The Linux Rain has recently undergone some visual updates and layout improvements which I'll detail in this post, plus any possible updates/upgrades to come. The website started out relatively simple when I created it whilst trying to populate it with content but has had some steady changes along the way. Also, you may be wondering where the social media buttons are... yes they are actually gone! Which I shall explain also.
Some of the most obvious changes have been to the front-page design of the site, where the listings of the latest articles sit but there has also been minor changes and additions to the right sidebar. I'll list the changes (that I can remember!) below:
- max-width of the main content area increased from 960px to 1024px; this allows a slightly wider reading area and less of a "bloggy" thin, cramped look in the articles but also allowed the next change listed below.
- Front/Home page layout altered to allow a more "grid" like listing of the latest articles and their excerpts, instead of the single vertical listings. This allows more articles to be seen at a glance and gives a more optimized experience on larger displays. Of course, the layout is responsive, so if you're on a smaller display, especially a mobile device, and the grid becomes impractical to display, it automatically adjusts to the single vertical layout again.
- CSS updated for the Recent Articles area of the sidebar. Pretty minor but effective change which makes the listings easier on the eyes and stand out from one another better.
- Added an "Editor Picks" section below Recent Articles. These are, obviously, whatever articles I highly recommend.
- Google Custom Search added. Not my absolute favourite way of providing an internal search on the site, but it was the quickest and easiest way for now.
- Social media buttons REMOVED. More on that in a moment.
Likely upcoming improvements to be implemented:
- Drop-down menus displaying all available categories of articles (Reviews, Gaming, News etc). This way discovering content on The Linux Rain should be easier and honestly has been missing for far too long.
- RSS feeds of the latest news from other recommended Linux news sites. How or where exactly they will be displayed I'm unsure, but it's something I want to do especially given that due to time constraints, posting a lot of the latest news myself is extremely hard to do. But plenty of Linux sites are doing a good job of it so why duplicate? At least this way while you are on The Linux Rain you can still find and catch up with the latest news that we haven't covered ourselves.
- Cache, images and code blocking optimization etc. The site responds and behaves quite well but as Google Insights will happily tell you, could still be improved. A good few hundred kilobytes could be saved on almost every page load, at least.
So dude, where ARE the social media buttons?
Ahh, yes. If you were familiar with this site from some weeks ago, you may remember there being a bunch of social media buttons (the usual Like, Share buttons from various popular social media sources) in the sidebar. They are now all gone, with the exception of our Google Plus and Twitter profile links. And even those will likely be converted to static varients.
So, the reasoning. I recently read a blog post titled 'The soul-destroying pestilence of social media buttons' by Jim Lynch, who you may know from ITworld and other various tech sites.
In the post, Jim talks about why he removed social media buttons from his website and why he thinks you should too. His reasonings include slower page loads, visual clutter, spying/tracking by the social media companies and the fact that despite the popularity of including these buttons (and of course the popularity of the social media sites themselves), the traffic to his website directly from social media sites was actually very low. So low, in fact, Jim says they simply weren't worth it.
There was a lot I found myself agreeing with, in Jim's blog post. Certainly, while traffic to The Linux Rain still wildly fluctuates due to it's relative youth and the fact it's still growing, I have noticed traffic certainly comes from various other sources and not so much social media services, except from the posts (Google+, Twitter etc) that I create!
And as Jim quite rightly points out, many other users who may wish to share a website/blog/article etc. can easily just copy/paste the URL into their social postings and you get the same result anyway. All without slower page loads, tracking and taking up visual space. So the decision for me was easy enough. And the site DOES actually load a bit quicker!