All good things can benefit from an occasional makeover. Penguin Classics are the perfect example. The publishing imprint is highly regarded in design circles for their book jacket designs. Starting in the late 40s, German typographer Jan Tschichold created the early minimalist design that is still legendary. These early covers were modernised by Italian art director Germano Facetti, who headed the design department at Penguin from 1962 to 1971. Penguin continues to evolve today and, as the images in this article show, still places a high value on the evolution and quality of its cover designs.
Design changes are tricky. As readers we get accustomed to our favorite magazines or newspapers looking a certain way. The identities of publications like The Economist and The New Yorker are directly tied to the fonts they use. Readers are not always fond of “improvements.” It’s hard to believe there was an outcry of protest years ago when the New York Times announced it would finally adopt color photography. The newspaper also held on to an eight-column format in a time when other newspapers were using six. There was similar backlash a few years ago when the Times Magazine shrunk in size. It is easy to become attached to things just as they are, even when they’re outdated or not working as well as they should.
Two years ago when I started Gwarlingo, it was a simple arts blog. You, the readers, have turned it into a thriving arts and culture “magazine.”
But two and a half years is ages in the technology world. And as Gwarlingo grew, technology changed. More and more people are reading online content on their smart phones and tablets. Computers and phones now have Retina display and high-resolution screens. While I remain committed to long-form articles, interviews, and poetry features, I also know that readers are busy and need to be able to find content quickly and easily.
Over the next few weeks, Gwarlingo will undergo a major redesign. In order to make these improvements, which includes a switch to HTML5, I need to take the site down for a short time. If you visit the site in the coming week, you may find Gwarlingo in “Maintenance Mode.” Don’t be alarmed. All of your favorite content will return and will soon look better than ever. Membership profiles will also be easier to browse on the site, and Email subscriptions should remain unaffected.
Here are just a few ways that the new design will benefit Gwarlingo readers…
1. Easier Browsing
Gwarlingo’s archive is rich and plentiful, but all of that content is pointless if it’s difficult to find a specific article or simply browse the site. The new design will make browsing favorite topics much easier, and a feature called “infinite scrolling” means you don’t have to wade through page after page of content to find what you’re looking for. Content will appear on the homepage “as needed,” which means faster load times. The new design will allow loyal readers to find specific articles more quickly, while also making it easy for new readers to explore the site.
2. Larger Photos and Videos
This is a website about art, after all. The images I post on Gwarlingo should look fabulous, not only for the benefit of readers, but also to the artists whose work is featured here. Everyone benefits.
3. Less Clutter
Compared to some sites, Gwarlingo is fairly simple in design, but having a “highlights” index (that I manually create) on the sidebar is not ideal. It creates unnecessary clutter, is difficult to maintain, and makes the home page too long. Less visual clutter means better readabilitly. My goal is to make the site “easy on the eyes.”
4. A Responsive Design
Statistics show that more and more readers are consuming content on mobile phones and tablets. If you’ve ever tried to read Gwarlingo on your mobile phone, you know how hard it is. Simply put: the current incarnation of Gwarlingo is not mobile-friendly. The new design will automatically respond to the device you’re using, whether its a smart phone, a laptop, a giant desktop computer, or a tablet, and will adjust its design accordingly.
5. Better Social Media Integration
The social Share Box on the left-hand side of all Gwarlingo articles works wonderfully. When you can see it. Some browsers and devices cut off this Share Box, which makes it hard for readers to post articles to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. The new responsive design will resolve this problem by having user-friendly social media icons at the bottom of each article.
6. Slideshows and Sliders
The new design will also make it simple for me to showcase photographs in a slideshow format. Sliders allow readers to get a quick overview of an artists work without scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling…
7. Retina Display
The new Gwarlingo will also look amazing on Retina displays and other high-resolution screens. Text and images will be brilliant in color and extra sharp in appearance. So if you have a MacBook Pro Retina, iPad, iPhone, or other high-resolution device, get ready for Gwarlingo to look better than ever.
8. Faster Load Times
The current design is not ideal from a technical perspective. Pages that are rich in visual or video content can take too long to load. Ditto for the home page, which is overloaded with current articles and a content-heavy sidebar. The new design will be a big-improvement on that front. It will be easier and faster than ever to browse the Gwarlingo home page and archive.
9. Excellent Customization and Back-End Features
I won’t bore you with the technical details. All you need to know is that this new design will make it easier for me, and my assistant Anastasia Dubrovina, to create content, make design tweaks, upload images and videos, customize fonts, colors, sliders, etc. HTML5 is here. It’s amazing. Why not make our jobs a little easier, while improving the user experience for you in the process?
10. User-Friendly Archiving
The new Gwarlingo design will automatically create user-friendly archives. There will be many ways to access and browse the archive, and best of all (for me), I will no longer need to create “table of contents” manually. It will be easier than ever to share popular posts and related articles, and browse the content-rich archive.
Many of you have told me how much you like Gwarlingo’s current design. Thanks! I worked hard to create a pleasant, user-friendly design for my readers, and learned a lot about WordPress and HTML in the process. But now it’s time to make the leap and improve the site once again.
Please be patient as I make this big transition. I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming days, but am excited about the possibilities. In order to do this intensive switchover, I’m going to be staying off of email and social media as much as possible in the coming week or so (concentration is essential). Spending time on this project also means no new articles or Sunday Poem posts until the transition is complete. There are many fabulous artists and poets I’m looking forward to featuring soon, however, so sit tight.
The redesign won’t be perfect from the get-go, so when the new Gwarlingo officially launches (and I’ll let you know!), I hope you’ll be in touch if there are any features not functioning as they should. While I understand that some readers may prefer the old look of the site, I hope you will take the time to explore the rich, new user-friendly features.
You will still be able to receive Gwarlingo posts by email and RSS feed. And for those of you who prefer to read Gwarlingo live on the web, I think you’ll find your reading experience greatly improved.
Thanks to all of the readers, artists, friends, curators, etc. who have supported Gwarlingo as it grows. Stay tuned…
Please Help Gwarlingo Remain Ad-Free
Thanks to all of the readers who have contributed to the Gwarlingo Membership Drive. 146+ Gwarlingo readers have contributed so far and $12,850 of the $15,000 goal has been raised. If you haven’t donated yet, you can check out my video and all of the member rewards, including some limited-edition artwork, here on the Gwarlingo site.
Don’t need a reward or official acknowledgement for your gift? Want to keep the donation process simple? Click here to make a donation of your choice. (Good karma included!)