News Columns & Blogs’s home page gets tweaked for speed

One of my loyal watchdog critics e-mailed me last week to find out why’s home page had a new look.

“Now compact and abbreviated, it’s more like a few teases rather than a healthy glimpse inside the entire edition, complete with links. Manpower issues?”

Au contraire, I assured him. All the content is still there. In fact, we’ve added some features.

Here’s the skinny:

The home page was redesigned to load faster, because users were having to wait far too long — eight to 10 seconds after clicking on

With the changes by our Web designer, Richard McNeil, it now loads twice as fast — and is 30 percent shorter. Why? Because research shows users don’t like to scroll down very far for overall page observation.

The top part of the page is the same: Top Stories, popular stories and breaking news.

Some features are a work in progress — we’re still trying to find the right presentation for all the staff’s blogs, for instance.

As you move down the page, you’ll see Local content, much like it was displayed on the former home page.

Next is the biggest change: “tabs” that, with just a click, offer all the content for sports, business, Lakewood Ranch, entertainment — and Stumble.

OK, I admit it. That was a new one on me. It’s a cool feature that allows you to “stumble” across pages throughout our site. With this tab, features that were buried deep in are now on a Rolodex of sorts for your discovery.

There’s an endless choice for your next online addiction.

The advertising elements on the home page also have new highlights, including a “bizlist” widget in the side rail that gives you a fantastic search engine to find businesses offering what you want.

I tested with “Bealls” and got listings for all the Bradenton-based company’s outlets, Google maps and more.

The CareerBuilder search widget has been updated and moved higher on the page. We hope that adds some good karma to the cautious hopes that 2010 is going to be a turnaround year.

One more destination for you to check out: the video widget.

Herald photographer/videographer Paul Videla has been building our video portfolio with a vast variety of subjects, and we have begun supplementing his work with clips from METV, other McClatchy newspapers and more.

Whew. All that for a four-second upload.

Now back to my loyal critic. He was caught by surprise when he saw his words on my Editor’s Blog.

Turns out he’s a self-described “old school newspaperman” who has become a champion for the Bradenton Herald and

“I have few ideas and no solutions, other than my belief in local, Local, LOCAL!” he wrote in a follow-up e-mail.

“I’m one who believes the Republic needs newspapers, and our democracy — from Bradenton to Boston — will falter without the news being provided constantly, by professionals who know how to search, identify, boil-down and present.”

And that, dear readers, is why I still love being in a newsroom.

No matter how we deliver the news — in print, online, in a blog — we’re digging as deep as we can each day for truths and wisdoms.

My critic also offered some sage insight: “I was caught off-guard being called a ‘critic,’ even knowing — realizing — it’s not only not a dirty word, it captures correctly my exchanges with you.”

Let us know what you like and dislike. It makes us better.

And keep reading — and clicking.

Joan Krauter, Herald executive editor, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 2000.