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Robert Niles

A look at the changes on

Nov. 2, 2008 at 11:37 PM

Hi folks,

I wanted to tell you about the new design here on This is the result of many conversations Laurie and I have had about the direction of the site, her desire to improve its look, as well as our desire to provide a better experience for our readers.

First, the look. In addition to a larger logo, the site now has a fixed width for its content area, which will allow us better control of the site's design. We've increased the size of the top navigation bar and put a right-rail navigation on all pages. The content of that right-side column will vary depending upon what section you are reading on the site. 

On the discussion board, you will notice the links to the discussion categories on the right side of each page, as well as the button to submit a new discussion thread.

On the blog pages, you will find links to the most recently submitted blog entries on the site.

Laurie and I wanted to find a way to give a longer "shelf life" to best blog entries submitted to, so we decided to restructure the blog home page so that posts she selects will be shown in the main (center) section of the page. All other posts will be linked in the right column. Laurie will continue to read all those posts, selecting the best for inclusion in the main rail, and on the home page. (She will be blogging soon about what she's looking for in deciding which blog posts to promote to these positions.)

We've built new search forms on the Luthiers and Directory pages, and consolidated content from other sections of the site onto those pages, as well. Please, take a look.

The big change that participants on the site will notice is the next "rich text" editor for submitting discussion threads and comments, as well as blogs. This editor allows you to bold, italicize and hyperlink text in submissions without having to know the HTML code to do those things. It also creates a double-line break automatically, so you don't have to hit "Return" twice after each paragraph.

I am still tweaking several things on the site, including image upload on blogs, audio/video clip uploads for members' profile pages and the template for Laurie's weekly e-mail. (You can subscribe to that using the form at the top left of the page.) So... bear with me as I fix those up in the next day or two.

I'm sure that there's other stuff that's changed, which I have forgotten to mention. I'll address those in the comments. But, mostly, I want to thank you all for reading

From Robert Niles
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 12:15 AM

 Also, if anyone is missing it, the link to create a blog entry is now at the top of the page, in the site navigation bar.

From Mendy Smith
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 12:28 AM

I can't seem to find the link to create a blog.  The top navigation bar "My Blog" doesn't seem to do anything,  it just gives me the main blog page.  Also, I get an error when I try to upload music.

From Robert Niles
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 1:05 AM

 Look up there now for the post blog link.

The music upload is disabled temporarily while I work on that section.

From Stephen Symchych
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 1:16 AM

Is a search function available?

From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 1:34 AM

I have a couple of remarks:

I would like to have the search function back.  Please make it easy to find.

I guess I should have mentioed this earlier, but I didn't want to complain.  When someone posts a photo as part of their blog, the reader often has to scroll way down the page, past the list of bloggers on the right  to see the photo.  I hope your new software will correct this.

I already mentioned this one to Laurie, who gave you the message.  I tried repeatedly to embed something from youtube, with no succes.  I hope you have or will have this fixed.

Regarding the toolbar for bold, italic, etc.:  I suggest that you include an option for a larger font or, better still, make a larger font default.  I will get eyestrain reading this, especially if I don't have my contact lenses on. 

Another suggestion about the toolbar and formatting.  It would be really helpful if we could click a button and see the actual HTML code.  I've often found that that's the only way to make the display look the way I want it to.

More on toolbar:  It looks like something has been  grayed out.  What is it?

I don't see a home page.

On the whole, I really like the new version.  The large logo at the top of each page is great.  I also like the titles and author's names of recent blogs in the right column.  The colors and fonts of the words on the horizontal menu bar at the top ef each page are visually attractive and distinctive.

Thank you, Robert, for all the work you've done for this site.  Sometimes it's not obvious that someone with a lot of skills and smarts is responsible for what we can see and do.   





From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 3:00 AM

What happened to the news?  Was it just too much for Laurie to do by herself?

From Robert Niles
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 3:25 AM

The news section is folding into the discussion board. "News" will be a new category in the discussion board, with recently submitted news threads moved to the top of the board.

The search function is back, in the right rail. That was a brain fade on my part leaving that out. 

From Christopher Ciampoli
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 3:29 AM

The banner is very nice and I like the colors. However, whatever blog, thread, etc. that I would like to enjoy is almost a sliver of the page I'm viewing. There are two huge columns of solid color on each side that take up maybe 30% of the summative width of the screen. Then there are two more columns with advertisements and internal links.



practically left

is this

tiny column

in the

middle :(

From Robert Niles
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 4:48 AM

 What's your screen resolution? (FWIW, the middle column is supposed to be 600 pixels wide. The left is 180 pixels and the right is 200.)

From Christian Abel
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 8:39 AM

First of all, the design is very nice. Fresh and engaging. I do however  have a couple of comments/observations that are meant to be constructive:

On the home page, it seems natural that the heading ,"Recent Discussion Threads" would be an active link to the discussion thread page.

I also agree with Christopher that the center reading area is uncomfortably narrow. In particular, the "discussion topics" column on the right seems, at least for me, to be unnecessarily prominent. I personally have never once sorted the threads using those categories.  I just read 'em all.

In the blog section, the bloggers now have to be pretty creative in making an engaging title for their blog. There is no longer any content to catch your interest, and I found that I skipped over most blogs on the right, whereas before I took time read through most of them.

From Bram Heemskerk
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 11:49 AM

I miss the blogroll. Now you have to click on each individual blog at the right. Normally people can seen what is written the last days. Now blogmakers will get fewer readers. So please the blogrollpage back, so you can globally read what is written during your holiday or after some time when you forget to look to

From E. Smith
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 12:15 PM

Is it possible to switch back and forth between html and rich text, as you can do in, say Livejournal? I ask because sometimes one wants to use a different color font or a <s>strikethrough</s> for emphasis. Thanks! 

From Anne Horvath
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 4:39 PM

I actually like the spread of the text now.  It evokes the column style of the  "Dead Tree Newpaper", and is fine to read. 

Wasn't there a plan to have an "Edit" feature in the blog comments section? 

I also like the single and double space capabilities.  Nice.


From Richie Smit
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 9:33 PM

Glad to see you've dragged the site kicking and screaming into the... ahem... 1990s.

Why use pixel-based design when typographic measures are available? A browser is not a MIDI sequencer -- it's a performer, each with its own interpretation. Please design your site with users in mind, not your own (literally!) narrow view.

As for FCKeditor options, it might be better to include text color, and exclude lists. How many commenters try to use lists in their responses?

Finally, the News section won't allow commenting. It reports that I'm not logged in.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 9:59 PM

Great work on the new design.  For me there is currently one disadvantage in comparison to the old site:  The general font for text was much easier to read, now it seems really faded?  I can't put my finger on it exactly - is it smaller than before or less bold?  Maybe I'm just getting old and should remember to wear my glasses whilst on the computer, but I really preferred the easy-to-read old font.

From Robert Niles
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 10:39 PM

The current type font is the same face and style as the old one. In fact, it is actually darker than the old. The only other difference is that there is a touch more white space between the lines now than there was before, which, theoretically, should make the type easier to read.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 11:01 PM

Maybe I'll get used to it and change my mind, but on first impression I felt like the blog area is now less welcoming and harder to navigate.  I am having the same problem as Bram with the blogroll.  I've been away for a while and would like to browse the blogs I missed and it's harder now.  I also liked the list that showed who the active bloggers were and where they were from. It's harder to find people if they haven't posted very recently.  Do I have to do a search on people's names to find their blogs if it's been more than 4 days since they last posted?  








From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted via on November 3, 2008 at 11:19 PM

I also agree with Christian Abel; without the picture or the content to capture my interest, I'm less likely to read blogs.  Well, maybe that means I'll save some time . . . 

From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 4, 2008 at 2:47 PM

I agree completely with Karin.  I'd much prefer the blogroll on the right  That way we could read blogs that are not carried on the blog front page without doing some serious searching.  The blogroll on the right would make the blog section much more user friendly.

From Terez Mertes
Posted via on November 4, 2008 at 5:09 PM

>I miss the blogroll. Now you have to click on each individual blog at the right. Normally people can seen what is written the last days. Now blogmakers will get fewer readers. So please the blogrollpage back, so you can globally read what is written during your holiday or after some time when you forget to look to

This is very much my issue as well. Ditto what Karen says. I worry that this is the beginning of the end of my (almost) three-year efforts to blog here.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 5, 2008 at 6:55 AM

Robert, I just finished writing a moderately long, very honest, and very emotional comment to Laurie's blog on the outcome of the presidential election.  When I pressed the "Submit Response" button, I saw a screen with an error message on it.  The message told me to press the "back" button, so I did.  I then came to a blank response screen.  I thought I might try to rewrite it and post it again, and I had a hard time finding the discussion thread that Laurie had started.  (I had remembered it as a blog.)  My statement of my personal hopes and dreams is lost in cyberspace.  Please do something to correct the problems of my lost response and my difficulty finding where it should have gone (Bring back the old version of the sidebars.)

From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 6, 2008 at 4:51 AM

Like many others, I strongly prefer the old format for the blogroll.  Please take our comments on this issue seriously.

Terez, don't go.  I'd really miss you.

From Craig Coleman
Posted via on November 6, 2008 at 8:36 AM


I also liked having the Facebook and Youtube links for and could reference quickly to those sites from here. Those links existed before but I can't find them with the new updates.


From Robert Carter
Posted via on November 6, 2008 at 2:24 PM

As a web designer (but a terrible violinist), I think your redesign is wonderful. I was never that fond of the last iteration. The new look is much cleaner, and therefore easier to read.

Thank you.

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