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New Internationalist — the last ten days

  • Words: Andy Clarke

It’s been ten days since I uploaded the last batch of New Internationalist design files. Since then the team at New Internationalist have had time to live with the templates and make a small number of suggestions and requests that I have implemented over the last couple of days.

Just before I left to travel to Boston for An Event Apart, a flu ridden Adam called to talk me through those last minute changes. They fell into several areas:

There were no major surprises and nothing that I couldn't handle while traveling, particularly as I've been designing in a browser and not using Photoshop or Fireworks. All of these revisions and alternatives are now online at the demonstration site.

Asking for an alternative layout for the home page

New Internationalist has been discussing internally a new timetable for publishing their magazine content. Instead of publishing most when a new printed magazine is published, they will be experimenting with more regular publishing of magazine articles, reducing the association between an article and a particular issue.

I can understand this approach but I personally feel that the context in which an article is published is vital to understanding its importance at a particular time, particularly as New Internationalist is a magazine and not a news site. Adam asked to see an alternative version of the home page layout that breaks the magazine/blogs content into two vertical columns.

Because I have been designing in a browser, using XHTML and CSS, and have developed a set of (Microformats-based) markup patterns, making an alternative layout structure took only a few minutes. Below is a side-by-side view of the alternative layout (right) and my preferred layout (left).


Home page alternatives: Alternative layout (right), preferred layout (left).

Although the structure of the New Internationalist publishing schedule is not my decision, it would be wrong of me not to express my opinions. I think that my preferred version still has better visual clarity and definition and allows for various publishing schedules. I hope that New Internationalist stick with my gut instincts and my preferred layout.

Adding some small highlights to particular areas

Less obvious is a new highlight format that New Internationalist can apply to box styles. Adam asked that I give certain calls to action, in particular the email newsletter sign-up box, more prominence. Instead of designing just that box, I extended the CSS to include a highlight style that can be applied to any content box across the site.

Implementing this highlight style took only a few minutes, largely because I have designed using alpha-transparent PNG images for the decorative halftone patterns. You can see the result on the home page email newsletter sign-up box and (with an alternative colour) on the shop landing page catalogue request box.

Making a new layout for the shop landing page

Now that I know that the design of the New Internationalist shop need not be limited to the capabilities of any particular e-commerce platform, I have developed the shop landing page to bring it in line with magazine and blog landing pages.


Redefined shop landing page

In the new shop landing page I have designed a series of new content modules that can be rearranged and included on any page of the site in any section. These include a jQuery powered easy slider and several other module formats that I hope will give New Internationalist the flexibility to move shop content around their site, for example by including product feeds into magazine articles and blog entries.

Discussing Internet Explorer 6 compatibility for shop templates

After analyzing their statistics internally, the team at New Internationalist have decided that because a more significant proportion of their shop customers use Internet Explorer 6, that part of the site will require better compatibility with Internet Explorer 6. Other, content driven areas of the new site will adopt Universal Internet Explorer 6 CSS.

This decision means that Owen and I will need to test and repair the shop pages for Internet Explorer 6 CSS, but I am very pleased that a major site like New Internationalist will lead the way in adopting Universal Internet Explorer 6 CSS for the content areas of the new site. It's a brave, bold move and one that I hope others will learn from and follow.


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