Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Site news: A new look
for St. Louis Jazz Notes

If you're reading this post directly on the St. Louis Jazz Notes site (as opposed to via RSS, email or another site aggregating StLJN's content), you'll notice that it has a new look, and some new features as well.

If only for cosmetic reasons, a change was long overdue, as StLJN has had the same basic template and look since first going online in April 2005. The new layout is a three-column variation of one of Blogger's basic designs; it's not particularly fancy or tricked out, but it does offer more room for additional sidebar content and ads.

One of those new features that I'm most pleased about is the new incarnation of the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which has been moved from Yahoo Calendar to Google Calendar so that a version of it can be embedded in the main site. (If you've bookmarked the old calendar page, you'll want to change your bookmark ASAP, as it is no longer being updated.)

Now you can see a list of upcoming jazz events in and around St. Louis right on the StLJN home page, without having click through to somewhere else. Of course, if you want to see more detail, just click on the individual entry. I'm also told that Google Calendar offers more options for syncing and feeding information to handheld devices like smartphones, so if you use one of those gizmos, give it a try and let me know how it works.

Other new features on the left-hand sidebar include Jazz Notes From All Over, a continuously updated feed showing posts from some favorite jazz blogs; and All About Jazz CD Reviews, a feed of the latest CD reviews from AllAboutJazz.com. In addition, the AAJ Feature Articles feed and Daily Download have been moved from the right-hand side to the new left sidebar.

Over on the right-hand side, there's a new category of links called Products, Services and Resources for Musicians, which will include musical instrument and sheet music stores, repair shops, recording studios, and anything else that seems to fit. The archives section has been re-done, with a drop-down menu taking the place of the long list of previous months, and a search box has been added right underneath the archives link to help you find what you seek.

The main column has gotten wider, the better to accommodate a larger, easier-to-read type size, and to allow the embedding of widescreen YouTube videos, which broke the margins of the old template.

Also, down below each individual post, you'll now see an icon labeled Sphere: Related Content that when clicked on opens a pop-up box with links to (supposedly) relevant content from around the Web. Since it has yet to be field-tested with the actual StLJN content, I'm not sure how good it is at delivering links that are actually relevant, but it seemed worth a try, and I'll be checking it periodically to see how well it works.

All the other familiar StLJN features can be found in their regular places, though I've taken the opportunity to prune a few dead links from the various sidebar sections. There's still some dead-link pruning left to do, and over the next couple of weeks I'll be making other minor adjustments to the rest of the layout as needed.

As always, I'm interested in what you think, dear readers. Please feel free to use either the comments section or email to share your thoughts, opinions, suggestions and questions about the new look and features.

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