I removed one of the columns to make a cleaner 2-column format with more space for the primary articles and a right sidebar for features and goodies. This format gives more prominence to the main posts and should make them easier to read. With a wider column for journal entries, the associated photos can also be much larger. Bigger photos seem to increase page views.
You will notice that all of the sidebar features (poll, calendar excerpts, tags, twitter feed, etc.) are now in the right sidebar.
A recent prominent addition is “Top Posts” listed near the top of the website. This listing uses Page Rank, an algorithm to rank the popularity of articles. But instead of using just page views, the algorithm also considers the number of comments, email forwards, Tweets, Facebook recommendations and Google rank. (Hint: Readers can move up a post’s rank by adding a comment to the article.) This replaces the method where I manually featured certain articles, that often became stale. “Top Posts” should also keep popular content active longer as articles move off the front page.
A Faster, Thinner and Mobile Website
The changes in the columns also made the site a bit thinner (if it were only that easy for humans). I received user reports that the site was getting cut off on some browsers. The current format should work on nearly all internet browsers, Mac and PC. (However, if you are still using IE6, it’s really time to upgrade since that browser is no longer supported by many internet sites.)
I have removed some of the extraneous code and bloated content to make the site load faster. With all the various interactive elements, the site was getting bogged down. It is always a challenge to upload high definition photos and videos while keeping the site snappy. Please let me know if you have problems with the site loading on your computer.
With the success of the iPad and mobile devices, we have re-formatted parts of the site so that they will look good no matter where you access it. We are particularly pleased with how terrific NorthEndWaterfront.com looks on an iPad.
Another prominent change is at the top of the page is Neighborhood Views. I plan to use this space for photos, slideshows and videos. I am still playing around with different software options, so you will likely see some experimentation in this area.
The photo galleries get a lot of hits, but some have so many photos that it becomes cumbersome. I’ve been using a new “slideshow video” format to bring large amounts of photos together with some music in a video format. The feedback has been great, so I hope to do more of them. (View the video slideshow of the recent blizzard).
Google pulled a fast one and stopped supporting links in the titles of its online calendars. So, the Community Calendar now shows links in the Description field. Click on the title to see the description for an event.
As always, if you have neighborhood meetings or events, please send them in. If you are part of an organization, I can give you direct access to the calendar.
Facebook, Twitter and the E-Newsletter
A clear trend is for folks to get the articles through one of the social networks. Our Facebook page has 550 “fans” and we have over 500 Twitter followers. And of course, the blog has an RSS feed which has over 100 direct subscribers and feeds the Facebook/Twitter sites with all the posts in near real-time.
Add to that another 1,000+ subscribers to the weekly e-newsletter and it is truly amazing to see such interest in a neighborhood with a population of only about 10,000 people.
Other Neighborhood Sites
Our content is graciously featured by our friends at other neighborhood websites, such as NorthEndBoston.com and more recently, Boston.com’s “Your Town – North End.” We also benefit from city-wide traffic when Universal Hub links to us. The Regional Review has started a website and we are wondering if Patch.com will startup a North End site as well.
What’s to Come
I have a long list of features and additions that I would like to implement and hope to continuously add more functionality to the website. Here are some priorities:
- Interviews are very popular and I plan to expand those beyond politicians to key players in the neighborhood.
- Maps and directories seem to be in demand so I will make more of them.
- Photos/Videos – I’ve been more interested in photography lately, so you will probably see more pictures around the site. As mentioned above, video slideshows with music seem to be a good way to present a lot of photos in a short-form video format.
- The new FAQ page should be a good resource for new and old community members.
- More From You! – The Forum is gaining momentum and we are soliciting article submissions from other community members. If you would like to contribute, please contact us.
For better or worse, this is still an unpaid, part-time, one-man show. (Have I mentioned this is just a hobby, not my day job?) That generally means that I can only cover one or two meetings or events per week, in addition to posting news and notices from other contributors. And yes, once in a while I actually take a vacation.
My general answer to folks asking for coverage on an issue is to write it up and send it in. I am happy to post other people’s work with credit, including articles, commentaries, photos or videos.
I am always interested in your feedback, so feel free to let me know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I am particularly interested if you are having problems viewing the site or any of its pages/features.
Many thanks to all the readers of NorthEndWaterfront.com for your support and encouragement.