Good morning, its Sunday, Feb. 19 -- the beginning of a new week that brings some exciting changes to the Bradenton Heralds online world at Bradenton.com.
First, a quick flashback to our hip beginnings in the mid-1990s. The Herald proudly introduced BHIP.com -- short for Bradenton Herald Internet Plus, a site that offered a smattering of local news about schools, law enforcement, business news and entertainment. And then there was this standing headline 15 years ago: Frequently asked questions about Manatee Avenue construction work. Some things never change!
Fast forward to 2012 and the Bradenton Heralds newest online evolution. Starting Wednesday, Bradenton.com will have an entirely new look and feel -- more inviting, less confusing, less cluttered and easier to use.
Bradenton.com Web Developer William Winter has been working almost 24-7 in recent weeks to make this happen, along with a team of top-notch interactive directors with McClatchy, our parent company. Highlights of this new design are:
n Its easier to use. Our readers will have a better overall experience when using Bradenton.com.
n Its much faster. The speed of delivering story pages and other content to our readers has increased.
n The site has a sharp, clean layout. Great effort has been put into providing a clean, uncluttered look for Bradenton.com.
n It offers more compelling, effective advertising positions. Advertisers with three other McClatchy sites that have already made the switch have been pleased with how their ads are now being noticed by users.
n The photos and photo galleries are spectacular. The site is designed to showcase the stunning photography and visual journalism produced every day by the Heralds talented photojournalists -- and they are thrilled.
These changes will help the Heralds editors, reporters and photographers get the news to you first in real time, whether thats on your smart phone, your iPad or your computer. And theyll have more opportunities to add depth to that report for the next days print editions, both in the Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald.
You will still find all of your favorite features on Bradenton.com, including the latest breaking news, watchdog journalism, crime and court news, local business coverage, sports of all kinds, entertainment, editorials and columnists. Youll find our blogs, including our most popular, Buzz Worthy by Features Writer Wade Tatangelo, and our newest, with the photo staffs Through the Lens and Business Reporter Josh Salmans Manatee Money Matters.
But the clutter will be gone from Bradenton.com, going a long way to answering the No. 1 complaint about our site from users over the years.
A few other things to know about our next-generation site:
n If youre already registered, your existing username and password will carry over to the new site.
n If youve bookmarked special pages, such as our high school preps page or columnist Vin Mannix, those links should not change.
n The best browsers to use will be Firefox 3.6 or higher, Internet Explorer 7 or higher, and Chrome.
n A stay-connected bar will anchor the bottom of every page, taking you to all of our social media: our Facebook page and Twitter links, our mobile phone apps, the electronic reproduction of our newspaper (and our archives), and how to reach us.
On Wednesday, well have a question-and-answer story near the top of the site, along with my updated column and a feedback form we hope youll use. That will help us fix any glitches, gauge how youre using the site and what works the best.
Back to today, though: Pitchers and catchers report!
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles are working out today in Bradenton and Sarasota, where fans turned out in record numbers last season. The Tampa Bay Rays, fresh off their thrilling charge to a wild card playoff berth last season, will begin training next week in Port Charlotte. Find the top reasons to watch the Pirates on Page 1C today, and go online at Bradenton.com/sports for an interactive map of all 15 Florida spring training sites.
Our new online design will allow for many more special features like this map. Im excited about the changes were about to launch on Bradenton.com, and were looking forward to hearing how you like it.
Follow Joan Krauter, the Bradenton Heralds executive editor, on Twitter @JEKrauter, or on The Editors Blog at bradentonherald.blogspot.com.