This seems to happen every few years. I start picking at some bothersome code or a dangling tag, and next thing you know, LA Observed has a new look.
LA Observed's look in 2003, 2004 and 2006, courtesy of the Internet Archive
But this is the big one — more than just a re-skinning of the website's surface. This is the first time we have rebuilt the coding guts of LA Observed from scratch. It has taken many months of work behind the scenes — and isn't finished. It was time to go public and live with the new look awhile to see what needs to be massaged and refined, to see what you like and don't like, and to let it breathe a little.
The biggest change, obviously, is a rethinking of the LA Observed front page — something I've wanted to do for a few years. I'm truly thrilled by the possibilities. Here are some reasons why.
- We've broken away from strict adherence to the reverse-chronology limitation of the blog format. Some stories deserve to stay at the top of the page, and our attention spans, all day (or longer.) We now have a few places to keep stories alive and pull together updates.
- We will better display the stories, posts and observations from all of the contributors to LA Observed. I'm personally blown away by the impressive roster of writers, photographers and cartoonists (OK, just one of those) who agree to contribute here. I've been frustrated that the design (my design) limited their visibility. The front page is now open to all. I will still contribute many of the posts, and I will be curating the page with help from other editors.
- Likewise, I won't be frustrated anymore by the size of photographs and videos. The Picture Window is a new standing feature of the front page that I'm looking forward to using as a window onto Los Angeles — all 480 pixels worth. Contributions are encouraged. Inside pages have been redesigned in part to also make better use of images. We've had stories lately on Ansel Adams and Francesca Woodman and other visual artists, and I cringed seeing their pictures — and Gary Leonard's — squeezed into 300 pixels.
- A key part of all this is to make it easier for visitors to find what's here. To that end, the front page now lets you scan headlines and brief summaries. To read a post, you click to see the story on its own inside page. From there, you can discover other posts on the same subject or by the same author. Inside pages on media, politics, the arts, books and more topics to come now have more to offer. We've added news headlines, smarter links and displays of noteworthy material from our archives. There are also new pages to collect obits and weather information and make them easily available. And there's a lot more coming.
- You'll also see our Twitter feed on many of the pages. We'll be adding some curation of selected Twitter feeds to some pages. We have picked up more than 12,000 followers in a short time. Follow us here. It's a good way to find out about things before they are posted to LA Observed. We're also looking into moving our Facebook presence to a more useful page.
- Speaking of our authors, I'm pleased to announce that Erika Schickel will now be writing a blog-column for LA Observed. You know her from her occasional posts at Native Intelligence, her reviews and other journalism, and her book, "You're Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom." I on LA will be her place to write about life in the city, and have a little fun. We recently added Steve Harvey's Only in LA column, popular for a couple of decades in the LA Times.
- I'm just as pleased to welcome Barbara Isenberg to LA Observed. She covered the arts for the LA Times and helped lead the USC-based Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. Her latest book is "Conversations with Frank Gehry." Her first piece remembers the photograher Herb Ritts.
- We'll be, I hope, offering more voices from around the city, both as regulars and occasional contributors. Got a thought on that? Please shoot me an email. For sure, there will be more out links on the front page to other websites and blogs, just because we think you like to be pointed to good reads.
- Software-wise, you'll see we've moved to the center of the screen. Enough said on that; long time coming. The new design looks good in every browser I've checked — I'm especially enamored of the way it looks on the iPad — but if you're having trouble please let me know what browser you use. A version more optimized for phones is coming, I hope.
Please remember that the redesign, like everything about LA Observed, is a work in progress. I'll be tinkering every night this week and smoothing out some of the rough edges. I just discovered, for example, that the "after the jump" portions of older posts are gone temporarily. They will be back — it just may take a couple of days.