Look, It’s A New Look

We’ve rolled out the redesign sitewide now, as you can probably see. I’m sure there will be some tweaking necessary and a few unforeseen problems crop up (they always do). I’d like to thank Godfrey Temple for doing the design for us. I love the new logo. There are more changes on the way, including an ad-free option and an Amazon store. In the meantime, we’ve also added Paypal donation buttons to the bottom of the sidebar if you’re feeling generous enough to pay a bit for the content you already get free.

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  • Nice look in general. All the links in the “FTB Recent” pane appear to be borked, tho. The “FTB Active” ones are fine, but the “FTB Recent” stuff all looks like, e.g., http://2.13675/ (for the link to this post).

  • morsgotha

    Very nice, although I miss the previous post/next post links that were at the bottom of your posts, made it much easier to browse through your blog. Any chance they can make a return?

  • Hmm, the page fits my tablet screen when I visit this blog, but over at PZ’s place the page is too wide, all of the blog and comment links on right hand side are partially cut off and I can scroll left and right not just up and down the page.

  • Stella

    I have to enlarge the text in Firefox in order to read at all. The site is now unreadable for me. It’s almost impossible to track across a line of text in the comments. The links don’t fit on the page; stuff overlaps; the banners are way out of proportion.

    FTB gives plenty of lip service to disability issues but once again cannot be bothered to take any action to make your own site accessible.


  • Yeah, the recent comments need to be fixed. Should be done tomorrow.

    There are previous and next post links, but they’re at the top just under the ad and too small. I’ll have that fixed.

  • Stella — what operating system are you using? I just looked in Firefox on Windows 7 and it was fine. Sometimes things have to be tweaked to work with different browsers in different operating systems.

    We’ve had the site evaluated for disability access by an expert and got a very good grade, but that was with the old design. We’ll have that done again and make the necessary changes with the new one. It takes some time to work out the bugs on these things.

  • Draken

    The default posting font is fine here in Linux with Opera and Firefox and Macos with Firefox. But the comments have a smaller font- that makes no sense.

  • Draken

    Oh and, I can finally see what timezone you’re in, hurray! And good very early morning.

  • Draken

    …but there seems to be no date on the OP.

  • morsgotha

    Ahh, I see the previous/next links now. thanks Ed.

  • Ed, to be clear, the link error I’m seeing is in the Recent Posts section, not the Recent Comments section, and it’s only the one for FTB as a whole, not the one for specific blogs.

  • left0ver1under

    The new logo is a definite improvement, but the new site design a step backward. All-centred is to formatting what Comic Sans is to fonts.

    What would I have changed? Instead of two headlines and some text under each banner, have three headlines and no text. Add a small open/close javascript to let people see text if they’re curious, or perhaps a rollover-mouse script so the text is visible without clicking.

    Regarding Stella’s dismay and Brayton’s answer, if a website is compliant with the W3’s HTML standards, then any browser that is also standards compliant will display the page the same way. Browser-specific websites are user friendly only to those with that browser, they’re unfriendly to everyone else.

    “Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network. “

    – Tim Berners-Lee, July 1996

  • stubby

    I like the new look. Much better than the dumpster fire at youtube.

  • I like it, no problems here so far (Mac OS 10.8, Safari)

  • Ysidro

    The centering on the front page is horrible. It’s very difficult to read.

  • Christoph Burschka

    Very sleek and shiny! I like it.

    However, I second Ysidro: The center-aligned titles and blurbs on the frontpage are awful to read. Left-aligned (or possibly justified) was way better.

  • Stella

    Mac OS 10.6. Firefox 17.0.1. 3x system magnification. 5 to 8 levels of browser magnification.

    You are using a sans serif font in the comments. Sans serif fonts present tracking difficulties for people with some vision impairments and some people who have dyslexia. I cannot track across a line or track to the following line in the comments. I can read the comments for about three minutes before it feels like someone has shoved rusty steel wool into my eyes.

    I do everything I can on my own to make it possible for me to read this site. I have worked with a lot of variables, and I am continuing to tweak everything I can. It looks to me that readability was not high on your list for the site.

    What will it mean to have the site checked for disability access? I’ve been told that before only to learn that it meant that the site didn’t bork the two most common Windows screen readers ($900.00 ea.). That does not address readability.

    It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to read this comment..


  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Having the front page posts all centered is ugly and hard to read.

    Having text boxes outlined in pale cyan on white is making them invisible for anyone with a red/blue color vision problem. And a high proportion of your readership is male, and they are prone to that sort of thing.

  • Roy G

    In general I like the new look, but as others have said, the centred post blurbs on the front page looks awful.

    Also, for me the post text seems too big, and I find it annoying that I have to scroll to the beginning of the post to find the next/previous post links; those links should be on top AND bottom.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    @Stella – I have the opposite problem – serif fonts, to me, are all wobbly and run together. So no matter which way they set it, one of us will be unhappy.

    You can use Firefox’s preferences to force text (on all sites) to serif and set the minimum font size to whatever you want.

    Edit => Preferences => Content => click the Advanced button. Set the fonts you want for each circumstance and make sure the checkbox for allowing sites to override your preferences is not checked. Century Schoolbook is a very readable serif font, a bit better than Times Roman.

    Then click the Colors button.

    Select the color of your choice for the “Background” (I like the very pale yellow for minimizing eyestrain) and clear the checkbox “Allow pages to choose their own colors, instead of my selections above” and clear the checkbox labeled “Use system colours”.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps. And those pages with red text on black backgrounds become readible.

  • Stella

    Thank you to the others who mentioned the unreadability of the centered text on the main page. I have a longer list of problems, but first I need access.

    I designed Web sites beginning before the Web went commercial. Text was mostly what there was, and we all had 300 baud modems. Nobody used center justified text except the wackaloons.


  • Draken

    if a website is compliant with the W3′s HTML standards, then any browser that is also standards compliant will display the page the same way.

    Hahaha! If that were true, half the webdesigners would be out of a job.

  • laurentweppe

    Ooooooooh: big letters

  • Yea – centering on the front page is weird and ugly, maybe change the font to be slightly smaller cause it’s huge like an XBox.

  • Rodney Nelson

    The old system allowed Firefox’s killfile but this one doesn’t.

  • Stella

    Tsu Dho Nimh, thanks for the suggestions. I am using or have previously tried all of that at Jason’s blog when he was testing.

    Forcing a serif font moves all the right side down to the page bottom. There was something else that made me undo it, but I don’t remember what. I have an awful lot of scrolling to do because of all the magnification, and I also have physical limitations.

    It just looks to me like readability wasn’t considered important.


  • John Hinkle

    I agree with the comments about the front page.


    I’m used to links being blue, so the POST COMMENTS ARCHIVES and the FTB ACTIVE and FTB RECENT look more like column headers than links.


    Also, I think the post text and comment boxes are a little too wide; narrower – akin to a newspaper column – is easier to read.


    Please put the Preview button to the left of Submit Comment,or enlarge and colorize it. Right now it’s almost invisible.


    Other than that, I guess it’s ok. Being the middle-aged fart that I am, I’m resistant to changing websites, having gotten used to something and being set in my ways. But I can adapt. Adapt or die!

  • Forbidden Snowflake

    Another vote against centered text anywhere.

    Also, get rid of the bullet points on the main page – you have two friggin headlines with text under them, no bullets are needed. They just look bad.

    Another thing: I don’t see the FTB logo on the tabs themselves (I use Firefox 15.0.1, not something particularly exotic).

    I’m not sure I dig the font, but I better let readers with disabilities do the talking on that issue.

    The checkboxes beneath the commenting window and the “click the “preview” button” line are not aligned properly.

    It’s great that the Preview button looks different from the Submit button, but it doesn’t change the form of the cursor to a little hand, so it’s hard to tell it’s even a button.

    I’m sorry if this comes off as nitpicking and complainy, but I’m actually trying to be helpful. Congratulations on the redesign, this site can look great.

  • Looks okay to me.

    I had to laugh when I saw that “New look” header right under and ad for Prop 8 with two very nice looking men. The thing is that the “Prop 8” piece wasn’t where it would show up! {;>)

  • John Hinkle

    I do like the format of the blockquotes. (Figured I should say something positive).

    This is a blockquote test.

    This one is nested.

    And one more to be annoying.

    Hmm, maybe indent the nested blockquotes a little more? Also, it would be nice if the Preview’ed comment had the same background color as the final.

  • Stella

    There’s a Preview button?


  • dgrasett

    centering is really bad idea – it affects readability.

    please, go left , young man, go left.

    also, ragged right margin, please. or the word spacing goes all haywire.

  • Yep, it’s a new web design, and everyone has an opinion.

  • Stella

    Jasper, I beg your pardon, but dismissing legitimate access needs as ”opinion” is ignorant and rude. I am being excluded. That is not an opinion.


  • Have all the sites gone to truncated RSS feeds? I noticed it on this post and one at En Tequila Es Verdad. Since my reader is the only way I can read FTB most of the day, that’s a major inconvenience–and it’s going to mean that I miss out on a lot of the site. I could see if it were an ad thing, but ads always appear in the posts on my reader. Is full RSS feeding a feature that will come with the subscription fee?

  • divalent

    I liked the “previous post / next post” links at the bottom of the current post, as opposed to now being at the top. Usually you use them once you read the current post, and so they were right there when you finished. If I have to scroll up to find them, it far less convienent.

  • Christoph Burschka

    Nobody used center justified text except the wackaloons.

    This just made me remember the layout of timecube.com. 😛

    Anyway, anyone with some userstyles-compatible addon in their browser of choice can install this trivial patch to see the front page in all its left-aligned beauty.

  • The mobile version of the site looks good except that it cuts off the “You must be logged in to comment” link at the bottom.

    I’ll second Tom in saying that I hope the truncated RSS feeds isn’t a permanent thing. I understand that it will drive hits to the site but it’s really inconvenient.

  • Didaktylos

    Regarding previous/next post link: in my opinion every blog on the net should have them in THREE places as standard: above the main post (so you can skip the whole topic), between the main post and the comments (so you can skip the comments) and below the comments.

  • didgen

    I’m having trouble getting to older posts, maybe it’s just a kindle issue? I would check on the Pc but that would mean getting out of bed, and it’s cold out there!

  • Michael Heath

    I miss the time stamps for each individual blog post.

  • freethinkercro

    A couple of problems I have:

    1. The “older posts” link at the bottom of the page links to “http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/dispatches/page/2/” which gives a 404 error. The actual link should be “http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/page/2/”.

    2. The top banner obscures some of the links when I tried to register. I eventually worked through it. I am using a Chrome browser.

  • docsarvis

    I like the overall design, but get rid of the bullets for the blog entry titles. Bullets work with left justified text, but not with center justification. I’d vote for left justification and keep the bullets. The new logo looks very good, but the old Free Thought Blogs title bar now looks dated. That needs a redesign to better match the updated logo.

    The design renders well in Safari 6.0.2 and OS 10.8.2, and on my iPad 2 running iOS 6.

  • jaxkayaker

    I second Didaktylos and Michael Heath.

    Stella, do you think you could make your concerns known without whinging that FTB doesn’t care about readability & accessibility? It’s a new design, it will take time to work out the kinks. If they never fix the problem, then you might have a leg to stand on. Oops, was that ableist?

  • Stella

    And it’s arrogant to think I’m focusing on that. I happen to think that’s legitimate. I’m talking about the typical hailstorm of “professionals” nitpicking the redesign of websites.

  • tfkreference

    Please make fixing the next/previous links a top priority. Thanks for moving them back to the top, where they were on sb.

    Is the main column wider? The text displays smaller on my iPhone now (zoomed to column width). My 50-year old eyes could read it easily yesterday, and now it’s barely readable without my glasses, and turning to portrait does not change the size.

    Thanks for asking for comments!

  • Alverant

    I’d like to switch FTB Recent be selected by default instead of FTB Active.

  • left0ver1under

    Another problem with the redesign is the display of links in the preview. Maybe links look normal after posting, but FtB still doesn’t allow editing of one’s posts if there is a problem.

    To Stella (#34), I empathize. Here’s a site that might be of interest to you.


    divalent (#36)

    I liked the “previous post / next post” links at the bottom of the current post, as opposed to now being at the top. Usually you use them once you read the current post, and so they were right there when you finished. If I have to scroll up to find them, it far less convienent.

    That is only a “problem” if one only reads the blog post and never the comments.

    The links were between, forcing people to search for them rather than being in an obvious place.

    Hit “Home” on your the keyboard and the links will be visible.

  • dingojack

    Firstly what’s that lurking behind the Dispatches banner? Should it be visible, if not, it sure is.

    Secondly, what’s with the line cutting the FTB tab on the left in two?

    Thirdly, yes I’m going blind – but I didn’t order the large print edition.

    Fourthly, colour scheme is not very inviting (to put it as charitably as I can).

    Fifthly, dump the cutesy calendar tab thingies on the leaders. Whats wrong with ’21 Dec 2012. 12:34′ or some other readable text, as opposed to grey on grey tablets.

    My verdict (for what it’s worth). Revert and try again.


  • Geez, I may have to REALLY like this design. I made a comment, walked my roommate, fed him, made sure he wuz in the comfy chair, took my meds, went to breakfast, came home, found the dog out of his comfy chair and texting some doggyporn website AND when I started typing this comment I didn’t have to re-log in. That’s a fucking “win” in my book. I hope it holds.

  • tfkreference

    I found the Switch to mobile link at the very bottom. However, the mobile format doesn’t display blockquotes, Ed, so I will be reading your cogent prose and suddenly it turns wacky and I realize that you’re quoting some wingnut (which is why I use the desktop view). Can the designers build a better mobile template than the default WordPress?

  • billseymour

    I see the date in the square box at the upper left of each post on some FTB blogs but not on others. I assume that that’s something that individual bloggers can choose to include or not.

    I’d like to suggest that all bloggers include the date. Maybe I’m lazy, but I’d rather not have to read a chunk of a post to determine whether I read it yesterday.

  • You broke the RSS feed.

    Now it gives only 2 or 3 lines. That’s too little to tell whether I want to read the full message. So, in most cases, that means that I won’t be reading it.

    Can you either give us back the full message in RSS, or make your first sentence so descriptive that I can tell whether I want to read it.

  • weaver

    I would suggest setting the preference to “FTB Recent” rather than the current setting of “FTB Active” – most aren’t interested in the posts with the most comments, I think, but rather in the entirety of the posted material on FTB.

    As it is, I think that the top of the list will pretty much always be one of PZ’s zombie threads.

  • tfkreference

    Please make the next/previous links bigger soon! I just hit the Liberty University ad instead of the link!

  • dingojack

    For those that are interested this is kind of how the approx 1.5% of males and 0.5% of females who are R/G Colourblind would see the front page.


  • Thanks for all the comments folks. And please don’t apologize for the nitpicking, this is what I expected and wanted. Of course, some things are just a matter of preference where you can’t please everyone, but others are important and will be addressed. The centered text on the front page definitely has to go. The previous/next post links have to be larger, more clear (probably blue rather than gray) and at both the top and bottom of each post. The “older posts” 404 error has to be fixed. The date and time has to be on each post (the date is there in the dark gray box, but not the time). And the mobile site needs some work too (I never look at the mobile site, so I rarely give it any thought).

    Most importantly, Stella’s concerns about accessibility need to be, and will be, addressed. I don’t know the difference between a serif font and a sans serif font (I never knew there was a difference or that people even paid attention to fonts unless they look really ugly). I assure you, this isn’t a lack of caring. We’ll get these things taken care of. It’s not like I have a team of experts doing this, I have one part-time site tech and it’s going to take some time to iron out the bugs.

    Oh, and no, the truncated feeds are not a feature. I clicked on that to see what it would do, since I didn’t have that option on the old design. I just changed it back to the full post.

  • Neil —

    You mean you don’t find every single word I write worth reading? I’m appalled! Seriously, the RSS feed thing is already fixed. That wasn’t a design issue, it was me going “hey, I wonder what this button does?” Famous last words of people who died in a horrible explosion.

  • dingojack

    Ed — and there’s the link* issue in ppreview – it’s ok in the final post but it appears larger and inbetween the lines left jstified in the preview.



    * as in <a href=” “> text ‘<a>

  • Trebuchet

    I think I liked the old look better but that’s just me. I’ll get used to it.

    I am, however, sorry to see that you haven’t gotten rid of the ultra-annoying “Paul Pimsleur” floating pop-up ads that cover the right third of the screen (on my computer) or pretty much all of it on my phone. Why anyone thinks that’s a good way to advertise is completely beyond me.

  • dingojack

    Oops – I meant ‘preview’ not ‘post’.

    Sorry about that


  • Thanks for fixing RSS.

    I do often open your posts in a browser. But it is good to have a better guide on what the post is about.

  • Trebuchet

    I see PZ is using a serif font. I like that better.

    Also, there’s no way to log in until you actually get to the comment box on a thread. What’s wrong with having a login box at the top of the main FTB screen and each main blog screen. (Not a new issue, but since we’re working on things…)

  • We’re going to be putting a login at the very top of the screen, next to the social media chiclets. That’s on the list of things to do.

  • TCC

    Why isn’t the blog banner linked to the specific blog’s homepage? I use that pretty frequently and was dismayed to see that I can’t click on the banner to get back to the main page.

  • TCC

    Actually, it looks like the link issue is only with the main page template; the post template is just fine.

  • movablebooklady

    I saw Chris Clark’s post on the design and posted there first, but I’ll repeat myself.

    I agree with many of your posters here that centering is for headlines, not for text, so the post lead-ins should be flush left (and maybe flush right in the righthand column). I also noted that the posts are not even centered under the banners properly (on Home page). Delete the bullet for each post.

    Serif fonts are used for text for very good reasons (ask us typesetters). Baskerville would be an elegant choice. You could use a sans-serif but you’d have to make the leading bigger to aid legibility, thereby taking up more space. Using a sans-serif for post titles would be fine (but, please please, not Helvetica).

    Optimal line length for reading is four inches, so you’re half again as wide. With such a wide line, you should have a slightly bigger font size.

    Overall, the design is more “modern,” not to say “industrial,” and there’s more nitpicking that could be done, but I don’t mind it too much.

  • What the heck is the difference between serif and sans serif? I never knew people paid so much attention to this stuff. Unless it’s some weird looking thing, I don’t even notice fonts.

  • ShowMetheData

    I navigate Dispatches by the Next and Preious post-tags

    Make them bigger – they are tiny, tiny, tiny

  • morsgotha

    Sans serif, serif, whatever. Hell I dont even mind Comic Sans. Just dont please dont *EVER* use Time New Roman. Times New Roman is evil.

  • It usually takes me a while to adjust when a site does a complete overhaul like this, but I think I can get used to this quickly. My only complaint is aesthetic, not functional– the individual blog’s banner is often the only real color on the page, and it’s what distinguishes it visually from the other blogs (and a lot of work has gone into making those banners!). So it should be big, not look like just another ad.

    Oh, and the people saying that the Preview button doesn’t look like a button are right. It’s not that hard to figure out, but it could be more obvious.

  • chezjake

    Having read all through the comments, I won’t mention items that Ed has already said would be fixed.

    I have a much harder time reading a sans-serif font than a serif one, so I’m likely to skip over longer posts to avoid eye strain. Sans-serif fonts also seem to make longer paragraphs more difficult to track/read.

    I like the larger font for main posts, but why is the font smaller for comments and even smaller for text entry in the reply box?

  • chezjake

    Ed, for the difference between serif and sans-serif fonts, see


    That article also includes this quote: “Serifed fonts are the overwhelmingly popular typeface choice for lengthy text printed in books, newspapers and magazines.”

  • mobius

    Just a minor nitpick…

    The new layout has the links to the previous and next posts at the top of the article. In cases with a long post, that means having to scroll back to the top to click on the link. Not a killer by any means, but I found it (slightly) annoying. It just seems more natural to have those links at the bottom of the post, where they are immediately available once you have finished reading it.

    Now to get off my (very tiny) soapbox…and go read about cliches.

    Oh…scanned back through your posts and see this has already been noted. Oh well, I’ll still put in my two cents worth (ouch…another cliche!) Yes, I think a line at the top and another at the bottom is a good idea.

  • Chelydra

    Serifs are the little flourishes at the ends of letter strokes, so a sans serif font lacks them. Personally I never notice them, though I’m sure there’s a lot of personal preference (if pressed, I’d probably say I like sans serif). I’m not really sure what Stella is on about – if you google serifs and dyslexia, most seem to claim exactly the opposite of what she’s saying, so her opinion does not seem to be some sort of disability standard. Indeed, it’s pretty clear just from comments here that some people have trouble reading them either way, so I think you should go with whatever you want and let individuals use their own browsers to force it to their preference if they like.

    I personally dislike the little month/date graphic at the head of each post, especially since they seem to be easy to break. Yours could use the text being shifted down slightly in each square to keep the month from blurring into the lighter edge, and PZ’s have gone completely wonky.

    The comment preview button doesn’t seem to be working.

  • Pieter B, FCD

    I’m both a fan of serif fonts and horrible puns, so I simply have to link to this image.

    For web page display, I’m very fond of Georgia, and I dislike Times New Roman, though not as much as morsgotha does. And OMFG does the Preview button ever need fixin’. And the link display.

  • Nibi

    I like the change overall, with a couple of the same nits mentioned by others:

    1) Blog post and comment text have a different font size.

    2) I miss the timestamps for the blog entries.

    On the plus side, there is a Donate feature so us Adblock scofflaws can come clean 🙂

  • Pieter B, FCD

    What I don’t like is that even at the maximum width of 1280 pixels on my laptop and using full-screen view (which I detest), the page still displays wider than my screen. Mac OS 10.7.5, Firefox 17.0.1. I don’t have the problem in Safari, but in Safari I can’t get the damned Pimsleur popup to go away.

  • Chelydra

    I like the fact that the post/comment column is broader. You can read more without having to scroll, and after all, the text is the main point of the page, so why shouldn’t it use more of it?

    Although unrelated to the new look, since it’s been brought up I’ll second that the scrolling ad needs to go. Quickly and painfully.

  • Pieter B, FCD

    I withdraw the comment about the width. I apparently viewing the page in a magnified tab.

  • left0ver1under

    morsgotha (#70) – Okay, then, how about Courier fonts?

    I like the clarity of monospace fonts. It makes line breaks easier to place. And for those with visual difficulties, Courier fonts are easy to see, the edges and shape more defined.

    Here’s another thought on site redesign: choice. Let people continue to use the old format. New does not necessarily mean better.

    Consider, for example, Weather Underground. The old design was kept and those who prefer it can still use it. People are not forced to use the mac/facebook/google “all grey” design prevalent on so many products and sites.



  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Here are the things that bug me about the new design:

    1) The default font on the front page is too big (I’m using Chrome, at 100% zoom). There’s much less content per screen, which means that much more scrolling is needed to see what’s there. Not even the top two blogs fit completely on the screen.

    2) When you click the “Read the rest” button, the resulting content is positioned so that the top line is completely obscured by the little black bar that WordPress puts at the top of the window when you’re logged in. You have to scroll up in order to see the whole thing. This never used to happen.

  • Ed wrote…

    The previous/next post links have to be larger, more clear (probably blue rather than gray) and at both the top and bottom of each post.

    Thank you. That was my biggest complaint, especially when getting to the end of longer posts.

    I don’t like the new look, but I can live with it as long as going through the site isn’t made more of a pain in the ass.

  • everett

    My god, it’s ugly.

    I’ve been reading your blog for years, and this just might drive me away. That’s the thing, a blog’s template is a major part of its identity, and blogs change it at their peril. I’m not sure I can wrap my head around the new format. What was everybody thinking? If there’s nothing wrong, then don’t change it!

    The gray is hideous, and the font is even hard for me to read. The old design was the very idea of what a blog should be. And it’s HARD to read the new font, and it’s hard to follow, and hard to keep on eyes on it. It also hurts my eyes.

    I’d like to second (heavily) left0ver1under’s idea of offering a choice. That’s just about the only thing that would keep me here. And my vision is starting to get messed up just making this post.

    What’s a RSS feed, and does it let you skip the new format and font? Because if not, I might just be leaving for good.

    Show of hands, who actually thinks the new design is an improvement?

  • xnybre

    I just registered, and the banner blocked most of the relevant text.

    Also, have you considered enabling IPv6? It looks like you’re using CloudFlare, who seem to support IPv6. At this point, everyone should enable IPv6, as IPv4 reserves are running low, and many places will soon have no more IPv4 addresses to give out.

  • Stella

    Ed, if you do not know the difference between serif and sans-serif fonts, please consider that you know very little, if anything about readability on computer screens. A knowledgeable professional could help.

    I am doing everything I can on my end. I will continue to do so. I need better input to work with.


  • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

    ….why have all the banners ceased to be links that can be used to refresh the main page?

  • caseloweraz

    Overall, I like the new look, and I trust the things that annoy readers (like the position of the “previous/next” links) will be fixed in due time.

    A couple of nitpicks:

    Whoever designed that gray bar that runs across the page under the FTB tab must have been a fan of Maurits Escher. Not a complaint, just an observation.

    I would put a thin white line centered above the midline of the vertical bar of the “T” to separate the other letters “F” and “B” in the logo.

  • suttkus

    Without having read the 87 previous posts, here are my comments, which are thus guaranteed to be redundant, but perhaps your taking statistical data. : – )

    There’s an asterisk after “message” above this box as I type. I can’t see any reason for it. Unless someone is just a big fan of asterisks. They are neat, I can’t deny it.

    I don’t like that the previous/next article links are tiny and at the top of the article. I’m not at the top of the article when I decide to read the next one, I’m at the bottom! Now I have to scroll back up and hit the tiny text that’s right next to the obnoxious ad. Is this a trick to get me to click on your ads more? It will probably work!

    I find the red in the FTB logo, against the greys of the page, garish and unpleasant.

    “By Ed Brayton” is too tiny. I know you’re humble and all, but make it bigger. This will be especially important on shared blogs.

    Having the banner in greyscale fails to have it stand out from the main page. Give it some color to punch it up a little. Also, it makes the guy in the hood look like some angel of death come to deliver our punishment to us.

    The check boxes below “submit comment” aren’t lined up. Please fix this. It’s the sort of thing that will drive me absolutely batty.

    Overall, I’d say it’s looking good.

  • Nibi




    Okay, another problem appears to be that [i]Preview[/i] does not accurately show the formatting of the comment. In particular, I have an additional line break after each ‘Test’ above which doesn’t show up in the [i]Preview[/i] but I believe will be formatted correctly when I submit the comment.

  • Nibi

    And, indeed, the line breaks did show up properly in the submitted comment. Also,

    [i]Preview[/i] –> Preview

    (formatting error on my part)

  • I hate the new logo. Lose the tampon, please!

  • magistramarla

    For some reason, reading the comments on that blue background gives me a headache.

    I was reading Pharyngula this morning and had to stop to sleep off a headache.

    I didn’t realize that there was a connection until I read these comments, and now the headache is back.

    This is going to make it very difficult for me to read my favorite blogs.

  • Stella wrote:

    Ed, if you do not know the difference between serif and sans-serif fonts, please consider that you know very little, if anything about readability on computer screens. A knowledgeable professional could help.

    I thought I’d already said as much. No, I don’t know a damn thing about readability on computer screens. I also don’t know a damn thing about web design. That’s why I have a site tech to do this stuff. And it’s why we got an accessibility audit on the old design. We’ll be getting another one on the new design in a few days as well and we’ll make whatever changes are recommended. I’ve also instructed my tech to pay particular attention to your comments here and we’ll address them as soon as we get the more serious functionality problems fixed.

  • While I appreciate the suggestions, saying things like “lose the logo” is a waste of time. That logo was designed specifically for us and chosen months ago. It isn’t going to change now. You’re just gonna have to get used to that and the color scheme. Those things just aren’t going to change at this point.

  • se habla espol

    Using Firefox 17.0.1 with multiple addons, on Linux.

    The damage done by these “improvements” hasn’t been fatal, in my view. Unpleasant, unhelpful, but not fatal. Of course, I’m a regular reader (‘though I’m usually too late to comment), so I’m already interested in these FTBlogs. Whether Occasional Joe, coming here for the first time, will be interested in futzing around to make the stuff readable — well, that’s another question. Whenever I’m in that position, I either say “never mind” or do something easy to try to fix the site’s issues on my screen before I say “never mind”.

    I’ve started learning my way around FTB, again. All the blogs that were here yesterday seem to still be here, but my navigation habits no longer work. The FTB RECENT list is hidden behind the less-useful FTB ACTIVE stuff, so I’ll have to remember to check the labels … it’s a pain that the selection reverts to FTB ACTIVE every chance it gets.

    The NoSquint addon for Firefox allows me to see the sidebar, while magnifying the text into readability. It also magnifies the text in the various headings (e. g., FTB RECENT) so they don’t fit the allocated space. Likewise the Facebork and RSS links on the top line overlap: I don’t have use for either of those, so it’s not a loss. Using the Firefox zoom enlarges the sidebar off the screen – other browsers are likely to behave similarly, and NoSquint isn’t all that well known.

    The comment textarea font size is so much smaller than the other stuff that readability requires a magnification that makes article and comment text a bit too large, but they are still usable. In fact, the massive enlargement needed to read the textarea renders the sans serif comment font on contrast-reducing background much less of a problem. We’ll see whether the preview looks much like the resulting comment: at PZ’s, they’re different fonts.

    I can get used to scrolling to the top to find the next-post link (here) and the previous-post link (other blogs). It’s handier to have back and forward links in all three obvious places: ‘skip this article’, ‘skip these comments’ and ‘That’s all the comments’.

    I miss the timestamp on articles, now that it has been improved out of existence. It’s not as bad as Scienceblogs’ improvement that dropped the timestamp and comment numbers from comments, too.

    The extraneous “This post has no tag” line is not an important distraction.

    The flashing of the “Link to this comment” is a distraction: the line should either be there or not, independent of the cursor location.

    It’s not at all clear what the logo is. It looks like a capital B with a bullet in the upper loop, the bullet bleeding a line down through the lower loop, and the lefthand end of the lower loop missing. Did the blood from the bullet wash the lower loop away? Maybe I’m the only one that doesn’t see a tampon in it: oh, well. I don’t see an F, either, unless I decide to look for it.

    I guess it’s OK to have the “FTB Dashboard” link, since it does nothing interesting for most of us. I’m not going to try to hack into it, anyway.

    Perhaps the asterisk just after the word “Message:” (in the comment area) could be replaced by a non-breaking space (&nbsp;) — that’s a general-purpose workaround for fields with required content. 

    It would help readability if the <p> tag did more that just <br>, so that paragraphs had a little separation. Just before this paragraph, I put a double paragraph tag — it did not produce paragraph spacing. Neither does an extraneous <p/> tag, nor a <br> tag. Then I tried a &nbsp; to give some invisible body to the spacing paragraph — I can’t seem to produce paragraph spacing with a small sample of my bag of html tricks. Maybe your web designer would like to figure out how paragraph spacing works, so he can allow it.

  • fwtbc

    Thanks for taking the accessibility concerns seriously, Ed.

    A couple of FTB blogs use nested comments. On the old theme, using a screen reader, it’d be read aloud as “fwtbc says. blah blah comment comment comment. Reply Link, ….” Now the reply link is between the date and the comment text, which is impractical as I don’t know if I want to reply at that point because I haven’t been read the comment, and then if I do want to reply, I need to navigate backwards to the reply link which becomes increasingly annoying the bigger a comment gets.

    Could this be added to the list of things to fix, please? My understanding of CSS is that you should be able to put that link inside a div, float it right and have it appear in the top right of the comment block, even after moving it to being after the comment in the raw HTML.

    Alternately, if you were to sneak into the other blogs, glance around with shifty eyes and then just switch them all to chronological comments, that’d constitute fixing it in my book. 🙂

  • se habla espol

    It would help readability if the <p> tag did more that just <br>, so that paragraphs had a little separation.

    I looked at the source for some paragraphs by me and others. It appears that some paragraphs are delimited on both ends, using <p> and </p>. These render as properly spaced paragraphs.

    My prior comment, above, separates paragraphs with the <p> markup, which is (per the definition of html) equivalent to the <p>-</p> begin-end markup. When it’s returned as a comment, my <p> markup has been corrupted to <br> markup. In preview, my <p>-</p> markup is corrupted to <br;. I wonder what will happen when it goes through full comment processing.

    This is the only site I’ve noticed with this particular markup corruption.

    For this comment, I’ve used the <p>-</p> markup, but I can’t really remember which, of the various sites on the internet, corrupt which markup which ways, so I might not remember in the future.

  • John Phillips, FCD

    Older posts link on front page returns a 404 error. Apart from that, well we won’t mention that horrendous logo :), it looks OK on my 10″ Xoom in Opera Lab 12 in full site view. Oh and as mentioned on Pharyngula, the Previous/Next links are far too small and too close to the bottom of the banner ad for ease of use on a touch screen, so for now am using adblock.

  • Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare

    I prefer the old location for the “last” and “next links. When they’re up at the top, under the ad, when I finish reading one post, I must scroll back up to the top to reach them. In terms of work flow, that’s annoying.

  • slc1

    Apparently, the new incarnation of FTB doesn’t accept links in comments.

  • dingojack

    sLC – No it can be done, although in preview the link appears in a wonky form.

    Does this work (I haven’t tried it before)? How about this?


  • slc1

    Re Dingojack @ #102

    When I provided a link to an on-line newspaper article in a comment on on another thread, the comment never showed up. I’ll try it on the next comment.

  • dingojack

    SLC – I not doubting you, I’m just pointing out that maybe it’s just ‘teething troubles’.

    🙂 Dingo

  • slc1

    Re Dingojack @ #104

    I have tried several things, none of which worked. Why don’t you explain exactly how you did it (it appears that some type of code is required to link a comment to another comment.

  • dingojack

    SLC –

    a) Right click on the link “link to this comment”:; copy this shortcut

    b) then use the normal <a href=”[paste link here]”>[text here]</a>

    It’s cumbersome, but it seems to work. Hopefully simply clicking the link will make it less so.


  • slc1


  • slc1

    Re Dingojack @ #106

    I finally got something to work by preventing the conversion of text to a hot link by wordpress. See #107

  • becca

    After giving it a couple of days, I’ve decided I hate the new look. It’s cold and industrial-looking; all it needs are rivets along the sides to complete the look.

    The same styles in earth tones would be warmer, more welcoming, I think.

    I’ll probably spend a lot less time here – I just don’t care for the aesthetic.

  • Michael Heath

    I’m glad to see the comment posts identifying the commenter is not followed by the word, “says”, anymore. This is one reason of a handful on why I write, “John Doe writes” when I quote something somebody previously wrote, not said.

  • =8)-DX

    Dunno if this will be noted, but I have a huge problem with the missing prev. post / last post links.. That was my main way of browsing throught recent entries and now its gone X(.

    Otherwise the header looks ugly, but the actual blog text and comments seem much better.

  • Michael Heath


    That feature abides. Above the blog post title you’ll see the previous blog post title in the upper left, right above the date stamp, and the next (newer) blog post title in the upper-right corner, if a newer blog post exists.

    I’d swap the position based on the nature of how browsers open new tabs, i.e.. When a browser opens a new tab it places the newest blog post to the left of the previous one. So to go a newer blog post title you’ve already opened, you’ll intuitively want to click on the blog post title in the upper-left and to an older one, you’ll want to click (or Command/Control-click) on the upper-right corner blog post title.

  • Honestly, the top of that supposed T is the exact dimension and shape of a tampon. And it’s red, too. Did you not run this design by any women? Perhaps a different colour might help, but it is truly horrible. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s locked in now. But ick.

  • dingojack

    Oh – now my ‘preview’ button is horizontally cut in half and ‘click the “preview” button’ is overlaying it’s lower half.

    Once I hit ‘preview’ the message dissappears (or some reason) but the button still only has it’s upper half.

    ;( Dingo

  • dingojack

    If you must have a title for your blog, hide it under your banner. Having it half poking out behind the FTB tampon tab and the crappy photocopy banner just looks unprofessional.

    (I’ve noticed this on other FTB blogs too).


  • Pieter B, FCD

    On my iPhone I can select and copy text from the OP but not from any of the comments.

    Also on the iPhone, Ed, your comments are showing up with a pink background.

    re: the logo, I like it a lot, but it doesn’t pop out as an identifier for a tab in Firefox the way the old FTB logo did. If there’s a way to punch up the contrast a bit when it does tab duty, that would be great.

    I’d prefer the Preview button on the left, but I can live with it where it is. Thanks for making it a button rather than the plain link.

    And se habla espol @96, thanks for the NoSquint heads-up. I like it a lot.

  • nathanaelnerode

    Ed — the older posts 404 error is still happening. This is a very serious error, for fairly obvious reasons.

  • nathanaelnerode

    Actually, it’s worth pointing out that the older posts 404 error is really unforgivable in a production site. Your site tech is not competent, because this should have been caught instantly in alpha testing. Hire someone else.

  • dingojack

    BTW the preview button problem is fixed (for me anyway) now.




    Title is still showing. Embedded links still preview in wonky vision.

  • Michael Heath

    In the old format, there was no space between paragraphs in published comment posts. That made for difficult reading. To create a space you could add a blockquote open and close tag. The use of that tag was invisible to readers while providing the necessary space. However in the new format, the use of blockquotes adds a left quotation mark. I’ll repeat immediately below to illustrate here.

    What’s interesting is when writing multi-paragraph comment posts and then previewing, the need to add a break still exists. There is no space between paragraphs in the Preview version of the comment post unless one uses some sort of tag like I did above with blockquotes.

    However, when the comment post is published, a break exists. I can’t see the above break in Preview, but trust it will appear in the published post given my seeing this work in other comment posts I published earlier today.

    So I request fixing Preview so the space provided by the commenter appears in the Preview just like it already does in the published comment post. That would be improvement over the old format since we’d no longer have to add tags to create paragraph breaks.

    I also don’t find the new feature, adding a left quotation to blockquoted content, helpful to readers. The indention is sufficient.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    My gripes with the new design have already been made above, but in case you are taking a poll, I’ll say them again:

    1. The centered text on the main page is incredibly hard and annoying to read.

    2. Move the “Next post” / “previous post” buttons to the bottom, so you don’t have to scroll way back up.

    Other than that, I think it’s fine.

  • baal

    The amount of white space in the comments must be trimmed. I’m spending more time scrolling than reading and the user experience is terrible. It also means that I’m more likely to not read all the comments and just flatly gave up on a few comment threads today. I’m using Firefox 17.0 and reading in a web browser on a PC.

  • Loqi

    Seconding Alverant #47. The FTB Recent section is the primary way I browse FTB (lets me keep up with all the smaller blogs without having to bookmark all of them). Since I often browse on my phone and a slow data connection, having an extra click in there is annoying.

  • Margaret

    It would help if you would make the main column of text (OP and comments) narrower. I have to magnify the page a lot to be able to read (severe eye problems), and that currently means that I have to continually scroll left and right to read each line.

  • Response to an issue on another page. I haven’t looked to see if this has been brought up here.

    1) clicking the banner no longer has any effect on the front page. I used to use this as a quick “refresh” button, but now apparently it’s been redefined as “return to the front page”, so it’s disabled if you’re already on the front page. I don’t see any reason why there was anything wrong with the old functionality, where it was an unconditional “load the front page” regardless of what page you were on when you clicked it.

    Actually, this is true for the following pages as well. In other words, it works when on individual stories, but not on the pages with multiple headlines and excerpts.

    2) at the bottom of the front page, the “Older posts” link doesn’t work. It produces a 404 error. I found this out because I wanted to go back and make this comment where it belonged, on your post about the new format.

    It appears that the code is inserting an extra “dispatches/” in the URL. So instead of …/dispatches/page/2, it’s linking to …/dispatches/dispatches/page/2. This is not the case for subsequent pages.

  • Tony ∞The Queer Shoop∞

    Sorry Ed, I do *not* like the new logo. It looks mundane.

  • BradC

    Posts with tons of comments, like this one: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/?p=8280 show “1 comments” instead of the correct number (which appears to be over 1000).

  • Well, as long as we’re suggesting changes, there are a couple of things that have bugged me for a while. Neither of these have to do with the redesign, but I think that they’d make the site more usable.

    1) Is it possible for the general FTB feed to include a tag at the end of each title indicating which blog the story is from? Scienceblogs does this with their feed, and it always makes it much easier to sort out which items I’m actually interested in by telling me more about whose voice it is.

    2) More importantly: Your home page needs a MAJOR redesign to accommodate all the different blogs here. The way it’s set up now, the newer blogs get hopelessly buried at the bottom of the page, almost guaranteeing that they’ll languish in obscurity. As it stands, it’s an extremely busy and confusing layout, and all most people will ever see is the top four, maybe six blogs. In order to promote a wider range of writers, I’d recommend at the very least finding a way to sort the blogs in order of how recently they’ve been updated. Preferably, I’d look at some of the WordPress templates out there that are designed for online magazines, or establish a slideshow that displays the most recent posts. You have a lot of different content, and it’s just not served well by a linear display that prioritizes bloggers by how early they were recruited.

    And now that I’m in the comment form, I find that I have another suggestion, although it’s a minor one. For some reason, the form has two “followup” options, which seem to be functionally identical:

    * Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

    * Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

    * Notify me of new posts by email.

    Why the second option?

    Thanks for all your hard work, and I hope my suggestions about the front page aren’t overwhelming.

  • Michael Heath

    Chris Hall writes:

    I find that I have another suggestion, although it’s a minor one. For some reason, the form has two “followup” options, which seem to be functionally identical:

    * Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

    * Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

    * Notify me of new posts by email.

    Here is why I think #1 and #2 subscription options exist.

    I open a page (blog post) and leave it open until that thread starts to die, usually within a day or two. At the point regular comments are no longer being posted, I select the first option. That option doesn’t require me to post a comment when I subscribe to that particular blog post. So if someone comments in the future, I’ll get an email. The most entertaining late-comment posts come from James Randi haters or psychic supporters long after the thread’s effectively dead.

    The second option is when somebody wants to post a comment and follow the thread from that point forward by subscribing at the time they publish their comment. This is equivalent to how you can subscribe to a comment thread in Amazon’s user reviews. I never use this option since I keep the page open after commenting where I also don’t want to be inundated with emails about I thread I’ve left open in my browser. When I want to close that blog post, I subscribe then with the first option.

    So I find having both options very useful.

  • wscott

    [Haven’t read all previous comments, so my apologies if this has already been covered.]

    My only complaint is that it’s a little annoying after reading a post to have to scroll back up to the top of the page to link to the next post. Any chance we could restore those links at the bottom of the post (before the comments) like it used to be? Yeah, it’s a small thing…

  • Sastra

    Suggestion: Preview button should be to the left of the Submit button.

    First you preview, then you submit. It’s more logical — and it’s what you had before. Now I keep posting too soon — or previewing when I meant to submit.

  • steve84

    Would it be possible to switch “FTB Active” with “FTB Recent”? A list of the recent entries is far more useful than the most commented on ones

  • 1. The main page should have a rotating roster of blogs, the ones with articles posted recently occupying the most prominent spots.

    2. The new blockquoting needs fixing. Previously, multiple blockquotes left you with a nice orderly progression of indentations. Now it seems to alternate or something.

  • dingojack

    Ed – the FTB ACTIVE panel is displaying at the top of the column:

    “Warning: Missing argument 2 for wpdb::prepare(), called in /home/newfreet/public_html/wp-content/themes/ftb-theme-experimental/includes/TabSiteActiveWidget.php on line 46 and defined in /home/newfreet/public_html/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 990”

    Any ideas?


  • left0ver1under

    I hope this thread is still being read, because there are still problems with the site.

    I have a valid WordPress account that I have used on FtB in the past, and I am logged in. Since the change, most blogs here allow me to post with that account, but not all.

    I attempted to comment on Aron Ra’s blog. I am logged in to my wordpress account and his page shows my account name on the screen. However, when I try to post comments, I am met with “must enter name and email”. My attempts to post are refused. And I highly doubt that I have been banned from posting on his blog, given the sort of comments I make.

    If your response is, “That’s a problem with Aron Ra’s blog, not all of FtB,” how exactly can I inform him that his commenting system doesn’t work when, like many on FtB, he does not to provide an email address to write to?

    Why are there STILL no email address to contact site administrators or many of the bloggers? If there is a problem with the site and no email address, how exactly are people supposed to report problems? Or even just to make comments or suggestions privately? It reminds me of a time when I went to the phone company to report that my phone line didn’t work, and the phone company employee asked me with a straight face, “Why didn’t you call to report the problem?”

  • dingojack

    Oooohh! – now FtB’s gone all sinister! Spoooookkyyy!!

    🙂 Dingo

  • dingojack

    Interesting, this thread is old-school but the newer threads are not. I didn’t know you could apply a layout onto pages based on their time-stamp.

    Anyway – new page are OK – but:

    The avatars need to be about 0.5 to 1 cm lower, or the names need to be about 1 cm to the right. At the moment the two over lay each other.

    You still need to fix the banner on the lead page – the name of the blog still pokes out from under between the banner itself and the left hand tampon tab. Try increasing the length of the banner by about 1 to 1.5 cm.


  • Peter B

    (1) Please move sidebar items back to the right. Due to vision issues I use a larger than normal character size. I am forever having to scroll right to read much of anything.

    This will be less of an issue when I can afford a 27-inch WQHD monitor.

    (2) And while you are at it please move the #more tags up perhaps a dozen lines to put some context before the additional content.