OTB Site Refresh

The long-overdue redesign of OTB is now live.

The long-overdue redesign of OTB previewed back in December is now live.

It will look familiar to long-time visitors, at least those viewing it on larger screens, as it’s based on the design launched in 2010. The colors, fonts, and layout remain essentially the same but the site is now variable-width rather than fixed. We’ve also bumped up the size of the fonts and post images and thumbnails a skosh. (The thumbnails will look wonky for a few hours as the database rebuilds them. That’s a one-time nuisance.) As I looked at other news and information sites for ideas, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly cluttered most are. And, ironically, when I stumbled on a site whose fonts I liked better than ours, it turned out they were using the exact same ones we were–just bigger.

Otherwise, the most obvious differences are the ones that prompted the effort to begin with.

First, the site now looks much different when viewed on a smartphone or other small-screen device. The old design was done with personal computer viewers in mind and had no capability to adapt to the small screens that so many readers use to read and comment on the site. You should find the new version much more readable and functional.

Second, the spammy advertising units that our former ad manager gradually added to the site are gone. We’ve retained a top banner and two sidebar ads and will likely play around with some other options now that I’ve brought the ad management back in-house. But there should be no ads popping up in strange places or in the middle of posts.

Related to the second, the site should now load a lot faster. Our new developer, Jason Lefkowitz of Rogue Repairman, made some tweaks back in January to speed up the existing site but this version is a complete rebuild. You should notice a significant difference, both because fewer ads are loading and because the new design is more efficient, taking advantage of advances in WordPress over the last eight years. And it’ll get faster, still, as we plan to move to a more modern server in the near future.

Otherwise, there have been minor tweaks to the Related Posts and social media sharing features and a long-asked-for ability to click on an author’s byline and find their posts in one place. A few other minor features and cleanups are still in the works and will roll out in the coming days. I’ve been cleaning out some cobwebs from static pages that haven’t been updated in ages and am still working on that.

If you notice anything broken, a beloved feature that’s gone AWOL, please let us know in the comments below.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, OTB History
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Are the ads permanently gone, or are they returning later?

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Oh good. I was wondering how I accidentally changed my font size.

    1
  3. Mikey says:

    Haha…it went live as I was viewing the site on my smartphone. Suddenly it just looked so much better.

    Thanks for fixing things up for us, your humble patrons.

    Still, one question: is there ever going to be a provision for placing images in comments? Because if I had a dollar for every time a comment merited a Picard facepalm…

    6
  4. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: We have three Google ad units installed. They were working on the developer backend but not on our development site. We’ll see if they go live after Googlebot’s next crawl.

    @Mikey: I’ll put in an inquiry. You wouldn’t think it that hard.

  5. Andy says:

    It looks great. It’s hard to overstate how noticeable the performance improvement is.

    2
  6. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Because if I had a dollar for every time a comment merited a Picard facepalm…

    Picard me, Mikey, and imma Khaaaaaan you. Promise.

    (Honestly I think the functionality exists, or did at one time. Dodd –memba him?– used to post pics in comments. Just gotta know the secret handshake I guess.)

  7. James Pearce says:

    This is a test:

    1
  8. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: @James Pearce: There appear to be some comments plugins to add the functionality. The problem apparently–and I’ve seen it with links—it that users will sometimes add in something that’s too big and blow up the page. So, the function would need to ensure that the image was small enough. And there are probably various copyright concerns, standards issues, etc.

  9. Kathy says:

    Very nice

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    So what is the deal with the goddamn moderation queue.
    Apparently it snags a post with more than two links.

    Placing images in posts… Watch out what you wish for!
    (Can’t wait to show you my adorable grandchildren chasing the cute kittens!)

  11. James Pearce says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, the function would need to ensure that the image was small enough. And there are probably various copyright concerns, standards issues, etc.

    Probably not so much copyright. Picarding one of my anti-Democrat rants might be considered fair use. (Or at least I’d argue it as such.)

    But not sure you want to be hosting other people’s pictures, pictures you don’t own and perhaps don’t want to even display, on your website.

  12. de stijl says:

    So fresh. So clean.

    1
  13. James Joyner says:

    @Mister Bluster: Multiple links in comments are rare from normal posters and common among spammers, so there’s a trigger. I’d like to have some way to auto-approve comments from trusted users. But that may require them registering for accounts.

  14. Greg says:

    A full WYSIWYG editor, with image options is a plus.
    I think a scoring ratio for moderation’s might work; trusted: post asap; new: stay in moderation a bit for approval (prevents trolls, I think)

  15. Greg says:

    Clicking comments link at top brings you to top of list…..
    maybe bottom of list or most recent?

  16. Greg says:

    Clicking comments link at top brings you to top of list…..
    maybe bottom of list or most recent?

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Thanks!

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    But there should be no ads popping up in strange places or in the middle of posts.

    I am already missing the slimy looking wormy things that are the secret to improved manhood!
    Can’t seem to find them at the local Natural Foods Market.

    2
  19. grumpy realist says:

    huh. Loaded page, front page looks clipped on left-hand side (left hand beige block covers part of the text.) If I go to comments, everything looks ok.

    Using Safari, Apple OS X Yosemite (if that helps explain anything.)

  20. michilines says:

    @gVOR08: #metoo

    I don’t know how all that works, so I apologize in advance and hope everyone gets a laugh at my ludditeitude.

    Great job on the site James. Hope you are doing well. Thanks for the platform and the informative conversation.

    1
  21. Jc says:

    Thumbs up!

    1
  22. James Joyner says:

    @grumpy realist: Hmm. I’ve only tested on a Windows 10 machine in Chrome, Edge and Firefox. Plus iOS. I’ll let my guy know.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Greg:

    Clicking comments link at top brings you to top of list…..
    maybe bottom of list or most recent?

    We introduced the comments link with the 2010 design, the first with a magazine style. It always led to the top of the comments block. I could look into changing it if enough readers would prefer it going to the bottom.

  24. JohnMcC says:

    @Mister Bluster: So you’re a reader of ‘Balloon-juice’ too, eh? Something I was hoping would come along with the redesign — kittens!

    Seriously, good work. I was trying to figure out the change/non-change in the ‘typeface’.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    One minor annoyance: on the old site, once I had posted a comment with my name and email they were auto filled the next time. Whether it’s on my end or OTB’s, that’s no longer happening.

  26. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Weird. I’m on my phone now and it’s saved.

  27. Stormy Dragon says:

    One issue I noticed: none of the quick takes show up on the mobile version of the site.

  28. Two Fingers Bluster says:

    I read comments from the top to bottom, oldest first to most recent.
    If my arthritic digits can handle the extra burden of pushing on the direction arrows or manipulating the touch pad to start at the bottom of the scroll it is a sacrifice I am willing to make for the common good. (or the tyranny of the majority depending on how you look at it)

    1
  29. @Stormy Dragon:

    Yea I hoticed that myself last night.

  30. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Doug Mataconis: It was a compromise from a design standpoint. The alternative is to use a separate feed for mobile. I may still see if we can’t do that.

  31. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: @James Joyner: I had it too (WIN10, Firefox), but it seems to have been a one time thing. Closed OTB and reopened and the blanks are filled in.

  32. gVOR08 says:

    I generally read comments on other sites oldest first, or if there are hundreds, top rated first. If I revisit I search for my last comment, which takes me to the filled in blank at the bottom if I haven’t commented. I like it this way.

    1
  33. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Greg: ctrl/end works for me to take me to the bottom. I don’t remember what I do on Apple or Chromebook, though. But these days, I’m hardly ever on an Apple computer.

  34. wr says:

    Loving this. Thanks for all the hard work.