Donna's tools set

Part of the planning for the launch of the new book, included updating the books page on this site but I've also taken the opportunity to make a few additional updates. I've deleted the landing page because well, it didn't really do anything and isn't where people wanted to go–most people want to come to this page, the blog, so this has become the landing page.  (The above, btw, was donna's set up for the image in this page's banner.)  Most of the changes are minor but one of my favorites is that most recent comment is shown at the bottom of each post.

Because a lot of my readers are also bloggers, I asked Leah McCombe, my designer, to comment on the actual changes and the reasons behind them.  This is Leah in her own words:

1.  Improved the overall functionality of the site through a series of
small changes, like making the logo a link back to the homepage, and
making it easier to purchase a book through the books page.

2.   We eliminated the landing page to reduce the number of
click-throughs for the user.  In general, the fewer the clicks to get
to the content, the better.  Usability is more important these days
over just a beautiful page of photography. Function over form.

3.  We wanted to increase Michael's usage of social media, and we added a
twitter and facebook link to encourage more back and forth with the

4.  For the same reason, we made the comments more prominent, as a way to
encourage the commenters to have a dialog with each other.  One of the
unique aspects of readers is the dialog after each post
back and forth with commenters – we wanted to encourage that.

5.  We wanted to lighten up the whole site and give it a bit more
breathing room – I have a feeling this will be a continuous process
over the next year, but for the first step we extended out the
masthead and lightened all the backgrounds a few shades.  In my next
round of revisions, I'd like to remove the boxes altogether, since the
average web user doesn't need everything to be boxed into a grid
pattern like we used to do a couple of years ago.

6.  We made all buttons the same color so that the user can
immediately recognize it as an action that will take you to another
location (in this case, they are all red).

7.  We wanted to increase ad revenue (which pays for site improvements
like these) by adjusting their placements on the page.  We moved all
ads up "above the fold" and added ads to the top masthead area in the
interior pages (much like handles their advertising).
We also programmed the ad sites to better target the consumers (food
ads on a food blog, when possible). We hope the increased revenue will
help with the development of some exciting things around the corner!

Finally, we did a bunch of "tune-ups" on some errors in the last
design that never were quite fixed…things that just didn't work as
smoothly as they could have.  With that being said, I'd like to invite
users to weigh in on any errors they might find while browsing through
the new site.  All input will be considered, and we're always willing
to learn and take suggestions to make the reader
experience the best possible.

Thanks for all your work, Leah, and for these clear comments!  And I second her appeal for any input you'd like to offer.


28 Wonderful responses to “Site Design Changes”

  • Leah

    Hey guys – it’s Leah. I’m looking forward to reading your suggestions. One thing that bugs me as a reader is pop-up ads, and I’m sure we’re going to get a lot of flack about them, and we’re looking into figuring out how to reduce these ads on this site. We’re going through a third party advertiser, and we need to filter out the pop-ups if possible.

  • carri

    Wow, this site has really grown! Thanks for keeping it going so passionately! I have two things…I still like the cartoon drawing of Michael, though I understand the need to appear more pro w/ a photo! Also, the comments appearing on more than one page can be troublesome when there are, like 130 of them, you have to scroll through 3 or 4 pages to get to the most recent! I guess there alot of us out there with something to say…and here, we are listened to…Thank You again, Michael, for giving voice to the people!

  • Wm

    Boy, there a LOT of ads for sure Leah, and the pop ups make it way too “” for me. To be completely honest, I usually read Michael’s postings via RSS so rarely visit the page itself (other than for the occasional comment.)

  • forrest

    The survey popup is terrible. I’ve already said 100 times I don’t want to take the survey – stop asking.

  • bakingepiphanies

    i actually don’t mind the ads as long as they’re relevant to the site and artistically placed. i mean, if i don’t mind them in a magazine or newspaper, why would i mind them on a blog? pop-ups are a bit annoying but i’m all for supporting bloggers earning some revenue. it takes energy to create good content and i see nothing wrong in being compensated for that. and if the content of the blog is good (as it is here), really, i’ll put up with anything!

  • Brooke

    Funny enough – I don’t see any of the design in my feed reader, but good for you for communicating the changes. It was also exciting to see the photo-staging. Thanks for including that 🙂


  • milo

    I barely see any ads at all and no popups from this site. I wonder if I’m just running a browser that does a better job of blocking them? (safari on Mac)

  • Leah

    Hey guys – I forgot to mention for the meantime, if you want to block pop-ups, you can do so under your browser preferences. We’re still working on a solve though….

  • Tzerris

    Maybe it’s just me but the ad’s aren’t bothersome at all and using my browser setting, I don’t get any pop ups. I think the pic of MR should be him sunning himself on the way to Vegas in the No Res episode. (Eerily similar to a trip I took in a past life.)

  • Natalie Sztern

    To tell the truth, I really don’t see much in the way of changes…but really someone has to explain to me Twitter. …twitter almost does not exist in canada and probably will not in the near future cause quality time is of the essence here and to twitter one must do it all day long otherwise why be on Twitter?

    Michael how do YOU have the time to twitter? It’s enough just to keep up with the blog postings…

  • cdelphine

    I actually like having content be in boxes. It makes the page look cleaner, and it’s easier to find what I’m looking for.

  • Harry

    My real comments, which I hope you won’t ignore:

    Have you tested the site using Firefox on PC? Using Firefox on Mac? Using Safari on Mac? More good sites go unread because the programmers don’t test enough configurations…

    Right now I’m viewing the blog on a Dell desktop running Windoze 2000, Service Pack 4 and Netscape 7.1. (I no longer know what percentage of the online population uses each of these programs.)

    One problem has been solved, two have not, a new one has appeared.

    1. Old problem fixed: more posts per page. Hurrah! Much easier to read now.

    2. Old problem not fixed: the page loads as slow as molasses (today it took 75 sec to fully load) and the ads make the page flicker as it does so, slowing down the loading of this page AND anything else I’m doing in the browser.

    3. Old problem not fixed: I can’t always post comments. The system doesn’t always accept my captcha inputs.

    4. New problem: the only comment I can see or access is the most recent, regardless of what post that comment relates to. For example, right now the most recent comment was in reply to “why do you buy a cookbook” post. Clicking on the name of the poster takes me to that blog entry. I then have to click forward from post to post to reach this post, then I scroll down to the comments. With more experimentation, I see I can click on the post title to go to a page that lets me comment. Problem is, it’s not apparent that the title is a hyperlink.

    As a design matter, I prefer very small header on a page. The header doesn’t contain useful information, it’s just something I have to scroll past to get to the good stuff – Michael’s post.

    I hope these help.

  • Lisa

    Great communication and updates. Very interesting to see the “behinds the scene” with the creation of the banner.

    BTW – really enjoyed reading “The Making of a Chef” and “The Soul of a Chef” – Great Job!

  • mary lynn

    I like the new site design and enjoy reading the site. I do like the text being between the lines, makes for easier reading. I read the site on a Mac and on a pc. I get no pop-ups on the Mac, but get tons on the pc. I especially hate the ads that contain movement. They are very annoying when trying to read the column. It makes it difficult to concentrate since the eye is drawn to the movement. Which I guess is the idea behind them, but still not enjoyable to have it there.

  • chad

    Just need to get rid of that banner ad that floats up on the screen and is harder to close out than swatting a moving fly… those ads are just plain annoying.

  • luis

    Again Michael you should look into getting in on Kindle. Not that I am currently using it but I do see it coming from a mile away. I am going on vacation back to Turtle Key Hammocks resort and I am already stressing on which books to pack.
    If I had Kindle I’d take most of my entire library with me. Donna should consider becoming your “videologist” and film you cooking something sometime… but hey your blog is great and it continues to improve with time because you offer “CONTENT”. Content is missing in 80% of blogs out there.

  • Abigail

    My comments on the blog desing:

    I have my pop up blocker on so I don’t get any pop ups. There are a lot of ads but I guess that’s the price for reading free content. I do wonder if you can’t get more control over the ads that are shown here. I wouldn’t think readers of this blog are big buyers of Wishbone salad dressing.

    Per another comment, I also like boxes – it looks cleaner and makes the blog easier to read.

    I found it difficult to find the comments, the link is a really light grey and it was hard for me to find after the partial post.

    This is not a new issue, but I don’t like that when I click a link to another blog it goes to that blog in this window. I prefer a new window so that I haven’t lost the original blog I’m reading.

  • ruhlman

    i have my block popups checked but i still get that stupid take-a-survey floater. working to nix that. will also make comments button clearer. thanks for all the helpful comments.

  • Saffoula

    I agree with Abigail, it took me a long time to find the light grey link to the comments and suggest brightening. Personally, having the most recent comment posted at the end does nothing for me because you can’t read all of it. It looks a little messy. I would prefer a link instead. Having had to work on a website for our business, I can appreciate all the effort that goes into this.

  • chad

    This is just like you said before… constantly revising and editing. That definitely extends past the book.
    Ordered 2 more copies of Ratio lately. Just gave one copy to one of our cooks who was leaving for another city. Thanks for creating a great reference at a very decent ‘gift’ price!

  • Natalie Sztern

    Wondering if all ads are the same on all computers or are they ‘area controlled’ ie canadian vs american feed suppliers….cause I get to see the Max Factor lip colours and I just love that…but what makes them want to advertise with you?

    just curious cause i am no blogger just a reader…

  • ME Jackson

    Using Mac and Firefox or Safari: Yikes. New site is an absolute mess. Really really bad — what happened?? Was this tested? Did I miss an update to something? Pix are too large on Firefox, text looks as if it has no formatting, running edge to edge, fonts cannot be what you meant to use; no buttons just hyperlinks; ads work (of course).

  • bonnibella

    I love the new site design. Seems very user friendly to me. And I very much appreciate being sent directly to the blog upon entry.

  • Barbara

    I hate to admit this, especially in public…but the little, tiny, itty bitty font is SO hard for me to read. Trying to use the Enlarge Text feature in IE has no effect (don’t know why it works for some web pages and not others). And just so you know, I adore this blog!

  • Dan

    Barbara: Ctrl_+ and Ctrl_- work for me to change the font size in the Firefox browser; maybe it’s IE that’s the problem?