While things might have looked quiet of late - with news coverage and our usual interaction levels dipping slightly, we've been working feverishly behind the scenes on a redesign of the site, aka 'M6'.
Since re-launching content last year, we became acutely aware that several aspects of the design needed tweaking to improve presentation and add the functionality needed for our plans over the next 12 months.
And what a big year it's going to be, we've piles of reviews, features and editorial planned and in November it's going to be our 10th birthday!
So, what's new?
Well, quite a lot actually. The changes aren't just the shiny new skin you see before you, we've managed to shoehorn in new front-end features in addition to the back-end widgets and wizardry for our writers and moderators.
Navigation, which used to live across the top and continued below 'the dude' has been streamlined and everything is accessible from the header. Whether you're hopping between sections of the site or just looking to tweak your settings it's all there.
There's also a handy new bar which will hover across the top as you scroll down the page. To the left you'll find the breadcrumbs indicating where you are and to the right links to new content, the quick content menu and our various social media presences.
While we know that 1024x768 is no longer the norm, the site is now much friendlier to bigger (and smaller) resolutions.
We've not won the lottery or invented a perpetual motion machine just yet, so adverts remain a necessary evil to support the site. That said, they didn't need to be so 'in your face' and the re-jiggling which went on during the redesign allowed us to make ads less obtrusive, with the old banner ads now accommodated in the sidebar. This should mean that you can see more content without scrolling, which is after all why you're here!
Of course if you really hate ads, there is another way. :D
A better breed of hamster
Well, not literally, but part of the visual refresh has been an upgrade to the latest version of IPB, which in our testing has proven to be much snappier in general.
Across the top of the site you'll find a new featured articles bar. Whenever we've content we're particularly proud of you'll find it here.
Paul and I are going to be writing regular pieces of editorial, a mixture of posts about the industry, technology and of course the site itself. In fact this is technically my first editorial piece, hurrah!
Send us a tip!
Well, not right now, but when you do find something you think is newsworthy there's an option in the sidebar to send a tip directly to the news team. If we agree and run the story then you might even get a credit!
The index pages are much clearer and should prove much simpler to navigate.
Ok, this is is probably going to make a lot of folk very happy, particularly those on smaller screens.
The topic list view is much much simpler now, as is the topic view itself. When browsing topics you can now preview a thread without clicking away by clicking the icon which appears in the middle when you hover:
The preview can then be closed by clicking the cross, simple!
Half your screen being eaten up with user information and post signatures? No worries, just click here:
And both roll-up, out of sight. Neat huh? :D
If you find any issues with the forums please let us know here.
Well, that would be telling, suffice to say we have big plans.
So folks, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!