Welcome to our new website which we just launched a few days ago. I would have introduced it much sooner, but there were a few minor issues that we had with the changeover. But I believe that’s all done, and so I’d like to tell you about the changes and of course explain why we felt the need to make a change.
Why The Change
About this time last year, we surveyed our readers about the site. Specifically, we wanted to know how you were reading our articles and what devices you were using. That opened up our eyes a bit and we started to notice a trend: More and more people were reading our site from tablets and phones. We had a lot to learn, of course, and didn’t want to jump right in. So we put a temporary solution in place to improve reading on those devices while we conducted some more research. Through tracking software (Google Analytics and a few other tools), we started tracking more about what you all were doing. Don’t worry, we didn’t collect any vital information (nor would we do so without your consent). We were simply tracking web browsers and devices that you were accessing our page from. We also tracked how you arrived at our site, be it through a search engine, referral or a direct link. To some extent, we are able to see if you’re accessing our site directly or through an aggregator (like Google Reader or Flipboard) or even through email. For the most part, our data was corroborating the outcome of that survey last year. And several weeks ago, we did a really short survey just to see if that was still the case.
So here’s the curiosity. Our data shows that nearly 30% of our page visits were through a tablet. But only 8% of those people browsed to another article. Furthermore, less than 10% of respondents in the most recent short survey said that they used a tablet or phone to access our site. So that raised an interesting question: Why the discrepancy? Well, it turns out, the majority of the tablet/phone browsers were first-time visitors to our site. Almost all of our return and regular visitors were browsing on the website itself. It’s safe to assume that those who responded to the survey were not first time visitors. Maybe, perhaps, that simply means that our regular readership knew that our mobile template was grossly inadequate (and I’m probably understating that fact). Something needed to change.
Now I want to point out that our regular readers are the ones we care about the most. So we didn’t want to significantly change the web interface that much. We wanted your experience on the site to be very similar to what you had before. But honestly, we would like to grow our audience and so our primary goal was to also have a good mobile interface as well. But that’s not all. We had a few other goals that we wanted to address based on feedback that we had gathered – through those surveys or otherwise. They are, in no particular order, as follows:
- Improved interface for mobile users – The entire site is now “responsive”, which I learned to be a fancy term for a web page that is also suitable for smaller screens. Doesn’t matter how you cut it or justify it, though, our site will now actually make sense if you’re viewing from a mobile device. We’re hoping at the very least, this makes things more comfortable for our regular readers. But we also wouldn’t mind if we garner some new readers as well (tell your friends about us).
- Better organization on the main page – Up until now, the articles were shown in chronological order. We still do that at the top. But we also have sections dedicated to our most popular departments: Inspiration, Reviews and Learning.
- Better article discovery – At the bottom of every article, you will find a list of related articles. This is the new component that will list current articles based on the article’s department. In the sidebar, you will also see Possibly Related Articles that randomly pull article recommendations based on any tags/keywords assigned to the article (the sidebar is not unlike our old system). Of course we continue to show the latest articles and ‘Further Reading’ (which is entirely random) in our sidebar just as we always have.
- Review ratings – Three years ago, when we started doing product reviews on this site, we took the stance of not providing numerical reviews. Our goal was to provide a thorough review and tell you about our findings, and that you could make up your own minds about whether the product is actually good or not. But alas, some years have passed, our audience grew and we’ve expanded into a much broader scope within our reviews. And so our readers (and even some product manufacturers) have asked that we provide numerical reviews. So now we have something in place to do just that. Maybe it will help to make comparisons easier.
- Improved searching – up until now, we’ve been using Google as our primary search engine inside the site. It worked well. Perhaps a little too well. Unfortunately, Google built results on the entire page. So if the sidebar contained mention of the search term, a zillion unrelated pages might pop up. Of course now WordPress’s search engine has been significantly improved, so we’ve reverted back to that for a while. We may change back to Google if the internal search isn’t ideal down the line…but we have a means to do that without impacting the rest of the site.
I hate to use the cliché, “It’s all about you…”, because that seems so hokey and coated with dribble from a marketing manager’s mouth. But it really is the truth. I started this site way back when to impart some of my own wisdom and knowledge. But it evolved into the magazine that you know and love today. I am passionate about photography. I am just as passionate about seeing others work in this medium. And so I love what I’m doing, and I love running this website. But what I love most of all are our readers. You inspire us more than you can all imagine. So I will do everything in my power to make sure that you all gain as much from Shutter Photo as would be possible. Updating the site so that it is more usable is part of all that. So enjoy the site. And please keep an open channel and communicate your thoughts and ideas. You’re more than welcome to leave a comment below. But you are also more than welcome to contact us at [email protected].