I’ve been working on a couple of behind-the-scenes changes these past couple of days.
First, I employed some new server optimizations that probably won’t do much.
I also looked at our anonymous logs to see what kinds of deal posts were most popular last year, so that we can better spend our time and focus for this year’s Black Friday and Holiday shopping season. I have a bunch of “do you expect to see any deals on…” requests, but I was still curious to see what types of deals were most popular.
And then I saw what happened to the mobile vs. desktop trend…
Here’s what the trend looked like last January when I started making notes and looking at areas of ToolGuyd.com layout improvements:
Here’s the breakdown for the past 30 days (10/9 – 11/7/2019):
- Mobile: 64.79% of users
- Desktop: 28.93% of users
- Tablet: 6.28% of users
Basically, these numbers reflect how many ToolGuyd.com visitors are reading the site via mobile devices, tablets, and desktop devices including laptops and computers.
The ratio of mobile to desktop users is now ~2.24 mobile visitors for every desktop visitor.
This is what entries will now look like on homepage, “archive”, and search result pages. The “excerpt” is behaving a little odd, and I might remove it entirely. Is it really needed when we try for post titles to be very descriptive?
In any case, I tried to make things a little cleaner.
And this is what entries now look like on smartphones. Tablets have a sort of hybrid view.
I first started experimenting with larger photos, but with 20 post headlines on the homepage and archive pages, that led to a lot of scrolling and larger image file sizes.
With this type of layout, the thumbnail images are smaller, and I reduced the number of category links to just one, and it can be customized if desired. I’m hoping to find a way to code some extra versatility into this feature, but I’m taking a day or two off from looking at mind-numbing coding.
The mobile view isn’t the best it could be – yet – but I think the work I put in these past couple of days are an improvement. The headlines are more easily read as you scroll or swipe down, and while this might be a bad thing for us (time on page is an important metric), it also means there’s a greater possibility some of you might peek below the list of headlines.
I have not paid much attention to what goes below the content on mobile view because not many people look there. But maybe I can add some category views, e.g. “new cordless power tools,” or simply make the “recent comments” section a little easier to reach.
Having a “featured post” section is on my to-do list, and it has been for a while, but I have not yet found an easy and appealing way to do it. I look at magazine websites and see some aspects I like, but I also see a ton of clutter. But also, magazines have people on staff who optimize these things, and a lot of magazines produce a lot more content that we do.
A lot of magazines also now have “commerce teams” and “deal advisors” and “best products staff,” all seemingly designed to funnel you towards Amazon purchases and affiliate commissions.
Sure, we’re supported by affiliate commissions and revenue too, but I’m seeing a lot of nonsense these days.
Some websites and magazines seem designed – and I can’t think of a better way to describe it – to be so messy, confusing, and all over the place so as to confuse you into spending as much time on-site as possible. Maybe as you stumble around the homepage you’ll find something interesting to read.
To be fair, online magazines and similar sites cover a wide range of topics and publish a LOT everyday. ToolGuyd has very valued contributors, but we publish a fraction of the volume of major digital magazines.
My point is this – I regularly look for ways to improve ToolGuyd’s “front page experience,” but I’ve been short on ideas and inspiration.
Browsing behaviors have changed. Smartphones and being always-connected have changed how we look for information online.
When I designed and revised ToolGuyd’s look and layout over the years, the goal was to provide short paths to the content readers seemed to be most interested in.
Times have changed, and I’m trying hard to adapt the site’s look and feel. It’s a harder task these days, to predict what readers want to access, and how to provide access to such information in a convenient and efficient manner.
I considered consolidating ToolGuyd’s categories, but there’s a lot of content that doesn’t fit into a “bucket.”
Take for instance my post about how Dewalt’s cordless drills are built in the USA. There’s no quick pathway to this post. Sure, you can get there by looking at Dewalt brand coverage, our Dewalt 20V Max section, or cordless, drills & drivers, editorial, or made in USA sections.
There are “related posts,” which I need to optimize, and “next post” and “previous post” links that a couple of readers asked me to restore after the last major site conversion a few years ago.
Maybe the homepage will get a third column for desktop browsers. The menu might be reworked for mobile browsers. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, mostly minor things, at least in my opinion.
I will be experimenting with a couple of different tool-related content ideas in 2020, or at least I hope to.
Right now, email newsletter images are broken. There’s also some kind of Facebook issue that isn’t accepting out auto-post submissions. I’m working on figuring those out too. The Facebook thing seems to be a known issue, but the email newsletter image issue is really weird.
Lastly, we’re ramping up our holiday season tool deal coverage. Last year I organized the deals a little differently in a way that I found helped me better sort things out, and so that’s what I started off with this year. Every year it changes a little. I figure that if it helps me, it might help you. You’ll see some links “stickied” in a colored box at the top of every page. If you have suggestions or ideas on what else to put there, please let me know!
As always, feedback is always much appreciated. It’s not easy wearing so many hats all the time, and your feedback and input helps make that easier.
Also, a big thank you to Benjamen and my wife, who have both faced a lot of “how does this look?” questions over the years, with more to come. For instance, which shade of blue do you prefer for links? Here’s a similar “site changes/feedback” post from two years ago, in case you think I’m joking about quizzing people about different shades of blue.
I visit ToolGuyd.com on a daily basis, and some of my preferences steer changes. Many of you visit ToolGuyd very regularly as well, and I care about your feedback.
Goodnight, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Looks great. Would love if comments can be reworked. Being unable to edit a submitted comment and the limit on comment replies is kind of inconvenient. Just a suggestion.
It’s not possible to do this in a secure way.
The options are having the system as it is now, or installed a 3rd party system that requires log-in, which I find to be a huge inconvenience. 3rd party systems also tend to have more cookies and behavior tracking, which I’d like to minimize.
In other words, I know this is a desirable feature, but it’s not happening.
On the back-end, you need to have near full-admin roles to edit comments as it requires full database editing privileges.
Careful with making things too “mobile”. I use iphones and ipads to do most of my browsing. I hate most mobile and mobile friendly sites.
The site works really well today.
Thanks for what you do!
I’m about 50-50 between mobile and PC. I really don’t know anyone who uses tablets anymore. I’m 20 minutes west of Silicon Valley, and tablets are basically dead here. Anyway, site looks great on my phone. Thanks for all the effort. And thanks to Benjamen and your wife.
I’m 99% mobile, and occasionally PC based for Toolguyd content.
The change looks good. It was the kind of subtle adjustment that I half noticed and then went back to browsing new posts. 🙂
In other words, it registered with me that it looked cleaner, but it still felt very familiar and usable.
Thanks! That’s what I hope for with changes like these.
A feature that might be really hard to add: better recent comments viewer.
When a post gets lots of comments it gets really tough to read through and find thety new ones. If there was a page that had a longer list of most recent comments or a way to highlight new comments that would increase our ability to interact with each other.
I definitely agree with this. After the first 24-36 hours, especially on popular posts, it’s too cumbersome to see what’s new, and I tend to abandon even topics I’m interested in.
Just an idea, but maybe there’s a way to mark comments or change their text color if they were posted after the date of last visit to that page in a cookie? It wouldn’t carry across a person’s devices, but it would be a great option.
The ability to like comments would be cool.
Thanks for all the work on the site! I found it when I was trying to make sense of all the offerings during the holidays, and have stuck around because of the high quality coverage & commentary.
Regarding mobile, the only thoughts I have are:
– add the ability to collapse a comment thread
– minimize the size of the “Reply” button. I frequently trigger the reply box accidentally while scrolling.
– decrease the level of indentation per reply. On mobile, once you get about 3 replies deep, only a couple words fit per line. This could also be solved by decreasing text size in the replies.
Regarding content, my only thought is that keeping a catalog of current recommendations would be very handy. Kind of the thewirecutter.com for tools.
Or, alternatively, a catalog that breaks down each companies offerings into tiers. For example, Makita makes a ton of impact drivers, and figuring out which one offers which features, and how it compares to the others is a huge research project, especially with how the combo deals are going.
Obviously, in the portable power tool world, battery systems determine purchases, but even then each company is expanding out offering really quickly.
Yeah I didn’t remember how irritating the accidental reply button is until I saw your comment, but reducing that button size or moving it would really make life better
Comment threading is problematic, but I can try to optimize it a little.
I considered collapsing all comments, but I’m not a fan of sites that require a click to view comments or discussion sections. Most of the time those sites have 3rd party services though that are slow to load.
Milwaukee made a handy chart for their drills last year, and I posted about it – https://toolguyd.com/handy-milwaukee-m18-cordless-drill-driver-comparison-chart-2019/ . It is convenient, but content like this tends to get suppressed really fast. I did something similar for Bosch and Dewalt offerings years ago, but never updated them.
I made a table a few years ago – https://toolguyd.com/cordless-drill-comparison/ , but it’s not very good on mobile and the information would require frequent attention to stay updated.
There’s no way to make something like that mobile-friendly.
Comment submission button is now appreciably smaller! That was an easy one, thanks!
Great topic! I too accidentally click reply a lot during mobile browsing.
I’m right handed and tend to scroll with my left thumb. So having the reply button on the bottom left of each comment leads to a lot of accidental clicks. This is exacerbated because the comment indenting format moves the reply button around so I can’t simply modify my scrolling habits to avoid the button, since it could be anywhere I can reach from the left side.
Something to consider: if the reply button was centered on mobile, it might work well for people scrolling with their left or right hand. (Centered on screen, rather than centered under the comment). Making it smaller helps, but keeping it in the same location so that you learn where to avoid scrolling would also help. I haven’t studied scrolling user habits, but I would think most people scroll using the edges of the screen rather than the very middle.
Just a thought.
I’m working on it.
So for mobile, I decreased the font size a little, and then added a border around the link. But, the space between the border and link is a non-clickable zone.
I can’t center the link or move it to the right or move it to the top without hampering usability.
If I move it up to right below the comment link (date and time), someone would have to scroll back up to reply to a long comment. If I move it over a little, it looks odd and might not be thumb-reachable.
Hopefully this helps a little. If not, I’ll see what I can do.
Summary: I decreased the target size (smaller text font), and built a small moat around it to help with avoidance.
If you do still hit the reply button, ignore it. You can keep scrolling down. Hit “reply” to the last comment, then “cancel reply” and you’re set to leave a non-reply comment.
There’s also no easy way to center it on-screen, since positioning is relative to the parent element, which is the comment container. I tried some styling trickery, but it didn’t work out too well.
Thanks Stuart, I appreciate all the troubleshooting. It did seem like multiple other mobile users struggled with this issue.
The smaller area definitely seems to help. Scanning through some of the more recent posts, I only accidentally opened a comment box once or twice, which is an improvement.
Centering below the parent element might work, as you could scroll from the left or right side of the screen without accidentally opening the reply box.
Bring thumb reachable isn’t a huge concern, since if I decide to leave a comment, I manipulate my hands so that I am able to reach the whole keyboard.
Neat alignment is also a concern. I’d rather have fixed margins or indentation than something like staggered centering.
Hopefully the new tweaks offer enough improvement. If not, I’ll try something else.
I’ve been trying to have it behave like the “post comment” button, which you can drag past without actually clicking it unless you do a hard-press, but no luck yet.
I could also shorten the number of permissible threads, but that doesn’t seem ideal. I’ll look into shrinking the intention a little bit.
I also wonder if the comments section should be “hidden” behind a clickable button by default. Definitely not right away, but perhaps after say 2 days or 10 comments.
Enhancing the “new comments” list is difficult. The first x-number of comments that an expanded list would show would almost all be for the most recent posts. It might be possible to have a filtered list of “posts with new comments,” but locating that list somewhere would be difficult. Even if it’s a separate section or page somewhere, where do we put it to be accessible and useful?
There is a new plugin (at least more recent than when I last checked) that would allow for cross-talk with the ToolGuyd forum (https://discuss.toolguyd.com/), but I don’t think I want to go down that route. A big downside is that the forum requires logins, which would certainly hamper things.
Please don’t make the comments hide behind a button! It’s one of my greatest pieces about sites.
Comments are core to your site. Extra user action should not be required to make them visible. (IMHO :-))
I agree about not collapsing comments, and that was one of my exact arguments to Stuart.
Given though that many site that collapse comment use 3rd party commenting systems and then reload the page when the comments are unhidden. What’s worse are some of the “More Comments” buttons when the page only loads a few comments at a time. The entire page reloads and you lose your place in the comments.
I rarely visit via computer. I generally like how things work except that i wish I didn’t have to scroll all the way down to find the forum link.
What you do is awesome and I love this site. I cant find anything that I think needs to change, but i like change. I guess i will know what i think when I see the new stuff in action. A blacked-out color set would be cool, but admittedly only for some of us
I always have to hunt for the forum link! I wish it were in the main menu.
Please don’t make it ultra-mobile centric.
I visit most sites on desktop, tablet and smartphone in desktop mode, because I can’t stand the mobile down featured, too much white space, giant tiles, scroll tap scroll tap scroll versions.
Hiding comments by default, would be a no for me. Hate a couple sites that do that, triggering a page reload ( which may boost their ad revenue, so could even be intentional )
Editing comments … just add another reply if typo’d, forgot something etc.
Only thing the site bites me on is that I tend to hit reply to existing comments, while scrolling down.
I know what you mean.
It doesn’t trigger any reloads like what other sites do, but literally just collapses it all and hides it from view. It’s an instantaneous reveal.
New visitors are less likely to comment than regulars who might visit a new post in the first few days.
When we have say 40 comments on a page, scrolling can be difficult.
The contact libk, for instance, is all the way at the bottom of a page.
There’s a way to have comment “pages,” but I don’t have that enables. I believe that requires reloading.
I’d want a show/reveal button to be conditional, say after 7 days.
I read all comments and I know many of you do too. But I don’t know how likely it is for new visitors, in which case “new posts” and maybe “new comments” or other links down a page might be of more use for such readers. This is something I might have to experiment with.
In that case, of contact being at the bottom and that being a long way down for new people who want to reach you; I’d have to suggest a playing with the menu bar and trying to add on the right, … or a floating top right corner element … but you already have the five blue buttons in the right sidebar, so people can email you very quickly …
Unless you mean on mobile, would have to look, as I read in dekstop mode, but floating a menu button or contact button comes to mind again. 🙂
A thought on editing comments…
Would it be feasible to make a comment editable for x minutes based on the presence of a cookie?
So, I comment. I see a stupid typo or illogical statement right after clicking the dreaded Red Button of Finality. Or some one immediately points something out. I have x (5, 10?) minutes to correct or otherwise edit the comment – so long as I am on the same machine/browser with an expiring cookie.
I like this idea. Or have a review before publish step
Regarding posts like what DeWalt makes in America, I think a lot of your posts could be included in a category called “The Industry” or something similar.
Looks good. I’m not a fan of the latest “modern” design that most news sites have switched to — with content randomly placed everywhere, and the article headline split between a large photo (that tends to be a pointless stock photo) and the article title text (which tends to obscure actual content summary in favor of being click bait). It’s difficult to find the latest articles and stay current on those sites. I prefer your clean “classic” layout.
Also, thanks for keeping RSS feeds. I browse a lot of content each day and the RSS reader is my go-to… the other sites that have removed or obscured their RSS feeds are eventually forgotten.
I don’t have active links to the feeds anymore, but that’s because you can enter the main URL and RSS clients know how to find it.
RSS isn’t used very much anymore, but I’ll keep serving it as long as I can.
I visit the site at least once a day. I use the archives a lot to research reviews and opinions. Actually this is the first site I check when I want or need to get a new tool. I would like to see either bigger hi res pictures or clickable enlargable pics. I mostly use mobile to access the site
That’s something we’ve considered and talked about, but it can be difficult.
I used to have clickable image galleries, but that don’t really use it anymore. Clickable images led to nothing but spam on image attachment pages.
Resolution is a tough one. I just moved from 590px to 600px. I can go higher but at the detriment of file size and loading speed.
Nearly 65% of visitors have mobile devices that can’t display images more than 380px wide or so.
On desktop, larger images will require modifications that allow for larger images without increasing text column widths. I tries coding for this, and it’s hard so I backburnered it.
I considered a “featured post” format thay allows for larger image sizes, but have not started work on it yet.
As somebody that regularly views this site from mobile: thanks for the layout changes! I find it a little easier to go through the site now.
I read ToolGuyd on my phone exclusively (now), and I can’t recall any issues or unpleasant experiences. I really like the layout as I find it easy to navigate.
There could definitely be a wider range of content that can be discussed along with several other types of tools besides the typical stuff found at HD and Lowes which is the primary topic of discussion. Especially this time of year. I understand that it’s easy to discuss tools that you have some experience with but there’s a vast array of tools out there that are being released all the time that people want to know about or at least brought to the attention of your readers. Just because you may not know much about something doesn’t mean that readers don’t want to know about it. I checked out some other blogs and as of right now, no one else is discussing or promoting “pre black Friday” holiday sales. They’re discussing tools. So it’s not like there isn’t any other content out there besides the same bs holiday shopping and black fri deals. If people want to buy a tool from whichever online retailer they choose I’m pretty sure they can do it on their own and when they feel like doing it. So I really don’t get the whole dealguyd thing that you are so adamant about every year starting November 1st and why you have to promote every single tool that’s on sale from every single retailer when there’s a hell of a lot more going on in the tool industry that can be discussed or at least brought to people’s attention. I get that you earn a percentage through affiliation, but every single year it’s the same monotonous thing. At least try to change things up a bit and throw in some content that isn’t sales related for the sake of keeping it interesting and not coming across as a blog promoting sales ads for no other reason than getting the affiliate commissions. I ain’t knocking your hustle, but you don’t have to overdue it. Not all of us are interested in the tools promoted as a holiday sales deal (which are never the better or best grade tools and never anything new). I’ve never bought anything for myself during this time of year that I’d use for work cuz those types of tools are never on sale. It’s always the same class of mediocre diy grade tools that are promoted every year. But my point is that there’s a lot more that can be discussed in terms of content topics and keeping things different and interesting. Even if you don’t know much about something. But it’s up to you as to whether or not we get to read about it. BTW I like the new look. Cheers
That’s also the reason I’ve been cleaning up more, I need the space for more upcoming projects and editorial plans.
I’m trying to mix up the nature of the content, but this time of year deals end up being “current events” and of high general interest, and so the frequency is going to increase towards the end of this month, and then taper down a little about a week after Black Friday.
One person might say “more stuff other than deals,” and then I’ll get 5 more emails “thanks, more tool deal coverage please!”
Keep in mind that I have access to 11 years of data and experience. I know what kinds of posts readers seem interested in, and which ones less so. The needle points in the “yes talk about more tool deals please” direction.
I try to mix enough in so that the deal coverage is complementary and not in lieu of regular content.
Some of the deal posts are of general interest, others I’m curious about.
I don’t buy as many new tools each year or holiday season as in previous years, primarily because I don’t have the space to upgrade any equipment, and because I have all my staples and core tools already. But I still follow the deals because the trends are interesting to follow and analyze.
Part of my interest is because this is what people want, and I try to make it easier to sort through all the noise.
Look at what’s new this year – Craftsman tool bag, a new Dewalt laser and tape measure bundle, a new Milwaukee mechanics tool set and Packout bundle, a Ridgid 1-battery impact driver kit, Kobalt tools are back on display, there’s a new Craftsman pocket tape measure, and blacked-out Hitachi/Metabo HPT tools. I can’t talk about these posts without deal referencing because we simply don’t know if these tools will be around after the new year. Nearly every new tool, product, kit, or configuration introduced this time of year is strategically timed for the holidays.
Wow. All the considerations here bore the hell out of me. But it makes me more appreciative because it highlights some of the complexities of producing a website. I think PowerPoint is hard enough. Like others, I like the comment section visible rather than collapsed. I guess I only got a plus one about the forum link being too hard to get to.
Thanks! Ideally a good website is one that you don’t have to think about as you use it.
I’ll see what I can do about the forum link. I can’t add a menu item because it’ll mess up the desktop menu. Unless I hide it except for mobile view, but that can be tricky with something like a menu.