October 23, 2003

Re-re-revising NewsForge

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

You'll see more changes to this site over the next few weeks. We really do listen to reader input and try to accommodate as many people's wishes as we can.The funny thing about all the "bring back the two column format" agitation is that when we originally went to that layout we lost a lot of readers. It was outstandingly unpopular. Over the years we've experimented with both fixed-width and 'liquid' layouts, and while the loudest people prefer to see site content expand to fill their screens, our numbers tell us that sites with fixed column widths tend to attract more readers.

The obvious solution -- and the one we've chosen -- is to make several sets of user-selectable templates. These are much harder to produce for a site with a large readership than for a small site, and even harder for a site like NewsForge that has readers who use every conceivable browser and operating system combination, not just the all-too-popular 'MSIE + Windows' duo, so it's going to take a little while to get all this together. Please bear with us. We already know the site sucks, and that we suck, so you don't need to tell us again if you're one of the people who thinks "This sucks!" is constructive criticism. And we're sure that no matter how many OS/browser combinations we test, someone will have one we didn't take into account. Perhaps that person will give us a coherent report of the problem so we can come up with a fix (rather than something vague like, "...the ads are messing up the way Opera 7.21/FreeBSD is displaying content," which doesn't tell us how they are messing it up.)

There are many small bugs we're working on; if you spot one you think we may not have noticed, please add it as a comment to this notice.

Making a simple, boring site that pleases a homogenous user group is easy. Making a complex, interesting one that pleases a wide range of users is hard. We're willing to put in the work, because in the end it makes a site that is more attractive to look at every day and makes more people happy.

Realize that NewsForge editors look at and use this site more than anyone, so we are more concerned than anyone else about the way it looks -- and works.

And, just like you, we wish we had the resources to do everything immediately, but we don't. Our design and programming staff is tiny and is responsible for many OSDN sites, not just this one, so it's going to take days or weeks, not minutes or hours, to get NewsForge to where we'd all like it to be.

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