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The WorldChanging Redesign
Alex Steffen, 23 Aug 05

Observant readers will have noticed a few changes to WorldChanging, and may be wondering "What's up with the new look?"

This new look is the first step in beginning to implement the changes we first discussed in February, when we announced that we were forming a small nonprofit to house WorldChanging.

You send us a lot of feedback. We love this. We love getting your emails, hearing your suggestions, reading your comments and listening to your ideas at conferences and talks. As we said from the very start, changing the world is a team sport.

Two of the things you've been gently (usually) nudging us on are our usability and our aesthetics.

Many of you have pointed out that it's really hard to find archival material on the site. So one of the things we've done is to upgrade our code a bit (and here we need to send a big shout out to Polycot for all their hard work on our behalf!), build in a better search function (and bring that front and central on the page) and start providing some other navigation tools (like the dates in the upper left-hand corner, which let you view content day-by-day).

You've also been politely pointing out that WorldChanging is, well, ugly (in a lovable way). Here, we've tried to strike a balance between our current simplicity of design (which, we have to admit is largely the product of not knowing enough to do much more) and a new look which is a bit clearer, cleaner and easy on the eye. We hope you'll agree with us that our design team, Sunshine Stevens and Carrie Vincent, have hit a sweet spot on this.

Finally, addressing both usability and design has given us the opportunity to introduce a new facet of the site, the Features column. In Features, we'll be highlighting the pieces the team writes which are longer, more in-depth and more original: the essays, the interviews, the reviews of books and films, and so on. You've sent some pretty strong feedback that this is some of the content you find most useful, so we're breaking them out into a new left-hand column to make them easier to find, and last longer on the page.

This redesign is the first step in beginning to put into practice some of the ideas we've been talking about the last few months. The second step is holding our first retreat, which we'll be doing here in Seattle this week. Most of our contributors, and all of our new board members, will be coming into town to talk about what's working with WorldChanging, what could be improved, and where it makes the most sense to focus our energies.

On this front, your responses to our first survey have already been a big help. Over 400 of you (and counting!) have already shared your ideas for making the site better and your thoughts about what you'd like to see. (If you haven't had a chance yet to take the survey, we would sure appreciate it if you did. It only takes about five minutes.)

This week, we'll be discussing a bunch of topics:

* We'll be talking about how to work better as a team, as well as talking about how to bring in more voices from parts of the world often ignored in other debates, but central to the kinds of conversation we're trying to be a part of here.

* We be exploring ideas for growing the WorldChanging community, which is all of us, from readers we've never heard from to the folks most involved on a daily basis. How can we share ideas and information more effectively, not just through the stuff we write about, but more directly in online conversation and offline gatherings? How can we help other worldchangers be more effective? How can we have more fun together? This is obviously a conversation we'd like to continue with the entire crowd.

* We'll be discussing editorial content: what we should write about, what our blind spots are now, and how to cover more great stuff without making the experience of reading WorldChanging too much like drinking from a firehose. We'll also be discussing some of the projects we have underway, from a book about worldchanging ideas, to foreign-language versions of the site. (We'll be sharing a lot more about these ideas next week, and we could use your help.)

* We'll be thinking quite a bit about how to fund this little non-profit we've started. We're looking at a bunch of different possibilities, from finding sponsors to encouraging donations (something we're flattered to know that over 60% of the people responding to the survey think is a good idea). This is a conversation we particularly want your help with. We're very aware of the facts that money is both one of the things that can screw up a good community project and one of the things we need to make this project happen. We want to live our ideals here, and we suspect that's going to take some real innovation -- and we hope you'll help us think through how to be idealistic and innovative in our approach to fundraising.

In all of this, you play a central part. None of what's happened so far would have happened if y'all weren't so amazing, and none of what we're planning in the future will work if you don't help us do it right.

So here's a big thank you for all your enthusiasm and support so far. You make it a pleasure to wake up every day and work on this. Here, too, is an invitation: Stay engaged. Keep telling us what we're doing right and wrong. Share your great ideas and tips with us and your fellow worldchangers, and your enthusiasm for the site with others who might find it exciting. And most of all, keep changing the world.

Thank you so much,

Alex, on behalf of the WorldChanging Krewe.

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I'd originally thought, "What can they be thinking??" -- until I realized that my browser wasn't properly laying out the new design. I'm running Firefox on Windows XP, and on my screen everything's just top-to-bottom sequential: features, quickies, more features, links, etc. I'm sure for everyone else it's lovely, though.

Posted by: Ted W. on 23 Aug 05

I think this works... well done! I like the prominence of the search (reminding us that there are many good and still relevant articles from the past) and the clear links to the "Team members." Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Stephen A. Fuqua on 23 Aug 05

The new search function is great! I've been wondering how long you folks have been on the Web. This helps immensely to find your older material and gives me lots of ways to sort through it.

Being a webmaster myself I have a lot of other comments but I'll send those to you through the mail form.

Many of the new ideas sound intriguing and, I'm looking forward to see how they manifest.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 23 Aug 05

The search form is great! It helps a lot to sort through the older material by category, author and date.

Perhaps I'm stodgy but I didn't think the look of WorldChanging was all that bad.

Still, It'll be good to see the new features and projects.

I have a few more comments but I'll take those to the mail form.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 23 Aug 05

Just wanted to report that while the site looks fine with Foxfire, on IE 6.0 the central text on the main page in shoved all the way down to the point where the righthand column ends. When the page first loads, the text appears where it should for an instant but once the righthand column also loads, it appears halfway down the page.

Also, you have Dale Carrico's name spelled incorrectly as 'Caricco'.

Posted by: Eric on 23 Aug 05

New design looks great. earlier in the day i think i caught it at a half way stage or something , Had me worried for a bit. Now i have too many articles to read!

good job :)

Posted by: AlexC on 23 Aug 05

I love the new look!

Posted by: ethan on 23 Aug 05

I have one gripe about the new look:

The dashed line used for the article separator grates on me. I think it's too prominent, and isn't in keeping with the rest of the styling.

This might just be down to cognitive dissonance, of course.

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 23 Aug 05

I thought the quickchanges were gone for a second. I'll have to get used to the new design, but it looks good.

Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 23 Aug 05

I like the new site design, although I agree with Tony that the dashed line grates. Maybe you could gray-scale it down a little.

I think your "Worldchanging Retro" (at least fix the c to a C) is a great start; you should expand it into a sort of "Rolling Top 10" for the site. New readers need a quick way to discover the best stuff, the stuff that really changes the world. Perhaps "retro" isn't the right term for that: how about WorldChanging Flashbacks?


Posted by: Eric Boyd on 23 Aug 05

Gripe #2
What happened to the previous/next feature?

Granted, I use an RSS feed to keep up to date with your normally hectic pace, but prev/next was a useful way of navigating through the daily backlog.

Gripe #3
While the main display is OK, I find the detailed report more difficult to read. I think this is due to the greater width given. While it reduces the height of an article, and may get it to fit in one screen, it also means one's eyes have to continually scan left to right (so *that's* why newspaper columns are so narrow!)

Here's a thought: how difficult would it be to process the input text of a report so that, on display, it is evenly divided into two sub divs (class='column'), with float:left styling?

I hope these comments are of use, even if they are on the negative side!

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 23 Aug 05

ALL the comments are great, they are much appreciated and we are listening -- keep 'em coming!

Posted by: chanel reynolds on 23 Aug 05

Interesting changes.

One gripe: links opening a new browser. That breaks the back button, which is bad for usability.

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 24 Aug 05

Which links, Daniel? That's not the intended standard (and not how the links work when I browse them...).

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 24 Aug 05

Links in a new window are OK, and are done on the link list - possibly the 'target=_blank>' part of the 'a href'.

I don't like to lose the page that I went from. And I have Mozilla set up to simply open them in a new tab. But then, that's me.

Posted by: Taran on 24 Aug 05

Aesthetically speaking... I don't really like the dotted, hard lines. I think continuous, soft lines can give the same effect... I feel jolted otherwise.

Be advised, though, that if given a pencil and asked to draw to save my life, I would have a better chance stabbing myself with the pencil. ;-)

Posted by: Taran on 24 Aug 05

Love the new design,love to see that ambitious year happening!
I also like the retro postings.

Posted by: Rikkert on 24 Aug 05

Jamais- many (all?) the links outside WorldChanging use a target attribute, e.g. the LINKS section in the bottom of the right column. Both Internet Explorer and FF open them in a new window.

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 24 Aug 05

WorldChanging is a gift. Your new package is lovely. As ever, what's inside matters most, and is deeply appreciated. Thank you.

Posted by: David Foley on 25 Aug 05

Sorry, I don't like the redesign. The dotted lines are horrible. Previously each story was separated from the next by a large bold title and a solid bar of colour (if my memory serves me correctly). This made selecting each feature visually a lot easier, especially if you are tired (which I usually am when I get the time to read World Changing).

The new layout I find much harder to use and also less encouraging of me to read. I now have 3 columns to look at, all competing for my attention. Ouch!

Sorry, but someone has to say it.

I like the site and what you are trying to do,
I don't like the redesign. Sorry.

Posted by: Stephen Kellett on 25 Aug 05

Retro: Gripe #3
Things look a bit better in the detailed report when there is a photograph in the RHS, which effectively narrows the text width. However, the longer articles flow around. Maybe it would be better if you restricted the text width so that article width = text column width + graphic column width.

Gripe #4: There's also some problem with short articles and long photos

See for an example of this.

(photos encroach on comments section, in Firefox, at least... just tried IE: it doesn't even *show* the photo! Is that one just a funny format?)

The things that happen when everyone's away!

(Just no pleasing some folk!)

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 25 Aug 05

I have to say that the new design is not very appealing to me.

The dotted lines aren't very helpful, and it's harder to read the main articles now. The previous design was better in this regard.

And the "shorts" really worked better on the *right* hand side of the page.

The best parts of the new design are the search features and the obvious links to the team, etc. And the day-by-day navigation is nice.

In short, the new functionality is great. But the overall readership of the page has lost something since the last version.

Posted by: anonymous on 25 Aug 05

Overall I like the new design. I agree with others that softer gray, solid lines work better than the dashed ones.

I also think you need to either put a much more significant space break between the end of one story and the next one in the central column, or put a physical line marker there. I find that all the stories seem to roll into one and it makes me hard to start reading content as I have no sense of "start here"

I wonder if you have run the site through some of the online engines, or better yet, past someone experienced in designing full access sites - ie sites suitable for those with disabilities? I find it extremely helpful in producing a cleaner, much more navigable site, not to mention you don't want to have any barriers, I'm sure to anyone and everyone being able to enjoy this wonderful site.

Posted by: imogen on 25 Aug 05

I support these criticisms, unfortunately. The redesign (absence of design) makes reading more tiring, less joy. Content is cramped & this colour scheme is ripe for eye fatigue. Agree as well the shortchanges (features) were better on the right (most peeps are right handed, faster to click n all that, that's why shops put big sized packages on the right hand side).

Not to be unappreciative, love WC, but it needs to be user-friendly and easy to read all these complicated ideas cos that back button is only a short click away!

Posted by: J on 26 Aug 05

I love WorldChanging, but I find that the new site has a few problems. Most of these have been mentioned before:

1) the dashed lines are a bit of an eyesore

2) there isn't as much of a "break" between articles as there used to be; that would be helpful to bring back

3) the "quick changes" should probably be on the right hand side, to make it more natural to read (from left to right); most commerical designs do this too

I like the new features for searching, though. And the overall "clean" feeling of the site is still great.

I bet that a few minor tweaks (solid lines, move quickchanges to the right or middle column, and add more spaces or an obvious break between main articles) would do it.

Sorry to dump. This is a great site -- maybe the best on the Internet. Keep up the wondeful work!

Cheers, Jon

Posted by: Jon Foley on 26 Aug 05

Sadly, I have to agree with the critique so far given on the new design; it's harder to read and takes more energy out of the reader ...

But I like the new acsessability of the archives + the handy choices of headlines vs. full text RSS. (Now, would it be possible to mark the diffirence between quickchanges and main articles a bit more clearly in the RSS feeds?)


Posted by: Tim on 27 Aug 05

I hate to harp on this again, but wouldn't it make more sense to send your content as utf-8 (wikipedia) ? If you're really serious about doing versions of the site in multiple languages, you're going to end up having to use utf-8 anyway.

It may seem like splitting hairs, but your current encoding of iso-8859-1 sends the wrong message -- it's not interoperable with other languages.

Other than that I think the new site looks cool, I especially like the search function.

Posted by: Patrick Hall on 28 Aug 05

I do not so much mind the dotted lines, however, I do find the lack of break between articles in the middle column a bit discouraging.
Like others, I like the new search function, and hope you guys keep the WorldChanging logo green.
I'm hoping that eventually you'll also have a few more contributors. The number articles Jamais posts is kind of astounding.
I'm curious also how you guys are marketing this site. I find it strange that only 400 (or so) people have responded to your survey so far. I figured that the readship of this site was much higher.
Great site, tho. Hope you all had a productive retreat.

Posted by: David Lucas on 28 Aug 05

The usability of the search function could be greatly enhanced by automatically selecting 'All Categories', 'All Authors', and 'All Months'. It would leave each field just as well labeled, but quick searches would be that much easier.

Posted by: Nathan Wright on 30 Aug 05

I wondered if content could be localised - imagine clicking on a map of the world and seeing stuff going on in your area! It could encourage people to get involved in certain projects and also reveal gaps in the planetary net of progressive change. Just an idea, like!

Posted by: Daniel Johnston on 1 Sep 05

I am really sorry to say but who ever you have got doing the redesign tell them to stop now. I was hoping it was a work in progress but it is an ugly mess.
1. the search bar at the top is too obtrusive it doesn't need to be that big, something small and simple top right with a link to an advanced seearch page is a much smarter idea.

2. The new layout of the articles in the main column is worse than before less clearly defined and run into each other. They need to be more clearly seperated.

3. The third column doesn't render properly under Firefox and XP I would imagine a sizable proportion of your readers run that combination.

I could go on picking holes in the site but I won't I will just ask you to look at it your self and ask what looked better.

Posted by: Jim Bailey on 1 Sep 05

I always thought of the old site as a great example of clean, stylish, content-oriented design. The new style is a bit too much for me. The main column is not very prominent right now, everything looks equally important.
What I like are the borders of the boxes on the right and the style of the comment box I am writing into right now.
I like the idea of moving the new (cool!) search form to an 'advanced search' page linked beneath a small simple search field like the old one.

worldchanging content rocks, keep up the great work!

Posted by: Mattes on 4 Sep 05



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