using a blog, and because one story of lesser importance can bump an important story down, we have "hot topics" in the right-hand side ("Top Stories"). This section contains the five most recent posts that are secondarily tagged as "Hot Topics" in our blog software. It's a simple solution and because the list is included as a PHP
include(), it's always current.
10. Good "above the fold" location for a text ad.
Text ads will be coming soon. They'll allow us to pay our server fees, which means we'll be able to bring you more multimedia and content. The area will be a small spot just above "Top Stories" in the sidebar.
Those were our top ten design goals. What do you think? How'd we do?