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Redesign of Media Co-op sites

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Redesign of Media Co-op sites

So, there has been discussion about updating the design of the Media Co-op for some time. This breaks down into three categories:

  • A facelift, and update to the "look and feel" of the web site
  • Additional features
  • Structural and functional changes

Facelift

This is already underway, but not in any set-in-stone way. You can see the new header and layout on the Grève and Occupy pages, for example. The idea is to create a flexible, clean layout that would streamline the functions of the site based on how things have changed over the last four years or so, and easily adapt to locals' needs. For example, the logo could easily be changed to a local logo.

I'm currently working on implementing this for the national site on a tryout basis (which means that people with access can switch to the new look and give feedback). Once it's been tried, tested and tweaked, we'll switch the national site over to the new design. After that, locals, if they choose, can switch to a version of the new design.

Some of the priorities with the new design are: 

  • Faster loading times
  • Cleaner look
  • Search engine optimization
  • More opportunities to communicate about the Media Co-op
  • More emphasis on user pages, groups and Co-op decisionmaking
  • Strategic use of the site for fundraising and membership
  • Increased information about posts beyond featuring, including information on fact checking and copy editing
  • Increased prominance and promotion of Creative Commons licensing

You can look at a mockup of the front page under the new design. As you can see, there aren't a lot of changes; it is, as advertised, a facelift.

Additional features

Some features that are currently being worked on:

  • A major revision of the group pages (occupy and grève provide a sneak peek, but several options will be available)
  • Wiki pages for groups and locals to share and edit non-time-sensitive information
  • More effective decisionmaking functions (a la budget2010)
  • Integration of the Dominion and Media Co-op sites
  • Better look and feel for blogs 

Restructuring

As you can see, there's already quite a bit to do. Some folks have raised questions about different kinds of changes or new features. It'll be a few months before we are able to implement those, but we might as well start the discussion now.

What do you want?

What are your priorities for the redesign? What kinds of features do you want to see? What do you think of the mock-ups and look and feel that have been proposed?

Have your say, in the comments below.


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dru (Dru Oja Jay)
Montreal
Member since January 2008

About:

Writer, organizer, Media Co-op co-founder. Co-author of Paved with Good Intentions and Offsetting Resistance.

424 words

Comments

Where's the like button?

Cause I like the new re-design. GO FOR IT!

Thanks

Thanks, Stim. Encouragement is fuel for redesign fire!

Online voting!

The biggest change I would like to see is a much broader members' ability to vote in regards to anything: surveys, co-op's management decisions, etc. Let's say the coop administrators want to buy something or determine how much should writers be paid. As co-op's members we should have a section of the website where all this voting would take place. Multiple choices should be given on any topic, and members can just pick one option and cast their vote instantly. Direct democracy!

Voting on everything

This is a great idea, but the difficulty is not so much to create the functionality, but to integrate it at all the different levels, and make sure there's followup and integration. That said, the plan is to move pretty far in this direction in the next year or so.

Can you be a little more

Can you be a little more precise; I mean regarding integration at all "different levels". I think the simplest way to include voting on the website is to make a separate section of the website called "Voting" or "administration".

You also mentioned a difficulty with "follow up". Did you mean how to ensure/prove that decisions made by the members are implemented?

I am glad more power and inclusion of membership is in the plan for Media co-op. This way we would be going far beyond the traditional level of participatory democracy at cooperatives and other organizations, which is usually only practiced at AGMs. We can do better than that!

Integration

By different levels, I mean the different parts of the Media Co-op network. The locals, the working groups, and the editorial collective at the national level. For such a feature to work, all the folks have to buy in to the idea that more democracy is better. There's also the issue of ensuring that voting is promoted to all the members, so that decisions that are made are done so with equal opportunity for participation.

couple suggestions

i like the idea

with the mock-up, i would actually like to see three out of four columns devoted to media coop content, not only the two right now

for example - maybe a featured stories column, an other stories column, and an events etc column (with perhaps personal general media coop discussion and personal account info stuff below it - but remember personal account info is probably irrelevantfor the majority of people visiting the site)

also - i would like to see a 'deadlines' option, for employment positions, calls for proposals, etc ... this would have to be a new option for creating content, and then it could list similar to the events listing, but with the soonest deadlines featured

and maybe press releases could get their own section in the third column mentioned above, along with events and deadlines, instead of mixed in with the general created content (since press releases are often good 'story pitch' ideas)?

Visibiity

Hi!

The deadlines feature is a great idea, and we're definitely moving in this direction.

The personal account info will not be visible to folks who aren't logged in.

The idea of seperating press releases is interesting, but will definitely require a larger discussion with locals, etc.

ps

and i like the voting idea too, perhaps all stories once posted could get 'likes' or 'dislikes' (or just 'votes') and then there could be a section which is 'top viewer picks' and it could toggle between of the week, month and some longer period (quarter perhaps ie 3 months)

Another good idea

This has been on the drawing board for a long time. Hope to get to this soon.

Don't forget to add email-a-friend

Looks fine. But your items will be more widely circulated if you add the email-a-friend function.

jg

Will do

Thanks for commenting.

Fix Upcoming Events

Please!!! Fix the upcoming events tool. Currently events come off the calendar the day of. If you are trying to access the information for an evening event, you can't find it in the morning as it is already down.

I changed it to display...

 

...everything scheduled for after one full day before the current time. Send me an email at dru at dru dot ca if you run into that problem again.

 

 

revolutionary porn

revolutionary porn

Needs to be eye-grabbing

Looking at the Occupy page as an example, I feel a featured photo would attract a quick-to-click eye. Also, cut out the long lists of Twitter feeds. It's way too much! The focus should be on our content.

Featured photo

Hey Natascia, the featured story with a bigger photo is part of the mockup linked above. The twitter feeds are just a function of those particular pages. The occupy page was just linked in reference to the "look and feel"; check out the mockup for a better overall idea of the direction.

Printing

Can there be a print option? Printed versions of Media Co-op articles are not aestehtically pleasing, in small font and have way too much going on around the text.

Yup

It's on the list.

Nice!

Awesome suggestions & responses. Yay re-design!

Bonus if a pending/draft feature can be worked into all of the local sites, so that editing, copy-editing, fact-checking, etc can eventually be built in when needed/wanted across the network. And so when I post a series of photos and lose an internet connection, I don't disturb everyone around me with the loud "Nooooooooooooo" and sometimes also expletives.

Thanks for posting the blog discussion-starter!

can it not be the

can it not be the brownish-yellow colour anymore plz? other than that, the redesign looks great!

Hi, I would like to see a

Hi,

I would like to see a higher degree of delineation between video\audio\text work. In different "feed" sections - recognizing that some sections could go stale quickly, but that is something we would have to deal with. Also, less words, more images. The Briarpatch has a nice landing page. I know we generate much more content, but with an eye towards that look. I just usually find progressive\news\text-oriented sites (economist) are too much when you open them.

Also, if I remember correctly we are generally not a very "sticky" website. People get directed to one article via an external source (social media, etc.) read an article and leave. Can we somehow develop a way to point people towards similar stories through assigning keywords to content (we could ask contributors to do this) or through section placement (Media, Indigenous - we have a whole bunch) it would even be neat to explore sending them around to various local sites. "Like this TMC article - check out HMC's latest piece in the same section).

Other thoughts off the top of my head

Highlighting our for-pay articles, giving half the article then hitting them with a pitch before they get the second half.
Removing .pdf versions of the mag less than one-year old.
Highlighting the "We are the Media Co-op page" at the end of major articles - driving them to our gallery.
Upload your own images portion.
Kill the PayPal button - Zinta can we work on a Donate\Support button
Top stories (most read, most shared)

Toronto Media Co-op

Hey Dru,

The TMC brought this up at length at our latest meeting.  We'd like to see:

-integrating FB and Twitter feeds a la G20 site
-more prominent links to specialty sites like /occupy
-Getting rid of the browse by topic section or replacing it with something more functional
-A better top bar that would include "About", "How to Videos", "How to post", "How to contact us", "How to get involved" etc.
-Getting rid of the BETA designation (for the TMC)
-Stats on articles that we can see on the bottom of articles if you log in
-Being able to blog under a different name
-Improving the Blog title and being able to add a photo
-Better space on a left and right side
-Improved TMC logo

As a personal aside I'd like to be able to:

-add/embedd a google map (this is possible, but only in HTML and has caused me some problems)

-add/embedd a video for a non-video piece (Again possible, but only in HTML and has caused me some problems)

- Have a block for the TMC/local to have a feature story or photo or video....kind of like video of the moment, only that would be something you could promote for a day in a spot on the site.

-Be able to change up functions a bit better for the local/media co-op sites.  When I log in to feature something it gives me the aggregate content for everything in the MC network when I often am looking for a piece just on the TMC site. 

-It would also be nice to be able to feature something on a local site, but not the national site without having to post the article twice, separately.

-Be able to switch around the order of photos in the piece after you've uploaded them

Sorry for the lengthy post!

Responsive design / mobile friendliness

 

Please use concepts of responsive design. This will make sure that people viewing it on larger screens with their desktop or smaller screens with tablet or smartphone, just go to the one same website and it automatically shifts the content around depending on the screen size.

If you need some more information, examples or help, please let me know.

Definitely

Hi,

Thanks for weighing in. It's a great idea, but a decent amount of work. It's definitely on the list, but beyond getting a nice-looking one-col layout working for mobile browsers, a full responsive redesign with more than one breakpoint will have to wait for the next iteration. That said, what kind of help can you offer?

notes from your friendly toronto editor...

hi dru,

we've yet to meet, t-m here. just typed this all out and lost it so may be missing some things and return to another comment soon.

things that are important to me:

Email a friend-- prob the thing i use most on other news sites

I agree re the colours

legibility

social media buttons, esp for re-posting

fewer fonts

more centralized info generally

something clearer for new readers explaining what the media coop is vs dominion, who's posting what where

less going on per page or clearer formatting so less is going on visually

finding ways to sort by topic beyond hashtags or author

being creative about where our 'get involved' stuff shows up. i think people are hesitant to identify as members but can contribute in great ways and there need to be more places on the site for them to walk into that idea comfortably.

more centralized info for writers/contributors/editors etc re meetings, writers guides, pitch forms, story idea brainstorms etc-- and only one version of each up at a time

i like the idea of seperating stories from press releases

i'd like to see some aesthetic overlap with the magazine re-design

thanks for involving me. i'm tired now and not around much for the next week, but look forward to connecting more about this soon after that.

best,

tara-michelle

Questions

Hey T-M,

Thanks for the feedback!

Couple quick q's:

  • What kind of colourscheme do you want?
  • What do you mean by "more centralized info"?
  • Do you have suggestions for ways to sort articles?

Grrrrrrrrreat!

Nice work, dru! Just a few questions/comments...

- Is it possible (or desirable) to have a "carousel" type widget where the featured story is, so that we can highlight multiple stories at once, rather than just one?

- Just messing around with the Google browser screen size tool, it seems like only about 50% of visitors see the Search box (and all the 'Publish' stuff, too) where it's currently placed. I don't have access to Analytics so I can't tell for certain if that's the case, but is that a potential concern? If so, maybe Search, Publish, Donate, etc., and all the other key stuff could go on the left side--perhaps in that big chunk of white space on the far side?

Either way, it's a much cleaner look, and I'm really looking forward to faster load times, wiki pages, etc. Thanks so much for all the work you (and others?) must be putting into it!

Responses

Hi Andre,

Thanks for the positive feedback! Things are coming along nicely, but I've been cleaning up a lot of code in the back end. Looking forward to getting a prototype out.

Carousels, I'm skeptical about. For a few reasons: relying on javascript, compatibility headaches, non-funcitonality for many use cases (it assumes the visitor is browsing, interested in what's on the site in general, rather than looking for something specific, which I think is most users). That said, if it's something VMC is really into, it wouldn't be too difficult to set one up for y'all.

Analytics says that <5% of our visitors are using screens under 1000 pixels wide, so I think we're doing ok on that score. Making the design adaptive for iphone, android and other mobile devices is def a priority, though.

more media

Everybody's a critic. I really appreciate the work you are putting into this ....

So,  here's my constructive criticism of the site old and, so far, new.  I should start by saying the most important thing for me by far is the media part, not the running of the co-op or the internal discussion or lists of ways to browse -  I want the latest news, video, blog, story and photos right there when I open the site. 

So, with that in mind please have a look at Aljazeera - they manage to get 9-10 stories/posts on the front screen and for everything else you follow a text link . They also accommodate different formats - video, photo, features, news etc. and it works - the page is dynamic but not crowded.

I do like the new co-op version better because the posts get a bit more play, but not enough and frankly not much more. That all-important first screen is taken up with a house ad (above the postings!) in the top left (where viewers' eyes go first!), ads on the right column,  fb logo, discussion topics, lists.... With the shape of the screen most viewers will only see two stories/posts. All  I want to see on that welcome screen is the news, events and text links to everything else - simple, clean and current.

PS - I'm also having trouble with the top story concept - I not sure why we would want to judge the postings and 'top' is certainly hierarchical and subjective.

Looks cleaner, I like that.

thanks

murray

 

Membership and accessibility

I like the idea of incorporating the ‘We are the MC’ profiles more prominently into layout and linked to from bottom of artciles – for now seems to appear as awkward block on greve and occupy sites.

I'm keen on integrating visibility and accessibility for participatory decision-making functions – perhaps a more visibile MEMBERSHIP section, and linked to from – everywhere? allowing for these participatory call-outs to take place, as well as featured membership events and actions to be located together. 

Generally I would want to see: FACILITY and ACCESSIBILITY for first-time users in posting blogs and content – this will make a huge difference in appreciation for member sign up and contributors, I believe.

As for the look – why all the extra space on the sides? I wonder if we spread it out, would we see more dynamic content (video, sound bytes, photo essays, etc.) which i agree with most people would be a big draw on the front page?

I think the prominence of calendar of events would be great for showcasing both locals and allies…(great for meet-ups and outreach, and for us to feed!)

On the membership sign-up page: I would like to see some more dynamic, flash pages, that allow for us to rotate between different membership options (sustainer, subscriber, free account – all different pages – slide to one from the other) – allowing for less text at first glance, more clean layout – and one click pay options. Less confusion in my view!

Generally greater visibility and enhancement of out JOIN and CONTRIBUTE pages from MC front page would clarify and draw members in more for me.

 

Thanks!

In typical last-minute fashion: a few more comments

Hey Dru and others,

Great work on the mockup! I'm excited for the redesign. Here are a few thoughts I've had about the MC sites for a while:

- A main goal for me has always been for the MC sites to be seen as 'legitimate' news sources among what might be called the mainstream, and while this mostly has to do with content, there are a few formatting things that could help as well

- I think going to a MC site should be as friendly an experience as visiting a slick corporate media site (minus annoying pop-up ads of course)

- I think there should be a way to see links to more than one (ideally at least 4) posts on the front page of a MC site without scrolling down - currently the latest featured post bumps the previous one down out of view

- i think for the casual reader there shouldn't be too much detail on the main page about internal co-op functions - I think these'd be better left to the bottom right of the site, say. 

- Like other folks' comments about the e-mail a friend function - also a Twitter button!

- Personally I like the 'What question is this post answering'? function on the site when it's used well; I don't see it on the mockup?

- Really like the comment about being a 'sticky' site - the globe and mail site does this well, sticks headlines from other pieces in the middle and at the end of the piece you're reading

- I've always thought 'events' should be given less prominence - more focus on news. Maybe that's just me

- Same with 'Featured discussions' - right now it seems they get stale quickly, yet they're  prominenton the site

Thanks for all your work!

nice

this is great dru! woot! 

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