1) No more “Navigation” menu
Thinkertry v2 had a 6-item navigation menu on the left with a variety of embedded sub-menus, but I discovered that hardly anyone actually needed/used half of them. “About”, “Archive” and “RSS” were pretty useful and necessary, but “Contact” (which had sub-menus for my email, Twitter, and Google+ pages) “Follow” (for my Google+, Twitter, and YouTube) and “Subjects” (for post categories) were just extra cruft cluttering up every page of my site. The social media stuff (including the fancy little buttons on the top right) also felt too needy, and they weren’t at all useful or relevant to anybody other than myself. They were advertisements. Bleh.
The extra menus and social media links were distracting. I didn’t like them, they were annoying to everybody, so I nuked them. They’re gone now.
Instead, on the top-right you’ll see a very simple About section with just a few words that describe what Thinkertry is all about: “technology, design, and completely random fun stuff”. If, for whatever reason, you’re interested in learning more about me personally and want to see my social media accounts you can either Google me up yourself or click my name and be taken away from Thinkertry. Simple. Clean. Less needy and clingy.
If you want to keep updated on what’s written here, I moved Thinkertry’s RSS link into the About section as well, and now you can get automated updates via Twitter if you prefer that route.
2) Featured Thoughts
Most of my articles are Linked List posts (similar to Daring Fireball, Marco.org, Elezea, Kottke.org, etc.) that pretty much just point to something elsewhere on the web and contribute some additional thoughts/insight/snarky remarks. On occasion, however, I write longer & more complex pieces that I’d prefer didn’t fade away so quickly.
Marco Arment (among others) solved this problem with a “Best Of” tab on the top of his site, which I really like, so I’m going to try something similar. On the right I’ve included a Featured section that lists my most recent long-form pieces, and clicking on that title will bring you to a chronological list of all of them. I like to think that these posts offer a bit more value to newcomers than the others, and this seems like a good way of showcasing what Thinkertry is all about.
3) Simpler Archive
Take a look: Year/Month navigation on the top, and every post I’ve written down below. Pretty much what you’d expect.
4) Titles, Permalinks & Linked Lists
Thinkertry v2′s implementation of linked lists (the outbound links we discussed above) always felt a bit odd to me. Clicking on the title of a post used to bring you to whatever I was writing about, and you’d have to click the post’s “Thinklink” (aka Permalink) to get to its actual home on the site. The idea was to provide the reader a way to both A) easily find what I was writing about and B) easily find the post’s permalink, but I found that readers would often A) click on a post’s title expecting it to be the permalink and B) not notice (or not understand) the word “Thinklink” beneath each title.
Thinkertry v3 changes this. Clicking on a post’s title now brings you to its permalink (as expected), and clicking the little double-arrow beside each post title (kinda like a road sign) takes you to whatever I’d like to draw your attention to.
5) Wider, Cleaner, Faster
By removing the faux-Navigation menu I was able to boost the width of the main content area to 560 pixels (up from 480 in Thinkertry v2) and increase the size of the text to make reading even more pleasant. The new spacing & sizing looks great on mobile devices like the iPhone & iPad and the entire site in general looks simpler, cleaner, and fresher than it did in v2.
This lightness is also reflected in Thinkertry v3′s speed: the site now loads in 1-2 seconds (sometimes even less than a second), which is about 80-90% faster than other sites tested by Pingdom. I’m very pleased with this, and there’s still room to improve even further. (Note: Pingdom’s estimates seem to fluctuate a bit, but I’m pretty consistently getting measurements within this range)
6) Room to Grow
Thinkertry v3 is pretty good (in my opinion) but there’s always room to improve, and I already have a list of things I want to implement. I’m still a novice when it comes to web design & usability stuff (heck, I only just declared my major) and I’ll undoubtedly have new ideas for Thinkertry in the future, but for now v3 is a significant improvement to a site I plan on building for many years to come.