Last month I posted about some changes I’ve been making to the ToolGuyd look and layout. I’ve been continuing with those efforts, and it’s time for a quick update.
As always, your feedback is much appreciated!
A little over 7 years ago, I toyed with the idea of simplifying ToolGuyd’s logo. I ultimately changed my mind and forgot all about it.
As I’ve continued working on ToolGuyd’s layout, it became clear that the graphic’s wood-grain background had to go.
I converted the logo from being a pixel-based image to vector-based, and the wood grain was simply too difficult to replicate in a manner that looks good when scaled.
I’m not finalized on the light brown “fill” color, but it seems fitting.
The new logo is crisper, and because it’s vector-based, it can be scaled up or down as needed. You won’t necessarily see this in the post, as the image here is pixel-based, but you should see it at the top of the site.
There are some fun things I could potentially do with the logo now, such as changing the colors in seconds, or even swapping the tools being held in the hand!
Google Ad Removal
Last month Google activated an experiment where ToolGuyd pages were showing a new ad type where you’d see the page blurred out around it. We use Google for certain ad placements, and this is the first time an optimization experiment was automatically activated.
The ad appeared for some visitors when an on-page link was clicked. After the experiment ended, the new ad type ran for one day before I deactivated it.
I don’t like most interstitial ads when I come across them, but I didn’t really mind this one, at least on mobile. It was intolerable on my desktop.
One of the people I asked about the ad had strong feelings against it, and so I decided to deactivate the option for now. I might revisit this in the future – maybe during the winter holiday season – but this isn’t something I would want to impose on readers regularly.
It’s better to leave money on the table than negatively impact the user experience.
Potential Comment Display Changes
I know I talked about this last time, but I haven’t made any decisions or changes yet. Quite frankly, I’m worried about upsetting some of you.
I’m looking to load comments in a different way. Every comment makes several hits to the server, and the number of elements also forces lengthy document size recalculations. Google penalizes websites in search results for things like that.
Google now “crawls” and analyzes websites as if their bot was browsing on a smartphone, and so speed matters. Starting in May it will matter a LOT.
One thing I am still considering is adding “pages” and a “load more” button, maybe only for posts after a certain amount of time passes, such as one or two weeks. My thoughts are that regulars wouldn’t be very impacted since the most active discussions take place the first few days after a post is published.
Maybe 40 comments per page is a good compromise?
But then there’s another question – how many “top level” comments? A top level comment is one which has replies under it. With each post allowed up to 4 replies, maybe 12-15 top-level comments on average will exceed that 40 comment-per-page number. There are ways to auto-load and click-to-load more comments, and I’m still looking for a method I like.
If I can’t find a good scroll-to-load-more or click-to-load-more solution, there will have to be pages.
This is a good problem to have – I definitely appreciate, enjoy, and learn from your comments. The challenge is in appeasing Google’s user experience guidelines without actually hampering real users’ experiences.
Consider my best cordless power tool brand post, which is a long post on its own. On a mobile view, an iPhone plus browser window size has a simulated size of 414 x 736px on my computer. That post runs about 18,600 pixels tall. That’s 25X the smartphone browser’s vertical viewport size. The comments section – by itself – measures more than 58,800 pixels tall. That’s 80X the smartphone viewport. The total post is about 81,000 pixels tall, or 110X the height of the viewport.
Splitting longer comments sections into smaller pages seems like an inevitability. The question is then about how to do this without pushing away readers that put time and effort into writing comments, or those that read them.
Update: I’ve been testing paged comments and having a “newer comments” link and then “older comments” links doesn’t seem too inconvenient. The question is about how many “top level” comments per page to set. Some posts have comments with 11 replies and cross-replies to a top-level comment, others will have an average of 1.1 comments per top-level such as giveaways or deals where there might not be as much discussion. For the posts with the most cross-discussion, most of those longer comment chains would be on the first “page” when comments are set to read oldest to newest, which is what readers previously expressed a preference for.
Post Archive: Consolidations
I’ve been working to tidy things up, even deleting really old posts that no longer have value to readers.
For posts that have a lot of comments, I might set them to no-index instead unless they clutter up or negatively impact our in-page search results.
There’s a lot of tidying up to do, but it’s about time.
Future Post Structuring
I’ve been experimenting with different post structures and looking for ways to keep virtual housekeeping in mind with future posts.
I posted about an Irwin stubby multi-bit screwdriver deal during the 2020 winter holiday shopping season. It sold out, and when it was back in stock, I updated and republished the post. In the past, I might have simply posted about it again. Since that first post, it has been driven in and out of stock by ToolGuyd readers several times.
I checked that item, and it’s now available with an April 2021 ETA. So, I republished it a third time, rather than posting a separate “back in stock” post. If you read the post, you might skip it this time around, but I figured that readers who missed the $4 price now have another chance to buy one, and readers that bought it might want to add their impressions about the tool.
This is an extreme example – I don’t expect content to be updated or republished like that regularly.
But, this type of process seems to works – maybe. Without this structure, I would have 3 separate posts on that Irwin screwdriver by now.
I am also trying something new with this week’s March tool deals roundup:
Most of those deals wouldn’t be worth their own posts, but an updateable roundup could work. And then when April comes around, I can archive March deals and replace them with new ones. I’m not so good about regular updates, but this type of post seems like it could benefit readers.
A post like this could potentially allow for updates, and I can also use them to remind about specific tool deal updates as well. For example, if the Irwin screwdriver goes out of stock again, it can then be linked to in a post like this one when it’s back in stock, rather than republishing it again and again.
There’s one big downside when it comes to updating older or published posts: ToolGuyd’s newsletters are automatic and based on unique post identifiers.
I can duplicate posts, but then we lose comments.
ToolGuyd sends custom newsletters on occasion, but it could never be frequent enough to include post updates.
So, if I repost about something, it benefits newsletter subscribers but hurts site visitors since it clutters up on-site search results. If I republish something, this is a better approach overall, but newsletter subscribers miss out.
I have largely postponed figuring things like this out over the years because it gets time-consuming and very difficult to experiment with. I have made it a habit to look forward rather than backwards. But, it’s time to tidy up gradually and set new ground rules for future content.
What I’m looking for is a solution that helps readers both short-term and long-term.
I’ll be experimenting with content structures. If you see something you like – great! If you see something you don’t, please let me know!
Website Update Work Continues
It seems awkward to talk about things like post housekeeping practices, but it plays into the updates I’m working on and experimenting with. Everything is intertwined.
I’ve been working on different alternate desktop and mobile menus, and something like that is directly tied to how posts are classified.
A lot of these efforts are to ensure readers can find what they’re looking for.
Out of habit, I add tags for model numbers, but how many different posts will share the same model number? Do I tag the bare tool, the kit, or the common identifier that nobody actually searches for? Model numbers can be useful, but are there better ways to use it for navigation than “tags”?
Major changes to the ToolGuyd layout will require that I look at everything under a magnifying glass. Some of these changes will be obvious to you, but others will not be.
With this being the first major overhaul in a few years, there are a lot of steps involved.
Desktop “Sticky” Menu?
A “sticky” menu is where the top menu stays at the top of the screen for easier access. ToolGuyd’s menu has been “sticky” for many years now. Do you prefer it this way, or do you not care if you have to scroll back up to get to the menu?
If You See Something Broken…
I’ve been developing and testing changes thoroughly, but there’s always a chance that an update breaks something. Please let me know if you find any problems!
Thank you again for your support, feedback, and readership! I can’t say that I enjoy web development, but you guys make this – and all my other ToolGuyd efforts – worth it!