To work, ConservativeHome must both be read and pay its way – or come as close to the latter as possible, which means attracting more advertising, which meant redesigning the site. This was the logic that led to our recent overhaul, parts of which I prefer to others. I miss being able to place an illustration near the top of the front page, and thus project it. I don’t like having the newslinks pushed so far down the front page. The WordPress system which is now used to build the site is fussier than the Typepad system that preceded it.
None the less, I think the losses are outweighed by the gains – the more full presentation of the comment pieces; the excerpt from each one which, together with the headline, helps to explain what it’s about; the more accurate and comprehensive tagging of articles (a feature of WordPress) and the automatic Twitter handle with the byline (ditto). But whether you like the new design or loathe it, it is doing the job it was meant to do. In its first full month, the pages per visitor rate doubled, and the average visit during rose by more than four times.
We have made various small changes. The refresh rate needs to be reasonably brisk in order to give any adverts a show. But it has now been slowed down to 15 minutes for the front page (which is more likely to be left up than the other pages), and to half an hour for the other items – editorials, columns, and so forth. Thirty minutes is quite long enough to write a substantial comment: if the writer requires longer, he can always cut and paste from elsewhere. There is a box below the masthead, and to its right-hand side, which takes one to the newlinks when clicked.
The News Tweets box on the right-hand side of the front page has been greatly enlarged: it now issues tweets from almost 250 people. The Editors’ Blog List was hidden behind a click button. We relented and put it back in plain sight. We will shortly hide it behind a click button again. The reason for this is that it hasn’t been revised for some time, and needs updating and expanding – which means that it will soon be much longer, which means, in turn, that it’s better and tidier to restore the click button. As I say, pages per visit, the length of visits, page views – all are up. Like it or not, the redesign is doing its job.