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Some notes about the site layout changes

This evening, I posted what I think will be the final top-level "activity center," which is what I'm calling the main navigational pages in the site, and the items you see in the new Windows 7-style toolbar across the top of each page. (But not on the blog, yet. More on that in a sec.) I may continue to play with it a bit, but I think we're getting there. As promised, it took a while, but most of the content I've created for this site is now available via these topic-based toolbar items, which I think makes much more sense than the old FAQs/Reviews/Showcases layout. Hey, it was a simpler time back when I started the site, in August 1998.

Moving forward, there are a few things I'll be working on, but I at least wanted to get the basics of the new menu done before PDC, and since I'm hopping on a plane in the morning, I just made it. Here are a few changes I see coming down the road:

Home page redesign. As many readers have pointed out, the site home page is in need of a major redesign. I've been working on it, but haven't liked anything I've done so far. You can see a few sad and half-hearted attempts here and here if you're curious. (They both stink. I'll keep working.) What I'd like to do is remove all the site description text (the middle column) and get as much "hey, this is what's new" stuff up at the top. I'd also like to use a vertical menu of some sort for the home page, preferably graphical, that would duplicate the topics list from the toolbar plus add back a few items that are less frequently updated and thus don't make sense for the site-wide toolbar. (See below.)

More activity centers. Though I won't be putting these on the top toolbar, I need to make some activity centers for "legacy" topics like Windows XP and older Windows versions, as well as topics that aren't as frequently updated, like Events & Travel. Those will be available from the home page, but not from the toolbar. They could possibly be linked to from other activity centers, as well, I guess. For example, it might make sense to link to the Windows XP activity center from the Vista activity center.

Activity center clean-up. Now that the activity centers are in place, I need to go back and clean them up a bit and cross-link where it makes sense. There are a few (like Live) that aren't even complete yet, so I'll probably do that first. I also need to scour through the old section pages and make sure I haven't orphaned any articles. I think I may have dropped a few inadvertently. There are approximately 1400 articles on this Web site, by the way. (This is in addition to about 7600 articles I’ve written elsewhere for Windows IT Pro.)

Blog. As you can see on this page, the blog hasn't been redesigned along with the rest of the site. Yet. That's because the blog is actually a different Web site and uses a different back-end. Unlike the main site, I can’t directly access the code behind the blog, so I'm relying on the Web team at Penton to make those changes. Now that the toolbar is done on the main site, I'll ask them to do that. So hang in there, it's coming.

I think that's everything. I need to pack and get ready for PDC. It's going to be a busy week, but stay tuned: I'll be blogging daily and posting articles, photos, and other content the entire time I’m in Los Angeles.

And thanks again for all the feedback I’ve gotten so far. It’s really helped.


PS: I should add. I haven’t forgotten about the ongoing series that are still in limbo, but I really needed to get the site layout changed first. I’ll be working on Digital Media Core, Windows Vista Feature Focus and, yes, the SuperSite Switcher Guide going forward. Promise. :)

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