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Letters From the Editor

Redesign

It’s always had the headlines. That was how it started. That was really why it started. And, naturally, it had to have a nice design.

Blogger was our first publishing tool. This site’s first design was a three-column ditty pulled straight from the Blogger stock templates. Had a gray banner at the top with white letters that read, ‘The Morning News.’ Rosecrans pulled it all together in a few hours. A couple of days later it had a graphic header with a line drawing of a guy wearing a hat while reading a newspaper. Maybe he was reading a newspaper while wearing a hat. Either way, he was there. Rosecrans yelled over at me. ‘Hey, take a look at this,’ he said.

‘Hey, it’s looking really good.’

‘Yeah? You think?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Cool. Say, do you want to post on it?’

‘Post?’

‘Yeah. Write stuff on it.’

‘Sure.’

He’d already had the site up and running for a while. Posting every day’s headlines, adding interesting links throughout the day.

Over time, new features were added. The albums, the sites of the week, some interviews. And, sure enough, the content eventually broke the design. And so it was time to redesign.

The headlines were kept at the top, and what we were calling ‘updates’ – that is, links and stories that cropped up later in the day – would feed in below. It would have a white background. It would have black lines separating the content. On the right side of the page would be a column – ‘Et Cetera’ – that would house all the extra features we could think of. More interviews, some editorials, that kind of thing. It was the perfect design.

It was at this time that another site, ‘Three-Oh,’ held its first Web-wide ‘reboot,’ the concept being that a group of sites would shut down for a week and then return – on May 1, 2001, – with brand-new designs. We decided to take part in the event. We planned how long the new site would take to code, and then we managed to overshoot the deadline by a good two weeks. So, a fortnight after the big event we relaunched in our new feathers, full plume.

The content, as it apparently is wont to do, again – almost a year later this time – broke the design’s back. In this case it was because we quit updating the ‘updates’ section, which was really only a blog about things we’d see in New York, stuff we’d done, books we’d read, and sometimes concert dates. And always, always lots of links. We’d also made the switch to Movable Type, a stellar, top-notch content tool, the best there’s ever been. And all of a sudden it seemed there was just all this possibility.

So we redesigned. We discussed, we conceived, we wrought many horrible ideas.

All of which brings us to that most recent design. The one that’s been here since March, or thereabouts. The cleanest design. The best-coded thus far. The one that took the most work. I went to Rosecrans’s house to see how the work was progressing.

‘So, uh…say, what’s that doing there?’

‘It’s just this thing I’m trying out. Trying to add some texture.’

‘Texture?!? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? Jesus…’

‘Hey, don’t freak out.’

‘TEXTURE?!?’

He made me leave.

We reconvened, shook hands, closed the book on the new design and let the coding commence. We relaunched with version four. And then started editing, editing, editing. And writing about how men should wear clothes.

And then we – again very accidentally – broke the design. It became apparent that, surprisingly, we just had a lot more crap to say.

So this, the new design, is a lot like the last one. But different, really. There are illustrations. There are newfangled archives. There are the letters. This, in fact, is one of them. And into these ‘letters’ areas we’ve brought some of those old ‘updates’ from a couple designs ago (from, uh…version three). You’ll see them laying around.

Often it seems like this site is in a constant state of redesign. That any day now you wouldn’t be all that surprised to type in this URL or, hopefully, click on its bookmark, and be met with a splash page that says, ‘Ho, ho, we’re on vacation. See you in three weeks. We’re redesigning the site!’ And yet I like to think that that’s a very good thing. After all, when a site’s design has worn out its usefulness – its ability to do what you’re trying to do with it – when it just keeps going out of tune every time you try something new and its pant legs are obviously not fitting so well any more (and in our site’s case it often means they’re too long), it’s time to change.

So let’s give it another shot. Hell, we can always redesign. And we will.

Ta,
Andrew

biopic

Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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