For a while now, we’ve been working at modernizing the code that runs our story pages. It’s an effort to pay down what is cheerfully known as “technical debt”—not so much because we’ve made shortsighted choices but because when you’ve been running an application for 20 years, code libraries and best practices are constantly changing around you, and out from under you. New devices come (and go); the browsers that render our site pages are constantly evolving. We have to work in harmony with the whole rest of the internet ecosystem.
Last month, I invited everyone to a preview with A new story page is coming to a desktop near you, and the feedback we received was very helpful.
In the fall, we released the first phase: replacing our 10-year-old mobile pages with the new, responsive pages that should render the site nicely on any device of any size or width, and be functional for any kind of inputs—mouse, keyboard, touch, voice, etc.
The old mobile site had very limited functionality, so we were able to replace it with the new pages before we could replace the fully functional desktop pages. We’ve slowly been adding those functions—the menus to edit stories, reblog them to groups, edit tags, etc.—and they’ve been quietly appearing on the mobile site. We’re done with that and we’re finally ready to release this code for all devices. This creates a big benefit for us, because changes we need to make can now be made in only one place. It’s a benefit for you because it is faster and works better on the current generation of web browsers.
So on mobile, these updates are already running for you.
On the whole, the changes for desktop are small, with the new story page looking pretty similar to the old. Here are some differences:
Instead of the left column, options for various functions around the story are now in the three-dot menu in the upper right. This is a change for us, but it matches a convention that has developed on the web and it makes these critical and yet occasionally used functions available to smaller devices—and yet out of the way.
- Tags are at the bottom instead of in the left column. There is a three-dot menu in the upper right of that section to edit tags, if you are a Trusted User with permission to do so.
- The list of groups is now below the tags at the bottom, instead of in the left column. The story’s upper right three-dot menu has an option add the story to Groups, if you are a Group member with permission to do so.
- The recommend button on the left side is eliminated and the recommend button at the bottom includes some text encouraging recommends. The buttons are more clearly labeled, because the star alone seems to have confused people as being a “favorite” function instead of a recommend.
- Comments are now using the narrower style with a line down the left, providing more width for comment text, especially when replies are nested more than one- or two-deep. This was a change that many users had requested.
- The mini profile is coming back! You can see it now by clicking on the story author, and comment authors are coming soon. Several of you asked if it could return to being a hover action: One of our developers is going to try to make that work for those of you using mice, in a way that will still work for those without.
- The dreaded small but jarring font change—made to ensure that all the text sizes are harmonious and usable at any magnification, for increased accessibility.
Again, if you’re on a mobile device (or pretending to be, using the browser’s dev tools), you have already been using this page for several months.
Here are the goals this new version meets for us:
- One codebase with all the functionality, no matter what device you bring;
- Better accessibility for people using assistive technology or techniques;
- Better performance for you (hopefully using less memory, running faster, faster to first paint)
- Easier lift to develop (or update) new features or functions
Let us know what you think. If you’re having usability issues, we want to know, and you can tell us here or at the Helpdesk. It would be helpful to tell us what browser you’re using, as well as the specific thing you’re trying to do that is giving you difficulty.
We’ve got a few more things to polish off, including some speed improvements and the return of the mini profile to comments. Your thoughtful and kind feedback will help us make this transition smoother and better. Remember: Real people work hard on this to make Daily Kos better for everyone, and they really want to get it right. Thanks!