Freezenet has a brand new look and we’re calling it website design 4.0 as the look has been rebuilt from the ground up!
For many years now, Freezenet has had a general look to it. That look, arguably, dated back clear to 2014 when we launched Freezenet 2.0. That was a big upgrade over the generic theme that came with WordPress at the time. It was a huge milestone for the site as the website had it’s own custom look designed by yours truly.
The design stuck around for a number of years as I worked on getting other features up and running. However, I would return to making the design even better when I made a number of adjustments and upgraded the theme to be mobile friendly. It was another major step forward, stretching my coding skills to the limit. The changes were enough for me to consider it Freezenet 3.0. That was followed up by the Freezenet website design 3.1 patch and, ultimately, the 3.2 design patch in April of 2020.
For the most part, people were generally happy about the design. It was lightweight, it functioned well, it was mobile friendly, and it was extremely easy to navigate. Ever since then, when users checked out Freezenet, that was the look that they got.
The Leadup to the New Design
Now, I was also definitely aware of some of the criticisms of the design. The chief criticism of the design was that it looked dated. It used a font some people didn’t like. Another criticism was that it was difficult to trust a site that had such a look. So, I knew that when I felt it was time to give the design a face lift, I should probably look into something that offered more than what my coding skills could provide.
I was able to scrounge up some money and eventually, I was able to put together enough to hire a third party to re-envision Freezenet. This seemed like a great way to go, really. If you want a refreshed design, maybe it’s a good idea to get a fresh perspective on the layout of the site.
The work on this really began in September of 2023 when I contacted my web host to take advantage of their professional services. They then contracted out to a third party and got everything organized so that a team and communication system could be set up.
In early October of 2023, the work began on the new design. I gathered some feedback on what features the new site should have and how it should look. Then, throughout October, November, and the early parts of December, we worked out a design that works well. The design got tweaked and adjusted, features were added, and things were going quite smoothly.
Then, on December 19th, I looked over everything and it looked like we had a great final design. With a mixture of excitement and nervousness (all understandable under the circumstances), I gave the green light to launch the new design. In the process, I had written this announcement, fully expecting things to be rolling out either that day or the next. I also, in a bit of paranoia, I had backed up everything as well in case something went horribly wrong.
Bumps in the Road
I will fully admit, the launch didn’t go smoothly. When the designers imported the site from the staging area to the live site, it overwrote every post I had written since October. Any review I had written and any news article I had wrote vanished in the process. In a bit of a panic (it would’ve been a heart attack had I not made that last minute backup), I asked the team if they could restore the posts.
Lucky for me, I knew that any restoration process involved overwriting everything again, so in the interim, I had written my news articles on my hard drive in anticipation that the posts would get restored.
After a week, the designers were able to utilize a backup and restored everything to its original state in the staging site. After looking it over, everything appeared to be there, so I confirmed everything was there (much to my relief). I then found out that things weren’t going very smoothly on the designers end as there were a number of CSS errors they had to resolve as well after putting the new design onto the restored data.
For me, I was frustrated not because the launch technically didn’t go smoothly, but rather, I couldn’t continue writing and publishing content. More and more news articles got written and saved onto my hard drive in anticipation of a re-import (which I was informed about, so this wasn’t really me guessing here).
Now, I will admit that this process also took a few days longer because I was noticing some issues with the design as well (including an aparant minor HTTPS security issue in the process that I spotted – hey, I’m good for more than just writing, who knew?). I had requested that these issues be resolved, so the functionality of the site from a practical standpoint was out of reach for me for a bit longer, but I’d rather have the site be as good as possible rather than hastily put together. After all, everyone here, including myself, gets to live with this quite a bit longer than the designers who will happily move on to other projects.
From False Launch to Real Launch
So, now we are here today and, as you can tell with this post, the website has actually launched for real this time. It’s the culmination of several months of hard work largely from the team who worked on it all this time. I can tell you from making multiple designs on this site previously how nice it is not having to deal with the stress of bug squashing for a change. Other people got to sweat it out for a change and I just got to be an “ideas” guy. It’s not a stress free position, but I can definitely say that it’s a vast improvement on the stress side of things.
While this launch has been far from perfect, I think a lot of you will agree that it does improve on a number of things. So, let’s go over some of the new features the site has and where I have listened to the feedback from the previous design.
The Home Page
On the surface, the original design looked fine. You had the main feed of the site which showcases the content of the site in a nice, uniform fashion. What more could you ask for, right? Well, the simple problem is that when you know little about the website, what you think the website is about actually varies depending on when you visit.
So, for instance, you could visit the site and see a bunch of news articles and come to the correct conclusion that it’s a tech news website. At the same time, someone else can view the website and see a whole bunch of video game content and assume that this is a video game website. This could easily happen where I publish a first impression video on a Thursday, then publish a video game review on a Friday, and happen to not write anything in the interim.
The major problem here is that the website has diversified its content. This is not a bad thing, but a single feed for everything brings with it an inherent level of noise depending on what you want to get out of the website. There is really two fundamental choices to be had here. The first choice is to axe the video game and music content and focus exclusively on news content. The other choice is to think of a better design that nicely houses everything in a clear and distinct manner.
The reason why I chose to write video game and music reviews in the first place is actually a series of reasons. Freezenet has a manpower issue which means that if I stop writing news for whatever reason, then content stops getting published altogether. That’s almost never a good thing. Still, something can happen to me that forces me to stop writing news altogether for a while.
So, the ultimate solution I was able to come up with is to produce content that is scheduled for up and coming times. So, if I take a week off, there will still be something posted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, along with 4 additional posts somewhere along the line throughout the month showcasing video content. There’s no advance planning involved and unexpected things can happen while I can still be confident knowing that content is still getting published on the website.
While that is a practical reason for me, there is also a practical reason for this for you, the reader. Different people have different tastes when it comes to what kind of content you want to consume. By diversifying the content being published to showcase other areas, it hits on more tastes.
Simply put, not everyone is interested in the “political tech stuff” even though this is the primary reason why I started this website in the first place. So, music and gaming content is an alternative for you. This is actually something I had theorized and worked on in my mind while first starting up Freezenet all the way back in 2012 and 2013 if you can believe it.
Years after I had implemented this concept, the feedback I got from readers was bang on with what I had theorized. Some people are here for the incredible journalism work that isn’t afraid to tackle political issues head on. Others have zero interest in that stuff and are more interested in the music or video game content (in some cases, both music and gaming content). Different people come to the site for different reasons. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to come up with a theory, spend nearly a decade implementing it, and wind up being 100% correct on my theories for website building.
This takes us back to the concept that is now on the site. Part of the reason why I had hired others to come up with a brand new design is that I had no idea how I could get WordPress to split the content up nicely on the home page like it is today. This was one of the last issues that was still getting wrestled with which shows that this concept wasn’t exactly easy to implement on the CMS. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to say that it is finally implemented and I think it vastly improves the site.
Now, when users come to the site, users can plainly see the different kinds of content all neatly organized into different sections. Want news content? You hve news content. Want video game content? You have video game content. Want music content? You have music content.
In fact, this is something that had been suggested to me over the last two years off and on to varying degrees of directness. Some users weren’t sure what the issue was, but that uncertainty hinted broadly at the design issue. So, as a result, I would say this vastly improves the overall design and I hope you enjoy it.
A New Dark Mode
One of the things I did in the early stages of the development of this new design was solicit feedback from people who both regularly used the site and regularly communicated with me. The best idea that came out of this round was the idea of implementing a dark mode on the site like YouTube. I thought it was a really cool idea and when I was discussing what I was hoping to get out of the new design, this was one of the items I requested.
It took a bit of fiddling with, but a dark mode for Freezenet is now reality thanks to this suggestion. Thank you Clifford for suggesting that!
The practical benefits of a dark mode is that if the bright colours such as white is giving users eye strain, a dark mode is available that more or less inverts the colour scheme. Some people might prefer a dark mode as well for other personal preference reasons. Whatever the reason, though, this feature is now a reality and you can flip it on or off any time you like. I hope you enjoy the dark mode theme!
A Modern Look
Another criticism I heard off and on about the previous design is that it looked dated. One of the earliest instances is someone suggesting that the previous design had a “Geocities on steroids” look to it (yes, after all these years, I remembered that one). What’s more, there was similar criticisms to the overall look. Some suggested that it was the font choice. Others suggested it was the menu bar that gave them that impression. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the design as it was very functional at the time, I did hear these criticisms.
In fact, it was one of the big reasons for the overall facelift and what I had asked for during the initial stages of the design process. I figured there was no harm in giving the website a much more modern look that instills trust. For that, I think the design team nailed that part of it.
So, gone is the default font. Now, we have a completely different custom look that was very recently designed as of this writing. Some of the early feedback I got was that the site now has a very modern look overall. So, from the sounds of things, others agree that the design team I hired achieved that quite nicely.
Of course, one of the important aspects of this is that the site doesn’t lose the overall functionality the previous design had. In terms of functionality, from what I heard, the previous design nailed that very nicely. Some of the feedback I got was that you would never get lost with that design. Another point I remember hearing was that it does everything you could ever want on a website, what more could you ask for?
Sometimes, modern design sacrifices that functionality, so I was very wary of a modern design that took away from that functionality. It was a careful balancing act, but I think this current design got this right as well. The early feedback I got is certainly positive.
What Do You Think?
Were there unexpected issues that happened along the way? Sure. Did this upgrade take longer than expected? Yes. Is the end result great? Absolutely as far as I can tell.
The question I have for you is this, though: what do you think of the site? Do you like it? Does it represent a vast improvement? Let us know in the comments below.