Site Update: Five More Changes at OPC

March 1, 2012 | by Fred (email) |

In our continued pursuit of the best possible visitor experience, we’ve made a few more modifications to our theme and site features that I wanted to let you to know about. As always, I welcome your feedback.

1. Revamped Blog View Home Page

As I mentioned a few weeks back, we’ve created an option to display the OPC home page in blog view, which may be a better view for those of you who read daily. I’ve made a few changes to blog view to make it look nicer and to give you the ability to browse back in history via navigation links at the bottom of the page. Just as before, the toggle button for the view always sits off to the left, so you can get back to our whole site view home page anytime. If you have cookies enabled in your browser, OPC will remember your home page preference.

2. Redesigned Home Page Theme

We’ve been considering a major design change for our header, subscribe widget, and other graphical components for some time. Before we get started on our new, more feminine “finer side” component, we thought we should clean up our traditional theme. While most of the changes are cosmetic, we did add a First Time Here page to help new visitors feel welcome and get a sense for what we’re all about here at OPC. Several more smaller changes to our traditional theme are coming as we stand up the finer side component of the site.

  • I’d love to hear specific feedback on whether you like the new graphical redesign.

3. Login Redirects Fixed

One of our readers, Simon, pointed out that when you login to OPC, it always redirects you to the home page instead of taking you back to the page you were already on. That’s fixed now. When you login, it should redirect you back to the last page you visited. I’m currently exploring AJAX login components that will make the login process even more seamless.

(Remember, if you don’t have an account, you’re missing out on our Project Rewards Program!)

4. Full RSS Feeds Restored, But Only Temporarily

As you know, about two weeks ago we decided to deliver summary-only RSS because content thieves have been stealing our work via RSS-scraping. Unfortunately, WordPress’ default functionality for truncating RSS feed items pretty much stinks. It just doesn’t look very good.

As a result, we’re looking for a solution that allows more intelligent shortening of our articles. We’d like to make it so that our emails and RSS feed items give you at least enough content to decide whether it’s worth visiting the site to finish the article. Until we figure that out, we’ve temporarily put full RSS feeds back up.

5. Better Related Content in (Some) Footers

In an effort to make our articles more useful to regular readers and searchers, I’ve enhanced the Related Content section of many posts to include handpicked related information from OPC and other sites on the web. Here’s a screenshot from this section on our How To Build a Shed tutorial. You can expect to see this handpicked related content showing up more often on important articles, especially those in our How-To library. If you have suggested items to include in this section for any post, feel free to leave a reference in the comments and we’ll add it if we think it makes sense. (Note: we are partial to sites that provide high-quality information without distracting ads, malware, etc.)

We’re continuing to look for ways to make the auto-matched content in the lower area of this section better match the content on the page. That will likely require finding a new related posts plugin for WordPress.

I have just one or two more changes to this side of the site before my full programming attention is focused on our new “finer side” of OPC.

17 Responses
  1. Ashley says:

    I really love the blog view! It makes it really easy for me to read and follow along! Can’t wait to see the “finer side” go up! 🙂

  2. Karah @ thespacebetweenblog says:

    Fun changes! I’m with Ashley…looking forward to the new addition!!
    Karah @ thespacebetweenblog

  3. MissFixIt says:

    I made it into one of the screen shots ! woo hoo lol

    • Fred says:

      You know it! Thanks for leaving your thoughts on so many of our posts! We really appreciate it! (To you, and to everyone else!)

  4. Simon says:

    Thanks for the redirect fix! Makes it so much easier (for me) to post my 2 cents!

  5. I admit, I LOVE full-site feeds (although, since I have to click through to get my rewards points anywa, it’s no big deal..)

    • Fred says:

      Two sites we really respect, Primer and Art of Manliness, take different approaches to feeds, so we’ve been watching both. AoM is full feeds, Primer is partial with a great picture at the top of the partial content. I know that for me, it’s really about making sure I can see enough content to know whether I want to read the article.

  6. Steven Bone says:

    I despise partial-content feeds, but love and read 95% of your content. It is hard to determine the value of most partial feeds – the classic ‘above the fold’ placement problem that has plagued front page newspaper stories since the invention of newsstands.

    Have you explored other options to keep your original content first in searches and punish the copiers? They will just as easily go to full page scraping anyway…

    Check out an article by Scott Hansleman called “Embrace Authorship – The importance of rel=me and rel=author on your content’s SEO and Google”. I did not see these tags present in your blog content – perhaps that will help enough to keep full feeds around. (I’d have given a link, but it destroys the effect).

    • Fred says:

      Steven, thanks for the encouraging words! I will take a look at those links and the rel=me and rel=author stuff… We know that folks do like receiving full content in feeds, and I know I do too. There is a part of me that hopes people will visit the site and interact as well. Have you joined project rewards yet?

  7. Handpicked content is a great addition when most sites do automated related posts.

  8. Icarus says:

    I’m guessing the partial content feed is because it makes the reader click and visit the website so that OPC gets credit for a page hit? Not saying there is anything wrong with that, especially if it provides you some additional revenue to keep the site going.

    • Fred says:

      The partial feed component is mostly to prevent scraping. We do like the ad revenue, but I’m not sure that annoying people into visiting the site is a good way to go – so we’re always trying to balance that. I do absolutely hate that scrapers occasionally outrank us though. THAT is truly annoying.

      • Steven Bone says:

        Icarus and Fred – I feel your pain. I also have a blog, for the most part it is/was very narrow and technical, and I have not put any decent content on it for quite some time. Mostly this is because I have moved on to other areas of technical expertise for which there is much better content than what I could currently provide – and secondary to that is intellectual property concerns of my employer that most certainly cannot be compromised. Creating content is VERY hard. Creating content that makes people want to click through to see the comments and discussions is even harder. When that content is stolen and repurposed, and those that are doing it are most certainly monetizing it, it cheapens your efforts. I use feedburner/Google/Amazon to add ads to the bottom of my feeds. I hope that people use those links to enter Amazon and ultimately buy things, but I ‘earn’ well under $100/year. I do click through links in blogs like this one and others to purchase items because I know how the game is played. Thieves will always be there, and the Internet is nothing more than a display case in a jewelry store with no glass from the content producer’s perspective. To be successful as a producer of content, you need to do MUCH more than just produce, you must also protect. Protection of your original content is not only the most time consuming of the tasks, but the most important. Knowing (or learning) how to balance these tasks is critical. Personally, I use RSS almost exclusively to get content. New RSS feeds generally are discovered via existing RSS feeds. The quickest path to me unsubscribing from your content is partial feeds. My time is valuable, and I can fully review 98% of new content from over 100 sites I subscribe to in about 15 minutes, flagging the interesting bits for future review when you DO have my full attention. At OPC, I just finished watching the videos on the concrete work, and have yet to fully read the basement remodel (aside from the electrical bits which I read in detail when published). Most of my friends are Facebook fanatics, I am not. Those folks need an easy ‘like’ button or ‘+1’ which spreads the content around for some nice traffic spikes but buys you almost no repeat visitors. I’m rambling here, but these are my .02, and I hope they are helpful.

  9. Paul&Aundrea says:

    I’m with Jeff. Many of the other sites use the automated related posts, and most of the time they aren’t even related. I also love the blog view. I’m still new around here, so with the regular home page view I wasn’t seeing all the new content you put up.

    • Fred says:

      Even in regular view, all the new content is over on the right side of the home page, but it’s much smaller and the reality is most of our regular home page doesn’t change that often. It’s good for people who want to search through stuff to find older articles, though. We continue to work on indexing our content as we produce it so that it’s always easy to find that old post you love.

      Thanks for participating so much. I’m looking forward to getting the “finer side” of OPC going. We’ve even got a name picked up, but we’re not telling anyone yet. Hopefully you all will like it when we do put it up!

  10. William says:

    The related content is how I found most of my favorite articles here. I’m glad improved tags is one of the new additions.

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