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New blog offers place for staffers, readers to talk about GazetteXtra

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Andrew Reuter
September 4, 2013

Welcome to The Web Desk.

This blog is a place for Gazette staffers and readers to talk about GazetteXtra.com and the Web in general. It is meant to serve three main purposes:

TO KEEP READERS INFORMED ABOUT CHANGES TO THE WEBSITE

Gazette digital content coordinators Dave von Falkenstein and I, Andrew Reuter, worked with a team of people for months to launch this site, but we're not done, as Editor Scott Angus wrote in his Aug. 18 column. Now, we have to go back and clean up all the loose ends on a site as intricate as this one. Here are some examples of what we have been working on:

Aesthetics. We noticed that the body copy on stories was a little jarring at pure black, so we lightened it up a bit.

Usability. We tweaked the way our search engine works, so results now are much easier for readers to sort.

Functionality. Readers now can see photos at full-size by clicking on them.

That's not all that has changed. Another big one, which Dave and I actually had little to do with, is the ability for members to share premium stories on social media websites. This means that whether your family and friends are subscribers or not, they can read GazetteXtra stories you share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+.

TO GET FEEDBACK FROM READERS ABOUT THE WEBSITE

Despite our hard work, the site is not perfect, and we take readers' suggestions seriously. But not all criticism is equal. Here's one example of feedback we received:

“This is definitely faster than the old site. The design though, is a bit garish, with the large red font threatening eyestrain. I think the organization will be easy to get used to though.”

Gazette subscriber Northman left that comment July 30. He wasn't the only one to criticize our red headlines. We initially picked that color because red is a common color for links and we wanted the headlines to stand out. In retrospect, they stood out a bit too much. We have since changed our headlines to black and haven't looked back.

Compare that constructive criticism to this message:

“The new website sucks.”

Facebook user Casey McMullin sent that concise-yet-vague note to The Gazette's Facebook account Aug. 6. Though McMullin likely derived satisfaction from delivering such a missive, it was worthless on our end. We have no idea why he thinks it sucks. How can we do anything about it?

TO TALK ABOUT THE WEB

Dave and I constantly seek out the cool things other websites are doing, and we plan to share the coolest of those things with you here. Check out these examples:

“Snow Fall”: With this article, The New York Times set the bar high for how the Web can be used to tell better stories. Carve out 45 minutes, sit down at the fastest computer you can find and give it a read.

“Prep football records since 1978”: Madison.com's online database lets you see how your favorite high school football team really stacks up. It is another example of something that would be impossible to do in print.

“The War Inside”: Tech website The Verge frequently pushes boundaries, both in its coverage area and with what can be done on the Web. This story about people fighting mental illness in Palestine is an excellent example of the future of Web video. It proves to me that with the right subject and presentation, viewers' interest can be held for much longer than 2 minutes.

With that out of the way, it's question time. What do you think of the website? Do you have any examples of cool Web stuff that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below, or send me an email at areuter@gazettextra.com.

You should follow digital content coordinator Andrew Reuter on Twitter at @andrewreuter.



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