What if the front page…

by matt1 min read14th Mar 201235 comments

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What if the front page looked a little more like this?

An idea

(Please assume that I'm trying to help. If you're polite and constructive (even if you hate this design) Omega will send you bundles of love in the post. If you're rude, I'll personally fund ninja assassins to hunt you down.)

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Yes, or nearly yes. We should do something close to that.
(I've upvoted this comment, or I've upvoted and replied with some small changes I think would make this design even better, or I've upvoted and upvoted a child of this comment that suggests some improvements).

I do like the idea of splitting up the disparate topics. Personally, living nowhere near any meetup locations, I find those announcements to be a bit spammy.

This. I'd desperately love to have a meetup in my area, but not having one, the spam makes it where I largely ignore main/promoted, which is the exact opposite of what it's supposed to be.

Might consider making the brain thing more abstract and graphic design-y, something relating to an actual head silhouette like a subway map relates to a geographical map. The region edges that look like they've been drawn in freehand look particularly off to me.

The idea itself might be catchy, but I'd prefer graphic layout suggesting a brain profile drawing rather than a brain profile drawing suggesting a graphic layout.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

One small change I would like regards whatever magic runs the recent comments/posts widgets. I recently loaded the site on a work computer (!) that was sufficiently ancient as to not understand any of it, and the site loaded amazingly fast (excepting recent widgets, which were disabled). So I suspect that whatever magic runs it is blocking the site from rendering immediately, as it tends to take a couple seconds on my somewhat-modern-but-still-ancient laptop that runs Chrome.

Of course, I know next to nothing about dynamic webpages, so feel free to ignore this if it's completely misguided.

The main page should load without any of the widgets, but including javascript that triggers once the page is loaded to fetch them. I find your observation hard to explain.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Then it's probably just a hallucination! Nevermind. :-)

I'm not a fan of the huge brain thing. It takes up space, slows down page loads, makes it difficult to browse the site on mobile devices, and looks ugly. Highlighting main topics of interest is a worthy goal, but your graphic is a poor solution.

P.S. I am guarded by an elite cadre of zombie pirates. Your ninjas stand no chance !

I do rather like those four "Lesswrong is…" links, but…
No no no, we need to stick to text and maps - images are not for people like us (but I can imagine the text and images being laid out a little better).

There are two important groups of users: 1) first-time visitors, and 2) everyday visitors. Your suggestion improves the site for the former, but you should think about the latter too.

As a everyday visitor, I want the things important for me to be at the top of the page, so that I do not have to scroll down every time. On the other hand, the things important for me can have a small font and no graphics, because I already know what to look for. What are things important for an everyday visitor? Simply: what has changed since yesterday -- new articles, new Overcoming Bias articles, new comments, new wiki edits (not everything is important to everyone, but these are the frequent changes), and perhaps featured articles. These things are not high enough now, neither are they high enough in your proposal.

After these things (which compressed enough should still leave 2/3 of the top screen empty), there can go your brain graphics, short description of the site, and the meetup map -- things that should catch the eye of the first-time visitor.

The essence is -- think about different types of users and their needs. You did it for the new users, now think about old users too. On the title page, having to scroll down is bad. Scrolling down is OK only when reading a longer text, which must begin on the first screen, but may continue below.

To be frank, I don't think they should care about everyday visitors. Getting new visitors sucked in is vastly more important than making things a tiny bit more convenient for people who ALREADY come here everyday. The top of the page is really important in terms of what people first coming to a website see, and a random collection of new posts is not how you want to introduce LW.

Why would everyday visitors go to the front page? I have the New Main and New Discussion pages bookmarked, if I need to get to another page I can always follow internal links.

24% of front page traffic is new visitors to the site; 76% are returning visitors.
(This doesn't mean we don't maximise community growth by optimising the front page for the new visitors.)

When I recommend the site, I just say LessWrong.com.

The very few occasions you recommend the site to everyday visitors spawn interesting conversations but very little website traffic. Your site recommendations to new visitors are much more relevant to this discussion.

I'm not sure where the communication disconnect is-- I recommend Less Wrong to people who generally haven't heard of it before. They are potential new visitors.

They are potential new visitors, and they will likely go to the front page. The front page should cater for them.
billswift seems to me to be arguing that "everyday visitors" (which I interpret to mean frequent users of the site) should bookmark or remember other site locations or other ways of consuming site content (eg. the many RSS feeds available), so shouldn't be much concerned for the usability of the front page to them.

If billswift is right, the front page should be optimised for new visitors (the group you seem to be talking about), and not for returning visitors.

Or, provide two different pages - one for logged in users, one for anonymous visitors.

I'd prefer this didn't happen. An anonymous visitor may just be a regular accessing the site from a different machine, or one who's just purged his cookies. I don't want to suddenly find myself looking at a completely different layout just because I happen to be logged out, or to have no idea what a non-member is talking about when they describe a front page I will hardly ever see. At present the only difference in appearance between logged in and not is a few details such as my name at the top right and the voting buttons. That's how I'd prefer it remain.

I'm not sure how often everyday visitors navigate to lesswrong.com, as if they're typing in a webaddress. I have all/recentposts saved as a bookmark, and that's all I ever start out at.

24% of traffic to the front page is new visitors; 76% is returning visitors.
Overall site traffic is 51% new visitors.

Excluding post pages, landing page traffic looks like:

lesswrong.com
Landing Pages
20120213-20120314

Landing Page              Visits   % New Visits
/                         60,038          23.77
/r/discussion/new/         5,972           2.34
/promoted/                 1,992           9.69
/new/                      1,886           3.50
/r/discussion/             1,605           5.17
/about/                    1,439          19.39
/new                       1,038          12.24
/comments                    995           3.92
/comments/                   761           0.92
/message/inbox/              513           0.00
/r/discussion                492           5.49
/r/discussion/comments/      472           1.69
/user/Eliezer_Yudkowsky      371           3.77
/user/Eliezer_Yudkowsky/     280           2.50

So this counts traffic that visits a given page as its first only? Maybe you could explain what the technical definitions of "landing page", "visit", and "new visit" are in the context of this comment.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

Standard accessibility concerns for the blind having to screen-read image maps. Not that the site is currently very good for screen readers, but... well, neither is the rest of the internet.

There are two things I'd object to about this design. And of course this is meant as constructive criticism and I really appreciate the effort you're putting forth in spite of the fact that I disagree with you.

First, I am squeamish about brains, and I assume some percentage of other people are as well. Even though your suggested picture is quite inoffensive, I wouldn't take the risk of turning away visitors. It's just unnecessary.

Second, there's nothing about the headlines that pulls me in.

Curated community blog

Why would I want to read your blog? I don't even know who you are.

A community discussion board

Too vague. I don't even know what this community is about, what do I want with a board?

A source of edited rationality materials

...okay?

And a promoter of hundreds of meetups around the world.

Meet you? Do I even want you to know I exist?

Contrast this with the article linked on the discussion page not so long ago. It went something like

Six ways your irrationality is causing you to lose money

That is a great headline. It makes people curious, makes them want to find out if they're making any of these mistakes or if it's just other people. My money, that's relevant to me.

The current front page is actually not so bad:

Want to know if your doctor's diagnosis is correct? It helps to understand Bayes' Theorem. Want to make a plan for achieving your goals? It helps to know the ways in which we don't know our own desires. Want to make the world a better place? It helps to know about 'scope insensitivity', and that some charities are more efficient than others.

I would put this segment first though and jazz it up a bit. I would rewrite it a hundred times, pick a few rewrites that I think are the best, then I would cycle through them on the front page and see which ones cause new visitors to stay on the site longest/visit most pages.

On a tangential matter, that is why I hate the label "dark arts" that's being used around here. Sure, if a sleazy used car salesman uses these strategies, that may be immoral. But we have a great "product" and a genuine desire to make ourselves and other people better and the world a better place. We should market ourselves better, because that's the most effective way to reach new people

Real estate on the internet is paradoxically expensive, because attention spans are very short and every word has an opportunity cost. Every sentence needs to keep the reader interested enough to read the next sentence. We don't need to be sleazy, and we don't need to use "dark arts". But we really, really, need to be persuasive.

Oh, by the way, PJ Eby is great at this! When I first saw one of his sites, www.whycantichange.com I thought, "wow, this guy really gets it." It's a great example of ethical persuasion and I'm really glad he bothered to learn it and use it because if he hadn't, I may not have checked out his materials and made some of the very tangible progress I've made in my life.

...seriously, that url (whycantichange) is so brilliant I'm giddy.

For a contrary opinion: Whenever I come across a site anything like whycantichange, I immediately ditch it and glaze over. Those come across as sleazy cheap grabs for money, even if they aren't actually asking for money.

I'm certainly not suggesting that the LW front page should be replaced by a landing page. That particular design does have some negative associations for me as well.

My point is that if your goal is to make the visitor stick around for a while and maybe even participate, then you need to have a front page that encourages him/her to do so. The design suggested by the OP, in my opinion, probably does not.

I personally prefer the current version - I don't like big images on front pages, I consider them a useless waste of precious screen space.

But I'm aware that my point of view on those things tend to not be shared by most people, and for the home page what matters is more "most people" or at least "most people who potentially would care about LW", so... as long as accessibility is there (blind people can access it, ...) I don't oppose it, just personally dislike it.

No no no. No. You have it all wrong. I've upvoted this comment and replied to it with a detailed description of what you should do instead.
(Or I've upvoted this comment and a child of this comment I think is a better idea.)

Before experimenting with the Less Wrong homepage, we should start using A/B testing techniques to see how to best interest folks in Less Wrong. Here is a nifty framework:

http://genetify.com/demo/

Ideally, any user would be allowed to suggest a change to the Less Wrong introductory copy and see it tested out. Over time, we could learn what copy best interests new users, and experiment with new home page designs based on what we learn from that.

A/B testing is something I'd love to do… but I don't have the time to do more than support someone else managing the project.

Stuff I can make happen:

  • support for multiple wiki pages mounted at lesswrong.com urls
  • support for the front page to run js that will select which variant page to display

Stuff someone else (with high site karma or vouched for by someone with high site karma) would have to commit to do:

  • generate page variants
  • decide on the goal condition we're optimising for
  • manage the ongoing test (requirements determined by the A/B framework we use)
  • anything else I didn't think of - you'd be the project manager.

(Without having reviewed Genetify I'd prefer to use Google's free A/B testing system, but would be happy to convinced to follow the project manager's decision.)

Upvoted for A/B split-testing! Don't guess when you can test.

No, it's good as it is; I can't think of any clear improvements to the status quo.

That's not a fair statement of the "keep the status quo" position, and I'd rather you didn't make this into a push poll. You could change this to something like,

"No, it's good as it is; I can't think of any clear improvements to the status quo."

You're right.