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LAUNCH: Refreshed Homepage Is A Go

If you scan over to the 9rules homepage you’ll notice it’s a bit different — I don’t think this is a 3.0 design, but it’s like a 2.5 if I had to version it 🙂

Why Change?

When we moved to our amazing new (mt) Media Temple servers, a whole world of new opportunities opened up for us on the development/architecture side of 9rules. Some have joked saying that 9rules or 9rules Communities is just “WordPress with Categories” but in fact we have custom cron jobs running at all hours of the day, caching and updating all our member content, their RSS feeds, their favicons, and a lot more. Colin will be talking about in Part 3 of his series, however our previous homepage was running off the old infrastructure so it was really slow. This new homepage is running 100% from our new database and caching infrastructure, so it loads faster than this weblog probably loads. Colin worked his tail off on speed optimization, and if you scroll to the bottom of the homepage, you’ll see in the footer just how fast this bad boy is moving now. It’s like greased lightning!

Traffic Spread
One of the things that the previous didn’t do was spread traffic around to the other parts of 9rules effectively. We now have an entire wealth of information in our Communities and Featured sections, and they weren’t getting enough exposure. The new homepage drops more links to those two sections, which will hopefully move users deeper into the site and check out more member content.

So What’s New?

On the geeky side of things, the new homepage now runs off our master CSS file so it makes it a lot easier to update. I think the CSS powering the 9rules site is now past 1300 lines, due partly to my incessant indenting and commenting 🙂

Less Saturated
A lot of people really liked the previous iteration, but one gripe that stood out was that it was too bright, too saturated, and I definitely agree. We liked to call it the Skittles iteration, but Skittles no more! The new version is more subdued, more in-line with the design for the rest of the site.

More Member Content
The new homepage features direct access to a lot more member content, which is exactly how it should be. Without clicking any tabs to swap boxes, you can view the latest member entries, some random entries from the past 7 days, and the latest Featured blog entries which could be considered a “blog on the blog network.” Everywhere you look now there’s a link to a great member article, so hopefully this will increase traffic to our members’ sites.

Better Ad Placement
We thought pretty hard about where to put the advertising on the new homepage, and after showing our members and getting their feedback a few weeks ago, we think we have a pretty good solution. The ads break up the monotonous boxed layout, so not only do they pay our bills, they also serve a visual design purpose as well. I think we left the red hover box on the ads by accident, so we’ll see what people think.

Featured Member Up Front
At the very top of the layout, below the logo, is now a rotating “Featured Member” box. Now our homepage highlights member content and individual member sites as well, so we’re stoked to see how this affects member visibility.

More Useful About Area
Even though our members’ sites are really well-known and well-read, 9rules itself is still in its early infancy in regards to popularity and recognition. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to someone about 9rules, and they may not know about the Network, but they sure do read a lot of our sites! The new about section at the top right is more informative, has some more actionable links, and sends out traffic to a few of our Community sites as well. Plus I’ve been wanting to slip the logo in that box for months now, so this was finally my opportunity.

Welcome Back Trebuchet!
Many of you know that I use Trebuchet MS as the main font on a lot of my designs, so how could I disappoint all my fans the 1 or 2 people who know me by not using it? The previous design used some Tahoma, but this one is back to the old standby. Trebuchet MS is the best thing Microsoft has ever done in my opinion 🙂