A new look for Crosscut
by Joe Copeland
Crosscut's new carousel lets us quickly and easily show you our top features of the week. Credit: Crosscut.com
By now you’ve probably noticed a few changes to Crosscut.com's design. This updated look and its new features are designed to make it easier for readers to find more of Crosscut’s best stories from throughout the week; to get a quicker overview of our news, analysis and commentary; and to present Crosscut’s articles clearly and with more visual punch. See below for more on the specifics of our website changes.
But that’s not all. The changes that you see on the website are actually just a small part of what we’ve been working on over the past few months. Thanks to the help and generosity of our partners and collaborators, Crosscut has also just launched a new content management system (the behind-the-scenes software coding that our editors use to publish articles).
This new system, named Armstrong, was developed by The Texas Tribune and the Bay Citizen – two of the country’s leading non-profit online news publications – and made possible by a large grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Armstrong is an open-source platform, which means that not only can Crosscut customize it to fit our needs, but that we’ll be able to take advantage of any added capabilities or innovations developed by others.
We got incredible help from a locally based company that did the customizing for us. Thanks to Alex Tokar, Tom Gruner, and Joe Murano at Bit Bamboo, a web development company using Django to, as they put it, solve intriguing problems for interesting people.
If all goes well, the transition to this new system should be invisible to you. To us though, it will mean that we are able to publish more multimedia articles and stay on the cutting edge of developments in web journalism technology.
We hope you like the changes we’ve made, but as with the introduction of any new web system, you may notice a few hiccups in the first few days of using the new system.
As you look around and spot parts that throw you, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s an address we check throughout the day, which means we’ll be able to respond as quickly as possible to any problems that come up.
We look forward to hearing your feelings about Crosscut’s changes. And we will update you as we adjust and fine-tune the system.
The guide to Crosscut’s web changes:
- The carousel. The carousel (or slider) of pictures, headlines, and author bylines at the top of the page will rotate four recent stories. Clicking on a photo or headline will take you to the full story. You can let the carousel rotate among the stories at its own speed OR hover your mouse over an image to stop the carousel. You can also move quickly between stories by clicking on one of the dots just under the carousel on the lower right side.
- Top Stories. We will also feature three articles a day in our “Top stories” section, just below the carousel, which we’ve added to help you find three more of our most important stories from the past week.
- The Clicker. Crosscut retains its constantly-changing collection of out-links to some of the most important news stories in the Northwest and beyond, but it has moved down the page a little to make room for the carousel.
- The Crosscut Blog. We’ve eliminated the “Crosscut Blog,” which usually featured shorter stories, because it had fallen into less use over the past year and we found it increasingly hard to define which stories should be blogs and which should be, well, stories. Don’t worry though – you’ll still be able to find all of your favorite blog posts from years past, which are stored on our new site as stories. Daily blog favorites like the Midday Scan and Crosscut Touts will now be posted as stories.
- Recent Stories. “Recent Stories” presents about a dozen of the most current Crosscut stories.
- Trending Stories. Our most popular stories from the last week will now be featured in the top left corner of our homepage in a section called “Trending Stories.”
- Top commented. The Crosscut stories with the most comments are now featured in the “Top Commented” section. Incidentally, the system that measures the popularity and comments on recent stories started over with the launch of the new content management system, so it will take a few days before the counts are fully up to speed.
- Comments. Speaking of comments, readers will notice some changes in the system for posting theirs on our stories. The new system allows readers to comment directly on other people’s comments. Since important points often develop into side conversations, we think readers will like being able to easily spot an ongoing discussion. It also includes a spam filter to help screen out the commercial postings that sometimes sneak into the comments. This is done through the ReCaptcha box where the user is asked to re-type two words or strings of characters and symbols.