LoGroNo site cleanup

Our blog has been slowing down lately under the weight of a lot of plugins, widgets, add-ons, and various other digital gizmos.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going through the site cleaning house, flipping features on and off, testing new ones, and in general, making a mess of things. We’ll still be blogging daily but probably at a slower pace.  We’ll keep you updated with comments to this post and may need your help occasionally to give us feedback.

55 Comments

  1. Patrick Enders said:

    Is anyone actually happy with the mobile version of the site?

    It keeps popping up on my Firefox browser on my desktop computer, and it often refuses to turn off – even when I press the off button.

    July 20, 2010
  2. Tracy Davis said:

    Hmmm…. I’ve noticed the mobile version being a little flaky on my device but haven’t had it on my desktop version.

    Has anyone else experienced what Patrick is describing?

    July 20, 2010
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    My mobile version hasn’t worked in a while, Patrick… another reason to clean house.

    I’ve now installed a new version of the Atahualpa theme (3.5.2) and will try to get the sidebars back ASAP.
     

    July 20, 2010
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Okay, the sidebars are back, with one additional one for a total of 4. I’ve moved a few items around for now.

    July 20, 2010
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    All the blog posts on the home page currently require a click to read more. The site still seems slow so I don’t think it’s the photos or Flash in the blog posts that’s slowing things down.

    July 20, 2010
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Turning off the inner right column with the various bloggers’ RSS feeds didn’t seem to improve the loading speed of the home page so I’ve turned it back on.

    July 20, 2010
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve turned off the plugins Comment Luv, FB Like, and Easy Retweet.

    July 20, 2010
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve turned off the plugins Sociable, WPtouch iPhone Theme, WP Status Notifier, PuSHPress, PostRank.

    July 20, 2010
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve turned off the plugins Lijit Search, Most Popular Posts, My Category Order, Top Commentators Widget, Show Top Commentators widget.

    July 20, 2010
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    The site seems way faster now. Anyone else experiencing it as faster?

    July 20, 2010
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve create two photo banners that rotate every 7 seconds, with a 3-second fade. It hasn’t seemed to slow down the site so I’ll probably put more in rotation over the days ahead.

    July 20, 2010
  12. Jane Moline said:

    I like the way it looks–much cleaner. But there is something wrong with the way some things are displaying–under the “feeds” header the information is either missing or sometimes indented weird. I really like the top banner.

    July 20, 2010
  13. Patrick Enders said:

    Griff: way too many columns. There are only 4 words per line in the articles when viewed on a semi-smallish screen.

    July 20, 2010
  14. Kathie Galotti said:

    I like the cleaner look, too, but the skinny columns with only a few words per line are (is?) distracting…

    July 20, 2010
  15. Griff Wigley said:

    Okay, thx for the feedback. It’s now at 3 columns which means there’s more room for the blog content.

    First ten blog posts on home page are full posts; remainder are excerpts.

    I’ll have some time later today to widen the 3 columns a bit.

    July 20, 2010
    • Patrick Enders said:

      Griff,
      FYI: there are 4 columns on my Firefox browser, not 3. There’s the main one, plus one on the left, and two on the right.

      July 20, 2010
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Ah, sorry Patrick… I meant 3 sidebars, not columns. This theme has the ability to display 4 sidebars plus the main blog.

    July 20, 2010
  17. I like the “wide body”, but hey, 1200 pixels?

    July 20, 2010
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Dave, the width of the site ‘collapses’ with narrower browser windows/monitors, even the photo banner. The public access computer at GBM runs IE6 on a very small monitor and the site seems aok on it. Or is there a problem I’m not understanding?

      July 21, 2010
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, I see the problem with the inner right sidebar. The problem is only visible using Internet Explorer (IE), not Firefox (FF) or Google Chrome (GC).

    July 20, 2010
  19. kiffi summa said:

    Griff… just my POV, and you know well how I am NOT a ‘techy’:

    1. the headlines on the far right comment column are not prominent enough, really hard to see because of non-contrast color

    2. I really dislike the second from the right column … its existence crowds the whole page and besides that visual aspect, I think it gives the entirely wrong focus to the whole site, i.e. you wanted to practice “citizen journalism”; focussing on how many comments a subject has in the prominent manner it is done in this column puts LG squarely in the gossip/nothing- but- opinion mode, and I don’t think that was your goal..

    That’s a pretty serious criticism, but I mean it seriously… and it is one that is often leveled at LG.

    ‘chit-chat’ is fine, but not all the time, and since your original goal was a meaningful discussion of issues, then I don’t think you should devote a column to simply how much action a thread has gotten. That’s immediately obvious from the comment numbering.

    July 21, 2010
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Kiffi,

      1. Good suggestion. I’ve made the headlines in the sidebars bold and a darker blue. Is it satisfactory now?

      2. It’s pretty common nowadays for sites to display a variety of “MOST POPULAR” items. Eg: NY Times has 4: most emailed, blogged, searched, viewed. MPR has “most shared” (emailed). So the widget to highlight the most active discussion topics is a way to draw people into those discussions that are active. It’s not unlike at a conference where, when you’re not sure which of the 5 sessions to attend that are all happening simultaneously at 10 am, you choose the one with the most people.

      July 21, 2010
      • kiffi summa said:

        Mucho, mo better!

        Still vote for getting rid of inner right column; don’t care what others do… it’s an un-necessary feature.:-)

        July 21, 2010
  20. Tracy Davis said:

    GRIFF! Please get rid of the inner right column. I hate it too.

    You could stack the “recent commenters” widget under the current discussion threads…. and I think it’s sufficient to have the last three comments on each thread rather than five. But I think you and I have gone round and round on that one before. 🙂

    July 21, 2010
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Tracy, do you hate the inner right column, regardless of what’s there?

      We’ve got many other items to find a place for, eg, the RSS feeds of local civic bloggers, the banner ads for membership, etc.

      July 21, 2010
      • Tracy Davis said:

        Yes. It makes the whole front page

        1) too busy/distracting/difficult
        2) REAL content in right sidebare comments too annoying to read

        July 21, 2010
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve enabled the Facebook recommend button and the Comment Luv feature. They don’t appear to be slowing down the site.

    July 21, 2010
  22. Patrick Enders said:

    Griff,
    I find the inner right column annoying no matter of what’s there. There’s just not enough space left in the middle for easily reading the main posts.

    Like Kiffi, I also find the content there fairly useless:
    – “Recent posts with most comments” is largely a rehashing of the “Current Discussion Threads.” You don’t need both.
    – If you really want to keep the “Recent Commenters (30 days),” it could always be put at the bottom of the left or (currently far-) right sidebar.

    July 21, 2010
  23. Daniel Edwins said:

    Griff,

    According to your new theme, it takes about 3.5 seconds for WordPress to generate the HTML of the page. This is a lot of processing time, so you need to make the database more efficient and get rid of more plugins. Or you should consider caching pages via a WordPress plugin.

    Time to load page: 17.2 seconds
    Size of page and resources: 4.5 MB (I know blogs have a lot of files on them, but for example, Engadget is 1.2 MB.)

    Here are a few things that will help:

    – Use fewer HTTP requests (there are 191 total files that a browser needs to grab to load the front page)
    – There are 147 images on the front page — reduce this number significantly
    – Where applicable, combine images or use CSS sprites
    – Compress images as much as possible without losing quality (try using Smush.it)
    – Setup the server to automatically GZip files for browsers that support GZip (text files will load much, much faster)
    – Combine JavaScript files (12 total) and combine CSS files (11 total)
    – Minify JavaScript files and compress CSS files

    Hope this helps!
    Daniel

    July 21, 2010
    • Daniel Edwins said:

      I just saw you have caching enabled, so ignore that suggestion. Maybe the site needs more aggressive caching? Regardless, my other comments should help.

      July 21, 2010
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Thanks much, Daniel. I’ll see what I can do about your suggestions. What tool/web site did you use to get this analysis?

      July 21, 2010
      • Daniel Edwins said:

        I use a few tools, but I mainly use YSlow, which is a great tool by Yahoo! for analyzing website performance. It’s an add-on for the Firebug extension for Firefox. Google also makes a similar Firebug add-on called Page Speed.

        YSlow is nice because it will give you suggestions on how to improve performance, and in some cases, it will make those improvements for you (provided you upload the optimized files). For example, it can compress CSS, minify JavaScript and compress images with one click of a button. Smush.it (mentioned above) is made by Yahoo! also, and you can optimize images from within YSlow.

        I like using it to see how many files need to be downloaded by the user for a given page and what the file size is for each of those files.

        Even doing a few of its recommendations will go a long way. Some of the changes are as easy as editing or uploading a file. Others are a bit more involved.

        Other tools include: Firebug (itself) and the Web Inspector in the Safari debug menu.

        July 21, 2010
  24. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve widened the right sidebar for comments, doubled the # of characters shown for each comment, reduced the # of comments per post to 3.

    I’ve moved the list of recent commenters below it and removed the “most popular posts” widget.

    I’m keeping the inner right sidebar for now to experiment more with other items that could go there, hopefully in a way that doesn’t make stuff hard to read.

    July 21, 2010
  25. Jane McWilliams said:

    I like it!!

    July 22, 2010
  26. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: the rolling pics of Northfield on your new banner are a better advertisement for Northfield than any 38K EDA video could be.

    You can’t get photos that tell the story this well in a place where the events, scenes, people are NOT there to be recorded as they go about their lives.

    July 22, 2010
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Thanks, Kiffi. I’ll continue to add more photo banners, eg: young kids, teens, downtown at night, Memorial Day, Arb, etc.

      July 22, 2010
  27. Jane Moline said:

    I really like the look but I am having difficulty reading the discussion–I don’t know if it a different or smaller font, but I work at my computer almost all day and it is noticably less readable than before.

    All my other programs and websites are still readable–so I think it is somehting with the website.

    July 24, 2010
  28. Paul Zorn said:

    I find the middle column — the one I’m writing in now — too narrow compared to the left and right hand columns. This is exacerbated by the considerably larger font used in the middle column. The result, for me, is something like having a conversation in a narrow corridor.

    Otherwise, I like the cleaner look.

    July 24, 2010
  29. Jim Haas said:

    Zorn’s right. Get rid of the 3rd column from the left. Put all that “follow” and “subscribe” stuff somewhere else.

    The cleaner look is better.

    July 25, 2010
    • Rob Hardy said:

      Haas is right. Right now, reading LoGroNo feels like navigating I-35W around all the Crosstown construction.

      July 25, 2010
  30. Dan Bergeson said:

    I hate scrolling and that’s what the narrower columns forces us to do. You could alleviate that by using “read more” jumps. The front page is a couple of miles to the bottom and shows all kinds of wasted white space on the way down. It’s a cleaner look, yes, but extremely tedious. Can you tighten it up?

    July 25, 2010
  31. Tracy Davis said:

    What Paul, Jim, Rob, Dan said.

    July 25, 2010
  32. I would have to agree with the others that I am not a big fan of the four column format. I would really like to see you go to three columns, and move the subscribe and straw poll to the left column.

    I do however like the masthead and the rotating graphic.

    July 26, 2010
  33. Phil Poyner said:

    After a few days of getting used to it I like the new format.

    July 26, 2010
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, all, for the ongoing feedback. I did more futzing around this morning, changing the membership sideblog to an RSS feed on the left sidebar, adding the blogger’s RSS feeds below it, moving other widgets to the top…. and removing the inner right column — for now!

    I’ve set the font to 12 pt for both the blog and sidebars.

    I’ve reduced the # of blog posts showing on the home page to 20, with the first 5 showing the full post, the rest excerpts/read more jumps.

    Part of the balance I’m always aiming for is how to engage newcomers and those who visit occasionally while keeping the regulars happy.

    If you see another community-oriented blog/hyper-local website that has layout/design elements you like, paste the URL here so we can have a look.

    July 26, 2010
  35. Jim Haas said:

    Griff:

    Nice! Pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate.

    July 26, 2010
  36. Tracy Davis said:

    I like it much better now.

    July 26, 2010
  37. kiffi summa said:

    Hey, Griff… NO PHOTO BANNER this AM ???

    July 28, 2010
    • kiffi summa said:

      OOPS ! it just came back, but hadn’t ben there all morning.
      Whassup ?

      July 28, 2010
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Not sure, Kiffi. It might have just been a slow connection on your end.

      July 29, 2010
  38. Griff Wigley said:

    Would there be a combination of colors that might make the site more agreeable to the eyes? Lots of gray and blue now. Tracy, want to take a whack at it?

    July 29, 2010
  39. orange and yellows are the colors that draw people in, like the sun, too much is off putting though

    July 30, 2010
  40. orange and yellows are the colors that draw people in, and stimulate intellectual inklings. But, like the sun, too much is not so good.

    July 30, 2010

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