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The new SR! web design

How it came to be, why we think it’s better

In our archive here at the office lies a disc that has the very first layouts for what became Sound RIDER! in the summer of 1999. Times have changed.

Today we have HTML 5, Java, VB, ASP.NET, PHP, Flash and a host of other languages and possibilities. Throughout 2012, we worked to do a migration to a new server which will be completed later in 2013. A re-design of the look and feel of the site had been developed for that migration and it was similar to what was being used up until November.

Within the circle of Sound RIDER! friends lies a tight group of not just friends, but people I trust to tell me the truth about what is going on with the magazine from their perspective. They know I listen and I’m willing to accept their criticisms -  good or bad.

In December I went to dinner with two such associates in the inner collective and it was during this meeting that one of them read me my rights about how out of date the site looked. I knew there was a re-design on the drawing board, but I was compelled to listen to everything he said, which was all vastly different from the planned redesign.

In the morning I asked him to send me a list of websites he thought fit the look and feel for where Sound RIDER! needed to go. This person I trust because a) he is younger, b) he is tech savvy and c) he holds nothing back. You ask the people at the other table at dinner that night and they would agree on c!

It was less than an hour later that I got an email from him that included hyperlinks to more than 30 sites. About half he liked and half he thought were a joke. Little did he know that that same morning I was lying in bed imagining this redesign and thinking about where we needed to go in look and feel. I was going to hit this from his side and mine.

Some people think the sole purpose of Sound RIDER!, the online magazine, is to lure you into the store. While we appreciate the support readers provide by purchasing goods and events though our store, the online magazine is first and foremost an outlet for news about riding in the Pacific Northwest, and it must appear that way.

Taking my motivator's input and pairing it with my own introspection, I spent the next four days essentially tearing up the site and rebuilding it from the ground up. The new look had to be easy to navigate, had to look more like a news site and had to be clean.

In all this redevelopment came a bonus to the sponsors. Larger ads. We’ve needed to move to some of the industry standard sizes for a while now. By decapitating the left hand navigation bar, we were able to open up more space on the right.

We’ve been asking all along - do we need a version for a tablet or mobile device?

That may come later, but part of this redesign was to allow a person with a smaller screen to stretch the content out larger, making it pretty simple to read on a mobile device without the need for a separate mobile site or app. Throughout the tear-up I was checking the look and feel on a desktop, tablet and smart phone.

As I looked at other sites, one thing many had in common was the Site Map near the bottom of each page. I liked that a lot and as it eliminates the need to use drop down navigation bars since everything could be made visible in this format, making the site even easier to move about in. It's also nice to have it there to remind readers the density of information here and what is available to them.

In putting together the latest issue, I've been enjoying working with the new frontend look of the home page which allows for moving articles around and making it all look cohesive. Prior to this issue, we had a single column to work within, rather than two. To me this is much nicer and it always looks fresh.

And so here we have it, Sound RIDER! version 2013. I like it – how about you? It won’t look this way for the next 14 years, but it’s a refreshing change for now.

Happy New Year

TM/Winter 2013


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