More site changes

UPDATE:

A quick question – was the old 3-column layout OK?

Thanks for all your thoughts on this latest iteration of the site. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t think this layout overnight would be popular, but it was a twofold experiment.

1) How would the layout go down with visitors? Answer: Predictably poorly.

2) How would the layout perform in terms of ad revenue? Answer: About 50% better.

So in the interest of full disclosure……

This site is about Saab, first and foremost. But it does have to cover its own costs and with the time that goes into preparing it, it also needs to provide some sort of return that I can show to the Mrs as being beneficial.

Whilst people place ads in newspapers on the right, the web is quite different and the left is the hot spot. Since the changeover to the new layout, ad revenue has fallen by more than a third. Last night, just while I was sleeping (with around 12 hours to go in the advertising day) the site made about 90% of the previous full day’s revenue. Same amount of effort going into the writing, much better return.

The site, as I see it, serves a two-fold purpose for people out there in internet land. There are regular visitors like you who come for the content, which I try and make the absolute best I can, day-in and day-out. There are also searchers, those who are looking for something about Saab on the web. They land here and are hopefully happy with the content as well, but as they’re searching for something, the advertising may provide a link to what they’re looking for. The ads aren’t served for regulars, they’re served mostly for the benefit of search traffic that comes along.

BUT

I don’t want that to be a hindrance to people’s experience if they’re visiting regularly, either. Hopefully it’s the regular, informative commentary and love for the brand that keeps people visiting. Sidebar info should be a complement to that but never a distraction from it.

This is not a commercial site and the income from it is fairly small-fry. But it does cover the costs of running it and provides a little for doing up the Viggen, which is covered as part of site content as well. In the past it’s covered the cost of the HD video camera I purchased to provide video content here. It covers the monthly lease of the Mac I’m writing this on right now. Next year I hope to cover the costs of purchasing an old 99 and doing it up as a website project.

So….again…..was the old 3-column layout OK? The reader experience and the reflection on the Saab brand is always a priority, but in addition to that I’d like to make the earnings from this site as efficient as possible, which means a left sidebar is a necessity.

As always, your thoughts are welcome. I don’t mean to distract from Saab stuff too much but meeting both your needs and my needs are important.

—–

Sorry for the inconvenience, folks.

Whilst I love the functionality of the new site, I’ve really missed the 3-column layout. I haven’t been happy with the text sitting alone on the left like it was when I first changed it over. As you can tell, it’s been switched around and I’m sure that’s going to be an unpopular move, but I thought I’d experiment with it anyway.

The template that I’m using for this site was originally released as a two-column template only. Fortunately, they’ve just released a 3-column version, which I’ll try and implement in the very near term. Unfortunately, I haven’t really got my head around how to establish subdomains so you’re probably going to have to endure watching me do it live (which might be fun if you don’t have any paint drying somewhere).

It’ll probably mean a change back to a slightly smaller font size, but other than that it should be fairly similar to the old site.

Thanks in advance for your patience. Saab stories continue below.

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33 Comments

  1. One good thing with the text to the left is that you don’t have to scroll sideways on a smaller screen. I’m using a 12″ powerBook at the moment, and have to scroll just to read the text. With a smaller font it will be better, but it still looks kinda weird when half the window is filled with ads.

    Maybe do like this for a 3-column version:
    – small leftside column with links for recent posts, comments, archive…
    – wide center column with the postings
    – small rightside column with the ads

  2. Yeah, I’d have to agree with the above. It’s pretty akward to have the text on the right. I’d either go with what ctm said, or just going with one column on the left, slightly narrowed.

  3. I have to agree: it’s not great to open the blog and don’t see the text clearly: only ads…

    (You still have that Safari glitch: the text sits in the frame window, with no margin.)

  4. I’m using Safari for Windows, and the text (in both the column arrangements: this one and the previous) starts right at the left window frame, with no margin at all.

    I don’t know if I’m explaining it clearly… :p

  5. Sorry to say but the Add/Search/Link column should be located to the right side of the page if it is to be aligned with the story column.

    If you MUST have it to the left you should decrease the font size as mentioned and align (by %, not by fixed pixels due to different resolutions) it to the far left so you have a space between the two columns.

    It’s really not intuitive to have them side by side more or less same font size since you read left to right and it get’s messy with the two columns so tightly together.

  6. Swade did mention that he knows the move will be unpopular, but seeing as it’s his ‘blog I can’t really complain.

    I don’t remember you asking for any opinions, but that never stops me from giving one. I liked it better with the text on the left and the larger font. The larger font particularly was welcome when you started the new format. Oh, well. Whatever format you use I’ll get used to and the value in your site is the content anyway.

    Have you bothered to see how the layout looks on Safari for iPhone? 😉

  7. Ted Y: You do them like an emoticon and Swade’s ‘blog software changes them to smilies for you.

    So for a winking guy like I have above you do semicolon, dash, closed-parenthesis. For a regular smile it’s colon, dash, closed-parenthesis. I’m sure sad face is the same but with an open parenthesis.

    Have fun!

  8. Definitely a fan of the last layout as well.

    Swade, any time I designed content driven sites, id look to other sites who have done an excellent job as inspiration.

    http://www.oswd.org/, theres one resource I’ve used. Content driven sites are sometimes very hard to organize, and I’m sure you have restrictions with your software. Either way, I wish you luck with it, glad to see youre being open minded to new layouts and ideas.

  9. I agree with ctm but would reverse the left and right columns so you can enjoy the increased revenue of ads being on the left.

    So a 3-column version:
    – left side column with ads
    – wide center column with the postings
    – small right side column with links for recent posts, comments, archive, clocks, etc

    If the ads perform better on the left, keep them there. We’ll get used to it either way so you should go with what makes a little money for the amount of effort you put into this.

    Bejron’s right about the columns being a % of screen size. You have them as fixed width now.

  10. 🙁

    …oops, typo…sorry.

    🙂

    the site is fine with either format. the text is easy enough to get to in either style. if i had to choose, though, i’d go with the ads (rather than the text) at the left margin. it’s the more prominent spot. and, it’s refreshing not to have the text on the left.

    frankly, i just need sites to load quickly and to be rich with content. you’ve done that.

  11. 1985 gripen,

    this site looks fantastic on the iphone. like any multi-column webpage, you want to fill the iphone’s screen with the column you want to read. so it doesn’t matter if the text is in the left or right column.

  12. obviously the best layout is the ‘swade classic’, the way it looked on day one. no other layout will ever measure up to the classic look, to the way it was in the beginning before the new corporate ways took hold. next think you know the bean counters de-content the site leaving it indistinguishable from all the others. oh why cant we go back to the glory days? 🙂

  13. saab9X: I was being facetious. My point was that I would imagine it’s difficult for a webmaster to tailor a site to every possible browser out there. I didn’t even know that there is such a thing as Safari for Windows! I mean… why? I don’t even use Safari for Mac, I use Firefox. Well, to each his own. 🙂

    Swade: I agree with Saabster. Do whatever is best for you and we’ll all deal with it. No big deal. It’s the content that’s important anyway.

  14. The difference between left text and right text isn’t nearly important enough to justify a 50 percent reduction in ad revenue.

    I’m perfectly fine with either layout.

    Make the revenue, keep the better half happy, help the site — and thereby keep all of us happier in the long run.

    (I do like the bigger text, though . . .)

  15. personally speaking i was actually gonna suggest if you could shift the text to the right as i had gotten used to skipping the first column on the old site and jusm straight to the articles. seems like it’s only me though who likes this layout 🙁 another thing i would suggest is (probably the only one again) that the clocks looked much smarter in a grey frame rather than red.

    Joe

  16. Swade your biggest mistake was asking Saabisti if they like change…

    Design the website you like, let it bed in for 2-3 weeks and then get opinons about what to change. The customer is always right but we need to adapt too.

  17. The columns issue seems to have been resolved but has anyone noticed the banner of the top of the page?

    I only just realised that when you click on an item, such as this one, the banner changes to royal blue with a prominent griffin. Nice.

  18. Nice! This 3 column setup is much easier to read. Everything seems to line up nicely. Form is following function for this reader. I hope the administrator can say the same. 🙂 Great work!

  19. I like the 3 column layout. It seems cleaner and the columns on the left and right side do a nice job of framing the content.

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