Today’s Question from the Elves

Posted by The_Elves

Let us know how things look for you (ease of readability, especially of the sidebar) and what browser you are using. Thanks. Feedback would be most helpful at this point. Also, we've got a question about individual article display.

We discovered last night that what looked great (at least to us) in Firefox (particularly in terms of sidebar design and layout) was an utter disaster in Internet Explorer. We've now hopefully removed all the font formatting that was causing problems.

Those of you who were having the main section of articles pushed way down the page by the sidebar when using Internet Explorer set to LARGE text size settings should now have the blog displaying normally. (Let us know if you don't!)

Please let us know how things are working for you, especially if you are using a browser besides Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Lastly: a related question. When you are viewing a single article and its comments, do you want the full side bar and all its links to show? On the old T19 site, the sidebar was EMPTY when viewing a single article (no calendar, no search box, no links, etc etc).

Old Blog -- Compare: Main Page versus Article Display
(or if you can't get into the old site: Main Page Cache versus Article Cache)

New Blog -- Compare: Main Page versus Article Display

We're thinking of a compromise. For an individual article display: Have the calendar, search and archive links available on the sidebar, but none of the LONG LIST of links to other websites and blogs. What do you think?

By the way, we haven’t forgotten some folks' comments about the width of the main article section being too wide for comfortable reading.

How are folks feeling about that? We might be willing /able to experiment later this week or on the weekend with changing the width of the main column if folks are still finding the layout uncomfortable.

Also, what about use of color? Is there too much white space? We like the clean look, but we received at least one comment requesting a faint background color (maybe for the sidebar?) and are mulling that over.

Filed under: * AdminBlog Tips & Features

Posted June 6, 2007 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Pilgrim wrote:

the line with date, time and comments is infinitesimally teeny compared to the text.  I have very good eyes but it is hard for me to read the numbers depending on what digits are used.

June 6, 7:24 am | [comment link]
2. The_Elves wrote:

Pilgrim, thank you.  That is exactly the type of feedback that is helpful.  We’d been thinking that was a bit small, but kept forgetting about it.

Should be better now (on the main page.  We did not change how it appears in the individual article display).  Let us know what you think.

June 6, 7:38 am | [comment link]
3. Pilgrim wrote:

Much better!

June 6, 7:51 am | [comment link]
4. APB wrote:

The new site, post-tweaking, looks great on both IE and FF!  Looking at the old site, in retrospect I would say that a clean display when looking at a single article was necessary.  The new site it cleaner, and in general, more legible.  The result, at least to my eyes, is that the additional information does not detract in any way. 

On the other hand, the sidebar information is not something which I have much need of when reading a single item.  I suppose that I have two modes:  a general locating mode, and a reading mode.  Of course, this is conditioned by the old site, but I tend to tune out the additional sidebar when reading.

Bottom line:  the additional information does not detract, and will certainly be useful to readers who may do things differently than I.

June 6, 8:12 am | [comment link]
5. The_Elves wrote:

By the way, we haven’t forgotten some folks comments about the width of the main article section being too wide for comfortable reading.

How are folks feeling about that?  We might be willing /able to experiment later this week or on the weekend with changing the width of the main column if folks are still finding the layout uncomfortable.

Also, what about use of color?  Is there too much white space?  We received at least one comment requesting a faint background color (maybe for the sidebar?)

June 6, 8:13 am | [comment link]
6. Words Matter wrote:

It all looks good on IE6. The offset at the top is gone in all text sizes, and even in the small text, the number of comments is good. The gray bar with comments, date, and time is really good.

June 6, 8:25 am | [comment link]
7. KAR wrote:

The alternating white and gray in the comment section makes it easier on my eyes than the main articles. The increased font for Pilgrim’s requested has a pleasant secondary effect of making a better visual break in between articles.

June 6, 8:51 am | [comment link]
8. The_Elves wrote:

KAR, we agree, and we actually also added in an extra line break so the comment bar from the previous article wouldn’t so crowd the next article.

Glad to know some of these minor tweaks seem to be helpful and making a difference.

June 6, 8:57 am | [comment link]
9. CarolynT wrote:

The sidebar looks very good in Safari.  Slightly less but still legible in FF.  The type is a bit thin in FF.

June 6, 8:59 am | [comment link]
10. The_Elves wrote:

Ok, we’ve tweaked the sidebar headings a few more times this morning, trying to now correctly recreate a heading hierarchy of font size and style that would work for both Firefox and Internet Explorer. I think we’ve now got something that works pretty well in both.

We’ve tried viewing it at both larger and smaller text sizes in both Explorer & Firefox, and all tests seem ok to us, with the exception of text size=smaller in IE making much of the sidebar content way too small.  Not sure what we can do about that.

No plans for any further tweaks on the sidebar design (font style) unless we hear of specific problems or requests or someone can help us make the sidebar more legible in IE at “text size=smaller”

June 6, 9:05 am | [comment link]
11. Chip Johnson, cj wrote:

I will take everyone else’s comments and adapt…alas, I use both FF and IE, BUT I am saddled with an old lo-res VGA monitor, so I either can read the full page width…without seeing the bottom lines, or I can read the bottom lines and force all text below the sidebar.  But then that is an anomoly that only refers to my computer, and I have been living with that for almost a year.

Elves, on a good screen, this site is AWESOME!  Thanks.

June 6, 9:54 am | [comment link]
12. The_Elves wrote:

We just got a report that in Netscape the sidebar content is way too small.  Any other Netscape users out there with this problem?

June 6, 9:59 am | [comment link]
13. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Before today the text began way down the middle of the page. 
But I do not miss the math question.  Stopping to count fingers took up way too much time.

June 6, 11:23 am | [comment link]
14. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Dear saintly, patient, long suffering elves.
Just went to read some comments and the article w/attached comments was down the middle of the page.  Thought you would like to know.

June 6, 11:27 am | [comment link]
15. Karen B. wrote:

Paula, what browser are you using?
And what text size settings? (if you know)

June 6, 11:33 am | [comment link]
16. the snarkster wrote:

Dear Tasty Elves: Everything looks mahvelous! I am using AOL 9se on a dial up connection.

the snarkster

June 6, 12:08 pm | [comment link]
17. Irenaeus wrote:

Elves: I really like the current format and ways the site works (e.g., log-in, preview, search).

And please don’t reduce the font size!

June 6, 12:09 pm | [comment link]
18. Philip Snyder wrote:

Is there some way to go back to the main page after posting a comment?  When I post a comment and then hit the “back” button, I am still at the comment page.

Phil Snyder

June 6, 12:26 pm | [comment link]
19. Ross wrote:

I think the site looks great.  I sent you guys an e-mail with a couple of screenshots so you can see exactly what I’m seeing.

June 6, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
20. Unsubscribe wrote:

I’m using Opera, and everything is fine. Opera works very well with RSS (but doesn’t handle Atom feeds).

I’d favour the old policy of not having a lot of stuff in the side columns when viewing individual articles. Save the bandwidth!

June 6, 2:43 pm | [comment link]
21. The_Elves wrote:

#18 Philip and all:  Down below the comment entry form (whether you post a comment or not) are several navigation links which should help you move to different points in the blog without having to do a lot of scrolling.

First: you can move to the previous or next entry without having to go back to the home page.  (So you can start at the top article and just keep reading down, comments and all, or start at the bottom and read up.)

Second: There is a link which should take you back to the home page.

We mentioned these items in our “Daily Blog Tip” post on the calendar and blog navigation, but there was so much going on that day with site set up issues and constant changes that I’m not surprised it got lost in the shuffle.

Would it help if we made the comment window a bit smaller?  The navigation links might thus be more noticeable.  Of course you would still be able to leave a long comment. ( A vertical scroll bar automatically appears if the comment is longer than the comment entry window.)  We actually have reduced the comment window a bit already…, but perhaps could go a bit smaller if it’s hogging too much page space.

June 6, 3:58 pm | [comment link]
22. The_Elves wrote:

Ross, we got the e-mail and the screen shots.  A terrific help. THANK YOU!!

Snarkster, LOL!  In case we have some T19 readers that are clueless as to the “tasty” reference,  let’s just say there certain denizens of StandFirm who have displayed an irrational phobia regarding elves and have offered to make us special “guests of honor” at a barbeque, ala the Giants of Harfang’s plans for honoring Jill and Eustace at their Autumn Feast in the Narnia series’ “The Silver Chair”...

Irenaeus: No plans to make the font smaller.  And glad the various features are useful.  It helps being such a T19 addict myself.  Hopefully we’ll keep figuring out ways to make it even more user friendly.

CPKS, pretty sure we’ll modify the article template somewhat in the next day or two and take out some of the stuff in the sidebar.  Once we’ve modified it, be sure to let us know what you think of the change.

Thanks all for the really helpful feedback and encouragement.

June 6, 4:12 pm | [comment link]
23. The_Elves wrote:

Ah Philip, just realized when you submit a comment, the blog takes you back to the top of the article, not back down to the bottom of the comments.
Up at the top of the article, you also have an easy way to get back to the blog homepage.

Look to your right, at the very top of the sidebar (above the login link) you’ll see a link to the Blog Homepage.  That should do the trick.
If for some reason it’s not working, let us know!

June 6, 4:15 pm | [comment link]
24. FrJimFC wrote:

I would like some indication as to how to print an article that does not include 3 or 4 pages of “stuff” before printing the article and then not being able to print without the comments or just “guessing” where in 15 pages the 2 page article is.  Thanks
Jim Paul+

June 6, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
25. The_Elves wrote:

Fr Jim (#24) ah, that’s a great question and something totally new we hadn’t considered.  As discussed above, we do plan to take some of the extra “Stuff” out of the article display window.  But even better will be a “print-friendly” display option.
We’ve seen it done on other blogs run by Expression Engine software (notably Global South Anglican), so almost positive it must be possible.
We’ll start researching how to do it right away.

A really excellent question.  THANK YOU!

June 6, 4:26 pm | [comment link]
26. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Karen B,
The glitch has cleared up.  I use the largest text format and have internet explorer.  Now that I wrote to the elves my monitor is behaving.  Just like the car that stops making noise the minute you tell a mechanic about it.

Paula LOL!!!  Glad it’s working for you now.  If it acts up again, give us a shout.

June 6, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
27. EmilyH wrote:

I review this on a hand-held and it comes out pretty well.  I do have to page through a lot because, although my laptop and desktop can screen left to right, the hand-held reformats vertically, which means I have to screen through a lot before I can get to an article, but it seems to reformat just fine.  Are you using software in frames, XML, or what?

June 6, 5:29 pm | [comment link]
28. The_Elves wrote:

#24 Fr. Jim.  WISH GRANTED!!!  Now when you are reading the main page, in the “post date & comment total” bar at the bottom of every article are two links that will take you to print friendly versions of the article.  One will print the article without comments.  The other will print the article and all the comments.

We’ll also make sure these printer-friendly links display somewhere within the page view for each individual article.

See, sometimes it pays to tell us your “wish list”—often we can do what you want and it results in great new features for everyone!

PLEASE LET US KNOW HOW THIS WORKS.  If the margins are too wide or we need to figure out some way of paginating long articles or those that have lots of comments, we can tweak this.

June 6, 5:48 pm | [comment link]
29. West Coast Cleric wrote:

Lastly: a related question. When you are viewing a single article and its comments, do you want the full side bar and all its links to show? On the old T19 site, the sidebar was EMPTY when viewing a single article (no calendar, no search box, no links, etc etc).

For me, the privilege of being able to roll through the articles form the single article view would be offset by not having the sidebar available.  I like having the ability to go anywhere and do anything from the article view without having to return to the homepage.

To add to the mix, have you considered a “latest comments” section in the sidebar, ala SF?  It is nice to be able to see what some of the “hot” threads are—and the revival of old ones from time to time.

And just how tasty are you elves, anyway?  Are you at all related to marshwiggles?  If so, no danger of consumption from this quarter.

June 6, 6:00 pm | [comment link]
30. the snarkster wrote:

Elves are quite tasty if properly cooked. I recommend barbecued with lots of sauce. Serve them up with fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, cornbread and lots of sweet tea. Mmmmmm boy.

the snarkster

June 6, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
31. The_Elves wrote:

#29 West Coast:  We’d probably leave in the calendar, archives links and category links. 

Main thing we’re thinking of taking out would be the links list, which begins below the copyright notice as the sidebar is currently set up. 
That list could soon become very unwieldy.

How would that work?  I too like some navigation links in the side bar even when viewing an article.  The blank sidebar in the article view in the old site always bothered me.  But too much clutter is distracting, so it’s a trade-off.

#30, Snark.  Glad I’ve already eaten dinner.  Otherwise I’d complain you’re making me hungry, and that’s a scary thing given that you’re talking about it being me on the menu!  wink

June 6, 6:39 pm | [comment link]
32. West Coast Cleric wrote:

Re: #31:

How would that work? 

Just dandy, thanks! 
Re: #30: Snarkster—heavy or light on the vinegar in the BBQ sauce?  And easy on the sugar to complement the sweet tea, yes?

June 6, 8:00 pm | [comment link]
33. The_Elves wrote:

#27, Emily, I can’t tell you too much about the real nitty gritty of how the blog software works.  But Greg G. who did the initial set up says it’s pure CSS.
If you need more exact details, leave another comment and we’ll send it to Greg for his reply.

June 6, 8:43 pm | [comment link]
34. The_Elves wrote:

#29 West Coast, I forgot earlier to answer your question about “recent comments”:

To add to the mix, have you considered a “latest comments” section in the sidebar, ala SF?  It is nice to be able to see what some of the “hot” threads are—and the revival of old ones from time to time.

Right now it’s under consideration, but not a top priority.  (Fear of clutter in the sidebar.)  Would love to hear more from other readers about whether you’d like this.

I personally like it at Stand Firm.  But T19 usually posts almost double the number of entries per day that I’m not sure how well it would work here where the comments are diluted over so many more posts.  Also, there is a search feature which lets you see what articles have the most recent comments.
1.  Go to Advanced Search
2. Type “the” (without quotes) in the keyword box
3. Choose titles, entries & comments
4. Choose T19 as the blog
5. Choose “Any Category” (unless you specifically want to limit your search to a specific category or categories, eg. Anglican.  Multiple category selections are allowed)
6.Under “Select Entries From”  choose “Today and Older”
7. Under “Sort results by” choose “Most recent comment”
Click Search.

It sounds cumbersome when you write it out, but it is very quickly done.

Here are the threads with the most recent comments:

3 Democratic candidates talk of their faith
Today’s Quiz
Today’s Question from the Elves—*sticky*
Bishop Sergio Carranza: The Soul of Anglicanism
On the Episcopal Diocese of Montana and Truth in Advertising
Arabic school in N.Y.C. creates stir


You can do the identical search except in the final step (#7) choose “Sort by Most Comments”
This allows you to see which entries have received the most comments today (or over the past week or month, etc.)

Today’s top 5 most commented upon posts:
Bishop Sergio Carranza: The Soul of Anglicanism (52)
3 Democratic candidates talk of their faith (37)
Today’s Question from the Elves—*sticky* (33)
Today’s Question from the Elves—*sticky* (22)
Why We Stand: An Interview with Dr. Leslie Fairfield (21)

Play with it and let us know if the most recent comments in the sidebar would still be of interest.

June 6, 9:19 pm | [comment link]
35. West Coast Cleric wrote:

Re: #34

It sounds cumbersome when you write it out, but it is very quickly done.

Yeah… cumbersome… perhaps it would be possible to build an HTML tag or shortcut (e.g.: recent comments ) to put in the sidebar?

I’m really straining at gnats here—truth is, I love the new site and if nothing at all changed I would still be as happy as a li’l pig in slop grin !  Thanks, elves!

June 6, 10:07 pm | [comment link]
36. The_Elves wrote:

#35 unfortunately the search links go stale and aren’t reusable after a very short time.  It’s very odd.  Greg G. is researching whether it is possible to create a reusable search link.  So, the idea to copy that link to the sidebar is a great one, but it won’t help :-(

If these are “gnats” we’re not bothered.  It is really helpful to know how folks use the site and what is appreciated / desirable.  Sometimes it’s the little extras that make all the difference between a good blog and a great one.

June 6, 10:22 pm | [comment link]
37. Bill in Ottawa wrote:

To echo EmilyH, I also read this blog on a handheld (Blackberry). Scrolling through the links is a pain, but I’m used to it. However, once the page gets past a certain size, I can’t load it to read on the bus.

Would it be possible to go to an archive system where about the same amount of text is kept as before the migration to here?

June 8, 4:16 pm | [comment link]
38. The_Elves wrote:

Bill, just to clarify, are you talking # of entries per the main page?  We can definitely go to fewer entries on the main page if that’s needed.

Give us a shout by e-mail so we can talk this through.
Emily too.  Not using a handheld myself, and being still pretty much a novice in terms of blog design anyway, I confess I’ve been designing for laptop/desktop users and hadn’t given a thought to handhelds.  I’m sure we can come up with something.

Stay tuned.

June 10, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
39. tedmcm wrote:

You asked about the text width on the new site…  I *really* like the new width.  I think it is easier to read than the old site, since it takes less scrolling to display the text.  I would ask that you do *not* make it any more narrow.

Thanks and blessings!

June 11, 8:56 pm | [comment link]
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