Dec 08 2012

To change or not to change?

Woke up today and saw that the new design template for FTB had gone live across the whole network. I took one look at the ugliness and thought…

And because I’m a rebel and I just don’t care, I went back and switched to the old one.

Change happens, and often it’s necessary and for the better. (The FSM knows our TV show website is well and truly overdue for an overhaul.) But the new FTB template, with its ginormous sans serif font and absurdly wide columns, wasn’t pleasing to my eye. What say you, faithful readers? Do you prefer the new look and want us to switch back, or should we keep flying the rebel flag and decline to fix what wasn’t broke?

Update: Russell here.  I’m not sold on flying the rebel flag, and Martin and I are still hashing out how we can compromise on this.

2nd update: Martin again. Okay, Russell — who really wanted to go with the new template (Philistine!) — has at least worked out how to dig into the CSS and change the body font to Times Roman, which is, on its own, very much an improvement. So we’ll just go with this, I guess. Fellow dissenters, always know the rebellion lives on in our hearts!


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  1. 1

    Thank you for mentioning the columns! It’s not just me!

  2. 2

    Right now, I prefer the old look. I like the simple, white look.
    I’m not sure how much of it is just habit. Maybe I’ll get used to the new look and not mind.

    For the time being, I’m quite happy for the blog to stay like this.

  3. 3

    Yay not just me ^.^ Why do people insist on having so much grey on their websites….

  4. 4
    Lord Narf

    The columns are better in the new format, for me. I run at 1600×900. If anything, a lot of websites that don’t adjust to window size are too narrow.

    I prefer the old font, but it’s not a big thing, for me.

  5. 5
    Chris A

    I would prefer black background and bright neon green comic sans font.

    1. 5.1
      Martin Wagner

      We’ll get right on that.

      1. michaeld

        Please don’t O.O

    2. 5.2
      Lord Narf

      I’ve seen much worse, on what are supposed to be professional websites. I still remember the company that had everything in dark-gray text on a black background.

  6. 6

    The new look is easier to read. Of course, few like change, but I think it will definitely grow on us all. Either way, I’m happy to keep reading.

  7. 7

    FYI, direct comparisons and why the new columns irritate me so much by shoving the sidebar half off my screen… (xposted at Pharyngula)

    Screenshots for comparison, same zoom, with images enabled:

    New logo versus blog banners: http://imgur.com/CIBcz&c95Rv#0

    New column width versus sidebar: http://imgur.com/CIBcz&c95Rv#1

    1. 7.1
      Lord Narf

      Good lord. Which resolution are you at, 800 x 600?

      1. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

        With my browser window at 1024 width, the new template feels like 800×600.

        And, for me, the comment preview renders anchor tags with twice the line height of regular text so links look big and subscripted.

        1. Lord Narf

          Wacky. I haven’t been under 1280-wide in over a decade.

          1. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

            My desktop’s 1280.
            My browser window is 1024.

  8. 8

    The only thing I don’t like are the centered post titles and preview text; it makes it really hard to scan the headlines.

    1. 8.1
      Lou Jost

      Yes, that is a crazy senseless change. It is very hard to read those headlines and post excerpts quickly.

    2. 8.2
      Anonymous Atheist

      I’m disappointed to see they STILL haven’t fixed the bizarre homepage problem that’s been there since Day 1 – the omission of punctuation from the preview quotes! To me, that makes it much more annoying to read than any alignment change.

  9. 9

    The recent posts for each blog on the front page is a mess. Font is hard to read and the text is all a blob.

  10. 10

    I read the blog on Google Reader, so I didn’t notice until PZ complained about it earlier

  11. 11

    I prefer the new look. But don’t dislike the old look. However, I do dislike the threaded comments. It is too difficult to follow as the discussion continues and replies get so nested.

    How about you keep the old look, and turn off the conversation threading?

    If you reply to this I probably won’t be able to find it…

  12. 12

    I rather like the new banner area and logo design. The rest can stay the same, however. The San-serif looks to be too “wirey” for the amount of given white space and the column width seems a bit excessive- not quite as efficient to read.

    1. 12.1
      Martin Wagner

      I actually do like the new FTB logo ( which, naturally, some people hate — no pleasing everyone), but my general dislike is for how everything on the new template suffers from gigantism. Big logo, big white space, big fonts, big columns!

  13. 13

    I much prefer the original serif font and its size (I’ve always felt sans-serif is inappropriate for blocks of text).

    As to the rest of the changes:
    • Column widths are fine
    • Grey borders are disconcerting
    • Next/Previous article links should be both before and after the current article, and in the same font/size/color as every other link.
    • Home page is a mess…centering (within columns) titles and text is really bad.
    • It would be nice for thread display to be under user control…threaded, oldest first, newest first.

    1. 13.1
      Martin Wagner

      I wholeheartedly agree with your 3rd-5th bullet points.

    2. 13.2
      Lord Narf

      I like the gray borders, and I love the new logo.

    3. 13.3

      Well, if you keep this format, reduce the indents of replies to 2; make the column (div) for replies wider, so, after 4 indents, the column is not 2 in, and the reply goes on for a page and a half.

    4. 13.4

      Had the old format, commented, automatically went to new format on ‘submit’, backed up one page, got old format, reloaded, got new format.

    5. 13.5

      Because Russell was messing with me @ 5:16 pm. arrggghhhhhhh

  14. 14
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    I went back and switched to the old one.


  15. 15

    Thanks you. The width is fine, but the font is horrible and an assault on the eyes

  16. 16
    ericvon germania

    Well usualy I am disturbed with new stuff (like new myspace) but I am not disturbed with the new FTB.

    1. 16.1
      Martin Wagner

      I’m not disturbed by it. Just don’t care for it.

      1. ericvon germania

        great, me neither. :)

      2. nohellbelowus

        You’re just disturbed?

        Join the club. ;)

  17. 17

    Thank you! I hate the new font. And the lack of an icon on the new tab.

  18. 18

    I dislike the new scheme. The decorative banner at the top take up half the height of the screen (for some reason there’s a large amount of white space between banner and text), it’s not immediately clear who the author of a post is (if you’re new, or don’t know all the banners), and this information is only available half way down the page.

    The author tab in the column should be swapped with the advertising one, so you can see who it is, and the white space below the banner should be removed. If those changes are made, I think most of the issues will be taste, rather than usability.

    Oh, and the grey bar with “FTB”, “Privacy Policy” etc. up the top is awful at displaying correctly. Instead of terminating at the borders of the box it’s in, in some pages it will go to the edge of the screen, while in others it will terminate on the buttons themselves, leaving a giant gap in the massive header.

  19. 19
    Russell Glasser

    I’ve restored the FTB theme but changed the default paragraph font back to 14 point Times Roman. Is this workable?

  20. 20
    John Conolley

    I agree, that sans serif font is stinko.

  21. 21

    Down with Russel! Long live the rebel flag! :P

  22. 22

    It’s pretty ugly and everything is far too spread out, especially on the front page

  23. 23

    I second the above request to move to chronological comment threads, rather than nested/threaded. As a screen reader user, they pose accessibility issues for me, in addition to the inherent useability issues they pose for fully sighted people.


  24. 24

    One of the cardinal rules for page design: San serif fonts for headlines, serif fonts for body text. The new design breaks that rule.

    1. 24.1
      Laura Lou

      Agree, agree, agree. Plus column width.

  25. 25
    Jasper of Maine

    I had written a tampermonkey/greasemonkey script to scan through the comments and provide a time-sorted list on the left of the 10 most recent comments – which was useful in big threaded comments.

    I’ll have to update that script now, apparently.

    1. 25.1

      See, that is why comments shouldn’t be threaded! Oh please Martin, hear my plea, I beseech you.

  26. 26

    Too much empty space, in my opinion.

  27. 27

    After spending a couple of days with the new look, i’ve decided I hate it. It’s cold and industrial-looking – all it needs are rivets along the sides to complete the look. It’s not welcoming at all.

  28. 28

    Thank you SO MUCH for getting rid of that huge awful sans serif font! It was so difficult to read. Any chance of persuading your fellow bloggers to do the same?

  29. 29

    I like the look of the blog pages. However, I think the main FTB page looks terrible. I think it’s mainly the centre justification that breaks it for me.

  30. 30

    I am not sure where else to complain about this, but since you guys seem interested in discussing the new look…

    The silver/gray menue bar at the top of the page seems to have been designed with a fixed window width in mind because on my screen it runs out of the sides of the top banner.

    The text previews of the blog posts (and the titles) look really odd being centered next to a bullet-point.

    I do like the way nested text looks now though.

    1. 30.1

      I also think the shadows under the font over the gray bars looks really strange.

  31. 31
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Couple of thoughts:

    1) Providing multiple CSS for a website and allowing visitors to choose among them is practically trivial. Everyone can choose their flavor of cake.

    2) They finally provide a site icon and it’s the blood-dripping T.

    Otherwise, I don’t care too much. Anything that is too annoying, I would rectify on my end, because we can do that.

  32. 32

    For some reason all of FTB’s blog front pages’ ‘Older Posts’ links at the bottom of the page go to http://freethoughtblogs.com/-blogname-/-blogname-/page/2/

    This is wrong so it goes to this shakey search page to try and find this ‘page 2′ you’re looking for. Which is rather confusing.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/-blogname-/page/2/ is correct (oddly, subsequent pages don’t share the problem)

  33. 33

    I’ve given up complaining over stylistic issues and just accepted 90% of web content is distastefully presented. At least I haven’t seen any more everystudent.com ads here lately… seriously, wtf was up with those?

    1. 33.1
      Lord Narf

      I dunno, I find the stuff on that site amusing at times, if a little infuriating, because I know there are ignorant people who read the site and can’t immediately see through all of the stupid arguments.

      From Is There a God:

      The eye…can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages — simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain — the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

      Well, no shit. Evolution was never supposed to explain that. But guess what … we have another science that does that.

      Oh, and I think Allah is going to be pissed that they keep quoting things out of a heretical book that claims that Allah has a son, when the Divine Koran clearly states that Allah had no sons.

  34. 34

    Wow, so, I mostly didn’t mind the new format, but something about it made it just feel a little.. unfocused.. Like my eyes would look away from it sort of.

    It was the font. You fixed it. Can we get this rolled out to all the other blogs? Heh…

    1. 34.1

      So true.

      Serifs are meant to help you read: they encourage your eye to flow along a line of text. That’s why books and newspapers use them.

      Sans serifs are for graphics only. They encourage the eye to take in text as one picture, not as something read from left to right. That’s why they’re good for banners, highway signs, and presentations, where you don’t want someone reading your slides, just taking in your points. I’ve spent a large part of my life getting grad students to use only sans serif on ther job-interview slides.

      Having your eye trying to pop long lines of text into your brain as one picture is disconcerting, it’s harder and it takes longer to figure out the meaning.

      Please do tell the other FT bloggers, and encourage them to make the change!

  35. 35

    I don’t mind the change on individual bog posts much, other than the font seems a tad too big. However I have 2 big gripes about the new layout.

    1. There are no longer any “Next Post” or “Previous Post” links on each blog post. This makes it very annoying to catch up.

    2. The main page looks terrible with the new font. I think it is the fact that all the text is centered. My eyeballs have been puking every time I look at it and I’m considering finally getting an RSS reader just to avoid it.

  36. 36

    Ok I found how to make me like this change. Go look at “a million gods” and how there’s a nice colourful pattern on the side of the blog instead of mat grey. If everyone could do something like that my sense of aesthetics would be very thankful.

  37. 37

    The gradients are kind of tacky, tbh.

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