A New Look (and More) for The Mac Observer

It always seems like a new design starts the moment the old one goes live. If that’s true, then this design has been 7 years in the making. More specifically, though, this one started in November, 2011 – still a respectable 10 months. We put out a call for – and solicited bids from – designers, and had an easy time choosing Eddie Machado of Themble

Our goal was to work with a designer much the same way a rock band might work with a record producer. In addition to helping us with the presentation, we wanted someone who could come in and tell us which of our ideas were good – and which were bad. In Eddie we found that and more. In addition to all the work done by Eddie, this project would not have gotten off the ground without the help of Adam Christianson. You know him as the host of The MacCast – and we do, too! – but he’s also been working with us steadily here at The Mac Observer for many years handling all of our backend and front-end tweaks. He’s a true rockstar, except he rarely gets to shine in the spotlight (here, anyway – on his podcast he does it all the time!). Today, Adam, you and Eddie shine here, too.

The Layout

You’re seeing it already, so the “picture’s worth 1000 words” concept applies. The general goal was to clean things up, both from a design perspective, but also from a content perspective. We wanted to make it easier for you to do what you came here to do. And depending on which page you’re on, that means something different. 

What Are You Looking For?

It drives me crazy to click a link to an article – expressing intent to read that article – only to have the first thing I see (the seemingly most important thing) be the site’s navigation that, presumably, is trying to lure me somewhere else. Frankly, that doesn’t make any sense to me, and we’re not going to do that to you any longer. Navigation is taking a HUGE back seat to content. Take a look at this page, for example. Header, site logo (with an ad next to it, yes), and then headline followed by the story. Clean, and getting you (presumably) exactly what you came to this specific page to do: read the article. Traditional navigation, of course, is way down at the bottom of the page.

But that’s not all. Astute readers perhaps have already realized that this new look and functionality for TMO is all about your intent. So what happens if you tell us that, yes, you’re on an article page but now you want to go elsewhere. Well… do that. Go up to the right and float over the “What Are You Looking For?” box. This ain’t your typical search box, kid. This is our main navigation, staying out of your way until you intend to use it. Play with it. Have fun with it. And use the comments or contact box on this article to tell us what you think.

The Spin

If this isn’t the first article you’ve read here under the new design, you may have already noticed something else: The Mac Observer Spin. Long-time readers of TMO will recognize this as something we’re bringing back. We pioneered this concept when we started the site, and now is the right time for us to bring it back, too. My cofounder, Bryan Chaffin, explains all about The Mac Observer Spin for you, so I’ll leave that to him.

A New Engine

This design isn’t just new on the front end, it’s an entirely new back-end for us, too, and that’s a large part of why this process took 10 months. We’ve been on ExpressionEngine for almost 4 years now, and we decided it was time to upgrade to the 2.x family of EE. Trick is, there’s no easy path to do that. It required a significant amount of effort under the hood, but it’s a much better platform for us — and for you. Just like when we went from our own, hand-crafted system to EE four years ago, this change to EE2 allows us to do SO much more for you going forward. Translation: the new design is a big change, but it’s only the beginning. There’s more to come.


Speaking of more to come, we have taken some efforts to clean up our mobile (specifically iPhone) offering, as well. However, it’s not everything we want. We needed to ship this thing, and the iPhone version is one place that will see a focus in the next round of revisions. Still, what you see there is definitely on the path to the way we want to present that for you, and we’re looking forward to being able to do that now that this “foundation migration” is complete.

The Forums

Expression Engine is, for better or for worse, one of the few content management systems that integrates with its own forums. That means those had to migrate simultaneously with us today, and the good news there is they, too, got a new design. The goal here, again, was to clean things up. One area where you’ll see a marked change is the actual thread view (where you see the actual posts). We’ve completely removed the sidebar for anyone who is logged in (accounts are, of course, still free to get). This means those of you that regularly visit the forums will get them full width and without sidebar-related distractions. In fact, for today, everyone gets them that way. We didn’t want to spoil the fun in case you weren’t logged in. 

I think that’s enough for today. As I said, this new foundation allows us to do even more for you, but the goal remains the same: delivering you our best content in the clearest, cleanest form possible, and getting you exactly what you intended to read. 

Enjoy, and please do let us know what you think!