Welcome to dotTech v6: bigger, better, and simply awesome

2014-03-03_044642Hi friends,

Welcome to dotTech v6! Yep, dotTech has received a makeover. And if I do say so myself, we look amazingly awesome. (Even more than before. Duh.) This is the sixth major theme change for dotTech since this humble corner of the internet was born back in 2008, and I must say: this is our best look yet.

The idea behind this new look was three-fold:

  • Design our website to focus around our three main content areas, Reviews / Tips & Tricks, News, and Entertainment
  • Make dotTech more useable to mobile users using a modern responsive design and better accommodate people with larger, higher-resolution monitors
  • Decrease size of non-valuable content (e.g. smaller header vs larger header) and make valuable content more prominent (e.g. larger width on posts)

We aimed to meet all three of the above goals without hurting the great useability and readability we already had.

Oh and for those of you who prefer traditional blog view (i.e. simple list of all new posts as opposed to a three-column segregated design), click the “Switch to blog view” link on the homepage to change to traditional blog view.

So what do you think? Did we succeed in our goal? How do you feel about our new theme? Please do share your thoughts about dotTech’s new look in the comments below. Also, please be sure to report any bugs and issues you come across, so we can rectify as soon as possible.

Damn, life is good.

Take care,
Mr. Boss @ dotTech

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  1. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Everyone: I just added a bit more white space between items on modern view, to help decrease that “TMI” effect. Let me know what you think.

    I’m still considering the color changes recommended by Mags.

  2. beachbouy

    I’m in the “TMI” camp. I feel bombarded with too many choices. My attention is being pulled in too many directions at once, and I can decide where to look for the kind of information I might find interesting or useful. Perhaps I will get used to it. Or, perhaps it will be too much to process along with the 40,000 other bits of information competing for my attention.

  3. Mr.Dave

    Comment editor stuck at “Saving” for over half a minute, so I exited. I wanted to add this to my previous comment (or the next one if you’re reading top to bottom):
    Notice that I’m still back almost every day because DotTech is still one of the best sites and communities on the web. Thanks for all you do!

  4. Mr.Dave

    Gotta say, I’m getting used to the new look. Gone 2 days now without clicking “View as Blog”. I’m mixed about older to newer or newer to older on the comments. Either way I need to find what I last read and then go to one end or the other. Top-down = older to newer does seem more natural, since comments often refer to older comments and it’s easier to make the connection when I’ve read the older ones first.

    But please notice I’m still back every day for one of the best sites out there!

  5. Tom Brew

    Please give option to change to oldest comments first, as on pcworld.com and , I think Gizmo. Then I can read a comment and as I scroll further down I find replies to that comment, rather than the non-logical other way around. One of the best sites on the web.

  6. Seamus McSeamus

    I haven’t checked in for a couple of days, so when I did open dotTech today it was a little jarring! The new layout is okay, but I admit I prefer the blog view. Probably because it’s closer to what I’m used to. No real complaints, though, but maybe you could darken the date and time in the comments. The light gray is a little hard to read against the white background, but then my eyes aren’t what they used to be either.

  7. njwood60

    umm… did you change the newsletter template as well? Some of the images in the newsletter are HUGE and I’m scrolling all overthe place trying to read the text that now stretches out to the same width as the images.

  8. D Postom

    With all due respect, the new look sucks. On a 15″ laptop, tiny almost undecipherable graphics, and way too much content in a too-compressed space (noisy and distracting). I will seriously consider eliminating my daily visit since discovering your site almost from its launch.

  9. Godel

    OK, much better. Some pieces of text are still too faint on my crappy monitor, such as “Check this box to be notified of follow-up comments via e-mail. You can also” and the text for the “About Ashraf” piece, and “Logged in as” and “Log out?”, and the system date at the top.

    Edit: I wonder if the differing quality of some monitors could be partially responsible for the poor reception of the faint text? On a decent monitor it may have looked OK.

    Consider putting a link at the top of home page for your Shareware On Sale site.

  10. Mike S.

    I appreciate the efforts with the new look, but just am not sure it works, at least for me. In essence, it feels like a full-frontal assault on one’s senses, with information all over the place. Almost like a multi-tasking website. But studies show, efficiency actually goes down, not up, with multi-tasking. For now, I’m back to the cool, collected, and efficient blog view . . . .

    Also, on the blog view, could it be possible to go back to a black font for the leaving of comments? The light grey for comments just doesn’t work–it’s getting more towards the invisible rather than visible end of the spectrum. (Although, perhaps that just has been changed/fixed: this comment is typing out in black, as versus a comment a few minutes ago, showing in the light grey.) Thanks–

    P.S. I do agree with others: the fact that so many people are posting comments here shows that we do appreciate and care about dotTech–you should take that as a big compliment! :^)

  11. jayesstee

    [@Ashraf]  Take it as a compliment that so many commentators care!
    Latest changes make the current version (Ver. 6.1?) much friendlier.
    Thank you for making previous pages available and the return of the next/previous buttons.

    You said: “You all got anything else to throw at me? :-)”
    So:  Login button now available on the Home Page, but not yet available on the actual “article” page – it used to be near the “Leave a Reply” box.  At present, you read the article, then go to the Home Page to login.

    Thanks for listening and reacting :=)

  12. Maags

    Yesterday I couldn’t get into the Blog view. Today I can and I definitely prefer it to the Modern view. I like that you have listened to suggestions and have implemented many of them. Thank you.

    I also have a few suggestions.

    1) A website should only have a max of 3 colours (not counting a white background or white text when needed on a dark background). That you seem to have, grey, blue and red. However, those 3 colours must remain consistent i.e. the same shades of RGB throughout. The blue and red seem to be consistent (unless I’ve missed something) but the grey does not. So far I’ve seen approx 4 – 5 shades of grey (not counting the grey which is bold) different shades of a colour does not count as one colour. Each different shade counts as a different colour. Pick a readable shade of grey and stick with that colour. That colour can be bold where needed, but that is the only exception to the rule of max 3 colours. The header can also be another exception of using different shades of a colour . Which brings me to my next suggestion.

    2) Instead of the blue colour under the header I would suggest changing it to another shade of grey, either the same dark grey as on the top of the header, or a slightly lighter shade (my preference.) That way it isn’t so distracting and will make the red font stand out better. Right now (IMO) the red on blue looks awful and blurred. (And is not very user friendly for people who are colour blind.) Optional, change the blue on the footer to match the same shade of grey used when changing from blue to grey in the header.

    3) Move the Switch View button to a more prominent position. This suggestion is more for newcomers to your site rather than for us regular visitors. This way if they don’t like the Modern View they will immediately see that they have a choice to switch to a different view. My suggestion is to move it from the right to the left, and possibly move it above the 6 images at the top, just under the header.

    4) Finally the light grey text on the dark grey footer background is not user friendly for colour blind people. My suggestion is to change the text colour to white.

  13. s66

    Tried both blog and modern view, still prefer the old view.
    I liked just skimming down from the top, middle clicking the ones I wanted to read to new tabs, down to where I left off the day before …but I will get over it :)

  14. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    RE: drop-down menu at top showing fully expanded — fixed!


    a) Can you send me a screenshot of exactly what you are seeing? I have Firefox and I have no such font or blocky or blotchy issues. What FF version are you in?

    b) Good point about the capital text. I agree with you. Fixed!

    c) If modern view impedes viewership rather than helps, I will get rid of it. For now, however, I want to test it. There has to be a reason why so many successful websites (e.g. ArsTechnica, The Register, etc.) go with a three column design like modern view and I want to know what that reason is.

    Thank you for the kind words and feedback!

  15. MikeR

    [@Ashraf] Easy log in: excellent! Font revision: excellent if a little weird on my screen, viz: with Firefox browser screen magnification adjusted for text clarity in the News section (above) and comments text (below), everything is pristine. . . whereas this input text is blocky / blotchy as is all of the righthand column text, as if a spider has dipped its little feet in an ink pot and run rampant. But as noted earlier, this could be an FF-browser related problem or unique to me. Anyway, to continue:

    Comment text input now 100% legible — superb! Design & lay-out of this page: no problem at all, x2 col comment and x1 col “recent posts” works just fine. Home Page Blog View: very good, masses of white space but arguably a few too many assertives for comfort: I have eight on screen right this moment comprising 4 x bright blue READ MORE, 2 x Tips and Tricks and 2 x Reviews. As we all know, upper case does tend to SHOUT from a computer monitor and the “shouting” of READ MORE is further emphasised by the colored background, so the result is a bit like going into a street market where all the vendors are yelling simultaneously at you the moment you arrive. I’d discard all the colored blocks and move the READ MORE invitations into the panels themselves using a percentage tint of the font color — just a suggestion, doesn’t mean that what I think is going to be the same as anyone else. As for:

    Home Page, Modern View: seriously, I’d be inclined to drop it altogether — there was no harm in road testing it, but it’s on screen now with my Firefox browser set to display all three toolbars (menu, navigation and bookmarks) and even with that amount of screen estate accounted for at the top, I can still see almost 23 images and 22 headline texts: that’s 45 chunks of data in instantaneous visual overload, a perceptual nightmare. . .

    Dot Tech has developed from its early days and now constitutes a major reference resource, so I can well appreciate the difficulties of trying to present as much as possible to both regular and casual visitors. However: an iceberg is at its most attractive when the tip shines bright and clear and its foundations remain way down deep. Well-funded, well-staffed mega resource tech sites like, for example, The Register (‘El Reg’) had to wrestle with this same problem several years ago but as can be seen from their approach, the complex is made accessible by the simplest and quietest of access: El Reg is encyclopaedic. . . but takes care *not* to look like it’s an encyclopaedia.

    As noted though, all the above represents a single individual opinion. I’ve been involved in magazine design and production for over 40 years but that counts for absolutely nowt because *everything* is subjective when it comes to media presentation. What really counts here is that Dot Tech is offering up its work-in-progress, inviting feedback, and reacting to that feedback as quickly and as comprehensively as possible. Well done, Ashraf. You’re never going to be able to please all of the people, all of the time, so don’t even try; listening to the people though, that’s what is important, and you’re certainly demonstrating that here. Good luck!

  16. stilofilos

    Fully agree.
    I feel people often are very egocentric. The article says clearly why things are the way they are. If things are too small or too big, just try your zoom. If you can not read a grey shade, adjust the luminance of your monitor, your eyes might be grateful for it (I make all my texts in a very similar shade of grey…) . If you don’t like blue, replace it with green or red or whatever. If you want things to your personal taste, just adapt them – Why would the website have to do that ? …
    Ashraf is doing a great job with this site, and I am singing with you ‘thank you , thank you, …’

  17. onedeafeye

    [@Ashraf] Do take note, however, if you clear cookies then your selection of blog view will be reset and you will need to click “Switch to blog view again”.
    Not true. I use Firefox 27, and I switched to blog view and saved the new URL in the bookmark’s Location box. Turned off Firefox & ran CCleaner (both clean cookies out), started Firefox and clicked on the dotTech bookmark and got the blog view without any additional clicking required.
    I like the new layout, but I also like the old one. Either way is good by me….

  18. Mr.Dave

    I agree with many others that the homepage is completely overwhelming, Something I might get used to, but I like scrolling through the old Blog view top to bottom and clicking on anything interesting I may have missed. Now it’s a lot of jumping around, not sure if I would ever know if I missed something (which may not be bad, I spend WAY too much time on DotTech every week!).

    Very glad to see the “switch to Blog View”, and that it works. You show a deep consideration for your readers that most sites would never understand.

    I support whatever you do with the site, you’ve done very well in the many years I’ve been coming here and I thank you thank you Thank You THANK YOU! If you grow in a direction I don’t care for, I’ll live, but the site needs to be what YOU want it to be. Like so many bands I like, some head down a path where I won’t follow. But I at least give them a chance!

  19. darthyoda6

    I prefer older comments on top, newer on the bottom, and find the recent comments confusing. When I read books, I read the top of the page to the bottom, and not the bottom to the top. Maybe put the post at the bottom of the page and comments on top so that we’re only scrolling in one direction, instead of read from top to bottom of post, skip to bottom of page, then read to bottom of post.

  20. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Everyone: I’ve just made changes to the backend that allow you to pick what type of homepage you want, blog view or modern view. Picking what type of homepage is easy; if you like modern view, you do not need to do anything — that is the view you see by default. If you don’t like modern view, go to our homepage click “Switch to blog view” and viola — every time you visit dotTech you will be take to blog view by default (and you can easily switch back by clicking “Switch to modern view”.

    Do take note, however, if you clear cookies then your selection of blog view will be reset and you will need to click “Switch to blog view again”. Also, this is on a per-device basis so if you use multiple devices to view dotTech, you can use different views for each (e.g. blog view for mobile, modern view for desktop).

    Other changes made:

    -Made the font for excerpts black
    -Made the font for posts and excerpts regular Arial instead of something fancy that may not work for some people.
    -Changed border for subtitles from blue to gray

    Changes I’m working on now:
    -Fixing bug of blog view not paginated properly
    -Fixing view in IE11

    Changes I’m consider:
    -Changing blog view to traditional one column listing instead of two

    Enjoy and thanks for the great feedback!

    [@Dlira] Don’t get me wrong. I know people will leave if they are annoyed by the look of the website, which is why I’m asking for feedback and making changes accordingly. However, some people have a sense of over importance and that really pisses me off. Trying to force me to do what you (the proverbial you, not you you) want or you will leave is not something I will stand for. I’m all for improving user experience but what a single person wants isn’t important — what the majority want is.

    [@Jeff Taylor] The switch to blog view is on the homepage only because it applies only to the homepage.

    [@MikeR] Is the font working for you now?

  21. Dlira

    Two more comments, Ashraf:
    1) You state that this is the sixth major change to the website. I disagree – in my opinion this is the first MAJOR change.
    2) You shouldn’t be too sure that some readers won’t return because of the changed layout. I read PC World for really many years, but quit in January this year because I couldn’t stand their disgusting new “tabloid” layout. (But even if I’m very disappointed, I guess I’ll continue reading dottech.)

  22. Dlira

    I agree with almost all comments below: Sorry Ashraf, both thumbs down. The old version was good-looking, this one isn’t. And why change something that’s working very well (like our Danish friend puts it), looks good and something your readers are used to and happy with? I really appreciate your webside, and have enjoyed reading it for many years. I’m just very sad to see this change. However, your decision to let the readers have the option to change to the old view is EXCELLENT and demonstrates that you understand something that very many other website makers don’t.

  23. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Everyone: Thank you very much for the feedback, it greatly helps.

    RE: Comment text color — fixed!

    RE: New comments first — this is something new I’d like to try, because it brings new comments to the top and keeps the discussion fresh. We can change back later, if needed.

    RE: Too much blue — someone will have to explain this one to me. First of all, last time we had a theme change people complained about not having enough color and now people are complaining about too much color? Say what? In any case, I don’t understand the complaint about too much blue. I don’t see that much blue on pages. The header has blue; the footer has blue; and subheadings have blue. And blue links, of course. There really isn’t that much blue on here. I’ve removed the blue heading for author bio, maybe that will do the trick.

    RE: homepage is busy — Agreed, the homepage is more “busy” than before. However, the whole point of the homepage is to help better organize our content, allowing people to pick and chose what they want to read. For those that prefer the old way, we have blog view :-)

    RE: “I’m leaving until you change” — The door is –> way. I’m sorry to say, but I doubt the honesty of people who claim “I’ve been reading dotTech since 2534535345345 years but I’m leaving because of this new theme” or “I’ve had dotTech as my homepage since before you were born but I’m leaving because of this new theme” or etc. If really dotTech was that valuable to you, a cosmetic change wouldn’t deter you. Especially since I’m willing to work with everyone to make modifications.

    RE: no login button — Added, thanks.

    RE: IE11 issues — I hate Internet Explorer. I will look into it, thanks.

    RE: Recent comments section — added, thanks.

    Any other issues that I missed addressing?

  24. Mags

    [@MikeR] You said exactly what I originally should have said on my first post but it was too early in the morning and had only 1 sip of my first cup of coffee so wasn’t thinking clearly when first assaulted with the new site.

    Thank you for making it so clear as to what is wrong. It definitely is not user friendly.

  25. MikeR

    Home page is less an open-door welcome as a sudden avalanche of mind-numbing eye-watering data: waaa-aaaaay too much for comfort. Comment I’m currently inputting I can barely see. Newest posts first is a practice adopted by other tech sites including Gizmo’s so it may just be a case of getting used to it (though for traditionalists like me, starting at the beginning and going to the end is, I think, always going to be preferable.) My Firefox browser isn’t coping with the page font at all well, but then when I hit Ctrl and minus it’s a lot sharper but a lot smaller: this is possibly a problem at my end, but it never happened with the former version of dot tech.

    For me, the biggest problem isn’t so much the challenge of the new as the fact that there seems now to be a multiplicity of challenges here. Dot Tech spoke (and continues to speak) with a clear, authoritative voice. My user perception of the new look is that there are just too many voices: information has become distraction, and distraction has become discomforting. Sorry to be negative on this one!

  26. Jeff Taylor

    In Comment #19, Lucy Schmidt writes that she sees “the “switch to blog view” button is clearly visible on the home page right above the “Latest News” column.” I see no “Latest News” column. If this is just her description of the “right hand column,” I still don’t see any “switch to blog view” button. At the very top of the right hand column, I see (from the top down) an area to enter an email address to subscribe to the newsletter, then an area for subscribing to an RSS feed, then an area for choosing a social site to “follow” DotTech, and then the start of a series of headlines for “Recent Posts.”

  27. etim

    I agree the comments printing is way too light–I can barely see it. And they’re posted backwards, too.

    I don’t think I’ll like the blog posts being side by side. They’re much easier to read and scan if they’re all in a single strip down the page.

  28. Sputnik

    Sorry but I dont really like the new layout.

    I must say here that I have been working in the field of graphic arts for many years and what I say here is based on experience.

    Let just take the comments section : it is visually difficult to distinguish a comment from another and also putting the last comment in the upmost position is a nonsense. It would really be better to have the comments displayed in a way that matches the real timeline. Actually, if someone wants to read the comments from the first to the last, he has to read the first from top to bottom, then go upward to reach the second comment where it will be read from top to bottom and then again go upward to reach the next comment and so on. This is really a way of reading that is very disjointed.

    Better chance next time.

  29. jayesstee

    Well [@Ashraf], what a surprise!

    My daily, must see site has changed.  My first thoughts are:

    Nice, clean, bright format.
    “Blog view” better than “Modern”.
    Annoying “SOS” link missing.

    Blue colour too bright on “READ MORE” buttons and elsewhere.
    Font colour too pale as comments # 11 (comment editor) and 17 (body text).
    “Next >>” (page) option at bottom of “blog view” page doesn’t work, gives 404 error.  Needed when catching up with missed days.
    “Previous” and “Next” “arrows” missing from “article” pages.
    Useful membership, viewer info removed fro bottom of “Modern” and “Blog” pages but still on the “Forum” page.
    Where is the login function?  Only available on “Forum” page?

    I’m sure we’ll all get used to it and continue to enjoy your site.  Pass on our thanks to all your helpers.

  30. JMJsquared

    [@Torro] Geez! Talk about fair-weather friends. Give the guy a chance to digest and consider our observations and critiques before abandoning ship.

    That said, here’s some more of my grousing:

    — The Home Page’s ‘Switch to Blog View’ button is sorely misplaced. Perhaps it would look better and be more user-friendly if it were placed above the first images; images which are much too large and garish, I might add… with a smile (?)

    — The columns, ‘Latest Reviews / Tips & Tricks’ and ‘Latest News, should be separated with a light-colored (medium gray?) vertical line and each article’s accompanying image should be 25% smaller.

    — Make the bylines font one/two points smaller than that of the main article. And italicize it.

    — I’d like to see a larger dotTech logo in the header, about the size of the logo near the G+ follow invite.

    Boy! Armchair quarterbacking is easy and fun. ;-)

    Note below: @Lucy Schmidt – Until today, blue actually was my favorite color. Now its mauve. ;-)

  31. Torro

    Mags summed it up the best.

    I like chnge, but this is awful.

    It’s absolutley cluttered, and presonally i can’t stand clutter. Not to mention the tabs are right, smack in the middle of the website covering the articles, and information one reads.

    I had dottech.org as my homepage for years now, but no longer. I’ll juts have to check back form time to time to see if/when you do get that user viewer preference set up.

  32. karsten

    Dear Ashraf.
    I do not like it at all, sorry to say.
    I have been following you for many years and are a daly user, this switch is really bad. its messy and confusing.
    hurry back to normal.
    In denmark we have a saying, if its not broken, do not fix it.

  33. Lucy Schmidt

    I like change, so am liking the new look. The font color for comments is way too light, so a change to a darker color would be recommended. I receive the daily posts by email subscription, so am able to pick/choose which articles are of interest, so I rarely go to the home page. I tried the home page view and it doesn’t bother me, though. And…the “switch to blog view” button is clearly visible on the home page right above the “Latest News” column. Maybe you could highlight it in blue, which some have found too glaringly annoying. ;-) I like the blue, by the way.

  34. jmjsquared

    At first glance, overall, I definitely do NOT prefer this theme/look. It does have a ‘cleaner’ impression, probably because of the greater use of the color blue which gives a cool, as opposed to warm, feel.

    — The right pane does not display properly in IE 11 (32bit) for Win7; parts of headings are cut off and there is a large gap between the right border and the end of the right panel.

    — Disqus sign-in button is missing; as is the comment “Edit” button (I think). [EDIT: Oops! Saw it after posting. Never mind. :-) ]

    — The font in the main section is one (or even two) points too large and the font in the right pane is definitely two pints too large and I would like to see headers, like “Recent Posts”, in a different (warm?) color in addition to their being ‘bold’.

    — Line-spacing is too far, as though 1-1/2 lines as opposed to single-spacing.

    — The entire line showing Moderators’ posts should be highlighted and, PLEASE, in any color other than the over-abundant blue, whose value is just too bright and sugary for me anyway. I would like the blues to be a bit more serious in tone; for example: Red: 0 ; Green: 66 ; Blue: 166.

    — I don’t see the “blog view” choice on the home page. Where on the page is it, exactly, please?

    — Change the banner ad for SharewareOnSale back to red. What’s going on here? You caught a sale on a box of all blue Crayons? ;-)

    But, Hey! What do I know? I hated the movie, “The Avengers” the first time I saw it.

    Keep up the hard work, Ashraf. We appreciate your efforts.

  35. stilofilos

    Well, sorry to disagree with the majority once more, but I definitely like it quite a lot. After taking a little time of getting used to it, i.e.
    I agree that it is a lot of info, simultaneously pulling at your eyes, but isn’t that what we are coming for ?.
    Sorry again for the abnormality, but I personally don’t need images in an overview list of articles (to say the least…). So I quickly tried a few little tricks in css, removing the images, spreading text over the whole column width, and reducing font size a bit. And that is a whole lot more quiet and relaxing. Maybe worth trying out ? Maybe just slightly reducing the size of the thumbs can already help ?
    And I definitely do like the new article pages.
    Must say : as seen on a 16:9 HD monitor without browser sidebar , no idea how it looks on other monitors or on phones (waiting to see those Linux things…).

  36. kevbo

    First impressions: I like it

    1. Nice clean look

    2. Content from homepage appears more compact, easier to see all of ‘Latest ..’ instead of having to scroll down.

    3. One huge drawback, IMO: no ‘Recent Comments’ section (unless I am missing it somewhere in the new layout.) When I open up dotTech, the first thing I do is scan the newest post headlines, and read what interests me. After that I always scan the recent comments section. Many times the only reason I read a new, or older, post is because one of my many favorite dotTechies has commented on it.

    4. Where is the Sign In button?

  37. Mags

    [@Jane Adams] [@s66] DITTO

    There is another site I often visit that has done the same thing, almost identical design with many regulars not liking it.

    Far to cluttered, reader doesn’t know where to look first. Hard to find what one is looking for. Newcomers could easily be turned off and leave.

    AND the worst is the colour of the font when one wants to type a comment! Very light grey does not work on a white background, making it difficult to view.

    Sorry Ashraf, but IMO this layout does not work.

  38. eMcE

    Yeap.. On main site. To many to small previews. Is to much at once for me too.
    And second thing. Do something with g+ posts. I see often double posts or even fourfold posts.
    Ps. Add please Disqus comments.