To be upfront, the new redesign to SB Nation has been a learning process for all of us. As bloggers, we've had to learn how to publish content in this new format, and how to use all the new tools at our disposal to make the reading experience as easy as possible. It's a lot of new things for us to process and keep in mind, and for readers, you've been thrust into a whole new, confusing world as well.
After spending the greater part of this week and weekend playing with the new format, I've come to this conclusion: the new format is off-putting at first and takes time to get used to, but once you learn how to navigate it and make it work for you, it is still very easy to find new content and it's even easier to find related articles. It's an incredibly powerful platform for organizing and grouping content, and my hope is that we can use those tools to make navigating the site as easy as possible for readers.
To help you overcome your confusion, I've put together a primer on some of the new (or updated) features of the design. It's a bit long, but it should help you learn how to better navigate the site and get even more out of DRaysBay.
The Cover & River
Before we delve into things too much, we need to get on the same page regarding some terminology. The "Cover" is the top picture-heavy section of the front page. Meanwhile, "The River" is the part below the Cover, where articles are listed one after the other. (There's likely some sort of poker joke in there somewhere, so have at it.)
Technically, it is possible for us to move articles around to make things incredibly confusing for you. The Cover and River don't have to appear in reverse chronological order, like we're used to seeing articles displayed. We can pin articles to spots so that they don't slide down the page, and we can even add articles to the front page from other SB Nation sites.
However, to keep things simple for everyone here, we're still displaying articles in reverse chronological order in the River (i.e. newest at the top). In the Cover, I have occasionally moved posts around so they're not technically in reverse chronological order, but you will find all of our most recently published posts in the Cover.
The Cover can also be changed to look differently, depending on our preferences and what's currently going on. There are five options for the Cover -- you can see examples of all five of them here -- and to keep things simple, I've stuck with one layout option thus far.
The Cover layout will surely change going forward, so please, take a look through the options and let us know if you have any preferences or thoughts. Do you like one layout option better than others? Which do you think is best for day-to-day coverage? We haven't figured this all out ourselves, and we'd love feedback and thoughts.
Game Day Threads: Also, Game Day Threads will always appear in the Cover. For now, we're placed them in the #5 slot (bottom right hand corner of the cover), so look for Jonny Gomes in a sombrero and you'll find the GDT.
If you want to find past GDTs, you can find those using the Game Threads section -- which, as it happens, is a great segway...
Sections & Groups
We've been grouping our stories together into "Sections" for a long time now, well before the switch to SB Nation United. They used to be the little blurbs that would appear after the author and publish date of a post: "Game Recap" or "Game Thread" or "Tampa Bay Rays News". That sort of thing.
These sections are very much still in use, and we're using them to group related content together. If you go into the River, you'll notice that there are little blurbs above the title of each post. That's the primary section that the post is grouped into, and by clicking on that section, you'll be directed to a page with all the posts in that section listed in reverse chronological order.
This can be particularly useful if you want to catch up on past articles you may have missed, see all the "Features & Analysis" posts that we've written, or find all the latest news about the Rays. In fact, the "Latest News" section is prominently displayed in a widget on the front page, right underneath the Cover.
If you're in a post, you'll find the sections that it's associated with at the very top of the page, above the headline. Again, by clicking on the sections there, you'll be brought to the archive for each section:
And with some sections, we've gone out of our way to make them a bit fancier and organized. For instance, check out what we've done with the "Tampa Bay Stadium Saga" section:
It has a cover! Just like with our front page, you'll find all of our posts in reverse chronological order -- minus our DRaysBay proposal, which I pinned up there -- and the top couple posts get extra exposure.
If you're looking to find the archives for a specific section, you can find them one of two ways: using the navigation bar that appears between the Cover and River, or by scrolling down the page and using the "Active Sections" widget. You have many, many options, so it should never be tough to find the section you want.
One of the new features added to SB Nation team blogs is the ability to now group articles into "StoryStreams". In case you hadn't seen these before at one of SB Nation's hub sites, streams are a way for us to organize related content together into one place. They're not actually new articles or new content; they're an organization tool that we use to help you -- the reader -- find related content.
The best way to understand streams is to explore them a little, so here are a couple shots to show you what they look like. Here's what a stream looks like on the inside:
Notice how the most recent game recap is at the top of the stream? Any articles that we select to get related to a stream will get listed in reverse chronological order, so you'll be going backwards in time as you scroll down the page. This is particularly useful for breaking news stories, so we can put up the initial news post, and then update a stream with more analysis, opinions, or updates as the story evolves.
When you're reading an article that's associated with a stream, here's what that looks like:
This makes it very easy to find other related articles, and to get to those articles quickly and easily.
On the main page, you'll see streams show up differently depending where they're placed in the layout. Here are a couple ways they might appear:
No matter how they're displayed, the idea is to help you locate related content. That means we might sometimes have a game recap in the cover, but also have the relevant stream up there at the same time; while both pieces are related, the stream also holds past articles and might be useful for people wanting to find updates related to that current series.
So, any questions? Any thoughts on how we could best use the cover? Any feedback or things we could do to make your life easier? Let us know!