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JungleDragon repromotions »

FERDY CHRISTANT - APR 4, 2014 (02:22:22 PM)

A few months ago I took one of the best decisions for JungleDragon in a long while: to open up parts of its operations to the community, by means of moderations tools. It has been working very well, the community is happy with it, and it eliminates the reliance on a single person.

One of such moderations tool is the ability to promote a photo to the homepage. What basically happens is that a flag is set on the photo, that will make it appear on the homepage. However, it will only actually appear on the homepage if it is a recently uploaded photo, because the homepage gallery is sorted by upload date. Thus, if you promote and older photo, it will be promoted, but definitely not to the first page.

I just changed that. The homepage is now sorted by the promotion date. This means that when you promote an older photo, it will get a new promotion date, thus appear at the start of the homepage. You can even repromote a photo. If it already was promoted, yet falls of the homepage, you can promote it again, pushing it back to the first spot.

There are two main benefits to this approach:

  • It gives moderators far more power, being able to promote any of the 14,000+ photos, instead of a handful of recent ones. The homepage essentially now is an open canvas for the moderators to paint on as they see fit
  • This allows us to showcase awesome photos that are not so recent. Think of it, "recent" as judged by upload date is not as important as new to you. If you haven't seenn a great photo before, it matters not what the upload date was.
Note: in the screenshot above you can see how I pushed an old photo (monkey) in front of a few recently promoted photos, just to show that I can.

We've come a long way »

FERDY CHRISTANT - APR 1, 2014 (08:25:38 PM)

I am rarely fully satisfied with what I develop for JungleDragon, always thinking I can do better. Once in a while though, I see that content and design blend into each other, which is my main goal. I then experience a rare moment of accomplishment. Today I had such a moment, even if it is a modest one. This is just an excuse to capture the JungleDragon homepage once in while :)

JungleDragon Wildlife Photo Contest - April 2014 »

FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 31, 2014 (07:31:47 PM)

We're having another wildlife photo contest at JungleDragon for the month of April, yet already starting today. Here's the link to the contest with prize details and rules. Joining is easy and free as always. Even if you won't join, I'd appreciate if you share it with people in your circles who may be interested. Thanks!

The daring redesign of the JungleDragon homepage »

FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 31, 2014 (05:07:57 PM)

I just deployed a redesigned homepage for JungleDragon. It is a fairly bold redesign, and since it is JungleDragon's most important page, I'll explain the redesign and the thinking behind it in this post.

The "old" homepage

First, a glance at how the homepage was:

The old homepage was quite compact. Below the welcome message are 12 promoted photos, allowing visitors to quickly see what is both new and popular. To the right is an intro or news message, a wildlife browser panel, and 12 items of the activity feed. 

The new homepage

Without further delay, here's the new homepage design:

Yes, it is quite a lot taller. Allow me to break apart this new page and explain all of its components...

The full fleed epic hero banner

Say what? This is web design language. Full bleed means spanning the entire viewport. Hero means its an attention-grabbing headline. I'm talking about the giant dragon at the start of the homepage:

First, to take away a concern: the dragon only shows on the homepage, and only when you're not logged in. I personally find it quite beautiful. I've always had trouble including JungleDragon's "tagline" into the homepage. The purpose of such tagline is to explain new visitors what the site is about, and also to recommend a next action, "Join" in this case. 

Rather than cowardly providing a minimal tagline somewhere in the corner to save space, this design is in-your-face. It immediately establishes the brand and grabs the attention.

Some interesting crafting went into the design of it. Notice the "Join" button. In webkit and Firefox, that button will have an animated glow effect. Grabbing attention, but not to the point of being annoying. 

And what's more: the dragon header has the trendy parallax effect applied. If you don't know what that is, it means that it scrolls slower than the rest of the page, creating the illusion of depth. In this video you can see it (poorly):

The first screenshot showed the dragon header in table mode, here it is on a desktop viewport:

For the header image, I have 3 sizes, depending on the viewport I load the right one (except for on very small viewports). Even on insane browsing resolutions such as 2560 x 1440 it will span the entire screen:

I told you, it's giant, yet not in file size. 

Promoted photos

Let's move on. Below the header sit the promoted photos as before. Yet now they take all 4 columns, instead of 3. There's also a lot more of them, 36 instead of 12. Photos now have semi-transparent captions:

In total, that's a whole lot more photo pixels. If you're wondering what happened to the components that used to sit in the sidebar, read on...

Community activity

The community activity now sits below the promoted photos instead of next to them:

Some users may dislike having to scroll further to this, but there's also an upside: again there's 3 times more content, 36 items instead of 2. They are divided over 1 or 2 columns depending on the size of your viewport. The above example only shows me, as this is my development environment. It will look better on the live site :)

Wildlife browser

The wildlife browser shows popular species groups that act as shortcuts into the wildlife browser feature of JungleDragon. I never liked the design of it, so I redesigned it completely. It now takes the entire row and has a bold dark background:

Note the newly added text, which explains to new visitors what all this species talk is about. 

Doing good

New and visible on the homepage only is the "Doing good" message:

JungleDragon regularly donates to wildlife and is genuine about its purpose. That is something to be proud of, so it is promptly mentioned just above the footer.

General headers

That covered the homepage. Here's another general styling update. Normal headers, visible above most pages, are now in green instead of light brown:

Notification messages

Notification messages are messages that occur for a few seconds above the site about doing a specific activity. They are now restyled into a positive blue:

Webkit text rendering

Along with the redesign I improved text rendering in Webkit browsers. Webkit browsers on Windows have a very serious issue for years already: they make custom webfonts look very grainy. I found a work-around to soften the issue somewhat.

Wrapping up

I had fun doing this redesign and learned a few new things (parallax effect, CSS keyframes). I believe this design feels less messy, more daring, showing more content and grabbing the attention. At least such is my purpose. What do you think? I love to hear your feedback...

A Tour of Tanzania »

FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 29, 2014 (11:07:27 AM)

It was in September of 2013 that we visited Tanzania, and it has taken me up to today to share the full set on JungleDragon. I share them by batches of 2 or 3 per day. One reason for that is that it gives me a 'stock' of photos to share on JungleDragon, as I photograph little in the winter.

Although this type of sharing takes a long time, I believe it has other advantages. It easier to consume for people interested, instead of dumping close to a thousand photos. Another advantage is that by sharing a few at a time, I tend to describe each photo quite well. The end result is a comprehensive set, well described, with species identified and sometimes geotagged. 

Anyways, I've created a few lists in JungleDragon that allow for different way to browse the Tanzania set. Here they are:

For the interested, I once did a similar overview for Madagascar, to this day the most impressive wildlife hotspot we ever visited. For this year we have Sri Lanka on the planning, but only very late in the year. If there's one thing I hope for the future, it is for us to continue to be able to visit one such wildlife country per year, and of course to keep describing it in detail on JungleDragon.

Continue reading...