We are VERY excited about the new web site and anxious to share with readers some of the reasons why.
As we have been hinting for a month — and as readers are now experiencing for themselves — Talk of the Sound has been significantly upgraded.
What readers can see is that we have a new “theme” or layout design; what readers cannot see is that the new design is on top of a radically different underlying software framework. We have been using Drupal 6. The site has been upgraded to Drupal 7. I would note that this was a complex upgrade and would not have happened but for the persistence of our web developer, Sara Caldwell of Convey Media.
One of the main reasons for our excitement is that Drupal 7 allows for something we have been wanting to add to the site for two years, “mobile-responsive” themes. When a reader views the web site on a desktop or laptop computer, the site appears “normal”; when the reader views the site on a mobile device like a smart phone or tablet, the site is displayed in a layout design formatted for the narrow, upright width of a phone or tablet.
When Talk of the Sound was launched in 2008, the number of readers accessing the site via a mobile device was low, less than 10% of total traffic. Today that figure is greater than 60%. As a majority of our traffic is coming from iPhones and the like, this will make for an enhanced reading experience for those readers.
The experience on a desktop or laptop computer is vastly enhanced. The new layout is less text-based, designed to allow the reader to navigate through recent articles largely through images. We think this is easier, more interesting and a bit more “fun” for the reader. It also gives us a great way to show off more of the quality photographs we obtain covering news and events in New Rochelle.
For readers wanting to go deeper into the site, there is an enhanced search box capability and an “archive” link at the top of each page which groups every article by month going back to the original launch of the site.
The new site offers new ways to register for the site and new reasons to register.
Readers still have the option to register directly with the site (see the “Why Register?” FAQ at the top of the home page) but now have the option to register using a Twitter account (OAuth) or the Open ID system. These are third-party authentication systems that allow readers who have Twitter or Open ID accounts to login using those User IDs and Passwords rather than obtain them from Talk of the Sound (if you do not have Twitter we recommend it as a great way to follow Talk of the Sound on your phone).
There are many benefits to registering or logging in to Talk of the Sound.
Registered users can add comments to articles or add their own articles, and upload images. New in this version of Talk of the Sound, readers can rate articles (as part of adding a comment), bookmark content for later reading and vote in polls. Registered users can help us moderate content on the site by flagging comments as inappropriate where applicable. Rating, Bookmarking and Flagging occurs within a specific article. At the top of the an article is both the average rating by all registered users and the rating by the registered user (if they have rated the article). The actual rating of an article occurs in a drop down menu within a comment; readers must leave a comment in order to rate an article. We will later provide a list of Top-Rated content, the articles readers are recommending most. A bookmarked article will be listed in each registered user’s page within the site (just click on your own User Name, upper right corner of each page). A comment flagged as inappropriate will generate a notice to the site administrator to review the comment that has been flagged for possible further action (editing or deletion of the comment, suspension or ban/block of the registered user).
To make adding articles and comments easier, registered users can now access a WYSIWYG editor when adding posts or comments. In plain english, that means you will have little buttons for “bold”, “italic”, “hyperlink”, “cut”, “paste” and so on, just like you would see in a software application like Microsoft Word.
Speaking of comments, if you find an exchange in the comments thread interesting you can subscribe to RSS feeds for any specific comment threads you wish to follow: (read FAQ: What the heck is RSS?). You can also subscribe to an RSS feed to receive every article on the site and/or for all comments on the site.
The left rail alongside each article offers a number of new features. Each articles indicates an estimated "time to read". The size of the font displayed in the article can be adjusted. A print-ready version of the article can be sent to a printer or generate a PDF file. Readers can track progress in reading the article. There are buttons to share the article on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter.
We have a check list of additional items and features we intend to add in the coming weeks to keep improving our reader experience — style tweaks, additional capabilities and services and so forth. Among them, we hope to add an email alert system when a registered user comments on another registered users comment, a an image upload and re-sizing capability, selecting multiple categories for a story (Drupal 7 does not offer this, it requires an additional module). There may be features of the old site that are missed by some readers; if so, we might consider adding them back (if available) or explain how they are in the new site but in a different way.
For advertisers, we have created more clearly defined ad locations, including many “above” the fold” opportunities. Advertisers will now be able to purchase ads site wide, on the home page or sponsors a specific section within the site based on topic (Dining, Arts, Real Estate, Business, etc.).
We are excited. We hope you are too.