A WordPress plugin brought to you by Search Engine Journal.
Greetings SEJ readers! It’s a new year and time for a new design at Search Engine Journal. I know what many of you are thinking … “didn’t SEJ just go through a new design?” Well the answer is yes and no. As a blogger I do not think that there is always room for improvement in design and tweaking a professional blog and/or community will always be part of the blog marketing mix.
The more transparent answer is that yes, we did just redesigning about a year ago, and I’ve had some issues with it :
- First off, we could never get the rotating headline to work on all browsers, and I got sick of seeing errors.
- There were a log of pagination, indexing and crawling issues which should not be associated with a search engine blog.
- The firm that put together the old template bailed before updating our specs and passed us on to some cutting companies that had no idea what they were doing.
- Although the last template was sleak, clean and lite … I thought that we had lost a little bit of our identity. The major search blogs seem to all be white & blue. That’s fine. We’re SEJ. We think differently and look differently. So we reverted back to the old color scheme from the Pearson design we implemented in 2006. I like being back.
Ok, so with every design there are certain goals in mind. I’ll line them out below and address the changes we made.
Page Speed & Hosted Solutions
Search Engine Journal is a 7 year old blog with around 10,000 posts by 250 different authors and over 60,000 comments. We were running into all kinds of load time issues even when using WP-Super Cache. A lot of this has to do with the amount of author images and comments being loaded as our site is crawled and accessed.
This was a pretty large drain on our database and although Tiger Technologies is one of the best hosting companies in the world and always open to help, we decided to take some of the issues off their plate by hosting the comments and author images on 3rd party solutions.
- Disqus : Disqus is an awesome comment management tool that is not only nice because they handle the comment hosting and serving from their servers, but they also add a lot of social interaction to the comments. Comments on SEJ can now be shared easily, voted upon, responded to in a threaded fashion and SEJ users can login using OpenID, Disqus, Facebook Connect or Twitter. The end result is a better commenting solution and makes SEJ more fun. Their spam filtering is top notch and although the comments are hosted on Disqus, we still have them being copied to our database of content. This is a Win-Win equation.
- Gravatar : Gravatar is an avatar hosting solution that is owned by Automattic, the same company behind WordPress. Using Gravatar, our authors can just sign up with the same email they register on SEJ with and BAM their images appear on the posts. We can now use the images in different sizes and are now calling them up from the server every time a page loads or a category loads. We now have author images on the homepage again too!
Pagination & Categories
To be blunt, the SEJ design from the past 9 months probably had the worst navigation ever. We’ve fixed that with targeted category pages and sub-categories which will be launched later. If you scroll over the Services link in the top navigation, you’ll see a quick dropdown to a list of the consulting services provided by Search & Social, the parent company of SEJ. I think this is a pretty cool feature and we’ll be rolling it out to all categories.
We also have links to older posts on the bottom of the homepage. Something we never had with the old design. So there. Issue resolved!
Widgets, News & Author Pages
This is the first time SEJ has had widgets. Woohoo! We can do a lot with Widgets. The first widget we rolled out is our SEJ News Reel. SEJ traditionally has two fronts in blogging : News & Tutorials.
Sometimes the news, on a busy day, can cloud the frontpage of SEJ so we don’t get to see so many of those great tutorials. The news can be anything from a trending story in search, to an acquisition, to some links to a cool blog post on another blog. In an effort to serve the best material with a longer shelf life on our homepage and categorical pages, we’ve incorporated the SEJ News Reel. Posts we only mark as Hot News will be added into the SEJ News Reel. If a story is big, like Google acquiring something, we’ll mark it as Hot News AND another category like Google. This way, it will appear as a feature story on the homepage.
Some people like news, some people like tutorials .. .and some like both. So our SEJ News will still come across our RSS feed, and is accessible via the SEJ News Reel widget on the site. But if you want to subscribe to only SEJ News, you will be able to via a separate feed. I think this is a really cool feature.
Along with the color changes and other design changes, we’ve added some new stuff to the overall design.
- SEJ Share Box : To the left of each blogpost you’ll see a little share box for Retweeting and Voting on Sphinn. We’ll probably be adding some other share features such as Google Buzz or Facebook, but didn’t want to over do it on the first day.
- Site Alignment : We’re testing out a new alignment of the site which, instead of hosting the content in the middle of the screen with empty space on each side, aligns the blog to the left. This is totally experimental. If this works, the plan is to incorporate Twitter Streams and Video into the right side of the design, so people who have a widescreen monitor will see the Twitter Stream and Videos. People with smaller monitors will just see the blog. I would like feedback on the alignment. Please leave it in the comments.
- Author Info : Along with the new author pages, we also have new author boxes under the posts with an image (powered by Gravatar), Website Link, Twitter Link and soon an upcoming blog link. The Author Bios are all powered by the information the authors list on their panels, so this should stay constant and help you to connect with each SEJ contributor socially AND read their content.
So, here is an open call for feedback on the new SEJ Design. Be as critical as you want or as nice as you can be. We want to give the search community the best blog we can, and we need your feedback to make that happen!