June 27, 2008

Topix redesign highlights

by torres at 7:25 PM

In our ongoing effort to make Topix better and easier to use, we're introducing a few updates to the site. Below I'll outline some of the major visual and structural changes that you will notice.

The "hat"
Overall, we've compressed and simplified the hat (the top part of every page that includes search, navigation, logo, etc). We also made a concentrated effort to improve the navigation, which is no small task considering we've got over 450,000 topics.
1. Promo bubble
We'll use this area to introduce and promote new features, as well as provide links to helpful information for Topix newbies.

2. Change city button
An easy-to-find widget that allows users to change the location for their local news.

3. Navigation
The top layer (in dark blue) is the general site-wide navigation, and the lower level (in light blue) shows the sections within that topic. So, for example, in this illustration, our top-level topic is "Palo Alto" and the sub-sections for it are Forums, News, NewsWire, Yellow Pages, Jobs, etc.

4. Editor button
A new position for the Editor button.

5. Other Topics
In addition to the general site-wide navigation, we're adding a drop-menu to called "Other Topics." We're going to use this menu to showcase more popular topics, as well as a dynamic list of the last 10 topics you visit on the site.

6. Browse/Search
A more prominent display and position for our Spotlight (browse)/search widget.

7. Sign In/Sign Out/User Info
New position for User info

The body
While most of our pages (Forums, Detail pages, NewsWire, etc.) have not changed in this redesign, we have upgraded the news pages to take advantage of a three equal column layout. Below are the highlights.
1. Section Title
Centered and with a little more white-space around it to make it easier for users to know what topic they're on.

2. More news
We've upped the count from 10 to 20 news stories on the News page.

3. New ad position
We gotta keep paying the bills...

4. Upgraded Forum Widget
A more prominent placement for the forum widget. Top-center, and now with double (10 instead of 5) threads showing.

5. Photo widget
If you're on a local news topic (Palo Alto, CA, for example) we're highlighting our new user uploaded photos. On other non-local topics, we're showcasing a nifty new photo slideshow widget that dynamically pulls in related photos.

The rest of the page widgets (polls, weather, etc.) are still on the page.

NEW! Also on Topix
We're adding a new feature to all our topic pages, the "Also on Topics" block. The idea is that from any news page, you can get a glimpse of what's going on across the entire site in a quick, easy-to-browse view. Below are the highlights.
1. Site mini-navigation
Quick links to the most popular topics on the site.

2. The Skybox
We love this feature. And so do a lot of you. So, as we were working on compressing the "hat," we realized that we just couldn't remove the Skybox. Instead, we're keeping it alive in the "Also on Topix" block, to show you the biggest stories in the news right now.

3. Recent Forum Discussions
The top ten most popular discussions across the entire site.

4. Video
Video news is becoming one of our more popular topics, so we're adding a new widget with links to our latest video clips.

5. Topix Extras
Not necessarily the news, but more about Topix, including our blog and our growing community of users and editors. Look for a link to the new Topix store coming soon.

6. News Trends
The topics getting the most attention by our users at that moment.

7. Most Popular
The 20 most popular stories on Topics.

That covers the majority of the upgrades in this redesign. As always, your input is a huge factor in helping us determine the changes we make here at Topix ... so keep those suggestions coming.