This weekend, we're making a few updates to Inbound on the front and backend. One of the biggest things you'll see is a refresh on the current design. I wanted to take some time
Wait, what's wrong with the current design?
Let me set some context...
When I took on running Inbound last September, we were running on Wordpress. Great for putting together an MVP, but really limiting in terms of adding new features. So the revision that launched in October was about backend functionality and giving us a base to build and improve features.
Visual and interface design was not on my radar when speccing out the site, and so when it came to shipping, we spent little effort thinking about how to make it really work. This is one of the downsides of hiring someone with no previous product design or product management experience :/ Rand especially, whilst keen on the new functionality, has been pushing for a better design since the relaunch.
What's launching is the cumulation of a lot of feedback, a lot of lessons for me and hopefully a much richer experience for you and others in the community.
So what's changing?
There are two main actions we want to design for; reading and discussing:
Reading - we want you to see lots of interesting links and click on them. And come back and click on more. In terms of interface, one of the things we can do is highlight headlines more, and have more submissions on the page. By eliminating the 'bubbles' and separation between posts it's possible to add a few more interesting headlines to the homepage.
Discussing - this is different to commenting. Discussions involve multiple people in dialogue with one another. We do a *really* bad job of highlighting this at the moment. Number of comments doesn't cut it. Lots of comments get lost in the echo chamber. We need to do a better job of directing people to the conversation.
We also want to introduce a much cleaner, more consistent design. Shape, form, colours and typography especially.
Alright, what will it look like?
This is a screenshot from a few weeks back in a development environment. Some of the bigger changes: http://twitpic.com/cpfolp/full
1. Bolder headlines. If you squint and look at this, the headlines jump out at you (like they do on Reddit, HN and the original Inbound)
2. Faces of the submitter moved adjacent to their names; more intelligent.
3. Fixed panel on the left with condensed navigation that's always accessible. This also free's up more "vertical space" for articles.
4. Perhaps the most interesting is the "discussing" faces on the right of each submission. We'll render these over threads where there is genuine discussion going on. Multiple people, nested comments and other actions will trigger these to render on the homepage
This work is just one of the many things the moderating and developer teams have been working on to bring a better Inbound.org to you.
We're love your feedback. I'll dive into your comments now and when we go live, but I'm excited to see what effect this will have on the analytics :-)
You can also tweet me about Inbound: @edfryed
So more of a reddit clone except with color and a more robust sidebar?
Great screen shot especially the favicons of people in the discussion. Are you still with Wordpress on this, and did you develop by customizing the same plugin further? Just curious about the underlying technology if you can share. Thanks.
And side suggestion re: comments/discussion, have you considered a 3rd party app like Disqus for e.g.?
Nope, this was moved off Wordpress because we couldn't build and maintain functionality nearly as easy as we can with a proper MVC framework. You can read the full schpeel here: http://www.quora.com/Search-Engine-Optimization-SEO/How-long-did-it-take-to-redesign-develop-and-launch-the-new-Inbound-org-site
Look forward Ed, any feedback on approval of group I applied for?
The preview looks great Ed. Will we see permalinks for comments in this version? I really think it would help facilitate conversational references in places like Twitter. Example: "I really liked ______'s question on Will's AMA here: link"
Seconded. Comment permalinks would definitely help facilitate discussion outside of the realm of Inbound. New design is looking great though!
Yes, so we've got a lot of work on comments and the commenting system we want to do. With this shipped, our next thing is some moderating features and algo updates - THEN we're onto comments.
You're right. It's a bit simple at the moment!
We want to add proper permalinks (which already exist kind of... you can grab the div tag from the source code, or inspect element. User friendly I know...) as well as hot/incoming/all time on popular threads (like AMAs) to help sort and sift through what's relevant and what's not.
Awesome. I'm sure you guys have spotted this already but I noticed that it only takes 3 votes in quick succession to get on the front page. I think this should be extended - I just posted the discussion for the Pbs-Raven webinar and all it took was two of my co-workers to get it ranking on front-page. Had to message one of them and ask him to down-vote so that it wouldn't be construed as gaming the system. I'm not sure how much of Inbound's readership are agency professionals, but maybe a cool idea might be to create "teams" on inbound. Where users from the same team (or company) could upvote their own company's submission but those votes wouldn't count towards being pushed to front page. Just a thought.
Yes, yes and yes. This is all in the works. :-)
Groups, as organisations, could be really interesting: www.inbound.org/discussion/view/inbound-org-groups-apply-here-to-start-your-own-community-on-inbound (see also: http://ryancarson.com/post/49494542970/how-to-use-a-reddit-clone-to-boost-company-culture)
We're also keen to get authorship on the site, and credit people for that. At the same time, we could get publishership so companies, agencies etc. get credit. This has some really, really interesting implications. I'll leave you to ponder...
So far as +3 I actually can tweak the algo from the admin panel. It so happens to be on a lower setting at the moment to help drive new stuff onto the homepage. Go easy on the self-submissions; so long as it's "cool". Rule #1 here :)
Good man! If only other submitters were as conscientious as you :-)
I guess I'm alone in thinking the current design is more than alright. You can only redesign a site so many times before you start seeing diminishing returns, but then again, I'm not the man in charge. Trust Ed's decision making skills though, hope it'll be a change for the better.
Agree re: diminishing returns. Makeovers for the sake of makeovers makes the think of identity crisis.
In this case, it had to be done. There are flaws in the design which are my fault, and this order came from the top :-)
Makes sense. Just don't want to see Inbound become the next Digg :)
As a package no, but there's elements of the current Digg that are really smart. D3.js ftw!
A tough task to improve an already awesome site! ;-) Like the side bar design and pics of users voting up. Gives a bigger community feel.
A usability idea: I'd like to reduce the number of clicks it takes me to get back to where I was. What do I mean? Almost every time I'm on Inbound, I cruise to the PR category to see what's new. If a post motivates me to comment, when I'm done, I've got two clicks on the back button, or I can navigate to get back to where I left off. I wish there was an easier way to get back to where I was after commenting.
Interesting Ed! Waiting for the changes.
Great ideas! Thumbs up to Ed and the whole team! I'd still love to see something like a real-time "Incoming" feed on the homepage. Or what about a real-time comments feed (like disqus does) to increase discussion?
So, it might work... it might not... but you see in the preview, in the left hand column you have a load of whitespace in the left? We *may* be adding a news ticker there, which could give you live, scrolling notifications.
With that in place, we could put anything there that's contextually relevant, and could be a way to increase visibility to new, incoming submissions and help them get on the homepage. Amongst other things... except blinking, annoying ads ;)
A lot of questions though around that. But *something* to help that, yes...
This is exciting, I can't wait to try it out. Great job, thanks for all of the hard work you do.
Looking good! :-) I'm all for v3.
Someone recently commented that they didn't know Inbound.org had rules (i.e. the Guidelines) so maybe that's something that could be made more prominent? Might help reduce some spa... heh, who am I kidding? Still, might reduce some self-submissions and modify the behaviour of some of those folks who are that way inclined?
It's more v1.1. (after v0 and v1.0) but anyhows... I digress.
Dropbox sets a great standard for user onboarding, so I'd like to roll out something similar to that. Admittedly, that is going to be a little way off, but perhaps just an alert that hovers at the top for news users asking them to read the community guidelines?
On reducing spam, we're nuking a tonne of it with the next update :-) Hit and run spammers are inherently predictable, and we can filter by algorithm (just haven't implemented yet). There's a few other things we've got pipelined too (including authorship) which ought to help incentivising people NOT to break community guidelines.
Getting the community to grow it's membership: How many members practically invite and achieve participation from others marketers that they have connections to? Are you going to deploy a Janrain or equivalent onboarding mechanism? Or even a Quora like credits system?
Apologies! We sound like Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts discussing Panda/Penguin numbering... ;-)
*crosses fingers for golden ratio proportioned body typography* :)
Ok, so the blue arrows don't always work. I arrowed up 3 articles, left the page, came back, 3 different articles had the blue arrow and the 3 I upped are gone. So again I can't tell if I've done them.
I'm not a fan of a UI that has more focus on the submitter than on how popular something is. With the old layout we could tell +3 or +30 in a much easier way. Now I have to look at these tiny little numbers to see what's actually popular and not a couple jackwagons upvoting each other.
Btw. Without using search, where the hell are categories? Even clicking on the CRO or Analytics tag basically just takes me to a search for that tag. I don't want a search - I want the posts that everyone has taken the time to categorize as that topic. One of the top searches for PPC is "If You Dont Care About Structured Data, You Suck at SEO" in the SEO category. Really? It shows up ahead of "Killer PPC Testing Using an Ad Testing Matrix" in the Advertising/PPC category.
Hi Matt, sorry about the voting issue you're seeing, it's a caching issue I'll be dealing with this evening (splitting your votes out of the article model so I can cache the article results without the member specific details)
Search should recognize category (tags in near future) names and return the same results as the old site - sounds like it's not quite there yet, will be tuning this week!
Thanks for the feedback.
Not sure what's happened with your upvotes - can you share a screenshot?
The previous numbers took up a heck of a lot of space, which we can use to highlight other things related to the listing. Perhaps there's a case for bolder numbers on the upvote numbers?
Categories - we're swapping them out for tags which let's us do a whole lot more intelligent stuff (mark up posts with multiple tags, each tag having hot/incoming/all time, monitor popular tags, your favourite tags etc.) but we're kind of at the interim stage. The last big involves adding the tagging to the submission process, then setting up the tags pages (hot/incoming/all time). Agree the search at the moment isn't up to scratch. This is one of those one step back before two steps forward bit!
1) Yes, the numbers took up more space but now it's everyone's face. As far as I can tell on my end, the avatars don't link to our profiles (yet?), which would be more incentive to submit, I suppose. Vote numbers influence where I start reading. We all only have so much time in the day, so +30 or +70 beats +2 for me unless the topic/headline really catches my eye.
2) On the vote color/arrows, it seems Sawyer knows the issue but I'll give you a couple screenshots to help:
http://www.highonseo.com/examples/inbound1.jpg vs http://www.highonseo.com/examples/inbound2.jpg
One shows that I can upvote, doesn't show my vote. The other has it lit up and shows I've voted - the votes are the same though.
3) Makes sense categories vs. tags. I understand why some people would search that way. It's not my cup but I read almost everyday so I rarely miss anything anyways. :) The algo definitely looks like it could use a tune. The obvious problem is we don't submit enough data to make any judgments on the content. A post called "Greatest Backlinking Post EVER" won't show up for "link building" (even if it's the best ever) unless in the future it's been tagged that way. Makes sense to me. But if we can search the "SEO" category, we may see it. It seems like there's either a LOT of retroactive tagging to do or we're going to have thousands of unsearchable links and then it'll just get better going forward?
I miss the categories too. Was a nice little shortcut to perusing interests. When will the tags roll out?
In the new design the upvote button could have more better, presently it is very small..
The new design looks really good. I think, placing a little description below every story will help users to identify the article's potential and strength.
Great to see more innovation and development on the site - the one thing I'd like to point out is that mobile browsing is a tad frustrating at the moment - tiered comments become unreadable due to their ever decreasing width. I spend the majority of my time browsing the site on my phone so it would be great to get that experience refined and more friendly!
This is one of the things we've really tried to work on. The reality is it's hard to get responsive design "bang on". Native UI would let us do something much better for users. In time, maybe... :)
Completely appreciate the difficulties with responsive :) I've personally found the way Alien Blue for iOS handles comments to be very easy and nice to use.
Nice! Taken a look, archived for as and when we spec out a mobile app.
I'll be honest I think what you have is already a good thing.. changes may not be in the websites best interest. Small changes like adding the image beside the title to the left is pretty easy, same with the sidebar option.
Please fix the RSS issue.
I'm viewing the site at 1280x1024 screen size and I'm finding a lot of article headines are getting chopped off. When I un-maximise my screen and stretch it over two monitors I can see everything as you'd normally expect.
Not sure if this is possible or not but I'd be inclined to one of a couple things:
1) Move the contents of the right column into the dark left column, increase the primary column width
2) Make the right column thinner
3) Allow users to turn off the right column, so poor hicks like me can read Inbound easily on a non-widescreen monitor.
4) Add a responsive CSS rule to do some combination of the above, ultimately leading to a wider primary column on a screen resolution more like what I'm using as an example.
Hi Al, thanks for the feedback!
Right now we're responsively dropping the sidebar at 1240px width (in theory / css max width, heh) - I'll do some tuning on this to make sure it drops before the article titles get too short!
Flagging does not seem to work Ed. At least not to the Flagger.
That might be related to the caching issue mentioned earlier Paul.
It does - I've taken care of what you've flagged :)
What it doesn't do is provide feedback that you've flagged something successfully, yet.
OK, gotcha. tx.Alistair has a point about in that at less than 1230px the social action buttons are out of view: (Office workers without widescreens are less likely to see them/act on them.) I guess you'll know your own historic screen res stats and if that's worth it.
Hey Ed, today many times I got the below mentioend error while trying to access the site.
"Error 330 (net::ERR_CONTENT_DECODING_FAILED): Unknown error."
We'll get on that. How and where are you getting that message? Is it possible to send a screenshot?
sure, if i encounter the same again i will send you the screen shot.
Not sure how I feel about the new look. It's a cool layout, but I feel as though it's more cluttered than the other design. Maybe I just need to get used to it.
Agree, there's bits we can do to narrow down the focus onto fewer elements. The clutter feel seems to come from lots of different things wanting attention at once. There's some "judo" still to be done here. http://nathanbarry.com/judo-application-design/
I really like the "x people discussing" and faces next to the posts. Really not liking the sidebar.
The new design looks snazzy I'll give you that but I really don't like it from a readers point of view. The old design made it very easy to spot the articles with the most points - the new design is very hard.
I used to visit this site 3 times a day everyday - I'm down to once per week after the redesign.
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