I should first explain the radio silence of the last couple of weeks. We'd wanted to respond to feedback not with promises of future improvements but with actual fixes. So that's what I'm doing now—but I regret any impression that we weren't listening. Without more verbiage, the main changes you wanted . . .
The most important remedy is the introduction of an internal scrollbar to move up and down the headline index on the right. We had mistakenly thought mouse scrolling (via scrollwheels or trackpads) and keyboard shortcuts were enough for story navigation—an overly optimistic expectation to say the least. News web sites may indeed become more application-like and readers may grow accustomed to swiping instead of scrolling. But they're not there yet, as the extensive criticism of the sidebar made clear.
We got ahead of ourselves—and now we're rowing back.
You'll see that the headline index on the right now has an internal scrollbar—much like that you might find on Twitter or Facebook. You can pull the bar up and down—or use the arrows. The reverse chronological headlines also scroll infinitely. That means that when you get to the bottom of the headlines, more will appear automatically. You can keep going as far back as you want. If you click on a headline, the story will open up on the left but you will not lose your place in the flow.
What if you want to see the stories that are popping? You can see the most popular headlines by clicking the flame icon at the top of the headline index. But a lot of people liked to scan back through earlier headlines to see which stories were generating discussion or traffic. So we've marked popular stories—those with more than 10,000 views or 100 comments—as we did on the old site.
For devotees of the traditional blog view, we preserved a version of the site in which the story excerpts (not just the headline index) are arranged in reverse chronological order much as in the past. But it wasn't obvious how to set that option. So you'll see a button at the top of the page which allows a reader to switch back and forth. And—in case you miss that—there's also a note which appears at the top of the headline index. We'll be making further improvements to the blog view and will continue to support it as long as it has significant readership.
Yes, we thought that commenters could do for a few weeks without the fancier functionality such as reply notifications. We had a rollout deadline to meet. And we were working on an even snazzier solution, a message inbox that would not only show replies but also give commenters the ability to continue the discussion on the page rather than clicking over to each thread.
Anyway, that wasn't ready. So we should have at the very least restored the basic reply notifications. I hadn't realized the extent to which the most avid commenters relied on that feature. It's back. If you're logged in you'll see the notifications in a pop-up in the top right of the page when you log in.
We are also planning to allow a reader again to "heart" another commenter—and to see that person's best contributions so that they can track discussions across many posts and forums.
So where does that leave us? Some people say we should be flattered that readers have such an intense relationship with the sites. That people typically hate even small design changes; and this was a big one. That an overhaul is always painful—and particularly so on the web, where critics are amplified by the medium itself. The logic—that we need to showcase our strongest stories and visuals, not merely our most recent—remains.
But the transition was definitely more bruising for readers and our own staff than it needed to be. When the redesign first launched, a lot of features simply did not work—which is no way to introduce readers to something new.
We've made more than a hundred bug fixes and user interface changes and continue to work through the list. So, more later. Please do continue to send your feedback and suggestions through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But in the meantime, do check out the infinite scroll of headlines and other improvements to the user interface. And then, after that, we hope you notice the user interface less—because you probably came here not for a discussion on web design but for the stories. And that's what we're here to deliver, splashier than ever.