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Second Rationalist Association release

By John ~ Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Today we’ve released another piece of the RA puzzle over at http://rationalist.org.uk/ (there’s another very big release to come). For me the release isn’t about visual design and at this stage I see a year ahead where we iterate and chip away at all of that and refine as we go along.

That said I am quite pleased with our take on the breadcrumb navigation which incorporates the logo; I’m sure there are a thousand examples out there that we’ve subconsciously absorbed, but at the time it felt like a reasonably original thought and it’s tested fairly well. I hope it works because we’ve put it front and center rather than having a massive main navigation bar as is usual on sites. I must acknowledge the fantastically brilliant gov.uk site which was a source of inspiration for this approach.

The image above also shows off one of three illustrations comissioned from Mary Anne Cooke which will eventually be used for things like the login and register pages. For now though we put one on the temporary homepage to gauge reaction to the style.

This release feels significant because it moves the blog out of Blogger and into the custom CMS being developed by Julian at Simplicity Web  and introduces a new taxonomy which is a lot stricter than that found on the old site which was reliant on free form tagging and had become at bit unwieldy over the years.  Though not present yet we have also introduced the notion of themes and series, more on those as time goes on.

Additionally we have replaced the notion of a seperate Magazine and Blog with one section, Articles sorted by subject, which came about after a round of usability testing. When we move the magazine articles over to this platform this will start to, we hope, show off the idea behind the new taxonomy and how it sorts lots of different types of content by subject rather than by type. When all content is moved over we’ll probably retitle the section Articles & Posts.

We make the distinction between articles and posts for two reasons. The primary one being blog posts aren’t edited in the same way as a magazine article, and are more prone to spelling mistakes whereas magazine articles are much more polished. It may be a mistake to mix the two, we’ll find out, but as the blog is very much about the subjects, rather than simply a blog about running the Rationalist Association itself, it feels right to mix them together. We are also going to introduce some sort of experimental pay wall at some point (though a porous one) and magazine articles will live behind it. The paywall isn’t the whole strategy though, there’s a lot of work to be done on telling the story of supporting the RA because it’s worth supporting.

I always find it amazing to sit back and look at such a simple site and think how much work has gone into just getting this far; a lot of strategy, discussion and just working stuff out and whilst you won’t yet here me say I am proud of the visual design work I’ve done thus far, I am proud of what our small team has achieved.

Oh and I made the call and said no styles for IE6 or 7. Let’s see how that plays out.

Next job today? I’m off to rework the typography.

Read the RA’s take on the launch.