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The first, very obvious thing you'll notice is that Gapers Block has been redesigned with a fresh, updated look. Like with our upcoming anniversary, it would seem that we redesign every year or so. We're hesitant to call it completely new, using perhaps an oft used adage from the auto industry: "new and improved." In essence, this version of the site (the third, if you're counting) has been like the others — an evolution rather than a revolution. We know what works for the site and all the things that we've been accumulating and jotting down notes for have resulted in this version. Consider it a major tweak.
We're not quite done, either. There are a few more bells and whistles — well, actually more like new sections and features — being added in the coming weeks.
So, What's New?
Readers have asked about larger text for a while now and we've gone ahead and done it. We're using larger font sizes all round. For ease of reading!
More Real Estate
The site covers more of your browser screen, but we haven't gone past 800 pixels wide. The site should feel very balanced now, as it adheres to a strict grid system for its layout.
The header for each section on the front page now contains several short-cut navigation icons. Hover over them with your mouse and menus appear, allowing you to access archive pages and articles right from the front page. We encourage you to play with these.
In Merge, you can check out all the posts made by a particular author by clicking this icon.
Merge archives by category, such as Books/Authors or Transportation, can be found here. You'll also find the column archives the same way in Airbags.
Date-based archives for Merge, Fuel and Detour are to be found under this icon.
Directly subscribe to the RSS feed for a section.
Please note: Users of the flawed Internet Explorer will have partial functionality — unfortunately you won't see the menus unless you use a standards compliant browser like Firefox or Safari but the links to the archives will still work for you. We are currently remedying this.
We used to offer several different flavors of RSS feeds, which worked to varying degrees. No more. Our feeds are now served by Feedburner and are as functional and compatible as they can be. To celebrate, we added feeds for Rearview and Fuel, too.
You can subscribe to a section's feed by clicking on the icon in the header, as we just said, or on the new RSS Feeds page. If you're subscribed to our old feeds, you'll want to update those URLs.
We've tried to provide complete archive pages for each section, category, column, etc. Hopefully this will allow you to find what you need to find easily. You can access these by clicking on a permalink and navigating around or clicking on a shortcut menu icon (located in the headers on the front page, as mentioned above) or, in Airbags, by clicking on the column name. A re-invigorated Search is in the works and will be here in the days to come.
There is now a "live comment preview" — visit a comment form on the site (for instance, in Fuel) and you'll notice next to the usual form you fill out to reply that whilst typing in your message, the text appears live next to the form for your on-screen perusal and previewing.
Date and Weather
In the masthead, we now list the date and the high and low temperatures for the day. It may come in handy.
New Top Nav
There're a lot of new buttons up at the top of the page. They should be self-explanatory, but we thought we'd point them out just the same. Some of you may be particularly interested in the updated Submissions page.
What's On the Way
You may have noticed that Transmission, our music section, has disappeared from the front page. We're revamping and relaunching the section as a full-fledged site within a site, encompassing our weekly mp3s and profiles of local bands as well as local music news, CD and concert reviews, interviews and more. We're looking for a few good writers to work specifically on Transmission — if you're interested, email some writing samples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gapers Block Book Club
The Gapers Block Book Club is hardly new; we've been reading a Chicago-related book a month for a year now. But it's finally breaking out from a blurb in Slowdown and the bottom of Ask the Librarian columns and getting its own section. We're not quite ready to launch, but for now you can whet your appetite and participate in the GB Book Club forum.
The Party Line
Do you get our weekly newsletter, the Party Line? You should. Besides highlighting some of the best events of the coming weekend and beyond, it's loaded with special features unavailable on Gapers Block proper, including a great column by Party Line Editor Brian Sobolak. We'll be putting the archives online in the next couple weeks, but you'll still want to sign up for the email — which you can do right here
We Turn Three!
Not so much a redesign feature as an early warning: Gapers Block turns three in May, and we'll be celebrating with a big party at The Hideout on May 26. That's Memorial Day Friday, so start your long weekend by joining us for music from Canasta and Sycamore Smith, movies, readings and contests! And more! Watch for more details in the coming weeks.
Help Us Out
That's right, we need your help. And your feedback. Please let us know what you think, or if you find anything that's wonky or weird or just plain broken, in the comments below. Thanks!