It’s after Noon on January 1st and I’ve “finished” implementing the changes to Lakeland Local. Most of them are behind the scene, and those, unfortunately won’t be completed for a few more days. Simply, as the site has gained popularity it has experienced some growing pains. I hope the software changes will improve speed, responsiveness and readability. A move to a new server next week should also help a great deal.
I know only the technophiles care about such changes. And they’re probably reading this on their feedreaders and don’t realized we’ve adopted a new look for 2009. Last year we moved from single author, primarily news-oriented to multi-author, photography rich, columnist-oriented. We hope this new design will help readers navigate our feature heavy content.
• We’ve shortened the home page article excerpts. Readers should no longer miss articles because they’ve so quickly scrolled off the home page.
• Each home page excerpt now includes a photo of the writer, or an image for our regular maps and other such features.
• The many fans of Tom Hagerty should rejoice. In the old design we could publish only one of Tom’s photos each day. Worse, once a photo ran, it was almost impossible to find again. The new design features a set of Tom’s photographs that play as a slideshow. Each Sunday, I’ll drop in a new set of seven photos that will play all week. You can click any photo to view it full size and easily restart the slideshow with a click. A link is included above the slide show that will point to all of Tom’s published photos.
• If the slideshow isn’t enough, the footer of every page will display thumbnails of the latest 10 photos by Tom. Savvy readers can catch the photos before they illustrate articles or appear in the slideshow.
• Navigation aids are all over the site. Under our logo above is a line of our special information pages. Under that line are quick links to our seven most popular categories.
• Breadcrumbs appear at the top left of every page to help readers navigate the site. At the top right is today’s date; a link to our latest nine articles formatted for mobile devices; and a link to our RSS feed.
• Under Tom’s slideshow is Lakeland Short Reports — quick news notes and information from the Lakeland Local staff. We’re using Twitter to keep that section updated with police reports, missing person information, Amber Alerts, and other such time-sensitive news. (If you’re not using Twitter, give it a look. You can subscribe to our article Twitter feed @lakelandlocal. Many of the Lakeland Local staff also use Twitter: @chuckwelch, @cmcarter, @darbysea, and @lorriewalker90.
• A new tabbed sidebar will display numerous new ways to find articles on Lakeland Local. Tab #1 displays the latest five updated posts; #2 lists the latest five written posts. The list won’t always match as we occasionally update an older post with new information. Tab #1 is your quick method to updates.
• If you like seeing what everyone else is reading then tab #3 is your list of our five most read posts. Note, we’ll reset the count every now and then.
• The next set of tabs continue methods to find older posts. Tab #4 is a cloud of article tags. Writers use the tags to identify key elements of each article. The larger the font, the more often that tag has been applied.
• Tab #5 is the standard list of categories. (In the next few weeks we will reduce that list to a more manageable number.) Tab #6 is a simple list of months. With a click you can display an entire month of articles.
• Favorite sidebar links have returned. One-click links to: the archives of each contributor, area writers, Lakeland organizations, media, and other helpful sites.
• Our local calender isn’t lost in the shuffle. You can find a link at the top of every page, and a list of today’s and upcoming events in the sidebar.
There are other changes throughout the site. We’ll leave it to astute readers to catch them. Please write us at staff [at] lakelandlocal.com if you have any questions, concerns, or have found a place where we’ve made a coding error.