Request for Creative Site-Development Input

This website,, is due for a light visual upgrade. This post is a request for any input from readers as to what improvements would benefit the site. The site will remain true to its current design, which has been in place since the launch of in December 1996: white background, limited fonts, bare-bone/functional feel.

The previous significant change was in August 2007, when was ported to the estimable WordPress content-management system from its previous “system,” which was just hand-coded HTML.

Any input would be appreciated. Please add ideas as a comment.

Among the things I am planning to increase the prominence of here are: links to other related websites (to acknowledge an already existing and resource-rich community), input from readers (in the form of comments), visuals (“what sound looks like” both as a subject and a navigational opportunity), and likely a little more space for advertising.

Thanks in advance.

20 thoughts on “Request for Creative Site-Development Input

  1. Marc, my biggest issue was solved when you added the streaming sound files. Having to face that quicktime page, justifiably or not, often kept me from taking the time to click and listen to whatever it was you happened to be writing about.

    Other than that, since you switched to WordPress, I can’t recall a single time that I’ve thought “dammit Marc, if you only had red fonts or whatever.”

    I think an added emphasis on visual matter would be healthy. After reading this post, I spent a few minutes poking around and realized that you actually post more images than I thought you did. Usually album art, I think. I’m not going to suggest in what context I think you should post images because I think that this place is yours and I’m interested to see what you’d figure out works as a visual Disquiet post.

    As far as “what sound looks like” I think you should start a Flickr pool and/or a Vimeo group under the Disquiet moniker so that we your readers can post images and videos to these that might fit the bill without messing with your blog.

    I’ll see if I think of more over night.

  2. Hey Marc,

    You already know I’m a devoted fan — not just of you (natch) but also, as it happens, of black type on a white background.

    But I agree with Brian that a little more visual fun wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, and it sounds like you’re thinking on those lines already.

    I think the most astonishingly great thing about the site is the daily free & legal music, I have no idea how you pull that off. I feel like somehow it deserves more attention, and I wonder if there isn’t some way of giving it a bit of graphic distinction that might help. I’ll try to think of something specific, but I’m just reacting on the fly.

    Since I have to counterbalance with something sour, I’ll say that I think the whole trend of blog posts summarizing the best of the Twitter feed is kind of weird. And ironically such posts end up being an extremely unappealing mass of text that, I will betcha, nobody reads. I do understand the conundrum of trying to make things available to all in whatever way they want to get it — but … I don’t know, I think there’s a tricky balance on that, and I get bugged when I feel like this or that blog is implicitly telling me to get ALL THE GOOD STUFF I have to read the blog AND the Twitter. Not that you’re doing that … but tread carefully.

    That is all for now. I will close with the nonsensical: Disquiet Rocks!

  3. Thanks, Rob. Much appreciated. was staunchly unvisual (or more to the point: visually agnostic) for its first decade, in part as a vaguely new-critical ideal in which the sounds that it was concerned with existed solely as sounds. Of course, that got odd when, oh, I wrote about Kid Koala having some sorta stylus-eye-view projection when he DJd, or when I wrote about some nifty pre-iPhone audio-game and praised its interface.

    I kinda got over my Dischord-quality staunchness, and now, to your point, want to now make those visuals more inherent in the site — as content, and as navigation-to-content.

    About the Twitter feed, I hear ya. I really thought hard about that hard before implementing it; it appears each Saturday at 1:30pm, a relatively low-visitor period, on purpose. I find the feed useful because, each Saturday afternoon, it’s enjoyable for me to revisit the week, to see both how much and how little has occured, and because those “observed sounds” that I post seem to have a collective meaning when posted together. To keep the Twitter feed as taut as possible, I opted out of posting any replies, ’cause that’s when, I felt, the feed got truly unwieldy.

    But what you suggest was very much on my mind, and why overall I have been slow to add much in the way of external feeds — the Flickr, YouTube, Last.Fm, Facebook, stats, popular searches, etc. mode that ends up suffocating several sites I otherwise enjoy.

    Again, thanks. Visual is on my mind.

  4. Hey I’m glad of the flickr stream. But what I mean is a Flickr group. So that we your loyal fans readers can add to the pool. If you’re concerned about other people’s content muddying up the water, so to say, that’s what is nice about it being on Flickr. It’s like interpretations. And frankly I don’t think you have the same worries there as, say, Peter at CDM or the Synthtopia guys have.

    I’d like to know more about the Disquiet community as it were and seeing what they add to a Disquiet-themed pool would be interesting to me.

  5. Re: what Rob wrote.

    I don’t mind the Twitter round-up each week — I guess I’m ambivalent, but like Rob I don’t read it.

    I was also going to write that you need more NAMM round-ups and breathless press-releases from Line6 and M-Audio, but I already read that blog…

  6. Ah, a group/pool — gotcha. Thanks, Brian. That is a thing I enjoy elsewhere, and need to consider here. Thanks.

    Yeah, I suspect the Twitter round-up isn’t much read. I’ll look at the stats. Sometimes it gets up there in the end-of-the-month tally, but that may be the result of searches for prominent names mentioned.

  7. I am also digging the idea of a more visual pool of source, inspirational, and relevant images.

    On a more nuts and bolts level, I have always wanted the search and sign up to be more integrated into the persistent navigation at top, currently they feel incongruous with the links in right column that are more content-focused. Recent inspiration is Khol Vinh’s recent “reimagining” of Craigslist, if you haven’t checked his post of last night, please do.

    As far as Twitter round ups go: I read every tweet you post through Destroy Twitter feed so that isn’t on my burning hot desire list either.

    On color, I like simple as in the way it is right now.

  8. Boon, thanks, man.

    That’s an especially good point about the search and the sign-up. I hadn’t really focused on how they’re not “content” the way the other pieces of that column are.

    I hesitate to give the sign-up much prominence, since once you’ve signed up, well, you’ve signed up. But I may be adding a second narrow column on the right, and put it at the top of that, above an ad spot.

    Putting search right into the top nav is something I must do. Thanks. Progress!

  9. Let me join the chorus of love for the simple design. It’s a good feel – it gets out of the way of the great stuff you post.

    Though I mostly catch your twitter feed directly, I like it here too since I tweet-read on a phone but look at stuff on my laptop.

    The streaming sounds is just great.

    It’s funny – my initial contacts with you are from the “visual” side but I don’t feel the same want for more images here. I’m really really happy with the sounds as is. It might be nice for you to kind of curate things – pair up seemingly unrelated sounds with images that you think compliment each other. Find some friction.

  10. I think you run a great site, Marc, and I am continually amazed by the quality and the quantity of your posts.

    I really like the minimalist stylings, but I find the idea of a “visual association to sound” and contributions from the community really intriguing. Hope that materializes in some form here. I think it would make for an attracting burst of color.

    Two small thoughts:

    Is there any way to make WordPress link your headlines to the permanent pages? Sometimes when I want to link to an item on your site, I click on the non-linking headline like a hamster till I remember that it goes nowhere. (Hey, I did say these were small things. I was not messing around.)

    The second thing is slightly more philosophical in that I often feel intimidated by music sites that are clearly for advanced listeners of a particular expertise. I like to look around and try and get on my feet in that environment (no need to write down to me) but some kind of hand holding would really help me out in terms of moving from the post I came in on to the next place I should click if I haven’t visited in a bit. More tags might help, or even something more direct in the related post/where to go next vein. Maybe that’s not what your interests are with the site, and that’s understandable, but for the occasional dabblers/highly motivated neophytes like me, it would sure be a welcome signpost.

    Thanks again, Marc, for all you give.

  11. I like the clean, minimal design, so my vote wold be to keep that as it is. The only thing I’d like to see added, as others have mentioned, is embedded high-quality video clips from Vimeo (or YouTube, if the clips look good enough) to add the motion dimension to your already-excellent audio support.

  12. Warren — thanks. That curation idea is interesting. The site’s “Listen?” section (curated playlists, inspired by input from Lucas Gonze) is a step toward that, but it falls short of what you’re describing. Thanks.

    Molly — man, you make me blush. Those headline links have bugged me, too, and I gotta fix that. Cool. Small things help. More tags will definitely help. I wonder if there’s a search function in WordPress where people can use tags to locate specific content (i.e., I want something “free” that is related to “copyleft” and “i-hop” and is from “China”). I’ve tried automated “next read” links and the algorithm was less than fruitful. I may have to hand-select them, which is cool, as I get the value.

    Richard — much appreciated. Video has long been undervalued here, and I gotta get on that.

  13. This has always been a trend-proof site, austere and solid. I don’t see much stuff I’d like to see improved… except for the old-school blue links! Shrill blue hyperlinks were a misguided choice of early web settlers. I’d favor a mere underline, the color red, or a maybe a bold+grey combo. Web surfers are more and more adept at discerning navigation conventions, and the blue links are one old-hat, Mosaic-era giveaway on an otherwise timeless site.

    Can’t believe you’ve been doing this for so long! Amazing.

  14. Thanks so much, Jorge.

    Yeah, the blue color of the link lines is a good point.

    I’d selected it way back when because it was the norm, and thus wouldn’t draw attention to itself. Second, ’cause since there was no other color on the site, the blue served as a content-block breaker, when several items appeared on the same page. Third, ’cause overall, it projected a blue-sky sensibility, which fit my initial, Music for Airports-style understanding of ambient.

    That said, I do now like the idea of a bold/grey/underline mode. (Red seems too bold.) It’d dial back the palette even more, which given the presence of actual images since mid-2007 would work nicely to highlight them. It always feels unfortunate when the entry title (in blue) clashes with the subject matter, like it did earlier this week on the Oh No / Ethiopium piece:

    I wonder if a nice earthy brown would work OK — I like how brown contrasts with black.

    Thanks again. (And congrats on the latest NYr cover! Love those water towers!)


  15. Love your site. I’ve been a lurker for far too long.

    Love the minimalist approach as well as the black type on the white background.

    One of the things I would like to see change are your internal link columns which switch from side to side depending on what page you are on. Just a bit disconcerting, but I deal.

  16. Thanks, mHead. Much appreciated. Yeah, the swapping of the nav column from left on the main page to right on the inside doesn’t really work. I think I’m going with three columns — the two of the current width, and a third equal in width to the narrower of the two current columns. I’ll either put the main column dead center, or have the two nav columns on the right. I’m leaning toward the latter, to (from left to right): main wide body column, narrow nav column, narrow nav column.

  17. Thanks, everyone, for the input thus far. I’ve also had some good communication via email and IM. Here’s an update, below, on where my head’s at, in terms of a light re-working of overall site design:

    ¶ Dropping some design-element details in the interest of further simplification — removing the arrows, and limiting use of the stylized type, and trading out the blue for shades of gray. Probably sounds absurd given how plain the site is, but it’ll get all the more refined. Also, making headlines linkable.

    ¶ Having standardized columns throughout. Rather than one on the left on the first page, and one on the right on the inside, it’ll be the same all the way through — likely one main body column, and one or two secondary columns (and likely on the right throughout the site, consistently).

    ¶ Content-wise, increased coverage of and presence for visual things (sound art installations, video, etc.).

    ¶ Content-wise, more “curated” material — definitely more conversations (like the “MP3 Discussion Groups” I’ve run in the recent past), and more “Listen?” playlists, and more I haven’t quite put my finger on yet.

    ¶ Fewer content categories (there’s a lot of repetition currently), and greater use of tags to organize subjects.

    ¶ “What to read next” tips at the end of articles.

    ¶ Increased sense of “community” — highlight comments more, look to include more voices (see “MP3 Discussion Group” above), highlight more recommended sites (Elsewhere section while thorough is remote); look to emphasize social-network modes, not just the current Twitter content, but flickr groups, and so forth.

  18. Hi Marc love the site, only thing I would love to have more of would be a regular (monthly?) mix – not a podcast, just a mix of your favorite pieces of music from the last month… it would be something I would want to listen to offsite so downloadable would be great…. ie curating a disquiet mix each month

  19. Thanks, Tim. That’s an excellent idea. I may very well pursue that. I’m very careful about the rights of the musicians whose work I write about, and as long as (1) I can do this without getting folks’ approval taking too much time and 2) the occasional lack of approval doesn’t adversely affect the overall curation. Very cool idea.

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