Ten Miles Square

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April 28, 2011 6:18 PM Welcome to the New Washingtonmonthly.com

By Paul Glastris

Imagine doing a top-to-bottom gut rehab of your home, then inviting everyone you’ve ever known over for an open house. That pretty much describes the mixture of pride and trepidation we feel in launching the newly-redesigned washingtonmonthly.com. As you’ll see, the site’s got more content, better functionality, and a whole new look and feel. One thing, though, hasn’t changed: Steve Benen’s Political Animal blog still has pride of place on the front page.

Our main aim in this redesign is to bring you new voices that complement Steve’s and that build on the 40-plus-year mission of the Washington Monthly magazine. To that end, we’ve added a new blog, Ten Miles Square, that will feature posts from our staff, from longtime Washington Monthly contributors, and from a category of scholars we think deserve a bigger voice in American journalism: political scientists.

Certain kinds of academics—economists, presidential historians—have long enjoyed platforms in the media from which to use their specialized knowledge to illuminate the news of the day. Curiously, that hasn’t been the case with political scientists, even though it’s hard to think of a scholarly pursuit that is, or ought to be, more relevant. The fault, I think, has been as much with the academics as with the press. For too long, political scientists have been more interested in crafting theoretical models and writing for each other than in engaging with the broader public. But there’s a new generation of political scientists and public policy academics out there who are far more focused on exploring and explaining the real world of politics and government, and some of them know how to blog. We’ll be cross-posting their work on a daily basis.

This new site also includes some key functions the old one frustratingly lacked. You can comment on articles as well as blog posts, create social networking links to individual posts, receive full RSS feeds, easily search the entire site, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be adding new features and tweaking the design as time goes on, so if you have opinions (good or bad) about the new site, or ideas for how to make it better, please email them to us at Editors@WashingtonMonthly.com or leave a comment below.

We want to express our gratitude to the many readers who answered Steve’s call to contribute money for the new site. We could not have built it without your generosity. Thanks also to our friends at the Lumina Foundation, especially Jamie Merisotis and Kevin Corcoran, for their early and crucial support for this project. In addition, we’re grateful to Alissa Levin, Benjamin Levine, Michael Murphy, and their colleagues at Point Five Design for their stellar work putting this site together and to Carl Iseli and Daniel Luzer at the Washington Monthly for ably guiding the process on our end.

Enjoy the site!


UPDATE: We did a “soft launch” of the site this weekend, while traffic was low, hoping our weekend readers would catch problems we hadn’t, and indeed they did. In response, our tech team has been working nearly nonstop all weekend dealing with some of the most common complaints. For example, the left margin of Steve’s blog was so close to the edge that the first letters were not viewable on certain browsers. So we’ve added buffer space to the left margin; if that hasn’t done the trick let us know. We’ve also dialed back the gray background and darkened the type in the comments section. That should help with readability. We’ll be addressing some other concerns people have expressed as best we can in the days and weeks ahead. Meanwhile, keep those cards and letters coming.

UPDATE II: Our tech team’s efforts continue. The Facebook share buttons now work as they’re supposed to. Ten Mile Square posts now have bylines at the top as well as the bottom. And the comment error message is now written in language that should be more understandable to readers. More fixes to come.

UPDATE III: The preview function in comments is restored. Phew.

Paul Glastris is editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.

Comments

  • k l m on May 07, 2011 8:22 AM:

    LOVE THIS!!!!

    It loads faster...I just hope I won't be plagued with pop up ads that no filter seems to stop!!

  • Kathleen Larkin on May 07, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Just letting you know that I think the new site needs to be
    re-centered a bit. The left margin, at least on my monitor,
    has no white at all.
    Otherwise congratulations on a lovely achievement.
    Kathy Larkin

  • hell's littlest angel on May 07, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Imagine reading a book whose pages had no margins...

    Yep, that's right. It would be terrible. And weird.

  • m2 on May 07, 2011 9:49 AM:

    I'm looking forward to reading more than Benen here. I never clicked on anything else even when he linked it. It's true.

  • Riki on May 07, 2011 9:50 AM:

    You took away everything I liked! :-( It was a great, no frills here's the story site. It looks nice and bright, which is an improvement, but usability has nosedived for regular readers like me. First of all as a regular user I now lose the first 2 inches of my screen real estate to the same banners that have been there for months -- Dan Savage, etc. etc. Second, you've compressed the text column so far to the left that I have to scroll and scroll to read posts.

  • m2 on May 07, 2011 10:04 AM:

    Ten Miles Square blog needs author names at the top of each post. Could link to their other entries? Also a "read more" type page break might be nice, since the posts seem to be lengthy.

  • Donna Williams on May 07, 2011 10:52 AM:

    I endorse Nikki's comments. This new site's readability quotient has gone way down. What is it with everyone wanting to redesign their sites. In every instance that I can think of the result was less than stellar and in most cases was not an improvement. Most of them seem to be designed to get more page clicks, i.e more advertiser revenue. First, there was Salon.com, then Balloon-juice (just doesn't load into IE without messing up the right margins(which everyone there says is the fault of IE, and Daily Kos, whose readership has really plundered inspite of the leader's protestations to the contrary.

    I think the blue and subdued background was much easier on these older eyes than the glaring bright white stuff. Same problem those like me complain about over at Daily Kos. Please do something to address the readability.

  • LRM on May 07, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Great.....now the text is confined to the left one third of the monitor with a yawning blank white space to the right. Was there a good reason for screwing it up this badly?

  • TooManyJens on May 07, 2011 11:03 AM:

    I agree with the other commenters who say readability is a problem with the new design. There needs to be more whitespace on the left side. Right now, if the text is large enough to read comfortably (which isn't even that big, really), there is no whitespace at all on the left. The text just runs into the edge of the browser window. It's a strain to read more than a few paragraphs of that.

  • Bloomingpol on May 07, 2011 11:45 AM:

    I like the new site, but not a lot more. But one problem I found out when I tried, as I often do, to share an article from Political Animal on Facebook, the blurb under that title repeats the teaser from the article featured above the blog on the page. In this case it is about Savage the sex columnist,

    "Dan Savage, the brilliant and foul-mouthed sex columnist, has become one of the most important ethicists in America. Are we screwed? By Benjamin J. Dueholm"

    which not only has nothing to do with the article I am sharing, but which I find a bit off-putting. Not sure I would read the article if someone else shared it with that description. Any chance you can not have every single Facebook share from Steve's wonderful blog not be about Dan Savage, apparently?

  • The Pale Scot on May 07, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Appreciate the thought folks, but the old sight was easier to read, I bet this place gets most of it's hits in the morning, when we're all slit eyed and and sucking down the coffee. Too much high temp. white, maybe you could try dialing it back to something cooler/bluer or a touch of overcast.

  • DAY on May 07, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Pale, pale gray type on off-white is very hard to read. Not all of us have cutting edge computers and monitors. I'm interested in content, not the latest whatever. I don't even know (nor do I care) what an RSS feed is.
    But, then, I still get books from the library, and enjoy ample margins and the gutter down the center. Plus, most publishers are still using BLACK ink and WHITE paper.

  • richard pelletier on May 07, 2011 2:36 PM:

    OMG. Thanks! Dynamite! Long overdue! Way. To. Go.

  • Andrew on May 07, 2011 3:09 PM:

    Love the content of the site, but as a regular reader I have to agree with Kathleen, hell's littlest angel, Riki, LRM, TooManyJens, and The Pale Scot, particularly with the content being too far to the left and too narrow. When I enlarge the text for easier reading the left and right margins disappear. Have your developer add an extra 50 or 100 pixel margin or padding on both sides of the site. Not crazy about Captcha either.

  • Michael Rainey on May 07, 2011 4:09 PM:

    The new site is harder on the eyes, for sure.

  • Chris on May 07, 2011 4:14 PM:

    I hate this. This is like the Gawker redesign, maximizing cross-linking and shit-on-the-page-ness while minimizing readability.

    I love Steve Benen, but if the design stays like this, I'm probably not going to read his content in the future.

  • Jack Stegeman on May 07, 2011 4:20 PM:

    Really like the changes. Much easier to read. And the ability to print is great.............vastly good improvements........good job..........Jack

  • max on May 07, 2011 4:20 PM:

    The comments bemoaning the new design are right. It's difficult and unpleasant to read.

  • FRP on May 07, 2011 4:37 PM:

    Second verse same as the first

    There's to much white on the left
    To much white , white on the left
    There's to much white on the left
    Wouldn't it be nice if they had some on the right
    But they wouldn't have the white split between them both
    It's the same old thing every time I look

  • steve on May 07, 2011 5:50 PM:

    ugly pink, too much white, and whoever thought light grey text made sense should be fired for stupidity. You don't want that kind of genius around to just fuck up more things in the future.

  • k l m on May 08, 2011 12:30 AM:

    I wonder if there's a disconnect between the monitor settings your designer uses and that used by most of your readers. Designers tend to set their monitor's by Photoshop standards, with brightness and contrast both at 100%. Most monitors default to 50% for both. That might explain why people are complaining about grey text when I'm seeing perfectly black and readable text. I use the photoshop settings.

  • amorphous on May 08, 2011 1:27 AM:

    Re: whitespace on the left. Try Firefox as well as IE; there seems to be some differences in display. FF shows more left whitespace than IE.

  • JimK on May 08, 2011 10:49 AM:

    I was not aware that the changes were taking place; when I came on the sight today I thought I was in the wrong place; later discovering that the
    changes were being made. I liked the old sight for its complete loading;unlike Huffington Posts need to load each article. It appears that the new sight also loads the same content without the requirements to load
    any articles other than new articles. I also liked the fact that mistakes in grammar an spelling were made, to me, to error is human and this humanized the Blog . I like it but make sure you ,at all costs, dont go to a constant loading format.

  • Dee on May 08, 2011 4:00 PM:

    Don't like it. Too much white space. I liked the old site better.

  • Frank Lynch on May 08, 2011 4:12 PM:

    I read Steve two ways: through Google reader and on my Blackberry. No change in readability for the former, but I did need to update the url for the feed (someone should post a note at that old url to announce it). On the Blackberry? Fantastic: the text used to be black on navy blue, a real strain. Now I can read it. Thanks.

  • msmolly on May 08, 2011 5:19 PM:

    UGH. Just UGH. Very hard to read. And it still doesn't save my info. And get rid of CAPTCHA.

  • sj on May 08, 2011 5:56 PM:

    It seems to have broken the Facebook "share" feature, at least on my OS X set-up. Every attempt to share tries to post a teaser of the Dan Savage article.

  • zeitgeist on May 08, 2011 11:23 PM:

    while i agreed with many of the concerns expressed when the format change, i appreciate that you are reading them and have worked on the left margin, the type contrast (and perhaps made the blog column a little wider?) thanks. now if we can just get "preview" back. . .

  • stmojo on May 09, 2011 1:22 AM:

    I hope the new format brings you more advertising dollars, 'cause from a reader's point of view, it's not very inviting. The site now seems cluttered, glaringly white, and the actual content column is too narrow.
    I just checked Google Reader - much more readable, but no comments link. Tempting, though.

  • Jon on May 09, 2011 10:26 AM:

    I have to say this - the new design is just UGLY. You're using a much bigger font, with far more leading - which takes up a HUGE amount of extra space on the opening page - and combined that with this MASSIVE right margin and an inch on the left margin.....

    It takes forever to scroll through an article. And that red type color...I just can't imagine a more ugly choice - well, actually I can, but I hesitate to tell you which ones. Your designer may suggest those colors next.

    Your designer did you a massive disservice. Fire him or her or them. Quickly.

  • emjayay on May 09, 2011 12:37 PM:


    WAAAYYYY TOO MUCH WHITE OWWWWWWWW MY EYES HURT.

    I like san serif typefaces in general, but they are universially considered by typographers to be harder to read. You have now prooven this to be true.

    Your old way of showing comments in a comment size, not full screen frame was much better.

    At least you are still faster than Americablog, which is prone to all kinds of problems and has regularly confused both my home and work computers in various ways.

  • Goldilocks on May 09, 2011 2:16 PM:

    This wish will probably not come true. Maybe I'm getting more reactionary in my habits than I thought possible. What I would really like is to be able to click on Steve's blog and be linked into his previous format which was just perfect for his style and content - uncluttered, unglamorized, and easy to read. That shouldn't be too difficult.

    Since I appreciate and rely upon Steve's work to keep me abreast of American politics at the granular level on a daily basis I will persevere with this strange new format, for a while at least. My first impression, however, is not favorable.

    I live by the motto: If it's working don't fix it. Steve's blog at Political Animal was working, beautifully - so, Why fix it?

    Finally - where's the 'Preview' option? - an invaluable safeguard against errors and nonsense, and especially useful for checking the effect of HTML tags.

    I do, as with others above, appreciate that our comments are taken into consideration. I'll keep my fingers crossed, and have a word with the wish fairy.

  • Max Breed on May 09, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Great job with the new site.

  • Doloresw on May 09, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Bring back the blue background. Too much white.

  • Sam on May 09, 2011 3:24 PM:

    1.Commenters' names and date/time of commenting should be in bold.

    2. Get rid of Captcha. Try disqus or something simpler.

    3. Darken the type more.

    4. We need a preview button.

    4. Too many unnecessary links on right side of page. A simple, clean, less cluttered interface is needed.

  • zaine_ridling on May 10, 2011 4:29 AM:

    Absolutely LOVE the new layout and look. The focus on readability and easier navigation is a boon. THANK YOU!

  • andrew on May 10, 2011 10:26 AM:

    The colors and fonts are an improvement, but shrinking the width of Benen's column was an awful choice. After scrolling down to his second, or third item, I'm left with his text on one half of the screen, and blank nothingness on the right. It was much better when his column filled across most of the browser window.

  • bruce k on May 10, 2011 10:52 AM:

    I hate change. I'll get used to this, but I liked that you could view a few posts in a single screen before. I guess you're hoping all this white space will be filled with advertisers.

  • kc on May 10, 2011 11:46 AM:

    The more I look at this new format, the less I like it. It's junky-looking and hard to read. The old version (of Political Animal, at least) was much cleaner and more readable. I really don't like all the readable text being crammed over to the left.

    I hate to say it, as much as I've enjoyed reading PA for years, if the site is a pain in my eyes I'm less likely to read it daily.

  • gregor on May 10, 2011 1:35 PM:

    I'd just about stopped reading Political Animal because of the incredibly annoying pop-up ad. Instead of reading it every day, for the last several months I've only been reading it every couple of weeks--and I only kept coming back because the content was so good.

    And now everything is SO much better. The redesign is clean, it's fast, and there are no pop-ups. You guys did a great job, and I'm delighted to put PA back on my must-read list.

  • Goldilocks on May 10, 2011 1:40 PM:

    As a private citizen I can flip-flop with impunity. Three days after the initial shock-horror of this new format, I'm starting to get used to it. Maybe it's not as terrible as it first appeared. Maybe it's quite nice really. The narrower column of text actually makes reading easier. I believe that is an established fact which magazines and newspapers employ.

    My one remaining gripe is the absence of a 'Preview' button. Perhaps I'll get used to that as well.

    I have to admit there's something bright and fresh about this new design which I'm beginning to enjoy. And it is nice to be able to dip into other authors' analyses - I greatly enjoyed Barry Lynn's exposition - as well as Steve's, now that the follow-on pages actually appear (which they didn't a couple of days ago).

    I'm glad that I can now genuinely join some of the other commentators in congratulating you on a risky but acceptable transformation. I think I will continue to visit Washington Monthly on a daily basis.

  • jhaber on May 10, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Not at all a fan. First, yes, the off-centering with almost no left margin makes it harder to read (and, should one get past the top clutter, spookily empty at right). Second, it's just way too cluttered. Besides the two levels of menus (probably a good thing), there must be at least 12 separate page areas of distinct kinds of content in three margins. What a mess.

    Newspaper sites can get away with three columns for article listings in various ways. The Times has in effect headlines for major articles, some feature articles more narrowly, and then links, but the subordination of the links is clear, there aren't many kinds of them, and most important when you actually want to red anything, you're down to two columns. That's typical. Say, the Daily News even for headlines only has a clean look that interrupts the flow and highlights some headlines by shifting back briefly to two columns. And for blogs and magazines, there's a reason they're all two columns. (NYRB even approaches one column for real content, as does Yglesias.)

  • Pope Ratzy on May 11, 2011 9:27 AM:

    It sucks. A truly awesome level of suck. Good bye.

  • Goldilocks on May 11, 2011 5:47 PM:

    A request: At the top of articles with more than one page would it be possible to introduce a discrete message indicating the page number displayed in relation to the number of pages in the article? I saw this feature in the Vanity Fair website and liked it. It was just a bracketed (page 3 of 7) style note at the head that page.

    And, hey, thanks for the Preview button!

  • Anna on May 12, 2011 10:46 AM:

    Now that the left margin has been fixed, how about expanding the width of the text column itself? This is still very, very hard to read--the column is too wide to scan like a newspaper column, but breaks at an uncomfortable width. And way too much screen real estate is occupied by whatever is going on to the right, which I don't even look at because it's visually annoying and sort of looks like HuffPo, which should not be a design inspiration. Maybe all that stuff could go on the left? I know you can't please everyone, but I haven't read a single article since the redesign because of the column width issue.

  • JS on May 12, 2011 4:48 PM:

    One problem is that I used to be able to read most of Mr. Benen's posts on one screen. With the articles squeezed to the left side of the screen, it's harder for those who look in once or twice a day.

    With the new design, I scroll down to whatever I read last, then have to go through a "scroll up, scroll back down through one story, then scroll up past the story I just read and more to get to the start of the next story. Over and over. Didn't used to be this hard.

    If you could add a

    ← last story --- next story →

    hyperlink at the bottom of Mr. Benen's individual story links, people could click on whatever they read last and navigate through the posts more easily. This was a nice feature when I was still reading Daily Dish. Last year, when Sully was still reasonably sane.

    (You could still keep all the other links on the right, and you might even increase page views.. win-win?)

    (It's improving to be sure.. maybe you could go with just a little more of an 'off-white' background, it's still somewhat blinding.)

    P.S. - captchas with umlauts in them aren't all that helpful to an English-typing audience.

  • JS on May 12, 2011 4:50 PM:

    Character fail in above post is meant to read:

    (left arrow hyperlink) last story --- next story (right arrow hyperlink)

  • low-tech cyclist on May 13, 2011 9:16 AM:

    The old Washington Monthly didn't advocate flogging. You ought to take that piece of trash down.

    Don't look to me the next time you're trying to drum up contributions to the Monthly.

  • andrew on May 13, 2011 10:54 AM:

    Sorry, I've been trying... but I can't take it very long. I used to linger over Benen's column, but now - with the too-bright white background and annoying clutter on the right side and narrow Benen column width - I look in and then look away. Please take us back to something less harsh, with fewer distractions.

  • Cha on May 14, 2011 1:01 AM:

    I can get use to the new color scheme and arrangement of blog, etc..but, I absolutely abhor captcha and wonder why you can't remember our info like so many other worthy blogs on the net?

  • Bernard Gilroy on May 14, 2011 8:05 AM:

    [I] wonder why you can't remember our info like so many other worthy blogs on the net?

    Hear, hear! This lack has made the blog far more annoying than it needs to be. It's a bit amateur-hour, really.

  • Texas Aggie on May 14, 2011 10:53 AM:

    I have four complaints:

    1. The white background is terrible. The blue was far superior.

    2. There is no provision for emailing individual articles like there used to be.

    3. The captcha is a real pain. Drop it.

    4. Did I mention that the white background is a royal pain? The blue was far superior.

    PS. The white background needs to be replaced by the original blue or something similar. Have I mentioned that?

  • emjayay on May 16, 2011 5:07 PM:

    Just like everyone else:

    PLEASE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE ACRES OF GLARING EYESTRAINING WHITE SPACE? SERIOUSLY, HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS? EVER ACTUALLY LOOKED AT YOUR SITE?

    Also, the captcha thing is the hardest to read version of that sort of thing I have ever seen. But then in the past you left up repeated sales spam (and seriouosly, who would ever buy anything from such crappy messages?) for hours and days at a time.

  • Dolores Mirabella on May 23, 2011 5:16 PM:

    Still looking for the return of the blue background. How seriously are you considering the feedback you are getting?

  • JS on May 26, 2011 11:21 AM:

    Looks like this is about to drop off the list of stories.. if anyone is listening to (or implementing) many of the suggestions, we readers would never know it.

    I've seen better outreach.

  • hooher tod on September 03, 2011 4:45 PM:

    Yes there should realize the reader to RSS my feed to RSS commentary, quite simply