One of my quests whilst in Cape Town over the last month was a few days in the Afrigator headquarters with Justin, Stii and Lester. After a good catch up and a few beers it was straight into the work with the main priority being some tweaks to the Afrigator user interface. Tweaks is probably a fairly loose and understated term for the amount of work that went into today’s launch.
The main priority was to make the changes feel very minor and not too confusing for our users with functionality being moved around the site.
First things first – the grid structure
For a while now I wanted to clean up the Afrigator grid structure and make it more flexible for future updates. Previously we had quite a rigid two column grid structure, a wide left column with a narrower right column, divisible by two allowing for two sub columns.
The new grid structure is a 6 x 150 pixel wide, with a gutter margin of 10 pixels. (FYI: Check out http://www.29digital.net/grid/ for a neat grid structure calculator)
As can be seen above the home page uses only 3 columns, but is now flexible enough to divide any of those 3 columns by 2, allowing for us to add some 125 x 125 ads if required, more category listings, ranking charts, tag clouds, etc, etc.
Search made easy
Search has received a major overhaul with load times drastically reduced thanks to Stii’s new love Sphinx. With super fast search results we obviously wanted to make its presence far more prominent, so we removed the header banner advert and replaced it with a fat search box that is very hard to miss.
Afrigator to a new visitor probably looks quite foreign and geeky, we want to change this and give off a good, simple first impression about what we do. We still have quite a bit to do before that is the case, but we are taking some steps in the right direction. We’ve introduced a 3 step graphic to the registration and login pages explaining what you can do on Afrigator and plan to make something similar for new visitors to the website.
We also plan to re-word some sections of the site in layman’s terms.
Other new functionality
Best I not repeat what has already been said, just visit the Afrigator blog to find out more about the localised home page, the new images page, and the improved MyGator.
Just a quick note on the improved MyGator. I wanted it to be more visually intriguing. Truth be told there are not a huge amount of MyGator users, in comparison to the amount of registered blogs we have, and I find this quite perplexing as I love using it every day to stay up to date with my favourite African blogs. It’s a very simplfied feed reader with none of the unnecessary bells and whistles. With its new icon of our Afrigator’s eye situated in the navigation menu it hopefully will be more sticky and encourage more people to find out more about it. It’s quite interesting to see how many users think MyGator is supposed to be used to follow your own blog and no one elses.
Stii has also managed to display the blogs you are following on MyGator on your public profile page. Check out the blogs I’m following in my Afrigator sidebar. Neat.
So as you can see it was actually much more than a lick of paint that we hope will add real value to our Afrigator users. Lots of really exciting things planned for the coming months. Next challenge some AdGator design “tweaks”.