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New-look Reg — what could possibly go wrong?

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As you see, we've made a few changes to the Reg look and feel this week, and we expect numbers of you to go off on one (or indeed two or three). So before you do, we feel the need to assure you that it's all still there. No really, it is - it just looks a little different.

So where is it? Current stories remain the core of the front page, and are pretty much where they've always been, arranged in three columns, in order of posting. There's an earlier stories link at the tail end of these, so those of you who prefer to read the stories as they come in and don't want to miss anything can continue to do just that, and you can also still do this via the week's headlines link beneath the main body of stories.

Alongside this, we've introduced several modifications. We now fix a single lead story at the top of the page, and have rearranged the 'teaser' strips so that we can promote two prominent stories at mid-page, and four at the bottom of the main news section. "Top Stories" in the tabbed section at the top right of the front page also consists of stories we'd particularly like to draw to your attention, while "Most Read" and "Most Commented" are precisely what it says on the tin.

Below this on the right hand side of the page we have some ads, because we really do have to pay the rent, and up to three slots for special features, longer, more in-depth, investigative and focus pieces.

What have we done to the sections?

And where's BOFH? Actually, we haven't done that much to the sections... yet. And BOFH is still where he's always been. We've tweaked our core section list slightly, and lopped Odds & Sods (the BOFH section's parent section) off the list on the front page masthead. But it still exists, and in addition BOFH has a new home, along with Reg Hardware and Channel Register underneath the news section on the front page.

We'll also likely flag the latest BOFH columns, and those of our other columnists, at the right hand side of the front page on the days they come out, the intention being to make them more, and more directly, accessible, not less.

Why did we do it?

In a single day The Register can produce anything up to 40 stories, and historically all of these have been crammed onto the front page. Because of this we've needed to limit the number of stories on the page, and the length of time a story sits there. We have readers around the world, and it will quite often be the case that stories posted in the morning in the UK will have disappeared, or at best be sitting at the bottom of the front page, by the time our San Francisco office opens.

Effectively we've been presenting a pretty big picture through a very narrow window. We've made some efforts over the years to improve this, by introducing fixed 'teaser' panels and by weighting stories to slow their fall to the bottom of the page, but the latter approach is confusing, hasn't been massively successful, and has the disadvantage of disrupting the order of posting. So it messes up people who like to read their way back through the stories in order.

This led us to feel that we had two key requirements for the new design. First, we needed a far greater measure of control of the positioning and promotion of stories on the front page, and alongside this we needed to maintain clear and easy access to all of the stories, as they're published. Effectively we wanted The Register's front page to look and feel to us a lot more like a traditional newspaper page, where we choose lead stories, promote special features 'inside this issue' and are better equipped to tug at your sleeve and say, 'hey, this is interesting.'

And we wanted to do that without impairing readers' access to all the stories, as we post them. We think that what we now have makes a fair stab at doing that. And we've a few plans for enhancing what you see today once it's bedded down and we've got used to it ourselves.

And did we mention we changed the masthead? And we switched to fixed width? We'll sure as hell catch it for that. OK, fire away... ®

Our thanks to all The Register staff, particularly Aaron and Murray, for all the extra work they've put into the project. Special thanks also to designer and strategy boutiquester Malcolm Casimir of April Strategy for his efforts to save us from style catastrophe.

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