Dark alley. Dangerous. Empty.
I couldn’t say they weren’t accurate descriptions. The black brickwork and the cement textured background of our site look did look like a dark alley theme – now that it had been mentioned.
We’d worked very hard on our site redesign. The look we’d loved so much – casual coolness, leather jackets and just a little bit of tough grit with a gun theme – wasn’t working for our readers.
“I hate the black background.” Yes, we know. “Your site’s hard to read.” We’d heard it countless times. “I don’t like your site so I use RSS.” Okay, thanks for reading anyways. “What’s the bullet for?” Drive-by shootings. “Do you have a search bar?” Yes. Bottom right.
We even had canned responses for emails from ‘helpful’ readers because we received so many complaints. We even had arguments and a few people were downright rude. Eventually, it just got discouraging to maintain the “Well, we like it,” argument and carry on.
But one day, I asked a friend for his honest opinion. We were neglecting good looks in favor of great content. He told us those three descriptive words: A dangerous, empty dark alley, far removed from the original bar hang-out feel we’d had going on before the redesign.
The gig was up. The image of a ominously frightening and scary place where gunmen dressed in black sneaked and lurked about, waiting to snatch innocent people and make them disappear without a trace… well., no. That wasn’t the feeling we wanted for the Men with Pens site.
So we turned on the lights. Come on over and see.
First thing you’ll notice is our banner, all cleaned up and polished for you. New readers don’t know what the old bullet stood for, so it’s gone. Nor did anyone under 35 get what “shooting from the hip” tagline meant. (Y’all have dirty minds. It means to speak without thinking, consequences be damned.)
We have a new tagline, an integrated search bar people can easily find and a more polished look. The RSS stays – it’s a guitar pick, for those who don’t know, because James and Charlie play guitar.
Dropping down a bit, we’ve added “Our blog” to the navigation, because some people didn’t realize that we blog. The Ajax area (go ahead, click it, it’s cool) filled the screen, and visitors would have to know to scroll down to get the latest post. No more – our blog is right there for all to see.
The Ajax itself was lightened up from a black to a brushed steel. The black background and white font is gone, replaced by a lightly textured and pale background with a dark grey font. Much easier to read, n’est pas?
Speaking of easier to read, we’ve gone back to magazine style to make sure people had a buffet of post choice. One thing we’ve discovered is that single-post styles of themes actually lower readership and magazine styles – no matter how much people hate the excerpts – get more readers. Since we like to think our posts are worth reading, the question of a switch was a no brainer.
And for those who hate excerpts in feeds, worry not. Full posts will be coming to your RSS, same as always, because that’s the best way to deliver your feeds to readers.
Lastly, we cleaned up a bit of clutter in the sidebar, and we added a Twitter ID to our comment section fields. For those that didn’t know it, we also have a Subscribe to Comments Without Commenting feature.
So whatcha think? Better? Worse? Any tweaking we missed? Lookin’ good? We hope so 🙂