As you can see, we have redesigned aan.org. Although we added several new features to the site, the primary changes repackage old features to make them easier to find.
For years now, AAN.org has had interesting features and content, but a great deal of it was concealed behind an opaque interface. For instance, did you know that if you were logged in to the old Web site you could find the e-mail address of almost anyone who works at an AAN paper? Or that you could search mailing-list archives for information on a specific topic, or for messages sent by a particular AAN member? The redesign unveils these formerly hidden features; starting today, you should be able to figure out how to use them without an instruction manual.
When we began the redesign process last summer, our primary goal was to solve some of these fundamental usability issues. So we reconfigured the interface to establish a navigation scheme that is both intuitive and easy to use. We stripped down the information presented on each page, maintained consistent nomenclature and categorization cues throughout the site, and improved the efficiency of our search technology. There’s still work to do, but the redesigned site clearly is simpler, requires less scrolling, and offers faster access to important content.
We also added two new sections to the Web site, AAN Wire and the AAN Library. AAN Wire features a blog-like presentation style, with short items presented chronologically, although it will be very un-bloglike in execution; we’ll use it to make announcements and post notices and short news items. The AAN Library is a searchable archive of professional resources, including forms, white papers, and other materials that are intended to serve as tools to help AAN-member managers and employees do their jobs better and more efficiently.
(To view the AAN Library, click here. Only AAN members who are logged in will be able to access the page. Additional resources and browse functions will be added to the Library in the coming weeks.)
We revised the Industry News section, and the changes illuminate some of the challenges AAN faces in operating a Web site that serves as an outlet for news about its member newspapers. Since the association’s first Web site debuted in 1996, we have maintained a policy of linking to every story we find — good or bad — that reports news about AAN members or alternative newspapers in general. Unfortunately, the inflexible chronological presentation of industry news on the old site created problems because it occasionally highlighted news that was both less than flattering and of minor consequence. The new site will allow us to adhere to our always-post-it policy while providing AAN staff with the flexibility to determine which stories deserve to be prominently featured.
We created more links between aan.org and AltWeeklies.com, our story-sharing site and alt-weekly content portal. On the lower left-hand side of each page there’s a teaser promoting the latest top AltWeeklies.com stories, and on each member paper’s directory page, there’s another teaser featuring that paper’s latest AltWeeklies content.
Although we scheduled the launch today, the process of creating this new Web site is only partially complete. Over the course of the next few weeks you’ll see many new features and improvements. In the meantime, if you spot any problems with the Web site, or have suggestions about how it can be improved, please let us know.
I want to thank DesertNet, our Web site developers, who — as the many of you who work with them on a regular basis know — take the time to understand our needs and are a pleasure to work with. I also want to thank Kat Topaz and Karen Rheudasil, who worked on the site at various stages; Lynn Baus, the designer who is largely responsible for the look of the site; and Jason Rothstein, an interface expert whose excellent work is stamped all over the final product. This is the fifth or sixth Web site we’ve built at AAN, but it’s the first time we hired an interface designer, and it made all of the difference in the world.
For a small trade association with a far-flung national membership like AAN, maintaining a useful Web site is vitally important. With this new redesign, we think we’ve increased the value of this vital asset. We hope you agree.