Creating a website from scratch is relatively easy with today's robust website building tools. Redesigning an existing website, however, and ensuring 19 years of content—plus some 17,000 cigar tasting notes—are correctly folded in is a bit more complicated.
This was the challenge we at Cigar Aficionado faced after Google announced in April that it was adjusting its search algorithm to give preference to websites that were mobile ready (i.e., able to scale down for tablets and smartphones). In truth, we had actually begun planning a mobile-friendly version of the website, but the need became more urgent after Google's announcement. (Some may have noticed our 2014 Top 25 microsite is already mobile-friendly.) Like Bane's famous line in The Dark Knight Rises, our new mantra became "Time to go mobile."
So, we set about reskinning CigarAficionado.com so it could be easily viewed on mobile devices, and after months of planning, decision-making and hard work from our development team, we unveiled the new look on Tuesday.
Guests will immediately notice a few changes when perusing the new-look website. Gone is the peanut-brown background gradient, replaced by a more toned down neutral tan and gray color scheme. We've also added more white space, boosted the size of the photographs and fonts and rearranged the navigation bar (as well as other information) at the top of the site. Additionally, we moved away from the slider that used to be atop CA.com, opting instead to display our top stories with vibrant photos and eliminating the need to cycle through a series of stories to see the next headline.
Scrolling down the homepage, users will see a deep news well that shows recent stories, followed by a clickable series of photos pulled from our new-ish Instagram feed. Below this you'll find our editors' blogs, followed by a module displaying our recent Good Life articles. We also overhauled our Video section, making it easier to not only view our videos on any screen size, but also to search through our collection.
When viewed on a tablet or smartphone, all of these features scale down to deliver information to you in a clean fashion that also loads quickly.
Perhaps the most important change, though, is that we went ahead and brought our coveted cigar ratings and tasting notes out from behind the sign-in wall that we had up before on the website. Now there is no need to sign into our website with a social network account or email address in order to view a rating or tasting note. (The Personal Humidor feature in the ratings, though, still requires a log-in so that we can track your cigars, and to comment on a story you'll need to log-in.)
Like all website launches, there are some bugs that still need to be fixed. Most are behind-the-scenes, but some will be noticeable to users. We are, of course, addressing these problems as quickly as we spot them. If you see something or have a bad experience while surfing our site, please let us know by sending a note through our Comments page.
This is now the fourth official iteration of CA.com, and I dare say it's the best one yet. For a bit of fun, I explored past versions of the site using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and grabbed a few screen captures, including one from 1996. It may not appear so, but back then, CA.com was actually a fairly tech-savvy site with its moving GIF on the top-left portion of the page. My how times have changed.
And be on the lookout for more digital changes from Cigar Aficionado, as we have a few projects in the works.