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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Interview with 7 Days art director/webmaster Don Eggert

DoneggertaHey, check it out! My friend and co-worker Don Eggert is on the homepage of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies website today. That's the continental trade organization for the alt. weekly industry. Don won an editorial layout award last June for the design of "The Blogger", a story I wrote about Jerome Armstrong (back when he lived in Burlington) in the run-up to the 2004 elections.

An AAN writer interviewed Don as part of their "How I got that story" series. I highly recommend reading this series, by the way. I read a little bit every chance I can. It's a great resource for reporters, citizen journalists and students.

My favorite part of the interview is the first paragraph, where Don talks about his design process for that story. "For that particular story," he says, "the writer had finally gotten through to our editor that blogs were going to be important to the election, and she had found out about a couple of local people who were involved in some big national political blogs. So when she talked to me, she was really excited."

January 26, 2006 at 10:39 AM in House Rules | Permalink


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Cool, when is he going to re-design the Seven Days website so that it works better and doesn't look so loaded with cheezy ads?

Posted by: Sara | Jan 26, 2006 1:16:15 PM

Hmmm. Thanks for your feedback.

To be clear, Don doesn't write the code for the site. He does all the design stuff, but he didn't create the software. He's responsible for how the site looks, but not how it functions.

Re: the 7Days site's functionality... Yeah, the site is far from perfect. I think this is an industry-wide problem. It seems to be very difficult to get user-friendly web software that works with a newspaper's changing content. Putting a newspaper online is not like putting a blog online. It's actually pretty difficult to do it well, especially if you're a small company (like us) rather than a giant media conglomerate who can afford to pay for all the bells and whistles. But we're working on it.

Re: the ads, I actually think our site's not so bad compared with other newspaper sites, esp. other newspaper sites in VT. The bottom line is that we need ads to pay for the content on the site. I don't work for free, and somebody has to pay my salary. So like it or not, we have to live with ads on the site. But they don't have to be cheezy. What do you think is cheezy about them?

re: when will Don have more time to focus on the website? Not sure. He does stuff when he can. Today, for example, he's spent the entire day fixing one of the ad rep's computers that broke. Because Don is not only the art director, but also the sole member of our IT staff. Which makes the fact that he won an award even more remarkable, I think. Like all of us here, he wears a lot of hats.

Bottom line: Our web presence is still evolving, and we're doing our best. If you have any specific suggestions, send 'em to [email protected]. Or post 'em here. We're definitely listening.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 26, 2006 5:37:47 PM

I rarely comment here, but I do visit regularly. I had to respond to your comment about the ads on the Seven Days site:

"What do you think is cheezy about them?"

Five different blinking ads on the homepage, all rotating at different speeds. Not only cheesy, but totally annoying. It makes me click off that page as fast as I can. Jakob Nielson calls it "animation avoidance." Though I don't agree with everything this guy says, I do agree with that one. Thank god you don't have popups!! Do you have control over those blinking ads or are these something that the advertisers provide?

Sorry if I'm turning this thread into something else - honestly congratulations on the award! But you did ask the cheezy question!

Posted by: pam | Jan 26, 2006 9:51:25 PM

I gotta concur here. I even get distracted/annoyed by the blinking links on the left bar of 802 Online. Animated gifs must be stopped.

That said, I do like the basic graphic design of the site.

Posted by: Bill Simmon | Jan 27, 2006 6:49:14 AM

re: blinking ads... I know, they're kinda annoying, but Don explained to me yesterday that they're animated because we keep our ads so small (if you think they're too big, take a look at the ones on the Burlington Free Press site). Their small size makes it difficult to fit much info into them... unless they change. I see his point. Given the choice, I would rather have blinking ads than bigger ads. Wouldn't you?

Is there a third way? Feel free to add suggestions. It's not really off-topic, since Don *is* the web guy.

I should add that Don, and our ad reps and our publishers have been doing a lot of thinking about this, so it's not like we're ignoring it. But like everyone else, we're learning as we go here. There aren't a whole lot of industry standards for this stuff. Not yet, anyway.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 27, 2006 9:24:44 AM

Thanks for all the comments re: ads on the 7D sites.

Like Cathy said, we are working on it. It's good for us to know what y'all consider to be too many ads and which ads don't work for you. Our advertisers are keen on being on the homepage because they see it as the best expsoure for their business even though I have explained that most of our readers don't spend that much time there, and there are already a ton of ads. Beyond the homepage, we plan to offer 2-3 ad positions maximum per page. We make a lot of the ads in house and are planning on moving away from animated gifs to flash ads as we get trained on the software. I'm removing the annoying orange ads from the blogs immediately. Those were made hastily and meant to be temporary! Sorry! To echo Cathy, if we don't sell ads/make money on our website, we can't invest more time, people, software to make our sites better.

Posted by: Don | Jan 27, 2006 2:33:40 PM

er... thanks for removing the blinky links on 802, but you also removed the quick link to 7 Days in the process. By fixing the design you removed functionality--unless there's another link back the the 7 Days homepage that I don't see. The presense of the links wasn't the problem, just the distracting blinkiness, but that's just my opinion and I'm a total philistine anyway so you should probably just ignore me. :)

Posted by: Bill Simmon | Jan 27, 2006 3:09:19 PM

Dear Philistine,
Yeah, we're going to put one back. But Don's gotta make a new graphic, and now he's busy with something else. But we *will* replace that link to the Seven Days site.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 27, 2006 3:19:56 PM

It's good to know you're listening and trying to make things better. Personally, I'd prefer to see larger ads than the blinking ones - though I do understand trying to get everyone on the homepage. The size of the "eat in, log on, weigh in" blurb might entice advertisers, as might that spot on the homepage. You've already got a link to Seven Nights (or 7 nights?) at the top, so perhaps you could put something that will pay you on that side. Just a thought.

Regarding flash ads, hey at least I can disable flash and not see them blinking. The UVM one on some of the inner pages is good as Flash ads go, as it's not in an endless loop of motion.

Thanks for taking this stuff to heart.

Posted by: pam | Jan 27, 2006 5:09:25 PM

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