Coming Soon: The New One Mile At A Time

A few months ago I asked y’all for feedback on what you’d like to see in terms of updates to the blog.

There has been a lot of “behind the scenes” work and conversations since then, but I thought I’d share some of the progress we’ve made, and what you can expect to see in the next month or so.

While some of you were far too kind said the blog itself “looked” fine, I’ve been wanting to update the style of the blog for some time now, and this seems like a good opportunity. The current theme looks like something I threw together in 10 minutes back in 2008 when I had slept through an exam and decided to start a blog to feel more productive.

That’s sadly not a metaphor.

I’ve always felt that content is the most important thing for a blog, particularly mine, but I wouldn’t necessarily mind having something that looks a bit classier. Because if there’s one thing that religiously watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta teaches me, it’s class. 😉

Those of you who mentioned that the current theme looks “cheap” are spot-on, and it’s always a little embarrassing when a media outlet links to the blog with the current amazing header image.

More importantly, the current “theme” doesn’t allow for a lot of the other features that were mentioned, many of which I’d like to implement. Even basic things like drop-down menus aren’t possible with the current set up, which definitely contributes to things feeling cluttered.

So we’re going to clean things up a bit, in general.

In considering everyone’s feedback and working with the folks at BoardingArea, I think we’ve come up with a design that will be a tremendous improvement. I’m really excited to have something clean and updated, and am really enthused about the additional features we’ll be able to utilize eventually.

So what will it look like?

This is a very rough draft (we’re still working on the logo/header situation, have to block out space for ads, etc.), but here is a mockup of what I’m envisioning the site will look like:

homepage-redesign-top

In terms of how it looks, I like that there will be more posts on a page, but not in a way that seems disorganized or cluttered.

homepage-redesign-grid

I also like that the sidebar is more useful, rather than being so much text. There will be a drop-down for the archives, a calendar of recent posts, and snippets from Twitter and Instagram.

I also like the fonts and color scheme in general, and think it will make the blog much easier to read.

sidebar

This isn’t the final version, of course, but I wanted to give you guys a general idea as to the direction we are heading.

As far as functionality goes, there are a few specific things you’d mentioned that I’d like to address.

Ask Lucky

This is a huge opportunity (over 13,000 comments and counting), and something that is taking a lot of research. We’ve looked at exporting/sorting comments, building forums, and a half dozen other things.

For now we’ll be adding drop-down menus to the Ask Lucky tab, so that there will be one page with an FAQ and space for current questions, and then other pages with archives. This seems like the best short term solution to help with load times, and we’ll keep looking for a good long-term setup.

Trip Report Index

This is an area I’d really like to focus on, and y’all had amazing suggestions in terms of how to make the trip report index more useable. This is a space I think will continue to evolve as we try things out and see what works, but I’m definitely trying to include the following features:

  • Ability to quickly find reviews by airline, aircraft, or class of service
  • Grouping hotel reviews by city/country, and possibly chain
  • Sort lounge reviews by airport or alliance

We’ve also been brainstorming better ways to display the information – some people like lists, while others are more visual, and I’m trying to find options that accommodate as many of those preferences as possible.

Comments

One of the most important things to me is that we keep the great conversations going in the comments. Interacting with you is the best part of my day, and I don’t want to change that.

So, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to add Disqus right away (but may eventually go that route), but the new setup will allow “threaded” comments. So you’ll be able to hit “reply” to a specific comment, which I’m hoping will encourage even more interaction!

threaded-comments

What else?

Those were my main things, and I’m really excited with the direction this is going.

What other things would you like to see included, and do you think I’m on the right track?

Comments

  1. I really don´t like the change in the comments section. I understand that you want more interaction, but this change will make more difficult to read all the comments, as you will have to read the dates to find if the reply is new or is an old comment. Popular topics with 50+ comments will became a mess.
    Isn´t there a way to, after coming back to the comments section, display/highlight only the new comments?

  2. @Carlos
    While I do like the idea of replying to a specific comment, I know exactly what you mean about wanting to read all the comments. On the very popular posts that get 300+ comments, reading them all will be impossible,

  3. For menus, please don’t rely on ‘hover’ events. Tablets and touch-screens don’t have hover. Even with a mouse, it is hard to navigate multi-level menus that pop up on hover. Also, keyboard accelerators are good (tab-order, arrow-keys, etc), but everything should work without a keyboard also (phone/tablet use-case)

  4. Just please make sure it will function well on mobile devices. Maybe it’s just me but the comments section on Cranky Flier is an absolute mess when viewing it on my iPhone.

  5. The direction in which you are headed certainly looks like an improvement … not just putting lipstick on a pig.

    Still hoping for a “sticky” where you post and keep current your valuation of points/miles for as many of the various earning programs as you feel comfortable valuing.

  6. I really think you should keep the current layout but consider changing the colour scheme. What you want to change to is really similar to thepointsguy.com. Not necessarily a good thing.

  7. no theme logo/picture on the header? I think you should create something that brands your website. People identify things with pictures

  8. I may be in the minority here, but I actually like all the comments on one page. While load times can be long, this format gives me the ability to QUICKLY search for specific strings. Would be great if there could be a view all comments formats as a secondary option.

  9. The main things I’d like out of your next iteration are a better ask lucky setup (would honestly prefer a living forum over a long stale list) along with bigger and more detailed images to better match modern display resolutions. Even mobile devices are much higher resolution than your images. Right now when you click on an image it just gives you another image of the same resolution. One thing your current blog has going for it is fast access on mobile devices (besides Ask Lucky) which is a good thing that should be retained as much as possible.

  10. Going for Disqus is slightly airline-style (you’re trying to make improvements but you’re going the wrong way), but all the other changes are nice. You can check out the trip report index of Hong Kong Airline News and see how that looks like to you (I focused on the Flights section, which I believe is quite well organized). And as you can make charts here (hongkongairlinenews.wordpress.com is free and limited) you could do what I did in Hotels. I did my TRI updates based on comments from your post so you might like to check it out. Admittedly the rest of the site is hideous, but I spent some time on the TRI that you could check out.

  11. I wondering what that site was that I stumbled upon the other day… now this answers the question!

  12. The new design is really sterile and lacks any character. Reminds me of a cookie-cutter politics blog…

  13. What I like about your blog is that it loads fast, whether I’m on my phone or my laptop. After the content, that’s the most important thing for me. The new design looks nice (and familiar) but it’s hard to test latency on a static image 🙂

  14. Love the way NYTIMES has done their comments section of their articles. Maybe have a look?

  15. On an iPad, I have to manually a croll to the bottom of the ask lucky page. 3+ minutes load times.

  16. Love the changes, Lucky, but I agree with others about maybe a slightly different color scheme.

  17. whatever you end up doing (and it looks great so far) please, please make sure to do some QA testing on mobile/tablet devices before you launch. i know disqus doesn’t play well with iOS 7 in particular. and after all, most of us will be reading from our devices as we kick back 30k feet up 😀

  18. Pavel is right, the way numbers are trending, more and more people read blogs on mobile devices. But don’t use a mobile version, that’s obsolete, insist on responsive web design instead. That way, the site will look equally good on a phone/tablet/computer.

  19. Lucky, I think this looks great! Perhaps not as a primary way to organize your trip reports, but have you considered setting up a Pinterest account and pinning photos from your trip reports? You could have pinboards by airline, by aircraft type, region, destinations, aircraft class, hotel brands, hotel destinations, etc. And then just pin a few photos from each trip report post to the appropriate pinboards. I go through your trip reports a lot looking for reviews and advice, and for me, I think this would be one way to make it more user friendly.

  20. I agree with EVAir Fan !!!, looks very similar to TPG website. Not necessarily a bad thing IMO. But the logo definitely needs more finess, looks too bland as is. The colors also seem very neutral, which may be a good thing. But I think a bit of green/orange might do wonders to the appearance, giving it a very crisp look… I think.

  21. I might actually miss the old header image when it’s gone. I used to assume the guy was you. Never really considered who the girl was supposed to be but she had a fairly attractive silhouette. There was always a bit of underlying intensity in subconsciously wondering what would happen if an actual aircraft really flew that close to the windows. Maybe make a new header out of images from traveling with your mom and dad?

  22. I think the best way to organize the trip reports would be to use a sortable table, with columns being departure, arrival, airline, class, aircraft, etc. Wikipedia usually has them and they’re quite handy for sorting mass amount of organized data.

  23. Could you please choose an actual color scheme instead of just white background with black or dark grey text? It’s wretched on the eyes and exactly like 90 bajillion other web pages. The problem is everyone is trying to look like a newspaper when we are no longer confined to that medium. I actually don’t hate the current color scheme. You may have happened on it accidentally, but at least it’s different, and a non-white backround is a pleasure to read. Even cream or light grey would be better.

  24. I don’t like the look and feel of it. It looks too regimented and stiff. Don’t like the color scheme. Doesn’t feel like “flying.”

  25. in terms of value, at least to me, your content (that you wrote) accounts for 90% of any topic your covered, comments/questions/answers are about 10%. I dont care if no one comments/asks anything, your own content still hold huge majority of the specific topic. This is due to your writing style, knowledge, compassion and little to do with the other bells & whistles. I wont mind a bit if nothing is changed at all.

  26. The new page actually looks worst. Especially the main page and I don’t like the white background.

  27. Lucky, suggest putting the date (and maybe the time) near the top of each blog entry. (Current layout with date at bottom is suboptimal.)

  28. Lucky,

    I don’t like the changes to most of the travel blogs lately, including the one you have above. Whoever is “designing” them is putting way to much into a smaller space and making the pages way to busy.

    While I still have to suffer through the changes, I’m able to cut most of the clutter out via grease monkey scripts and browser settings. Please no white backgound – these aren’t newspapers – what is this? 1995? 😉

    I love your blog, Please don’t make me add your blog to the list of crappy user interface changes… I hate TPG’s layout, I don’t like JAPT’s new look, and Cranky’s page is a complete nightmare with that spinning gadget continually showing up when I scroll down…

    Hmmmm maybe I just don’t like change…Ack!!

  29. How about this – You should make the heading look like an airline departure/arrival board. The “departures” date and time are the topics that are on the blog currently. The “arrival” date and time are the topics that have yet to come up. Note: The arrivals would be subject to “cancellation” just like real airlines. Make it all interactive.

  30. Lucky,
    Please consider retaining the current color scheme, it is much less strain on the eyes ( especially if one reads on a tablet on the bed ).

  31. Ben: NO LIKEE!! Current blog is uncluttered and easy to read. Change isn’t always good. Look what’s happened to our education system here in the US with its never ending changes —

  32. @ Lucky – look forward to the new design although some of the comments here have good suggestions. To make it easier on the eyes, an non-white background would be nice (meaning, not bright white; off-white or a bit gray). Also, whatever you do with the comments, make sure it’s easy for us/you to see “new” comments. Threaded sounds nice in theory but perhaps that’s more for Ask Lucky. For regular posts, it’s easier to have them the way they are right now because it makes it very simple to catch up on new comments.

  33. Lucky, just want to say I love the content you publish on your site and have been a regular user for the past two years. Keep up the great work and I admire your lifestyle. I am posting this in a nipa hut in Baler, Philippines which I arrived via award CX first class, SFO -HKNG- MNL …Cheers!

  34. @ hebbinator — Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it! Hope you’re enjoying the trip, and here’s to many more!

  35. I agree with UAPhil – date/time should be at the top of each post. Sometimes I find an old post via Google search, and I’m like “oh this looks like a great promotion. exactly what i need” Then I see the date and its a post from 2009 and the promotion is long expired.

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