Recently Te Ara made the biggest change since it launched. However, on the surface little has changed. This is part of a series of posts that will try to explain why it’s exciting for us and why we hope it’s exciting for you. We’ve broken the story into three parts: Te Ara past, present and future.
Te Ara present
In part one I talked about why Te Ara moved to the Drupal content management system (CMS). While we were messing around ‘out back’, we took the time to make some changes to the front. Ross listed them in his post but let’s take a closer look at what has changed.
Browse Te Ara
In the past the navigation around the Te Ara relied on people understanding the site’s structure:
Home » theme » sub-theme » story
Later we added this column browser to allow users to browse through our stories.
However, because of the technical limitations mentioned in part one, we could only easily add it to the home page. The old CMS also meant the listings had to be added by hand, rather than dynamically. Moving to Drupal enabled us to link the browser to the CMS and add it to every page on the site.
At the top of each story page is a button to ‘Browse Te Ara’ which, once clicked, will reveal the browser. This is now our primary navigation, and we can’t wait to see how people use it, the categories they browse, and their feedback.
To see how we’ve improved our search, compare these two sets of results for ‘kiwi’:
You wouldn’t expect the story titled Australians being listed before the story devoted to kiwi would you? (And, when comparing the image and media search results, I noticed the old search listed the cheddarmaster before the brown kiwi!?) The results on the right are far more relevant, and they’re generated by Sphinx, Te Ara’s new search engine. This has been a long overdue improvement, and the much better search results continue to amaze those of us that use it everyday.
The Short Story
Every story in Te Ara also comes in a simpler, refined, easy read that we call the Short Story. The Short Story has changed in two ways. First, the button is now in the same position no matter what page you’re on.
Second, the old button opened the Short Story in a pop-up, which had its drawbacks. So we now use a technique called Lightbox to display the short story. This blog also uses Lightbox to display larger images. In fact, here’s an example of both.
New location of biographies
Previously, story pages had a tab that listed relevant biographies from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB). We’ve now moved the links to relevant biographies to the bottom of the story page, above the footer. Currently, we display a thumbnail picture, name and what the DNZB people call ‘years of activity’ (usually their birth and death dates), but we’re hoping to add more information later … more about that in part three.
Tabs (above) vs Back to Story (below)
The biggest change to the in-story navigation was the removal of the tabs. They seemed like a good idea, but whenever we watched people use the site, hardly anyone used the tabs and most didn’t even know they were there. Once we moved the biographies inside the story, the only purpose to the tabs was to switch between the images and the story. We decided a ‘Back to Story’ button, similar to Trade Me’s ‘Back to listing’ button, would be clearer, and more useful. Also, by freeing up the space, we could keep the short story button location consistent. However, out of all the changes, removing the tabs seems to be the most contentious amongst our users. What do you think? Do you prefer the tabs or the back to story button?
Other bits and bobs
Those are the biggest changes, but you may notice little tweaks like new icons and our new media series layout. Hopefully you haven’t seen our new 404 page, which unfortunately became quite popular while we were working the kinks out of our URL redirection thingamabob.
As I mentioned in the first part of this series, what matters is that a huge barrier has now disappeared and Te Ara can start evolving. But, other than the modifications we’ve already made during the migration, what is going to change? Where is Te Ara heading? I’ll let you know, what I can, in part three.
Subscribe to Signposts to make sure you don’t miss Part three – Te Ara future, a look at what’s next.