I think it is very good news that Ben Kinney has taken ownership of ActiveRain. With that news, comes also the return of Bob Stewart. These are two guys that you want to listen to when they share their wealth of knowledge! These guys also know the power of this community and want to make sure that ActiveRain continues to be a premier place to come to - a place that people enjoy coming to and that has value!
There is plenty of conversation lately about what to do to put new life back into the site. If you gave me the power, there is one thing I'd focus on immediately. Let's put focus back on the blogs! Yes I believe we have lost focus on the foundation of what this site is all about.
Somewhere back in time just a little bit, Q&A had a rebirth. The potential for Q&A to be helpful is there, but for me it introduced a ton of distracting 'noise' into the newsfeeds. There are some useful questions that prompt helpful responses. There is also a lot of not so useful questions and plenty of watercooler talk. Ok, whatever... but is this noise taking away attention from those blog posts that could otherwise get attention?
I've noticed a serious decline in the clicks to my posts since all this redesign happened. I want back what we had before, and even better!
Here's my list of things that I'd like to see:
- Move Q&A out of the main news feed!
- Let's get the main view back of the hand picked featured posts
- Keep the 'Popular' algorithm in play, but demote it a notch - not part of the main view
- Bring back the suggest button as a way to surface feature-worthy posts
(keep the 'like' button, but realize like and suggest are two separate actions)
- Let's style the feeds in a more modern look, bigger font and let's see the title!
- Don't bury the following feed
- Make it easier to see the blogs of people we follow
I'm of the school of don't complain about something unless you can offer a possible solution.
I have created a working mock-up redesign of what ActiveRain could look like. (yes, this took me quite a while, but unless I demonstrated, I didn't think I could make as powerful a point...)
You can find the mock-up page by clicking here
... once there, click on the various buttons on the top and right side to change the newsfeed
(keep in mind I took just a handful sampling of bloggers and a snapshot of a few posts each just in order to have content to interact with. Note: My mock up site is not linked to the live newsfeeds)
Now let me illustrate the design factors that I worked in.
I created a top navigation bar with 9 different ways to surface valuable blog content. Clicking on the buttons instantly refreshes the list. The 9 views are: Featured, Following, Fav1 and Fav2. Popular, Top 100, Newbies, First Post, and All.
Fav1 and Fav2 would be customizable special lists like you can do in Facebook and Twitter. When a particular newsfeed has lots of activity (my following count is over 300, for instance) you can create 'short lists' of people that you want to particularly not miss their posts. My Fav1 list could be real estate agents and my Fav2 list could be inspectors, stagers and RE other services. The lists could be anything you like though.
The Popular feed would use the algorithm already in play to surface content based on views, likes and comments. However, it has its own separate view and does not muddy the main featured view. The main featured view should not be diluted.
The Top 100 list (most subscribed to bloggers) would be people you aren't necessarily subscribed to but as you browse the newsfeed, you'll likely discover people that you will want to follow. This also would be very helpful for newbies who don't know anybody yet or who they should follow.
The Newbies newsfeed would surface posts from those who are just starting out (say 25,000 points and under). Can you remember back to those days and feel like when you posted something, you had very few comments? Only after you interacted for a while did your follower count go up so that you could look forward to more clicks and comments on your posts. This feed would help us give attention to the newer ones.
The First Post feed helps surface the first dip in the pool for a potential new blogger. I already see this view as bringing lots of comments onto a first time post that can really be encouraging.
The other thing I built into my design was a sidebar list of people who are the source for the given newsfeed. As you click on each of the names, the most recent posts by that person instantly appears. My design would have to be futher tweaked somewhat to consider that a following list may be quite long and may need next and previous buttons if it would be too long to show everyohe on one list. Also, it would be nice to sort the list both alphabetically and by order of recent post.
Now let's talk about styling - we still have a ways to go to make the pages more modern and readable! In my design, I focused first on the Title - Big and Bold, unmistakeable. Underneath is the byline - a very clear reference to the author. Finally the excerpt text underneath, but not in a teeny tiny font! Compare the current styling to my update:
Ok, I'm steppping down from my soap box now. I hope I've given some useful ideas and demonstrated how powerful it COULD be if implemented. There's a call for ideas in the suggestion box... consider mine now turned in =)