Does OTB's Quick Takes section still serve a useful purpose?
One of the major drivers behind the recent site refresh was that we needed a more responsive design for users on mobile devices. While the site framework launched in 2010 had gotten buggy for a variety of reasons, it still looked pretty good on anything from a large screen to an iPad but it was incredibly difficult to use on a smartphone.
We worked with Jason Lefkowitz of Rogue Repairman and came up with a much more functional site that merely tweaked the familiar look on larger devices but looked completely different on mobile. The one problem was the Quick Takes posts. The way they display on larger screens, even an iPad, doesn’t work on a phone. So, we just decided to skip those.
Several readers complained that they were missing, so we added them back in. But that was also inelegant, as the logical way to do it was to simply feed them the way they are on the page: the first two main posts, the fifteen or so Quick Takes, and then the rest of the feed. My preference was to simply use the blog feed but that would require essentially having two separate layouts that would have to be constantly tweaked—plus a slower loading site.
On the old, mobile-unfriendly design, 57% of our users were visiting via desktop and only 32% via a smartphone but that’s now 49% and 41% (the rest are via tablet). So, it really makes sense to have the site equally geared toward desktop and phone users. (Again, the site looks essentially the same on a tablet as on a desktop.)
On the discussion thread about the latest set of tweaks, @MarkedMan offers a really simple solution:
FWIW I’d be happy if you eliminated the separate Short Takes section and just implemented them in the regular feed. Since they don’t get a comment count, We can’t see if any new comments have been added without opening them.
As I noted in a query to Doug and Steven this morning, I wanted them in there when we went to the magazine style in 2010 partly because it didn’t make sense to go through the trouble of looking for a photo, crafting an excerpt, etc. for posts that were just a cut-and-paste and “Heh. Indeed.” But we’ve since solved those problems by automating tasks. And there are only three of us writing posts on a regular basis and a handful of others who post occasionally; the site design shouldn’t be about our work process.
Do the Quick Takes still make any sense from a user perspective?
My initial rationale in that regard was twofold. First, they signaled which posts were more developed and which were old-style “web log” posts that mostly pointed to content elsewhere. Second, they allowed more posts to remain on the front page of the site, highlighting the more significant efforts but still listing the one-liners. But, eight years in, I’m not sure we have any consistent pattern as to what constitutes a main post versus a Quick Take.
Simply making everything a post, with the most recent, regardless of length, at the top of the site and then moving down until they bump off the page, is the easiest solution to the design dilemma. As MarkedMan notes, it would have the additional benefit of showing comment counts for those who use that as their metric for returning to posts (you can also subscribe to get emails for the ones you’d like to follow). But it would mean maybe ten fewer posts on the main page.
UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback–and continue adding comments if you have something new to suggest. We’ve decided that ending the Quick Takes going forward is best for all users and are doing so immediately; indeed, I bumped all the Quick Takes from today to the normal feed. The widget will remain on the large screen site for a few days until we can get some things sorted out on the backend but the mobile feed will soon be just posts in normal chronological order.