Free Liberal open redesign

Liberating an online magazine from the clutches of 2003.

I will be building a new website for the Free Liberal, an online magazine dedicated to social and cultural entrepreneurship based on the transpartisan liberal values of innovation, trade, trust, and the sanctity of life.

Free Liberal is an online magazine dedicated to social and cultural entrepreneurship based on the transpartisan liberal values of innovation, trade, trust, and the sanctity of life. Online since 2003, Free Liberal began as a web-based supplement to a print periodical of the same name, using a bare-bones installation of Movable Type to power a simple blog.

Over time, the site gained over ninety registered users, an active community of bloggers and over 140,000 page views per month. Although there have been several patches, the site still uses a modified version of the original Movable Type template— with many of the links, and much content, hard-coded. Apart from articles that appear in the main flow on the homepage, it has become nearly impossible to navigate the site, with Google being the only tool to find old content. Furthermore, the site’s original content is routinely displaced by syndicated columns that the current site give’s center stage.

Back in May and June, we surveyed Free Liberal readers and bloggers and the Free Liberal Tribunal* mulled over the site’s vision, goals and identity.

I met with Free Liberal publisher Kevin Rollins on Saturday, and we talked about steps we could take right away to move the Free Liberal toward the team’s vision of an online magazine. Kevin enthusiastically sanctioned me to begin an open redesign of the site, focused on three priorities:

  • Establish a clean interface for browsing and reading the site.
  • Separate out the syndicated columns from the unique Free Liberal features and give prominence to the site’s unique content.
  • Unify the site’s visual design and branding with the Free Liberal twitter feed and weekly meetup in Arlington.

Those three things, combined with renewed editorial passion for making great content, should lay a good foundation for developing the subtler nuances of an online magazine site: category navigation, site search, etc.

Views from current Free Liberal site

Before: The Free Liberal homepage

Before: The Free Liberal article page

Follow along at home, just like in the summertime when you watch Bob Ross.

Inspired by other open webdesign projects, I will be crafting the site directly in HTML markup and CSS, which will allow quick transformation of sketches into a live prototype. Feel free to follow along in your browser at home: I’ve put up the 503 safety cones already — construction ahead!

Construction under way: the new Free Liberal site

Next week, I’ll be posting some sketches and roughing out the layout. Keep an eye on this site’s feed or follow @freeliberal on twitter here! I look forward to hearing your comments, questions, and other utterances.

*The Free Liberal Tribunal consists of gadabout Kevin Rollins, physicist Carl Milsted, Jr., and bramble-bearded sage Robert Capozzi.

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