Posts tagged ‘redesign’


The new Autocade is coming soon

17.03.2022

At just past its 14th birthday, Autocade will return on a new server, with a new Mediawiki installation.
   Because Mediawiki got rid of the stats with v. 1.25, sadly they weren’t imported into the new version that we’re running. We’re going to start the count from 0, though of course right before the changeover I’ll take note of where we got to.
   For those sick of me commemorating every millionth page view, you might get your wish, because of the extra arithmetic that’s going to be involved.
   I’d like to thank my friend for doing all this work anonymously behind the scenes. Unlike 2000, websites are far more complex things, and just customizing the look took me a few days. You can imagine how much more complex it was to import a PHP database and hooking up the site to Plesk.
   What we have is an Autocade that looks familiar—like Lucire’s website redesign last year I tried to keep everything as close as possible—but there are minor tweaks that go with the newer software.
   Certain pages did not make the transition, namely the ‘About’ and community portal, so these had to be added manually from the original. But as far as I can tell, all the cars are there, and that’s the reason that almost all of you visit. You can see how it all works very soon.
 
I imagine this blog will be next—and then I will likely get back to updating it at the usual pace. Though as my experience with social media demonstrates, it’s remarkably easy to break a habit!

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Farewell, Twitter gadget (is there a point to them?)

24.10.2021

One good thing to having Twitter lock Lucire’s account: there’s no point having a Twitter gadget or widget on your home page any more. Was there ever one to begin with? I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a site and found a Twitter widget useful.
   It did bother me that a Lucire print cover was no longer visible on the top part of the screen with the new theme. The ‘Our latest issue’ has now been moved to the sidebar from the bottom of the page, where it used to reside next to ‘Lucire on Twitter’. It doesn’t make much difference to cellphone users, but all the difference to web ones.
   So that’s one positive development to being locked out of Twitter.
   I’ve also made a minor tweak to this blog: the left-hand column is now wider, and a few more logos appear. Previously the table width (yes, it’s that old) was 960 pixels, but I figured that most people would have larger monitors by now. The blog also has a working, albeit standard, Wordpress mobile theme, so unlike Lucire there shouldn’t be any problems for cellphone users if I changed things. It does make this blog slightly inconsistent with the rest of the site, but maybe one day I’ll stick the lot on Bootstrap as well.

PS.: The first widget to disappear was Facebook’s, in 2018, weeks before the Cambridge Analytica story. Instagram’s was taken off when we most recently reskinned the home page a few weeks ago. They’re all pointing us in this direction.

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Refreshing the less oft-seen pages on Lucire’s website

23.10.2021



A decade separates these two incarnations of Lucire’s shopping home page. Some Facebook gadgets were added during the 2010s and the magazine cover was updated, but it was woefully out of date and needed to be refreshed.

It’s very unusual for us to go into the less-frequented pages in Lucire and adapt them to a new template before doing a major one such as the fashion index page. But sometimes you go with the creative flow, so it was the turn of the ‘Newsstand’ pages plus the shopping home page, which hadn’t been updated in seven years (and most of it hadn’t been touched for ten).
   Needless to say, on the latter, almost everything was out of date. We’ve removed the links to the shopping directory, which last existed to support the print magazine as it was in the mid-2000s. Since then, we haven’t really had a shopping section in print, and we ceased to update it much online.
   What was disappointing to note, after my lament about the disappearance of so many fashion websites earlier this year, that even more had closed down, so much so that the three ‘Newsstand’ pages have come back down to two (as it was in the 2000s). There are still some that have not been updated in years, but we have maintained the links for historical purposes.
   Poking about the directories did lead me to lucire.com/xp, a framed page with content for our mobile edition in 2000 that was compatible with Plucker. Long before cellphones became the norm, we were already catering for portable devices. I knew we had a Plucker edition, but had forgotten about the xp directory till tonight.
   The copy on that page reads, ‘Lucire Express was the hand-held version of Lucire, powered by Plucker. With more recent developments in syndication and content management, support for Express has been discontinued.’
   It seemed logical that cellphone browsers would be developed to reduce the content of high-res pages to make them readable, but that is yet to happen (unless one goes into a simplified view mode). To think that programmers found a way to do that in the 2000s. How times have changed, with what appears to be a slowing down of innovation—forcing us to adapt to the technology (developing mobile-friendly themes in-house) rather than the other way round.

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Switching Lucire’s home page over to the new template

07.10.2021



Lucire’s online edition home page: out with the old (top), in with the new (above).

I switched over Lucire’s home page to the new template today. I’m going to miss the old one, since it had the effect of a bled page, something that’s de rigueur for a fashion magazine.
   As outlined in my previous post, it’s just something we had to do to move with the times, and to make life easier for those browsing on mobile devices. I recognize the irony here, as someone who doesn’t tend to use cellphones having to design for that very medium, but then I’m also a realist.
   Once I get a bit more confidence hacking the theme from HTML Codex, the bled effect might return.
   I made some calls on what to include this time round. The social links are gone—recent events have just made them too discouraging. (The Facebook ones disappeared years ago.) The top image has been replaced by a slider with three images. The little graphic featuring the latest issue of Lucire has also been removed, only because we couldn’t figure out where it would go in the new template, but it might make a return sooner rather than later. In terms of appearance, there are fewer lines, though this is more down to convenience and working with someone else’s CSS; again, they might make a return at some point. The dotted line separating the footer from the body has also gone for now.
   As every web publisher knows, no template is set in stone and there’s ongoing evolution.
   It’s partly a shame to bring to an impending close a template entirely programmed by me. Since Lucire started, it was built on my code, the first issue done on Notepad. But HTML Codex has done a good job with its stylesheet, it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. Many of the old pages with my code will still exist (since, other than one article, we don’t redo old HTML pages), and it’ll take months before we shift all section indices and the news pages over. I am looking forward to the changes, and that’s always a good sign.

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Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Facebook fooled us into thinking we were being creative

11.02.2021

My friend Keith has been away from Facebook for six weeks, for work reasons, and hasn’t missed it. And he asked, ‘Was it all really a waste of time?’
   I know you think you know what I’m going to say, but the answer might surprise you a little.
   Fundamentally, it’s yes (this is how you know this blog has not been hijacked), but Keith’s question brought home to me, as well as other work I’ve done this week, the biggest con of Facebook for the creative person.
   It’s not the fact the advertising results are not independently checked, or that there’s evidence that Facebook itself uses bots to boost likes to a page. The con was, certainly when I was a heavy user around the time Timeline was introduced, making us feel like we were doing something creative, satiating that part of our brain, when in fact we were making Zuckerberg rich.
   How we would curate our lives! Show the best side of ourselves! Choose those big pictures to be two-column-wide Timeline posts! We looked at these screens like canvases to be manipulated and we enjoyed what they showed us.
   Before Facebook became ‘the new Digg’ (as I have called it), and a site for misinformation, we were still keeping in touch with friends and having fun, and it seemed to be the cool thing to do as business went quiet in the wake of the GFC.
   And I was conned. I was conned into thinking I was enjoying the photography and writing and editing—at least till I realized that importing my RSS feeds into Facebook gave people zero incentive to come to my sites.
   This week, with redoing a few more pages on our websites, especially ones that dated back many years, I was reminded how that sort of creative endeavour gave me a buzz, and why many parts of our company websites used to look pretty flash.
   The new look to some pages—the photo gallery was the most recent one to go under the knife—is slightly more generic (which is the blunt way to say contemporary), but the old one had dated tremendously and just wasn’t a pleasure to scroll down.
   And while it still uses old-fashioned HTML tables (carried over from the old) it was enjoyable to do the design work.
   There’s still more to do as the current look is rolled out to more pages.
   Maybe it took me a while to realize this, and others had already got there, but most of my time had been spent doing our print magazines lately. But designing web stuff was always fun, and I’m glad I got to find that buzz again, thanks to Amanda’s nudge and concepts for jya.co, the JY&A Consulting site. Forget the attention economy, because charity begins at the home page.



Photo galleries, old and new. The top layout is more creative design-wise than the lower one, but sadly the browsing experience felt dated.

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Have we stopped innovating in online publishing?

22.07.2020

For a while, we’ve been thinking about how best to facelift the Lucire website templates, to bring them into the 2020s. The current look is many years old (I’ve a feeling it was 2016 when we last looked at it), which in internet terms puts this once-cutting edge site into old-school territory.
   But what’s the next step? When I surf the web these days, so many websites seem to be run off one of several templates, and there aren’t many others out there. After you scroll down past the header, everything more or less looks the same: a big single-column layout with large type.
   I know we have to make things responsive, and we haven’t done this properly, by any means. The CSS will have to be reprogrammed to suit 2020s requirements. But I am reminded of when we adopted many of the practices online publishers do today, except we did them nearly two decades ago.
   Those of you who have been with us a long time, and those who might want to venture into the Wayback Machine, might know that we provided “apps” for hand-held devices even then. We offered those using Palm Pilots and the like a small, downloadable version of the Lucire news pages. We had barely any takers.
   Then Bitstream (if I recall correctly) came out with tech that could reduce pages to a lower resolution and narrower pixel width so those browsing on smaller devices could do so, and those of us publishing for larger monitors no longer needed to do a special version.
   So that was the scene 20 years ago. Did apps, no one cared; and eventually tech came out that rendered it all unnecessary. It’s why I resisted making apps today, because I keep expecting history to repeat itself. I can’t be the only one with a memory of the first half of the 2000s. As a non-technical person, I expect there’d be something like that Bitstream technology today. Maybe there is. I guess some browsers have a reader mode, and that’s a great idea. And if we want to offer that to our readers, it can’t be too hard to find a service that we can point modern smartphone users to, and they can browse all sites to their hearts’ content.
   Except I know, as with so many tech things, that it isn’t that easy, that in fact it’s all so much harder. Server management hasn’t become easier in 2020 compared with 2005, all as the computing industry loses touch with everyday people like me who once really believed in the democratization of technology and bridging the digital divide.
   Back to the templates. I wrote on NewTumbl yesterday, ‘Remember when we could surf the web pretty easily and find amazing new sites, and creative web designs, as people figured out how best to exploit this medium? These days a lot of websites all look the same and there’s far less innovation. Have we settled into what this medium’s about and there’s no need for the same creativity? I’m no programmer, so I can’t answer that, but it wasn’t that long ago we could marvel at a lot of fresh web designs, rather than see yet another site driven by the same CMS with the same single-column responsive template. Or people just treat a Facebook page or an Instagram feed as their “website”, and to heck with making sure it’s hosted on something they have control over.’
   And that’s the thing: I haven’t visited any sites that really jumped out at me, that inspires me to go, ‘What a great layout idea. I must see if I can do something similar here.’ My very limited programming and CSS design skills aren’t being challenged. This is a medium that was supposed to be so creative, and when I surf, after finding a page via a search engine, those fun moments of accidental discovery don’t come any more. The web seems like a giant utilitarian information system, which I suppose is how its inventor conceived it, but I feel it could be so much more. Maybe the whole world could even get on board a fair, unbiased search engine, and a news spidering service that was current and didn’t prioritize corporate media, recognizing that stories can be broken by independents. Because such a thing doesn’t really exist in 2020, even though we had it in the early 2000s. It was called Google, and it actually worked fairly. No search engine with that brand name strikes me as fair today.
   I am, therefore, unsure if we can claim to have advanced this medium.

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The return of borders?

22.12.2019

Nadia has done it for ages, but I noticed Glamour did it for a while in 2018, and Wheels has stuck with it for its “new look”. What’s the deal with bordered covers?
   I still prefer them bled, especially as I remember the difficulties of doing them back in the old days, and print agencies discouraged me from bleeds on cheaper jobs.
   Unless there’s a clever reason, I can’t really see these covers as having a greater impact. Having bought Wheels’ design issue recently, I was pretty disappointed in the overall look. Nothing really beats the feeling of the UVed, upmarket Phil Scott issues back in the late ’80s, even if the price hike put it slightly outside my teenage budget, and I stopped getting the mag monthly.
   Based on a cursory examination, Condé Nast’s Glamour went back to bled covers by the end of 2018, the gamble probably having done nothing for circulation.




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Sounds familiar? Works on all browsers, except for IE8

29.12.2013

I’m sure this is familiar to anyone who has done web development. Lucire has a new home page and the tests show:

Firefox on Mac, Windows, Ubuntu: OK
Chromium on Windows: OK
IE9 and IE10: OK
Safari on Mac OS X, Iphone and Ipad: OK
Dolphin on Android: OK
A really old version of Seamonkey we had at the office: OK
IE8 on Windows XP: not OK

   All the roman text is showing as bold, and as usual this is not a bug that I can find reported (I even looked on Google). I have found bugs about italics showing instead of romans caused by installation issues, which don’t apply here as we are using webfonts. There is another common bug about faux bolds and italics, but I’m having the opposite problem: a true bold showing up where romans should (and bold italic instead of italic).
   Annoyingly, this bug may have been with us for over a month—when we changed our body type.
   Given that IE8 was never a good browser to begin with, and anyone who cared about their surfing experiences would not have touched it, it makes me wonder if we should invest any more time trying to get things to work. It does mean that just under a tenth of our readers (or is it just over a fifth? Depends who you want to believe) won’t be able to experience our website the way we intended. I realize older IEs are more commonplace in China but our readership this year in the Middle Kingdom had dipped.
   The good news, in some ways, is Microsoft’s announcement that it will cease support for the venerable XP platform in 2014. If trends continue based on the first set of stats, the well obsolete IE8 should dip below the five per cent mark this coming year.
   It’s a toss-up between leaving it and fixing it, given that we don’t know why IE8 is misinterpreting the linked fonts (theory: are the character sets of the roman and italic too large for it to handle?). If we knew, then fixing things would be a no-brainer. (Clues are welcome!)

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Posted in business, design, internet, media, New Zealand, technology, typography | 2 Comments »


Tinkering time

19.02.2013

I’m hoping no one has noticed that we are shifting servers, because seamlessness is the sure sign that it’s all been done properly without any effect on our clients, their clients, and our audiences.
   Thanks to Nigel Dunn at Xplosiv.ly—Nigel and I have worked together both at this firm and, now, between our firms—all our websites are at a new home, running Nginx.
   The tricky ones were Lucire and Autocade, the latter needing a bit of surgery since I hadn’t bothered to update Mediawiki properly since I uploaded the software in 2008. Instead, over the years, I’ve patched it to ensure that viruses and spammers didn’t get in there.
   The wise thing to do is to make sure everything is running the latest versions, so Autocade was upgraded to the newest Mediawiki. As the original skin wasn’t compatible (nor was one of the extensions), the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed some minor changes to its look.
   Over the next week, you’ll see this website change. I’ve been wanting to tinker with my personal site since last year, when I realized the look was six years old. Two thousand and six in the internet world is, in human evolution, roughly when we started to walk upright.
   It’s not finished yet—far from it—but I’m still playing with the theme here on Wordpress. Right now, the larger type should be clearer to read, and if there are no issues, I’ll roll this look out to the rest of the site, which runs static HTML pages.
   I will say it was easier this time than it was in 2006, so I must have learned a thing or two in that time.
   Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

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A fresher Lucire (the web edition) for 2013

05.01.2013

When Lilith-Fynn Herrmann, Tania Naidu, Julia Chu, Tanya Sooksombatisatian and I redesigned Lucire in 2012, we went for a very clean look, taking a leaf from Miguel Kirjon’s work at Twinpalms Lucire in Thailand. I’m really proud of the results, and it makes you happy to work on the magazine—and just pick up the finished article and gaze at it.
   But the website—where it all began 15 years ago—was looking a bit dreary. After getting Autocade to 2,000 models, and updating various listings to reflect the 2013 model year, it was time we turned our attention to Lucire.
   Like all of these things, the mood has to hit you right, and we needed a quiet news day—of which there are plenty at this time of the year. We knew where things were with the web: because of improved screen resolutions, type had to be larger. There may be—and this is something we don’t have any research on yet—people who are familiar with on-screen reading that some of the rules about line length might apply less. And some of the successful publications have multiple sharing—in fact, there are so many links to like or Tweet or pin something on each page that you can be left wondering just which one you press.
   The last big overhaul of the Lucire look online was in 2009, and the updates have been relatively minor since then. But it was looking messy. We had to add icons for new things that were creeping up. One Facebook “like” button wasn’t enough: what about people who wanted to become Facebook fans? Surely we should capture them? Maybe we should put up a Pinterest link? That went up during 2012. We had 160-pixel-wide ads for years—so we kept them. The result was tolerable, and it served us reasonably well, but did people still browse Lucire for fun? Or was it just a site where you got the information you needed and left again? Bounce rates suggested the latter.
   While some of these things were noted subconsciously, we didn’t have a firm brief initially. We simply decided to do one page with a new look, to see how it would go. We had the print editions in mind. We knew we wanted clean—but we still had to eat, so advertising still had to take up some of the page. We also knew that the lead image should be 640 pixels wide, and that that would have to be reflected on the news pages.
   I’m glad to say we got lucky. The first page done—a redesign of Sarah MacKenzie’s BMW X1 first drive, which originally went up with the old look on January 1—worked. It had all the features we wanted, even if it meant abandoning some things we had had for a long time, such as the skyscraper ads. The callouts could go. In fact, we could remove the central column altogether. And the ‘Related articles’ could be moved to the bottom, where they used to be. And we stuck up plenty of sharing tools, even if good design says they introduce clutter, so we could capture users at the start and the end of an article—but we used different templates for each one. All the social networking pages we had could go to the top of the page in a row with ‘Follow us’.
   The trick was then to repeat the look on other pages.
   The ‘Volante’ index page is the only one so far to be brought into line with the new template, just to try some different layouts. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, though fashion ed. Sopheak Seng believes it’s clean enough. Practically, it is where it should be, but I want some visual drama in there. We’ll see—I think Sopheak might be right given the function of the index page, and it is heaps cleaner than how it used to look.
   The home page, of course, is the biggie, and I’m very proud to note that there’s been some great DIY there. While the slider and Tweets appear courtesy of programming that its authors have distributed freely, it’s a nice feeling to be able to say that they are on there because of in-house work, using Jquery (which we last used internally at JY&A Consulting’s website), and not a convenient WordPress plug-in. Time will tell whether it will prove to be more practical to manage but I think it already is.
   I’ve summarized in Lucire some of the features, but there were just sensible things like getting rid of the QR code (what’s it doing on the website, anyway?), the Digg link (yes, really), the Nokia Ovi link (not far from now, kids will be asking what Nokia was). We have removed three of the six news headlines and grouped the remaining ones in a more prominent fashion—which might mean people will need to scroll down to see them, so I can foresee them being moved up somehow. But, overall, the effect is, as Sopheak notes, so much closer to the print title.
   The slider has solved some problems with Google News picking up the wrong headline, too. I realize the big omission is not doing a proper mobile-optimized version but we need to do a bit more learning internally to deliver that properly. The news pages, which are on Wordpress, have the default Jetpack skin. We have made some concessions to mobile devices and Sopheak tells me it is more browseable on his Samsung.
   And today, the look went on to all the news pages.
   I mentioned to him today that it was very 2002–3. That period, too, saw Lucire get a redesign, standardizing things, making the pages cleaner, and in line with a print style (although at that point, the print edition had not been launched—though when it did, we adapted some of the look from the site). That look lasted us into 2006, perhaps longer than it should have been, given that we had some internal issues in that period.
   It’s only natural that some clutter will be reintroduced as the years wear on—in Facebook’s case, it only takes a few months—but, for now, we’re hoping that bounce rate goes down, that the team, as a whole, feel far prouder of the work that appears online where it’s seen by more people, and that we have future-proofed a little.
   So what were the lessons? (a) You need to keep on top of developments, and, even if you’re not the richest company in the world, you need to have someone thinking about how you look to the public. If smaller companies can manage teams more effectively, then they need to ensure there’s strong loyalty—and that the feedback about things like the website are collated, either online or kept with one team member who champions the change. When a redesign happens, you’ll need to solve a lot of problems in one go. (b) There is no substitute for doing—and even getting it wrong on occasion. What we’ve done is to phase things in—just so we can learn from any bugs. (c) And after the job is done, take some time to enjoy it.
   There’s probably no surprise when I say that this site is next. I know, it has links to different blog readers. It looks very mid-2000s. Which is no surprise, considering when it was designed …

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