There’s been some confusion among our readers about recent changes to our website, so I wanted to let you know what we’re doing and what we’re planning.
Since my office is located in Boulder at 5,300 feet, let me give you a view from on high.
The BRAIN website, while not exactly broken down and left to rust in a ditch, is akin to a road bike with an 8-speed cassette and a threaded headset. It works and some folks are comfortable with its retro style, but it's getting harder to find compatible parts to keep it on the road. And the shiny new bikes on the market are looking better all the time.
We could try to upgrade piece by piece, but it makes more sense to start over with a new model that’s compatible with today’s innovative parts. Hence we’ll start building a new website sometime next month. It’s hard to say when we’ll take it out for spin; I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
In the meantime, we’ve resisted the temptation to put more money into old faithful. Instead, we're adjusting the derailleurs, oiling the chain, and installing some new handlebar tape—but we’re not investing in a new drivetrain or a fancy seatpost.
Now that I've flogged the website-to-bike metaphor to within an inch of its life, here are some specific changes we've made recently:
- We post news ASAP. In the past, the general practice had been to post a batch of five stories at midnight Eastern time each weeknight. Mid-day site updates were rare. No longer. We now post the news as soon as we complete an accurate and thorough report.
- We post stories chronologically. Previously, when we posted all stories at midnight, we arranged them like a newspaper editor would, with the most important on top. No longer. Now the newest story is on top—always. This change has confused some of our faithful web readers. Contributing to the confusion was the automatic date stamp that appeared on the stories, in a light gray font, on the homepage. The stamp was set to 5 p.m. Mountain Time for all stories and no one can remember why. We've removed that stamp and added an actual publishing time at the beginning of articles, right after the dateline (see picture above).
- We now post news brief packages. While some of you are online checking for news 24/7, some aren't. Retailers, in particular, tend to the check the site once or twice a day, in the morning and evening—they’re running their stores the rest of the time. Our current homepage holds only five stories in the news area, so if we post more than five articles in a day, it pushes a story off the homepage before some folks see it. So we've compiled some of the shorter news items into a multi-story newsbrief to get more headlines in the news area without shoving stuff off into limbo. (Our current site has typeface limitations that make it difficult to use proper headlines announcing the “News Brief” sections.
- We've made a few minor improvements. Put these in the "new handlebar tape" category. For example, we’re adding multiple links in stories instead of a single link at the top as before. We’re also embedding multiple photos, videos or graphics into the stories instead of just a single photo at the top left. We’re increasing the use of charts and graphics, including interactive graphics such as the bicycle and walking commuter map we posted Tuesday.
- We're using more social media. The current site doesn’t have comments under stories (the new site will). In order to interact more with our readers and newsmakers in the industry, and reach industry members who tend to get their news via social media, we’re posting more links to stories from our Facebook page, Google+ and on Twitter. Our editors are joining the conversations on those sites whenever possible. If you read an interesting story on the website and feel the urge to discuss it with fellow industry professionals—and perhaps the author or the people quoted in it—check out our Facebook page and start a conversation there.
So what's next?
- As mentioned above with the new site, we’ll allow moderated comments under most stories.
- More headlines on the homepage, so you can catch up on the news without having to flip to Page 2 or 3 to see what happened two days ago.
- More photos and graphics options. Bike professionals look to BRAIN for straight-ahead business news reporting they can trust — not fluff. But when appropriate, we’ll run a gallery of photos from a factory visit or a video interview with a newsmaker. More flexibility will give our editors and reporters more storytelling tools.
- A better mobile experience. Folks are increasingly getting news on their smart phones and tablets, and BRAIN's new site will offer a much-improved mobile option.
- More homepage design flexibility. If some huge news breaks or we have something really special to share, we want you to know at a glance that something different is going on. We want to be able to run a banner headline or plot a big graphic or photo at the top of the page when the news warrants.
If you have ideas for what you'd like to see on the site, and opinions about our changes, please don't hesitate to drop me a note at email@example.com or join in the conversation on Facebook.
—Steve Frothingham, Web Editor