Home Asides Evening Open Thread: Pondering a SAS redesign

Evening Open Thread: Pondering a SAS redesign

by Benjamin Kabak

Second Ave. Sagas hasn’t changed its look much over the last few years. I think it’s been since late 2008, and in Internet years, that’s an eternity. So I’m thinking about redesigning the site in the coming months, and I wanted to open this thread up to you, my readers. What would you like to see on a redesigned site? I’m not even going to give suggestions because I’m curious to hear your unfiltered comments. Have it below or feel free to contact me privately. I’m looking forward to the feedback.

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57 comments

asar April 30, 2013 - 7:55 pm

Mr. Kabak, i think u should design the website into a second ave subway themed background what i mean is that u should make a “t” symbol around the website, and get the mta to change an r160 train to say “t “via second ave

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asar April 30, 2013 - 7:56 pm

Mr. Kabak, i think u should design the website into a second ave subway themed background what i mean is that u should make a “t” symbol around the website, and get the mta to change an r160 train to say “t “via second ave.if u can lend me ur home adrress so i can show you what i want to tall you

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SEAN April 30, 2013 - 8:02 pm

1. Shrink the banner on top & color the logo to match the Q train.
2. Easier access to common links for each story.
3. Please ensure that screen readers like JAWS remain supported as some sites have diffaculty with screen reading softwhere.

Thanks Ben, I would like to say this site has become a joy to visit & a great place to discuss transit issues, even though I’ll poke fun from time to time.

Keep up the excelent work.

SEAN

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Jerrold April 30, 2013 - 8:58 pm

And besides “JAWS”, please take into account the screen-magnifying softwares such as “MAGIC” which are used by so many of us partially sighted people.

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@JazzGtrSteve April 30, 2013 - 8:09 pm

Having really just started reading the site (and honestly I get it mostly through Google Reader/RSS), I don’t know what really needs redesigning? It’s perfectly functional, and gets things across clearly. Maybe a slightly updated banner logo at the top? This isn’t really a suggestion for changes, it’s a suggestion for not changing too much.

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Alex April 30, 2013 - 9:26 pm

Agreed – it works pretty well. Might want to clean up some of the clutter on the right though.

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Ian April 30, 2013 - 8:23 pm

Perhaps changing the title “2nd Ave. Sagas” to “Second Avenue Sagas”?

Also, the toolbar could use some rearranging. Maybe use a search field instead of a search link. Move contact nearer to the right. And maybe you can make your Second Ave page a side link rather than a top link, as it is less relevant to what your blog has become (a full on transportation blog and not just about 2nd Ave)

Thanks for writing!

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Brian April 30, 2013 - 8:26 pm

My only suggestions are not really layout related, I think you should add Sandy to the categories list since there were numerous posts about the storm and its aftermath. That and do another 30 day MetroCard challenge to see how it lives up with the new fare structure.

Other than that, I like the layout it’s functional and looks nice been reading since 2009 so the content is great as well, keep up the great work.

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Brooklyn L Train April 30, 2013 - 8:31 pm

Benjamin,
A question board would be nice. That might require a lot of effort but there seems to be a lot of ‘experts’ who can chime in. For instance, why are subway platforms different heights on the same line?
It would also be great to let followers submit photos all things subway related. People like to look at photos and submissions from your followers would add another element of interest.

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Adirondacker12800 April 30, 2013 - 10:21 pm

…just what the world needs another subchat.com… or for reference answers nycsubway.org.

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JMB May 1, 2013 - 9:26 am

Subchat is complete ass. This site could take what they are trying to do over there, but improve upon it with tighter moderation and a far more superior interface. Nycsubway.org is a nice reference, but I find errors/discrepancies/outdated information all the time (i.e.-their trackmaps for example are not accurate many times)

2nd ave sagas has grown into an entirely new beast seperate from just the new subway being built. I say Ben capitalizes on this by incorporating what other sites are trying to do, but make it better. This site can be THE source for all transit.

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AG April 30, 2013 - 8:35 pm

I don’t care how the redesign goes… as long as it is functional and all the latest transit news come forth!

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John April 30, 2013 - 8:51 pm

Ben, I’ve always wanted to suggest to you that you make it so that links within your posts open up in new tabs instead of staying in this one. It’s a pain to have to backtab on the browser to continue reading the post.

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Bolwerk April 30, 2013 - 8:54 pm

Can’t you just right-click and select “new tab”? I think it’s obnoxious when webmasters decide for us whether we want to navigate away.

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Ron April 30, 2013 - 10:27 pm

Agreed. If you have a mouse where the scroll-wheel clicks, you can click a link with that to open the link in a new tab too.

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AG May 1, 2013 - 5:35 pm

I like your idea… i prefer new tabs

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Rob May 2, 2013 - 11:27 am

I prefer same tab!

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Bolwerk April 30, 2013 - 8:53 pm

Older posts sometimes have interesting discussions. Is there any way to alert us when an old blog post sees new life in comments?

Might be a good alternative to Brooklyn L Train’s suggestion.

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John S. April 30, 2013 - 9:28 pm

If your browser makes RSS available somehow, you’ll find that there’s an second feed available on posts that allows you to follow comments. An example for this page:
http://bkabak.wpengine.com/201.....sign/feed/

Basically, slap ‘/feed/’ on the end of the URL and then throw that into your RSS reader of choice. You can find this in Firefox by clicking Bookmarks -> Subscribe to this page -> (2nd choice – ‘comments feed’); in Safari, a button titled ‘RSS’ appears in the address bar – it’s the 2nd choice there as well.

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Bolwerk April 30, 2013 - 10:18 pm

Yes, I wasn’t asking so much on my own behalf, but it just sort of generally alerts people. I don’t think many people use RSS, but I could be mistaken.

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John S. May 1, 2013 - 12:37 pm

Well, RSS is often viewed as ‘geeky,’ and while it’s fantastically useful, I tend to agree that it hasn’t been adopted ‘by the masses.’ That’s Google’s reason for ending Google Reader, and I’ve been surprised by the number of folks I’ve encountered that I hear used Google Reader (and are disappointed by its pending demise). I was quite disappointed by the planned ‘sunset’ of said tool, but I’m starting to like NewsBlur even more in certain regards.

For anyone who doesn’t want to ‘commit’ to using an RSS reader, I’ve found this handy tool that I use for a special purpose at work: http://blogtrottr.com/
If you punch in an RSS feed URL and your e-mail address, it will send you an e-mail address with every new post on said feed.

(I use this for monitoring one of my vendor’s Twitter feeds – it means I’ll learn about outages/updates without actively opening my RSS reader. And no, I do not want to sign up for Twitter…perish the thought!)

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asar April 30, 2013 - 9:04 pm

Sorry i want to mail my design to u

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Jerrold April 30, 2013 - 9:05 pm

It used to be that the “cookie” or whatever it’s called would automatically put my name and E-mail address up here when I post a message.
But now, if I forget to add my name and E-mail EVERY time that I post a message, I get an error message. And then my entire message is wiped out and must be started again from the beginning.

Could you please put that feature back?
And by the way I don’t think it’s my computer that’s causing that problem, because my “cookies” for OTHER sites are working normally.

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anon April 30, 2013 - 9:09 pm

I’m with you on the open thread but i’m off topic–
di you hear/see about DOT’s new Division?

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Stephen - NYC May 4, 2013 - 10:05 am

Yeah, I saw that one the other day. They are always doing funny stuff.

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Nyland8 May 6, 2013 - 11:43 am

The greatest irony is that the people who most need to see this were probably too busy texting to notice the guerilla theater going by.

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Scott E April 30, 2013 - 9:11 pm

My only comment would be regarding the mobile theme. On a mobile device, the comments don’t include nested replies underneath them (and there are a lot of replies and discussion on this blog!), and when one clicks the link to view the desktop version (to see the organized discussion) there’s then no way to go back to the mobile theme. This may not be something within your ability and might just be a technical glitch.

Putting images (i.e. Gravatar) next to commenters’ names could be a nice touch. There are lots of repeat-readers/contributors tend to know each other well and a face or icon might add a little more personality and recognition.

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John S. April 30, 2013 - 9:11 pm

Ben,

Beyond simply ‘keep up the good work,’ here are a few thoughts*:
1) Get rid of all the links/topics at right (on posts, anyway). On a post with only a few paragraphs, the whole page scrolls endlessly with stuff that few people ever notice or click. That stuff might be great on the front page (naturally ‘tall’), but not so much on individual posts.

2) Fix the “Weekend Service Advisories” link to point to this page:
http://bkabak.wpengine.com/cat.....dvisories/
(The current page is 2 years old.) I did some quick searching to see if there was a way to trick WordPress (via URL params) into only showing one result, but came up short. This could probably be accomplished with a very small bit of programming, but would requiring mild tweaking.

3) A nit if ever there was one – given the amount of times ADA comes up, one day some time ago I noticed that if you look closely (or zoom in), the 72nd St. station on the map in the header doesn’t have an ‘accessible’ icon. I wouldn’t be surprised if a source image was lacking in this regard at one point, but the very first Google hit for ‘mta 2nd avenue’ turns up this page with a proper map:
http://www.mta.info/capconstr/sas/
(Curiosity did get the better of me – that page from 2007 has just the same image as the header: http://snipurl.com/26yb42u )

4) Shades of (1) if you really like ‘theNextTrain’ or ‘iTransNYC,’ or are actually making money for them, great…keep the links/banners. If not, it’s taking a lot of real estate.

5) Also, the “+Google” and “+Yahoo” links – you have a good link for RSS above and Google is ending iGoogle as well as Google Reader. I suppose some people still use Yahoo, but I don’t know many of them.

Most of these ‘page is too cluttered/long’ center around the fact that I use RSS heavily (now via Newsblur) – I imagine some of these make far more sense on the home page, but I click straight through to the stories. None of this is meant to be critical – I work in IT and am quite familiar with how things ‘grow’ over time and I have a tendency towards cutting things down to the bare minimum and only putting back what makes sense. YMMV.

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anon April 30, 2013 - 9:12 pm

On Topic

Transit EKG where people can report problems.

I know you can do that on mta website but that is like entering the void.

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Dan April 30, 2013 - 9:27 pm

I’d say clean up the sidebar if you can, there’s so much stuff going on there it’s ridiculous! And not all of it is useful, like the “Metrocard Challenge” thing which hasn’t been updated since 2008. As for the rest of theme, I feel like space should be the key issue. As in, make the content area wider, space stuff out more so it’s not so cramped. I’d keep the header graphic because it’s a nice touch to the site and reminds readers of the original purpose of the site. I’d do away with the gaudy gradients, those are a relic from the web 2.0 era when everything had to be shiny, nowadays clean and simple is the way to go in terms of design. The date on the post doesn’t need to be so huge, it’s almost bigger than the content in this post. Consider making the graphics high resolution, as super high-resolution (retina) displays are becoming quite common in smartphones and increasingly so in laptops. Also, put an actual search bar somewhere on the site, instead of linking to a separate search page. Consider grouping the social buttons into a “share” box and hide it until somebody needs it, I find that all the social stuff like facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc. just gives a lot of unnecessary clutter. Consider moving the comments to a system like Disqus, which makes it easier to moderate and reply to comments.

Anyways, those are my two cents as a former web designer.

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Patrick April 30, 2013 - 9:39 pm

O God, not DISQUS. Please ANYTHING but DISQUS.
-Patrick W/O A Blog

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Chet April 30, 2013 - 10:10 pm

Agreed!

No Disqus.

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Bolwerk April 30, 2013 - 10:21 pm

Second on Disqus opposition. Disqus a completely buggy piece of shit, and when I’m pretty sure drove away most of the more intelligent people from Streetsblog.

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Patrick April 30, 2013 - 10:34 pm

I am SO glad that i’m not the only one who thins that DISQUS just drives in the stupid
-Patrick W/O A Blog

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Patrick April 30, 2013 - 10:36 pm

*thinks

Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 12:21 am

Saying so evidently brings out typos! :-O

(I just re-read what I wrote before – I was on the phone.)

Scott E May 1, 2013 - 7:36 am

I’ll also add a couple of cents to emphatically vote “NO” to Disqus (or any Facebook-comment-integration, for that matter. It compromises privacy of the identities of people who participate, and multiple commenting systems tend to separate the two).

I agree to moving the search-bar directly to the front page, and to cleaning up the sidebars.

I like the date presentation as it is. It’s clean yet easy to find.

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John S. May 1, 2013 - 12:43 pm

FYI: Bruce Schneier has made an interesting change to his blog to improve privacy. He links to and describes the details here: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/03/changes_to_the.html

In a nutshell, he’s making the “Like” / Tweet / et al. gizmos be disabled by default, to prevent the ‘leakage’ of your browsing history. (At present, if you’re signed into those services and visit this page, your browsing is probably being tracked by said sites.)

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Boerumhillscott May 1, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Another vote agaisnt disqus, or any other system that uses a lot of fancy and unreliable AJAX.

Having the site remember name and e-mail would be nice.

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Kevin April 30, 2013 - 9:38 pm

I believe the site is great as is, I agree mobile/rss reader apps could use just a bit of optimization. This site is always where I go to for mature discussions. The only thing I could ask more to improve the site would be more writers, or more content. The few times you went on vacation, you brought in guest writers, more of that would be awesome.

A place for further discussion like what others said would be great too, but only if there were experts like you to contribute to the discussions, hence why I’d love to see more writers.

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Frank B. April 30, 2013 - 10:44 pm

I’ve always liked the look of your site. It’s simple but tasteful.

Other than adding a message board or something of the like, I wouldn’t make any changes whatsoever.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken. 😀

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Roxie April 30, 2013 - 11:04 pm

Clean up the dead links and clutter from the side bar, kill the heavily outdated ad links, and you should be fine. Maybe widen the content area to fill all the white space put the categories in the grey outer area or in a dropdown at the top (replacing the “Weekend Service Advisories” and “2nd Avenue Subway History” links). Also I’d echo the suggestion to take spots where you have outdated Web 2.0-era gradients/splashes and flatten them out. (The backdrop behind links on the top linkbar, for example, as well as what’s underneath the date at the top of a post.)
Other than that, quite frankly, your site is pretty good as it is. The design is clean as well as function, aside from the ugly cluttered sidebar. Even just a little spring cleaning would do wonders, I think.

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Daniel Speyer May 1, 2013 - 12:21 am

I basically read this through RSS, so whatever the site does doesn’t effect me much. I bet a lot of readers are like me that way, so just keep the feed clean and reliable.

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BruceNY May 1, 2013 - 1:07 am

Maybe just show the #7 extension peeking out above the “2nd Avenue Sagas” banner on the background map. It would make me feel slightly more optimisitic about the amount of expansion of our transit system.

That’s about all the change I think is needed.

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JJJJ May 1, 2013 - 3:10 am

Listen to Jerrold. I need to use control + scroll on every website I visit. On some of them, the layout doesnt allow this. I no longer visit those sites.

Keep accessibility in mind.

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asar May 1, 2013 - 6:58 am

I agree with john & jazzgtrsteve. The modernization of the second ave subway banner on the top of the website, and the idea of the website refreshing every time ben posts an article so u dont have2 go back to the google search so second ave sagas can refresh

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Kevin May 1, 2013 - 8:51 am

As long as you let us default to chronological view of your posts, I’m fine with anything. I hate sites that offer those “Pretty” or “Recommended” views. I prefer reading articles in date order rather than what someone else thinks I should read.

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JMB May 1, 2013 - 9:37 am

Maybe as others have suggested, allow other writers to contribute? Perhaps break it up into experts on certains lines? Could be interesting.

Otherwise, I love this site. I’ve been reading for years now and definitely come here to daily to get the scoop. Plus there is a lot of knowledge to be gained from commenters who regularly post here which is refreshing. Keep up the good work!

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MH May 1, 2013 - 9:57 am

Can you please go back to mobile edition of site, if possible? More often than not I’m checking the site out through my iPhone. It’ll be easier accessing the site in the mobile format for me.

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david f May 1, 2013 - 2:14 pm

overall your site is cleanly designed and easy to read, the only addition i’d like to see is the addition of the YEAR to the date icons you start each post with.

sometimes when searching for topics on the site, i’ll come across something, but have no idea whether it’s a 1 year old posting or a 5 year old posting.

otherwise, keep up the good work.

thanks

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Stephen - NYC May 4, 2013 - 10:11 am

I second that motion.

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pete May 2, 2013 - 9:12 pm

No Disqus. No AJAX. No Javascript (but I can’t write this post without it presently BTW). No JQuery. No Facebook. I dont want to buy a new PC just to use read the site at a speed faster than dialup (it would draw as slow as dialup but I’m on FIOS, so connection speed isn’t the problem). The site should work on IE 6, since if it works on IE 6, it will work on dumbphones decently. The anonymous, no usernames, no profile system works well. I dont see work at home or handbag spam. Arguments, even if they are trollling dont get crazy long and 4 letter words around here. I dont see any overt signs moderation or censorship in the comments. So whatever happens, its working good.

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pete May 2, 2013 - 9:23 pm

I’d like to see less social networking buttons. Never used them. Never will. If I care enough to spread the link, it will be privately and directly to people who would actually be interested in the article. I wont contribute to Google rank or be a pawn in a viral marketing, although sometimes I think you Ben are a fictional character created by a DC lobbiest firm under contract with the MTA and are indirectly salaried by public transit rider’s fares and this whole site is part of a propaganda campaign to convince me that actual construction is taking place on the SAS, when it is just a bunch of soviet style photoshops http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.....viet_Union and not 1 teaspoon of dirt has moved since 1975 on 2nd Ave :-p

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Stephen - NYC May 4, 2013 - 10:13 am

I agree re social networking button.
Nice touch re the photoshops.

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Stephen - NYC May 4, 2013 - 10:15 am

Please put the address of the locations you are going to be at. I see that in June you are going to be at the Transit Museum. Where is it? I recall that it’s in Brooklyn, but I also recall that there is a Manhattan satellite in Grand Central (or is my CRS kicking in?).

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Nyland8 May 6, 2013 - 11:35 am

Thanks for soliciting input.

It would be nice if you had a simple one-click link to a glossary of terms used. Many of your readers aren’t fluent in train-speak. Rather than have them stumble through the posts, in some cases misunderstanding the content, a glossary of terms, especially frequently used acronyms, would be useful.

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sergeyigorev October 5, 2019 - 7:39 am

Hello google

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