Revised look for Locally Grown blogsite; straw poll

lg-sshot sean

When things broke, we decided to put up a new theme for Locally Grown that we’d begun working on this past summer but never finished.

Sean Hayford O’Leary did the heavy lifting on the new theme, with some collaboration with Tracy.

So let us know what you like/don’t like, what problems you see, what suggestions you have.

And take the straw poll!

[poll id=”19″]


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Patrick Enders wrote elsewhere:

    This may not be your biggest worry, but the sidebars are pretty narrow. When I look at the site on a wide monitor, it’d be nice to have the page fill the width of the monitor, so the sidebar comments would be easier to read. Also, is this really the font you want?

    Sean replied:

    Patrick, I agree that the sidebars are a little tight, and I’ll think about how we can address that in the future. The font — Georgia — is intentional, and picked mainly because it’s a really easy font to read. It’ll get you through those long discussion threads much faster!

    October 14, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve added a straw poll to the blog post. Let us know if you like it/hate and 3 more choices in between.

    October 14, 2008
  3. john george said:

    Change?! This must be all Obama’s fault! Ha! I thought I had logged onto the wrong site the first time. Sean- the font is easier for me to read, so thanks.

    October 14, 2008
  4. John S. Thomas said:

    I really dislike the “highlighted” headlines, and would have to agree about the “widescreen” comment.

    There is much black space on a 1680 x 1050 monitor.

    Also the font on the left sidebars is different from the font in the discussions.

    There are way too many colors and way too many fonts, IMHO.

    However, I would agree, that the georgia font is much more readable in the discussions.

    It would be nice however to have a consistant font style for the entire site. 😎

    October 14, 2008
  5. How about adding this category to the straw poll:
    “I might be able to get used to it”?

    October 14, 2008
  6. Robbie Wigley said:

    Sean, I think you could calm down the site so it isn’t so busy by making the blue and green highlighted captions, consistent blocks of color so they are not so many different sizes and shapes. If you did this I think it would anchor your side panels and make them look more consistent in width, as well.

    October 14, 2008
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Hey Sean… How’s school ?

    I love the very crisp look, but hate the narrow discussion sidebar… no that’s not true, I don’t “hate” it but I do find it very difficult to scan … not the typeface (excusez moi, print term) not the font, but the narrowness; takes too long to scroll down thru the comments. Those beautiful turquoise/orange highlights on the 1st right sidebar keep catching my eye away from the discussion bar.

    October 15, 2008
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    I don’t care for the highlights/color blocks at all.

    October 15, 2008
  9. Felicity Enders said:

    I do think using somewhat larger font is good. However…

    This font is a bit too official looking to be easy to read. I prefer the font in the sidebars.

    Font is inconsistent throughout the site.

    HATE the highlighted blocks.

    I miss the wider reading area.

    …and in the realm of truly petty comments, I don’t like the script “locally grown” in the header.

    Patrick already voted, so I don’t get to participate in the straw poll. I would have been somewhat harsher than he was. Why mess with a good thing???

    October 15, 2008
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    It seems that the comments are loading a _lot_ slower.

    And what’s with this comment telling me that I’m posting to quickly, and I need to slow down?

    October 15, 2008
  11. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Hi Sean! The first time I visited Locally Grown, I was impressed with how good it looked and how the design seemed to fit with the tone of the site’s content.

    Now, even though I agree with the benefits of reorganizing the content, I believe the site looks a bit unfinished. The highlighted text adds color, but I believe there must be a more attractive way to make words pop. As it is, I at first believed my computer was malfunctioning and had highlighted text I hadn’t intended to highlight.

    I wish we could still see the old version of locally grown so we could better compare and contrast. Thanks to you and the Triumverate for your work on trying to improve the site!

    October 15, 2008
  12. Patrick Enders said:

    Another glitch:
    It is no longer possible to select text beyond a single paragraph in a comment. It makes it very hard to blockquote and make it clear what one is responding to.

    October 15, 2008
  13. Patrick Enders said:

    Perhaps another question for people to address would be: is there anything that is _better_ about the new web site compared to the old?

    I really liked the old layout, font, etc. Everything, really. I found it very easy to read and navigate. The only things I would’ve liked to have fixed would’ve been 1) the glitch that prevented including some web addresses in a comment, and 2) the inability to preview or edit a comment.

    October 15, 2008
  14. Nick Benson said:

    – Fonts need to be consistent
    – The centered text on the side looks bad (align: left)!
    – The highlighted headlines still look like shit (see my earlier comments the first time feedback was solicited before I was told to shutup… not that I’m bitter)
    – See if you can find a Twitter plugin that doesn’t have that cream arc in it, all it does is provide more chaos in an already cluttered sidebar
    – Times New Roman?(!) Kill it!

    October 15, 2008
  15. john george said:

    Good grief! This sounds like some discussions I have had to mitigate about painting the living room. After all, personal preferences are personal preferences, and, asside from violating any design principles, are not in themselves right or wrong. I can’t come up with any specific design vilations here. If someone sees one I am overlooking, I’d be delighted to know. Variation is an excellent way to add interest in art, be it in a home interior, a painting or a graphic layout. Part of this is just getting used to a different scheme. Go for it, Sean! I think you did a great job.

    October 15, 2008
  16. john george said:

    Patrick- I resonate with your comment about being able to edit posts. If I had spell check in the comment field, I would have caught my mispelling of “violate” in my last post. Actually, I suffer from operator problems when it comes to a keyboard.

    October 15, 2008
  17. The double sidebar feels awkward as currently configured and the sidebar fonts are unnecessarily large — it feels like a misuse of available space. Narrow width and center alignment add to a clunky feel on these and the viewer has to scroll almost immediately. The sidebars feel disorganized; vertical rules or colored backgrounds might help define these spaces better and more quickly let the viewer know the purpose of the different areas. My eye doesn’t really know where to go. But I like the header.

    October 15, 2008
  18. Martha Cashman said:

    I agree with John T post #4, Patrick and Felicity’s comments. I think it is confusing and way too busy.

    October 15, 2008
    1. The different font styles are intentional. Primary content is Georgia for easy readability. Secondary content is Lucida Grande. You guys can handle two fonts.
    2. The centering of the right sidebar is a bug, not an intentional part of the design, and I agree that it looks bad.
    3. The comments are loading slower because everything is loading at once. On the old site, the main content would load, then it would grab the sidebar and comments after that. This feature is coming — just be patient.
    4. Bonnie, you’re absolutely right. The site is unfinished. This was put up yesterday because the old theme was breaking for IE7, and it’s still a work in progress. You guys are getting the “beta” experience.
    October 15, 2008
  19. BruceWMorlan said:

    Picking a good screen font ought to be left to the client browser, but absent that, a quick review of studies suggests that for the most part people find sans serif easier to read, with Arial the slight winner. While “Georgia” may have been designed by MS to be more readable one has to wonder if the design constraints included “serif”.

    October 15, 2008
  20. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Narrow sidebar on the right (centered) is a problem. The old layout made better use of space, was more readable.

    October 15, 2008
  21. Curt Benson said:

    Sean, I think you’re learning a valuable lesson here, mainly “no good deed goes unpunished.”

    If I understand correctly, you’re the background tech guy, working for free. Thanks for your efforts.

    October 15, 2008
  22. Bill Ostrem said:

    I also dislike the highlighted headlines. Also, I think the screen is too “busy” now. Having just one column on the right of the main column seemed better to me. I also liked the previous way of displaying comments in the right column. Having center-alignment on the two right columns seems strange to me.

    October 15, 2008
  23. John S. Thomas said:

    Any options on screen width, and better utilization for wider screen monitors?

    October 15, 2008
  24. John S. Thomas said:

    Also, check to see if you can add some HSPACE and VSPACE around the Gravatar photos. The text is close running into them on some posts.

    October 15, 2008
  25. Holly Cairns said:

    theme that looks good in wider screen = Atahualpa? I think. Good work Sean and Tracy, though

    October 15, 2008
  26. Mike Zenner said:

    Loading comments seem slower and sliding up and down the page are slow and choppy. at least in Firefox.

    older page seemed to work much better.

    Would it be possible to invert the comment time line so the latest are on top and have only the last 3 days shown, with earlier comments on an archive page?

    Thanks for your efforts!

    October 15, 2008
  27. William Siemers said:

    I much prefered my old questioning cabbage head gravatar to this new one. I do NOT resemble a fat ghost!

    October 16, 2008
  28. Chip Cuccio said:

    I like the new design. Sean always does great work.

    * I like the two fonts, and how they were implemented.
    * The highlighted headers, etc., may be tad alarming at first, but they really work well for this (content heavy) site. I got used to it in minutes. I really think they contribute huge value to the overall usability.
    * Sean’s working on the sidebars, so I’ll leave that one alone.

    All in all, everything is very readable, usable, and I can find content easier.

    October 16, 2008
  29. Kurt Larson said:

    Anyone else using a mac with safari to view this thing?
    It is working horribly.
    Huge black bars and the left and right take nearly 1/3 of the screen up.
    Do I need to change a setting or something.
    The comments are so narrow that it is hard to navigate.

    October 16, 2008
  30. kiffi summa said:

    Kurt: using mac with safari …. no problem like you mention….

    October 16, 2008
  31. Kurt, I believe the black bars you’re describing is just the background of the page, visible because your browser window is wider than the main page (perfectly normal). Now, the comments are narrow — that is a problem, and we’re working on it.

    October 16, 2008
  32. Bill Ostrem said:

    Either the site is looking cleaner or I’m getting more used to it. Left-justifying the two right columns helps. The comments are still center-justified when I’m reading a post separately from the main page (via the Permalink), but maybe that’s b/c it’s still under construction?

    October 16, 2008
  33. I was just thinking exactly what Bill said. It’s shaping up nicely, and I think our eyes are also adapting to the change. Good work, Sean!

    October 16, 2008
  34. Felicity Enders said:

    I think there’s only one column to the right side, and it’s now left-justified rather than centered. Both those changes help a lot.

    October 16, 2008
  35. Felicity Enders said:

    PS – Sean, did you do something to make the site load faster? Or is that just random chance?

    October 16, 2008
  36. Sean Fox said:

    I like the increased font size and the lack of delayed/ajax-y comment loading.

    I’m not a fan of the background color on the headings nor the page width choices. Specifically, the heading have too much visual weight/draw. They grab your attention as the most important thing on the page and keep drawing it well in excess of the attention headings ought to warrant. One contributing factor is the lack of padding around the headings. The result is that the background color meets the edges of the characters creating some very sharp, small, awkward negative spaces around the characters. It’s an effect we’re not used to (which is one of the reasons it’s attention getting) but there’s a reason for that. Fonts like Georgia (and most others) weren’t designed to be hemmed in like this. Bringhurst wouldn’t approve.

    On a similar vein tight background coloring also creates a rather dramatically ragged right line as you look down a page of posts with names of different lengths.

    Finally, on an otherwise B/W page the color adds even more punch to headings that are too loud already.

    More padding, wrap ’em with a div that goes the width of the containing element rather than a span, and bring the colors closer to greyscale and I think it would be improved.

    The background color on headings also contributes to some confusion since it obscures the underline that indicates a link which means heading that are links can only be discovered by judicious hovering. This is exacerbated by using a similar background color effect for hovered links.

    Personally, I’d use a little bit of font color on links (as well as the underline).

    The current fixed-width design is gonna leave a lot of people with big black expanses on their fancy new wide-screen laptops. Flexible-width (especially for the quite narrow side bar) with a max-width to keep things from getting too stretched out would probably work better for many people. Old print rules about alphabet and half width which might lead one to think these narrow columns are ‘good design’ aren’t held up by any research I’m aware of (e.g. Let it breath.

    October 16, 2008
  37. Sean,
    Thank you for your well-justified suggestions. Maybe it’s just stubbornness, but I’m not touching that highlighter yellow. I do agree, though, that padding would make it a little less extreme and more visually appealing to more people, so I will do that.

    I find it interesting that you mention you like the lack of AJAX loading for comments, because other comments have requested it come back. Can you expand on why you didn’t like that?

    I haven’t done anything to speed the site up today. Soon, the cache will go back on, and that should make things run significantly faster all around.

    Anyone — you all will notice there’s only one image in the header right now. Help me pick out some new images! Anything from Griff’s Picasa that’s at least 1000px wide (no portrait-shaped images) — or any picture you’ve taken yourself to those sepcs — can be used. See

    October 16, 2008
  38. I like the new design overall. It was terribly slow but it seems to be faster now. It might be because this thread has fewer than 40 posts, and some of the other threads have a few hundred.

    The larger font is nice, and I love Georgia (the font, not necessarily the state or country).

    If the speed doesn’t drag on the larger threads, I give it a thumbs up. If you can minimize the margins on the wider screens, even better.

    October 16, 2008
  39. A.Ripka said:

    i do like the brightness of it. it feels more open and approachable. i like the font in the header image. new pic? heck yes. what about a nice long shot of the downtown? are you planning to switch out the image seasonally? there are some lovely pics in Griff’s “St. Olaf Natural Lands” album. for winter, i wonder how it would look to use something from “Snowy downtown Northfield at night 2007” or similar?
    as a graphic designer, i do see a few things that visually bug me. can’t stand the highlighted color bars. i see why you are doing it, but maybe it’s weird to me because of the font and its size. personally, georgia reminds me of comic sans and it feels too kiddish/over-used. the public likes it, designers hate it. papyrus is another font that should have a ban put on it. serif fonts tend to be poo-pooed as a body font and typically, as a rule, not to be paired with sans-serifs. i know i know – rules rules rules. they’re made to be broken, right? sometimes. i always snubbed my nose in school when i heard all these things, ans now here i am a follower. *sigh* it’s hard to find a balance between functionality and aesthetics. such a pain – i feel yeah, sean. i very much like the side-bar’s font, though. it’s clean and easy to read. as for size – do people know they can adjust font size in their browser? (ctrl -/+) probably not.
    on a good note, the site seems to be running pretty smooth. side-bar organization is great. so there you have my hard-core design critique. change is good. keep it up!

    October 17, 2008
  40. David Koenig said:


    Thank you for your work to help with the site and I hope you feel that comments/criticisms are just input and nothing more.

    I also agree that the highlighted headlines really don’t “feel good” to my eyes.

    The larger font is nice and I’m glad its now one column on the right.

    As for font and highlighting headlines, I have found the International Herald Tribune site to be one of the most pleasant on my eyes. The headlines stand out, the font, whatever it is, is easy to read, etc.

    Again, thanks for asking for our input!

    October 17, 2008
  41. David Koenig said:

    One other option that I love on the IHT site is the option to format in 3-columns to read stories.

    See the regular article and 3-column link here.

    See the same story in 3-column format here.

    October 17, 2008
  42. April,
    I am deeply offended at your likening of Georgia to Comic Sans. 😉 Really, though, while Georgia is not a font I would choose for a logotype, it is extremely easy to read — I would say even easier than Times New Roman. This font is doing the grunt work, and that may — yes — be at a slight cost to the design.

    Interesting that you mention a desire of the rule-abiding designer to keep serif and sans-serif font away from each other. I’m sure it won’t last forever, but online, it’s very trendy right now to mix them for different purposes (see David’s IHT links, or A List Apart for examples).

    Re: header image — my plan is to implement a random image rotator like the old site had. If you have a few minutes, please take a look around in that Picasa link and find some specific images you like.

    David, the IHT site is beautiful, and, honestly, a better design than LoGroNo. It is, however, a really different feel. I’m going for a little more pep here.

    October 17, 2008
  43. If the pagination method keeps the speed going strong, I’m happy with the new site style.

    October 17, 2008
  44. Patrick Enders said:

    Sean wrote,

    Since this thread is of such an unwieldy length, we’re experimenting with paginated comments. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the site thread.

    I like it. That thread was taking forever to load. Thanks too for including a “show all” option – it will be important/useful when one wants to find a particular comment.

    October 17, 2008
  45. Barry Cipra said:

    I agree with Patrick, especially with his comment on the “show all” option.

    One technical problem with the new layout: The discussion column overlaps the current items column on my browser. I’m using Safari 3.1.2 on a MacBook running OS 10.5.5.

    October 17, 2008
  46. Barry, I think I’ve got that problem fixed. Give your browser a refresh and let me know if it’s still doing it.

    October 17, 2008
  47. Barry Cipra said:

    Sean, yes, much better!

    October 17, 2008
  48. Mike Zenner said:


    The pagination is just the ticket for improving the long comment blogs!


    October 17, 2008
  49. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, the pagination of comments in this thread is not working for me with Firefox 3.0. And the blog post/thread is completely devoid of formatting when viewed with IE7 and Chrome.

    October 17, 2008
  50. Griff,
    Pagination was originally only on on the presidential thread, but I’ll turn it on here shortly (in fact, this should be the first comment on page #2).

    Don’t know what to see about your issues with formatting in Chrome/WebKit. I’ve tried it in Safari/WebKit and it seems to be fine. Maybe you just caught the CSS file when it was being updated… try wiping your cache and trying it now.

    October 17, 2008
  51. Griff Wigley said:

    I cleared all caches and it’s looking good now. Sorry for the alarm!

    October 17, 2008
  52. April Ripka said:

    haha. so you like comic sans, huh? my respect for you has changed, sean. kidding. honestly, my opinions are pretty biased, so i hope you don’t take them too personally. it’s been awhile since i freelanced web, so i’m probably out of the trends. and, of course, print design and web design can differ greatly. unfortunately, if a designer used any of the basic universal web fonts in print, they’d probably be shot. it’s hard because the last bit o’ schooling i got really ingrained that in my head. i know when i design sites i get really frustrated at the limited font options. basically you have to do what work for the site and if people think it works, go with it, right? trend or not, i still think it looks odd to pair serif with sans serif. that rule’s been around for decades. anyway, love the idea of a ‘rotating’ image in the header. don’t have a particular one in mind, but the two albums i mentioned previously have lots of potential. i don’t think you can go wrong in most of those. send someone out with a long lens to get a good shot of downtown with the leaves still on the trees and right as the sun is setting. lovely!

    October 17, 2008
  53. Oh good God, I hope I didn’t leave the impression I thought Comic Sans was anything other than one of the most horrendously vile and overused fonts there is. It’s absolutely awful, hence my offense at your taking Georgia (if not beautiful, a good, hardworking font) to its level.

    Anyway, thanks for your feedback. I’ll look into those albums you mentioned soon.

    October 17, 2008
  54. Patrick Enders said:

    Here’s a concern: the comment section no longer remembers the name and email address used for previous postings. While that rarely caused the Enders and the Summas to post under the wrong name, it was awfully convenient. (I just lost a comment I had spent some time on, because I didn’t stop to reenter my name and address before hitting ‘post’. Under the old version of this site, usually if one went ‘back’ after making a similar mistake, the text would still be there in the comment section. No such luck with this version.)

    October 18, 2008
  55. Felicity Enders said:

    Sean, I really like the pagination. Both for loading speed and for sanity, it helps a lot!

    Ditto for Patrick’s comments on retaining the name/email in the comment section when using the same computer/browser.

    October 18, 2008
  56. I have a few comments and suggestions.

    1. Great font picks–I love Georgia and Lucida Grande on websites.

    2. The kerning is off on the “Locally Grown” header text–make sure the cursive serifs line up so that each letter flows into the next.

    3. I think the Locally Grown needs a written graphic identity (the logo changed!) and one that reflects Northfield as a community. I don’t think the cursive typeface and the diamond background image fit the identity. Though, the diamonds do add more depth. I think design decisions should reflect the identity rather than doing something for the sake of being cool. If it does both, great.

    4. People have mentioned that the type backgrounds are too blocky. I think it can look great if done correctly (look at the University of Chicago or Livefront as examples).

    5. I don’t like the bullets next to the comments. Perhaps put the numbers on the same line as the author name?

    Overall, it is a very clean, easy to use site. Well done.

    October 18, 2008
  57. kiffi summa said:

    Re: Patrick, #55…
    Yep, Yep , and Yep … or is it spelled Yup, Yup, and Yup?
    Actually I lost a comment I’d spent a lot of time on in the same way, and it must have been in the Change-over period, because I also got an error message from wordpress and then I e-mailed Griff about it, and since he professed to be clueless as to the “glitch”, it must have been during a technical transition.
    I did like it being filled in(name and e-mail) even if in the heat of the moment it could cause multiple users of one computer to post under the wrong name, as Patrick pointed out.

    Small details , but ‘you guys’ did ask …

    P.S. Hey Patrick! Did you notice I quit using quotation marks in the wrong way? I HAD a bad habit of using quotes on words/phrases that were not necessarily quotes , but that I wanted to highlight in a referential way; caused some serious confusion ; I’ll find a new style.

    October 18, 2008
  58. Rob Hardy said:

    I’ve appreciated the adjustments over the past few days, especially the tweaking of the right sidebar. It looks much cleaner and more streamlined to me now. If I could vote again, I would switch my vote from “it’s okay” to “I like it.”

    October 18, 2008
  59. Patrick, et al:
    Yeah, that is an annoying quirk of the plugin. I can try to fix it, but if it ends up being a choice between the pagination and auto-entering name and e-mail, I think we’d have to choose the former (especially since that auto-entering has been problematic.

    Thanks for the design feedback.

    1. Good catch! I’ve fixed that now (might take a couple browser refreshes to show).
    2. As your comment acknowledges, our only visual identity is here. We have nothing printed, we have no ads or T-shirts, or anything of that such. The diamonds are not an especially intentional choice (which is why they’re nearly transparent) — they’re just there to add some texture to the gray. The cursive was somewhat more thought out, but it certainly didn’t get the careful consideration a logo for print might. I thought our strongest visual element on the old site, though, was the pictures of Northfield, which we are maintaining. LoGroNo may need to make more of a commitment in the future, but if we’re online-only, why not just have a little fun?
    3. Livefront’s highlights look great (in fact it’s all-around gorgeous site), but I think it’s apples and oranges to compare them to the much louder highlights here. I’m playing with some alternatives, though.
    4. I agree on the bullets. It’s technically difficult to do the <ol>-style numbers from the non-paginated comments, but it won’t stay as it is now.
    October 18, 2008
  60. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m getting a lot of comments from regular contributors that are submitted with typos in their names and email addresses, making me wonder whether people are having to type that info in each time they comment… meaning, the cookies are NOT working.

    Anyone having this problem?

    November 6, 2008
  61. Patrick Enders said:


    November 6, 2008
  62. Bill Ostrem said:

    Me too, although once I start typing in each box the auto-fill feature (if that’s what it’s called) on Firefox supplies the text I need.

    November 6, 2008
  63. Bright Spencer said:

    Yes to #61. And, I don’t like the out of focus
    Heading Photo and never have…the eye tries to focus, and cannot. Very trendy, but no other merit.

    I like the quicker loading, but I liked the old messiness of it, because you could see what else was going on in the sidebars that was current.

    November 6, 2008
  64. On the matter of the comments, as I said a while back, this problem is caused by the pagination plugin. I know it’s kind of a pain to type in your name each time, so I would recommend workarounds like Bill’s use of the autofill feature (Safari and Internet Explorer offer this too).

    November 6, 2008
  65. john george said:

    Griff- Re.: post #61. YES!!

    Sean- How do I get this auto fill to work? It worked for a few days, but it no longer does for me.

    November 7, 2008

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