The "Oops" category

Ahhh, much better!

@Lee_Ars could probably shed more light on the subject if he was inclined to do so. :blush:

Yeah, but he doesn’t have to answer to us.

Not yet, anyway… …but he’s not allowed in the scheming tent neither…

As with all things, it’s complicated.

But yeah, the design wasn’t ready and we’re gonna do our best with the re-launch. And by “we” i mean Aurich, Jason, and the tech team. I have essentially nothing to do with the redesign!


We’re still holding you responsible and silently judging, of course. :slight_smile:


Understood. :sunglasses:

I was so used to the old design that I was shocked by the sudden redesign. I can understand the need for change, but I almost think that the general nature of Ars readers probably dictates that changes to the site’s design be rolled out incrementally rather than all at once.


The super short answer is that with 15MM uniques per month, less than 1% use the dense “list” view, and probably about 2% use the black site view. (We don’t track it directly—best metric to measure those kinds of things is just to look at how often the black or list view stylesheets get served. 2% for black site is probably high.) There’s a solid, very very vocal, but very very small (proportionally small, though, since we’re easily talking many thousand) chunk of Ars readers who have been there for years and want to read their tech news in a no-frills list-y kind of way. Truthfully, if I didn’t work there, I’d be one of them.

The current Ars default three-column view is and has always been confusing, imo. It’s simple to understand once you figure it out—longer news reports that include original reporting or other in-depth work go on the left column, middle column is for short news briefs, right column is for the long-form feature stories—but it’s not intuitive and aside from the launch post back in 2012, I don’t think it’s ever really explained anywhere. It’s chronological, but you gotta look in more than one place if you’re trying to read everything—scan one column, then scan another. Most of the old-timers just log in and switch to chronological list view, probably. I don’t anymore, but I’m often elbows-deep in the daily news flow and I know what goes where because I’m helping put it there.

We also had a pretty substantial set of hardware failures in our colo starting on Monday. It was kind of an Apollo 13-style “how could this many things explode” set of failures in both the shared SAN array backing our frontend servers and also in some of the RAID arrays on our utilities boxes (including test and build servers). We’re starting to think, based on how many things broke, that the redesign launch last thursday actually was impacted by the disks exhibiting pre-failure behavior—you know how a failing hard drive will sometimes sort of shit itself without throwing any SMART errors? It seems pretty likely that the redesign launch stressed the hardware enough to shake a few bad disks into starting to die. That in turn impacted a lot of things—we were having substantial issues with the cache layer, site features that were supposed to be working were breaking, and the front end virtual machines were acting totally weird. The plan to nail problems as they reared their heads didn’t work because we were having so many simultaneous front- and back-end problems. That’s a big reason why everything flopped so hard, performance wise, for 48-ish hours until we rolled back (and even after that things were broken.


The re-redesign when it launches (4 weeks, maybe? there’s no hard number right now) is probably going to be similar to the redesign, but we’re trying to take a lot of the feedback into account and hit a lot of different goals. I don’t think a fully responsive design is going to happen at launch—there are too many unknowns with ad requirements at this point to say we can do it. Our ad sales guys might sell a huge campaign for huge money that requires…I dunno, just making this up, maybe it requires a 600px wide ad to be displayed at some point on the page, but there’s no 600px width setting and the ad gets displayed at narrower than that on some devices. I don’t know, maybe that’s not the main issue or maybe I’m describing it incorrectly, but as with so many other things (like HTTPS), the necessity to serve ads and serve them correctly and well drives portions of the design conversation.

The good news here is that the design team is going to do everything they can to produce something that doesn’t enrage the old-timers (I almost said “makes the old-timers happy,” but come on—as a reader since 1998, I am one of those ars old timers, and I know we’re crotchety and angry) and also brings a more current look. And the subscription program is going to be overhauled as well—I know that’s been teased for years, but it’s next up for the team after the redesign is re-launched. That’ll be the thing for folks who want to pay for no ads, and the thinking is that we’ll probably have an optional super info-dense front page mode as part of that, possibly with the option to not even have images. But that’s not final and don’t hold me to it.

I guess the final takeaway here is that even though they’re a small group—Aurich got burned for using the term “rounding error,” even though it’s completely accurate—our hypervocal long-term core of readers is bigger than most sites’ total traffic, and they stick around because they care. Any redesign needs to…well, it doesn’t need to make them happy, because in aggregate that’s impossible. But any redesign needs to at least make them interested enough to stick around for a few more years.


Thanks for the in-depth info.

I have some low-end web design work I should probably be working on. Always interesting to hear what others are dealing with.

Another thanks for the in-depth info. Ars is usually my go-to site for tech news, especially when I consider the loyal readership and the general great quality of their comments on articles and in the forum.

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Not sure whether I’m detecting a hint of sarcasm with [quote=“Road_Rash, post:88, topic:1079”]
general great quality of their comments

or whether you’ve been deliberately avoiding all the stories I read through simply so I can enjoy the shitstorm brewing in the comments. …and occasionally joining in… …and once starting… You didn’t read this last bit, @Lee_Ars :wink:

No sarcasm intended. I’ve been exposed to Xbox Live commentary in my life as well. There’s a major difference in quality right there between the two populations even with the crossover potential between them.

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Oh I see what you mean. Yes, comparing even the stupidest of hissy fits on Ars to the most coherent and calm forum posts on, say, Steam, is like comparing the queen’s personal toilet to the open cess pit at the local truck stop…

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Until the Tumblr crowd shows up in either place.

There is no more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the galaxy as wherever they set their safe place.