New SEJ Design : Goals, Speed & Feedback

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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.

Design Tweaks

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!

Thanks, Loren

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • Loren,

    I like the new Author boxes on the individual articles! And I’m now in the “Authors” box on the right column!

  • Prabhu

    I am a regular reader here – I am currently in Chrome – trust me – the readability is very poor – ! I earlier liked the bright look of SEJ. With all the current efforts – at least please change + increase the font

    • lorenbaker

      Thanks Prabhu, I will keep this in mind.

    • I think SEJ is perfectly designed and I really like its contents.

  • Gidseo

    Hi Loren, Ann and all
    I'm afraid it doesn't work for me and nor does disqus – I think SEJ is forgetting who reads it!
    The content in the left 50% of the screen, 20% big black stripe and blank 30% on the right is headache inducing.
    Please, tell me when you redo the site again and I'll come back, but in the meantime I'm afraid I'll be reading SEJ on my RSS.

    • lorenbaker

      Disqus doesn't work for you? Just curious as to your problems with it. Please fill me in. Thanks.

  • jimrudnick

    great new design….like it muchly, Ann!

  • Hey Loren:

    Looks good, I thought you lost something too when you lost the original color palette, glad to see it back in its place as the connection between the migrations as this was after all your Brand Equity from the onset.

    Content is rock solid and your traffic has skyrocketed… Glad to see you guys getting the props you deserve from the masses.

    All the best!

  • Probably won't be the last one you'll hear this from (inddeed, Gidseo has already, but the left alignment isn't working for me). Had some issues with DISQUS – once I logged in had to refresh a number of times – but seems okay now (at least that'll be the case if you see this:).

    Generally looks good – but I would probably soldier on and read it even if the redesign was awful, as you guys post such useful stuff. 🙂

  • I've looked at more websites than I can remember over the last 10 years. For a number of years I designed and developed sites. This is a fine design. I can see everything I need to see at a glance. It is appealing to the eye – it flows well.
    The only thing I would move is the search box. It feels a little out of place, sorta just stuck there at the top.

    I use Disqus and I like it. I know some hate it, but no comment system is perfect.

    I'm on a Mac, but I can tell you if it works with Safari, and Chrome (it does) it will be OK with IE, excluding IE6. Opera is another story. I can never get it to render sites correctly on Mac. It seems to be better on Windows.

    Great job, and I ain't blowin' smoke. (How's that for good English)?

  • Well, I had to refresh the page 3 times to get the comment box to not say server upload in it (not sure what is causing that) I Like the layout but I do think that there could be a wider article column. It seems pretty crunched for reading. Also, on my screen which is using firefox on a mac at 1280×800 I am having to scroll about an inch side to side which is no good. I was kind of surprised to see no one else was having that issue but I have checked on chrome and safari and the same thing is happening.

    Color is great, love to article author box, add a mobile/local link and you are in business. 😉

  • Mayura

    Hello, i am regular reader of SEJ, i like earlier look, need to scroll down to read full page in new design whereas in old look we could read 4 post headlines at a time.
    still i would like to read regularly 🙂

  • I heard Disqus was having some performance issues. On other blogs as well. I hope they will fix that soon…

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  • coffee84

    i dont know how to instal it. any help pleasE?

  • coffee84

    i dont know how to instal it. any help pleasE?