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Announcement: Monevator makeover

Announcement: Monevator makeover post image

Hello! Just a quick note to say that after several months of fiddling, faffing, and scouring the thesaurus for other alliterative synonyms for fannying-about-in-frustration, we’ve finally put our new version of Monevator live.

We believe we’ve caught most of the bugs, but would appreciate it if you could report any you see in the comments below.

Now I know what you’re thinking: What new website? It looks just the same!

Well, leaving aside website caching issues – a fun feature of the Internet that means it can be hard to tell when your changes go live – the redesign actually aims to look pretty much the same as the old Monevator we know and love tolerate.

The main tweaks:

  • The body copy text is larger and the maximum width of the article text area is wider. This should make it easier to read, especially on bigger screens.
  • On desktop the site is now responsive – so as you resize your browser window to suit you, it narrows the body copy rather than you losing half of our unmissable words from the right-hand side.
  • On iPad and most other tablets, there’s now a single column for the main article text. The right hand menu column of links and so forth is pushed to the bottom of the site. Again, easier to read.
  • Mobile remains the super clean version that you guys love (and that has cratered our advertising income. 🙁 )
  • The category and other menu pages have been given a spruce-up to make them easier to read and scroll through.
  • Comments are paginated once more into blocks of 50, so you don’t have to wait for those huge 1,000-strong comment threads to load (such as on our broker comparison table). The most recent 1-50 comments are shown first; you can browse back through the rest.
  • Monevator should in general be a little bit quicker to load.
  • A few other fiddly things you probably don’t need to notice.

Now, updating a ten-year old website that is held together in places with gaffer tape is never a foolproof process, and as I say we had to deal with a few hurdles along the way.

Here’s what I think we’re left with:

  • The Search feature isn’t working at the moment. Don’t know why. We’re on it.
  • The 404 ‘page not found’ page has, er, vanished and needs to be found.
  • When articles are closed to new comments, there’s no notification of this at the end of the thread. The comment box just vanishes. Annoying, and we’re fixing it.
  • On old articles, any links to Amazon embedded in the body text are forcing line breaks, which I can live with but looks ugly. Again we’re exploring a workaround.

If you spot any other bugs, please let us know below.

Spare any change, guv?

Of course changing the site design has messed up the look-and-feel of some of the older articles. That’s not really a bug, more a symptom of progress.

Your gran doesn’t look her very best these days, but you still love her, right?

Over time I’ll try to fix the most egregious design disruptions in the archives. But to be honest I’ve got so much updating of real information to do, that it’s not a top priority. So unless you see something really broken looking, that’s probably not a bug to report. More a bugbear.

Finally, what didn’t we change?

The biggest is we experimented with sophisticated commenting options where you could log-in via Facebook or Twitter, or where you could reply to a specific comment, say. They all had drawbacks, so in the end we’ve stuck with what has worked for a decade.

Also we need to update the logo and perhaps the old Monevator armchair. (Can’t decide.)

Anyway, please let me know if you find anything is not working. Otherwise, set your stopwatches for 2026 when we’ll do it all again!

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{ 45 comments… add one }
  • 1 Jim Wang September 5, 2016, 12:26 pm

    I like it! (and what you didn’t change, I’m not a fan of those FB/Twitter login comment things)

    FWIW, I think the logo and armchair are fine as they are too. 🙂

  • 2 Robert September 5, 2016, 12:51 pm

    On my PC (Edge & Feedemon the top advert on the page is crashing into the title and menu bar.

  • 3 Ian September 5, 2016, 1:00 pm

    Looks fine on Firefox

  • 4 EUOphan September 5, 2016, 1:08 pm

    I like the new page and it looks very good on OSX Safari

  • 5 liberate_life September 5, 2016, 1:09 pm

    Looking good on Chrome, Windows 7, 22″ monitor.

  • 6 weenie September 5, 2016, 1:15 pm

    I vote for keeping the logo and armchair!

  • 7 LeeG September 5, 2016, 1:17 pm

    I’m another fan of the new tweaks. Also thank you for the reminder about the ad revenue – I have recently updated my PC and forgot to allow ads from this site through the adblocker.

  • 8 Aron September 5, 2016, 2:49 pm

    You could look at Disqus as a commenting system.

  • 9 Ric September 5, 2016, 3:24 pm

    I guess its progress, but I’ve never been a fan of responsive sites. When using the desktop view you learn where to find all the buttons and links you need, then as soon as you get your phone out everything jumbles up and leaves you as confused as a drunk in a dustbin trying to pee in the corner. Pinch & zoom always worked well for me (so long as your browser re-flows text).
    Nevertheless, well done on what looks so far to be a very good implementation, I know it must have been a shed load of work! I know you have to do it to keep the Google god happy.

  • 10 FI Warrior September 5, 2016, 3:34 pm

    If there was a vote, I’d say stick with the existing chair and logo ( remain 🙂 ) a little familiarity is comforting.

    You were looking for filters to remove obnoxious comment posters attempting to lecture you on personal blog courtesy, so how about auto-deleting based on spellcheck fails and bad grammar? Combined with those who are civil using long words of many syllables, you could then achieve your aim of a more select readership who are actually appreciative :).

    Apart from that, the revamp is good and thank you for your considerable efforts.

  • 11 Nathan September 5, 2016, 3:42 pm

    Nice, but still no joy with Chrome on IOS for me. It’s always been that way so I guess it’s a feature by now 🙂

  • 12 Learner September 5, 2016, 4:49 pm

    Surprised mobile is such a revenue downer, since most devices can’t adblock. Is there a problem inserting ads in the mobile theme? Or do people tend not to click mobile ads?

  • 13 Tyro September 5, 2016, 5:50 pm

    1. Looks great on Opera (nice Norwegian browser, for those of you who are interested)
    2. Agree with others about keeping the logo and the armchair
    3. Like FI Warrior’s suggestion about blocking semi-literate drivel.

  • 14 Roger September 5, 2016, 6:05 pm

    Thank you for making these changes. I normally read the site on a cheap tablet, and the formatting of the redeveloped site is much better. I’m using Chromer as my browser on Android Marshmallow, and the only problem that I have now with formatting is with the banner adverts at the top and bottom of the page. They overlap to the right hand side of the main body of the text which would upset me if I were advertising with you.

  • 15 Andy September 5, 2016, 6:40 pm

    Looks pretty good on my Android Tablet and Windows Laptop, both using Firefox.

    I like the single column on the tablet, and the responsive desktop site.

    Bold copy text looks a bit large at first, but no real problem. Probably good for larger screens as you intend.

    I say keep the logo and armchair.

  • 16 Richard September 5, 2016, 8:14 pm

    One thing I noticed pre redesign is on my mobile I could reply to messages, that I can’t do on iPad/desktop. Is this an oversight on mobile (based on your comments of not supporting this feature)? I seem to remember using it caused some odd behaviour

  • 17 gtimun September 5, 2016, 8:57 pm

    Not a fan of the redesign.
    The text is too big [in the stylesheet, body 18px is massive, I’d prefer 12 or 14]. Not a problem, he says, hitting the keyboard shortcut to view at a more reasonable size for my screen (MacBook Pro with 13″ retina display) and viewing distance (on my lap). The result? At 75% zoom the website is only using half the width of my display.
    We’re not all using tablets – and I find in unreasonable that this design, like many, is clearly optimised for people who are. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to use the other half of the pixels on my display? Surely you could dynamically size the elements so that zoom changes the text size but the line width is always e.g. 70% of the available display width rather than a limited to a fixed number of pixels?

  • 18 The Investor September 6, 2016, 11:57 am

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone, whether positive or not so positive. (Glad it’s mostly positive though!)

    Especially after a few queries via Twitter I should clarify the Monevator logo isn’t going anywhere. I was more thinking of sharpening it up a bit (especially the “Motivation for Armchair Investors” bit) and perhaps overhauling/ditching the Armchair. For now I’ll keep the chair too and look just to sharpen that text when possible. (Very glad people like this element of the site! Nobody has said “At last! Scrap it!” 😉 )

    To reply to a few points:

    Re: Text size. Sorry this doesn’t work for you @gtimun. I think I’m going to go with the majority view though. To be fair while it’s large I don’t believe it’s a wild outlier, especially among sites that have had a redesign recently — it’s roughly the same size as Bloomberg for example, and they have a bigger user/focus testing budget than me. 😉 Tablet use wasn’t a driver for the font size upgrade; if anything my own eyesight was! I’ve been zooming Monevator pages for 12-18 months now, and figured I can’t be the only one, especially as investing skews older. 🙂 Also with the new wider column, the previous text really was tiny. So I think I’m happy with it as is. But appreciate you sharing your thoughts in detail.

    Re: Strange graphic errors on PCs/Android with certain browsers. Thanks for this feedback. Internet Explorer was the bane of my life in previous web development work, and sounds like Edge may have taken over. We have literally never seen the errors being described on our multiple browsers on Macs, and on Chrome/Safari on PC. We’ll have to download Edge and take a look. I am not sure what we will be able to do with Android. We only have limited development resources for this sort of thing, sadly. (If any web developers out there can take a look at the source and see what’s going wrong, I’d be all ears and v grateful! 🙂 )

    @Nathan — What do you mean by “no joy on Chrome IOS?” please? Do you mean you’re not seeing the mobile version of the site, or that you are but it’s not working well? If the former there should be an optional switch at the very bottom of the page. You’ll have to have Cookies enabled so it remembers to load the mobile theme next time, once you’ve switched. It works for me on Chrome.

    @Richard — Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying exactly. I don’t think you could ever reply in-line on mobile, or if you could then it wasn’t coming up in-line on the site as far as I’m aware. (I never use the mobile version day to day).

    @Aron — Yes, Disqus was looked at and ultimately rejected. I liked some aspects, but read multiple complaints about a recent-ish period where it started inserting ads into the comment threads, which the blog owners couldn’t control. Seems to have stopped now (or can be reversed) but I was uncomfortable they’d just do that. Also issues with allowing people to just comment w/o identities. Given on the whole we have great commentators on Monevator, I don’t mind people commenting anonymously if it encourages discussion. 🙂

    @Learner — Re: Ads on mobile, there is only one advert on the mobile template, it’s small and clumsy, it loads slowly, and it’s rarely clicked on. When it is clicked on there’s less revenue. (You can see also this in Google’s annual results, where cost per click has been falling as mobile traffic increases for years. FB ads work much better on mobile due to its ‘stream’ as well as targeting). One reason I have continued to run the P2P box (which may be annoying those for whom it hasn’t yet become visual wallpaper) is this shows up okay on mobile, hopefully offsetting some of the damage. 🙂

    Think that’s everything covered but if I missed anything please shout! 🙂

  • 19 Factor September 6, 2016, 12:29 pm

    Looks fine on laptop Windows 10/Edge. On Armchexit I’m a remaINer!

    BTW I didn’t like the previous (Brexit) thread at all. Personally, I believe the trolls are just waiting to pounce on you on that subject. I think all we “reglers” know and sympathise with your own unhappiness about the “chaverendum” result but I for one regard it as unfortunate water under the bridge. No use crying over spilt milk (as Grans say) 🙂

  • 20 Hamzah September 6, 2016, 2:18 pm

    On Windows 10 and Internet Explorer 11 I also see the top add crashing into your menu bar. I don’t really use Edge very often, but the same happens. Chrome looks fine, but every other recent release of Chrome has an annoying habit of randomly freezing a page load (as is now the case in the current version) which is why I am back to using Internet Explorer. My sympathies about catering for browser variants, particularly when the browser suppliers keep introducing bugs and stringent protocols (the issue with Chrome I think). As for the font size – I don’t need to wear my glasses.

  • 21 The Rhino September 6, 2016, 4:06 pm

    anyone else noticed that search no longer returns any results?

    firefox on ubuntu, but i’m guessing this isn’t browser or os related..

  • 22 Factor September 6, 2016, 4:35 pm

    Now I look at it closely, I can see just a smidgen of the lower part of some words, protruding from underneath the right hand end of the ShareCentre ad. I can fully reveal some of these words by reducing the zoom but even at a minuscule 10% zoom some remain effectively hidden.

  • 23 Learner September 6, 2016, 6:54 pm

    Apropos comments and quality thereof, this idea is interesting: http://www.civilcomments.com

  • 24 Richard September 6, 2016, 6:54 pm

    This is me replying to your message (TI) on mobile. Lets see the what happens. Note the last message before this at the moment is Factors comment.

  • 25 ermine September 6, 2016, 7:17 pm

    Looks good to me, and another vote for keep the armchair. And one for avoiding FB/Twitter and third party commenting.

    Did wonder if the big text was a view that some of your readers were of advancing years, though I see it all over the web now, so perhaps the PC population is ageing all round in the view of stylesheet/framework designers.

    Ten years eh, blimey. Well on that note, thank you for ten years of great informative work and regular posting. I know that I for one and better off having learned a bit more about which way is up through Monevator. Thank you and long may it continue!

  • 26 Planting Acorns September 6, 2016, 8:13 pm

    Looks good… Long way to scroll to get to the “switch to mobile version” …is there a way to make this easier ?

    I’m no computer wizard, and wouldn’t have mentioned it if you hadn’t asked

  • 27 Jim McG September 6, 2016, 9:18 pm

    I like it and I like the fact that you’re still making an effort to improve the usability for your readers. As ever, although content is king, a nice, clean, easy to navigate site is always a relief to find versus some of the cluttered, advert-overloaded and headache inducing sites that are out there. Keep up the great work.

  • 28 theFIREstarter September 6, 2016, 9:50 pm

    Noticed the changes the other day and wondered if anything had changed or my eyes were going funny (not in a bad way) and checked the zoom level of Chrome (it was 100%).

    Personally I prefer a smaller width column to read even on a large screen but I know I am in the minority here (judging by the huge majority of other blogs out there with larger width columns) so I can see why you have gone down that route. I am going to be pig headed and stick with my narrow column though 🙂

    Anyway it looks good on my Mac, and my old Android phone.

    Keep up the good work guys!

  • 29 Alan September 7, 2016, 10:08 pm

    Bold and normal text now look very simlar with the new text sixe on the desktop screen, actually all the text looks bold, and so the website has lost some character. Zooming out one step pretty much restores it back to how it used to be though. Have to say I did prefer the previous version, so far.

  • 30 The Investor September 8, 2016, 3:35 pm

    Just a quick note to say that the Search function should be returning results as normal now.

    (We need to fix the Search box in the top-right corner itself — it’s shrunk, but it still accepts full search terms as usual!)

    Thanks for the further feedback. We are reading and digesting it all. I understand that some don’t like the bigger font size, but to be honest the feedback, via Twitter, and over email has been so positive in general — and usually any redesign gets you a lot of negative feedback in my experience.

    I appreciate the character has changed a little, but you have to bite the bullet and do this from time to time otherwise your site ends up looking very antiquated. Existing users may like it but new ones then assume it’s defunct or similar! 🙂

  • 31 Al September 8, 2016, 8:54 pm

    Chaps, one suggestion to improve the navigation experience: make your external links open in a new tab. This is good web design practice and means that a person can expore a 3rd party site without losing their place on your site – on various occasion I have had to press ‘back’ ten times to get back to Monevator having got absorbed in another linked website. You may be aware that Wordpress allows you to do this through a tick box in their standard ‘insert link’ function (‘Open link in a new tab’). Alternatively code it using “_blank”, e.g. Monevator text It would be too time consuming to change the external links on old pages but you could certainly do it for new posts. Keep up the good work fellas.

  • 32 The Investor September 9, 2016, 12:02 am

    @Al — Thanks for thoughts. Hmm, interesting. When I “learned” blogging back in the day, the opposite was true — it was considered polite to NOT open an external tab on people, even though it was clearly optimal from the perspective of retaining traffic. Has that consensus really changed, or is this a personal view?

  • 33 Al September 9, 2016, 9:48 am

    @The Investor. I believe you are right: back in the day bloggers were taught not to use “_blank” for external links. I think the main reason for that was that web browsers didn’t have tabs and so this function caused a new browser to open. This made navigation back to the original site a pain and ‘took control away’ from the user. So, yes, opening a new page for external links was like mentioning Michael Gove at Boris Johnson’s birthday party.

    However, two things seem to have challenged the consensus. First, the development of tabs within browsers makes it much easier for people to jump from one page to the other and prevents you from losing your place in the original blog. Second, we have seen the rise of the SEO ‘expert’, whose mystic utterances bloggers follow like the Sage of Omaha. They tend to make the point that external links opened in the same tab increases your bounce rate – i.e. beloved readers are more like to scum to the wanton allure of another blogger [spit].

    If you read around you will see there is a division of opinion on external links and new tabs (although do note the date of the post because technology change affects the argument considerably in my view). For two relatively recent posts on different sides of the debate for example, see:

    http://thinksem.com/blog/should-i-open-external-links-in-new-tab/

    http://www.dave-woods.co.uk/why-opening-external-links-in-new-tabs-should-no-longer-be-standard-behaviour/

    I think usability remains the key issue and the balance tips in favour of external links in new tabs, particularly when you consider mobile phone use – which is increasingly important. For example, my experience of reading Monevator is this: it is Saturday, I am on the sofa (usually with one or two children climbing over me), I am reading Monevator’s ‘Weekend reading’ on my mobile phone. I click on the links, get interested in the linked site and then have to click ‘back’ several times to get back to Monevator. My smart phone is relatively slow and so I often give up scrolling back or I open the Monevator home page again using a bookmark, if I can find it.

    That’s my experience. You could ask others. I prefer passive investment in browsing, rather than active management. But slow and steady (consistent) maybe the best way to keep blog. Has Monevator ever faced such a Catch 22? I trust you will make the right decision!

    Blessings chaps. Thanks again.

  • 34 Al September 9, 2016, 2:54 pm

    Sorry chaps, a couple more suggestions:

    1. Make recent posts more easily accessible on the home page of the website page.

    Monevator readers using a mobile phone are served a list view of past blog posts in reverse chronological order on the home page, which means they can easily find recent posts. However, computer users are only served the most recent single full blog post on the home page. The ‘home’ sidebar has various links like ‘essential reading’ but does not include ‘recent posts’ – this is included at the top of the Monevator post sidebar. When I went to the ‘Archives’ link at the top of the home page, the past posts were categorised in themes, not chronologically. I therefore couldn’t find recent posts there either. As I visit Monevator every few weeks, I like to look back on the posts that I have missed. That’s not easy in the current full sized website format. Possible solution: put ‘most recent posts’ at the top of the home page sidebar. Alternatively make the home page a blog role, with only title and snippet showing. Most go for the latter for ease of navigation.

    2. Make it easy to reply to individual comments on the website in the full-sized format

    Again I noticed when accessing the site via my mobile phone that each individual comment has a ‘reply’ link at the bottom. However, this is not visible and ‘replies’ to individual comments do not seem possible when viewing the full size site from a computer. I would try to make both page versions consistent. Personally I like to see replies nestling underneath a comment like a succulent bunch of grapes – one can follow the conversation easier. But that maybe a strange personal taste.

    Apologies for the typos – fast typing, overzealous auto-corrector, not a good combination!

  • 35 Susan Jamieson September 10, 2016, 10:33 pm

    Just to respond on the tabs vs new window thought – it’s tabs for me, simply because I can queue them up at the top until I have time to read them properly, while windows get cluttery and irritating (and often closed accidcentally) when on the (Mac) desktop. At this point in my long life, I find tabs much easier and tidier to manage.

  • 36 Susan Jamieson September 10, 2016, 10:49 pm

    PS: on the armchair… as a designer/ex-advertising bod, I think the thought is lovely and comforting, but the visual could be refreshed. It’s a very 80s armchair… my parents had one of those, back in the day. A slight update every now and then might be fun: maybe try a retro club-style 30s leather one, a designer 50s Danish tan leather job, or an emerald green noughties Conran example? Okay, I may be getting slightly carried away, but it doesn’t have to be a fixed thing – the chair is the icon, but the execution could change with the year, or the seasons, or the financial week (a Stars and Stripes-upholstered for American election week?)…

  • 37 theFIREstarter September 10, 2016, 11:31 pm

    +1 for an Xmas fairy lights style armchair in December 🙂

  • 38 Susan Jamieson September 10, 2016, 11:46 pm

    @theFIREstarter – Yesssss!!! And a hammock for August…

  • 39 Andrew September 12, 2016, 9:22 am

    Apologies if someone has already raised this but in case hey haven’t. …

    The date bubble next to the article links in the “related” list seem to all be the date of the article above the list rather than the dates of the respective article. Eg on his article it looks like all the related stories were also published on 5th September.

    Otherwise the redesign looks great. As always the content is brilliant as well. Many thanks for keeping it up especially in the face of some of the mindless commenters!

  • 40 The Investor September 12, 2016, 9:53 am

    Thanks for the ongoing comments! A few updates/follow-ups:

    @all — Search is now working. We also think we’ve fixed the Edge browser problems.

    @Andrew – Thanks for feedback (and kind words) but don’t know where you mean re: Related Links? Do you mean the four stories at the bottom of the article, with four graphics? (Bottom right of that area saying “Powered by Outbrain”?) I am not seeing any dates there at all, myself.

    @Al — Cheers again for the tabbed wake-up call. Readers seem to like it. 🙂 Regarding the front page, there are four posts visible on there at all times. I think I’m happy with that, short of going to a more magazine-y style front page, which I may yet do sometime. (Perhaps with a Mr Money Mustache-style “Classic” version that readers can revert to). Re: Nested comments, as discussed in original piece I don’t like them, personally, though I can see the pros and cons.

    @Susan @FIREStart — Interesting idea re: the chair! Will put it to my designer once he’s had a rest and small holiday. 🙂

  • 41 Al September 12, 2016, 8:50 pm

    @The Investor

    Tabs – I hadn’t realised my poke would stir such a hornet’s nest. Sorry! One final thought in regard to making INTERNAL links open in separate tabs. I tend to avoid this because I want to clearly delineate my websites from linked sites. I also think that opening internal links in a new tab may prevent one from easily tracking a reader’s path round one’s site using analytics software. I would need to check that but, if true, that would put me off. I rely on such information for website optimisation.

    Front page – Got it. 4 posts are now showing; only 1 was visible before on the laptop. That’s better. I like the idea of a magazine style.

    Comments – sorry, I missed your explanation in the post.

    ‘Related links’ – @Andrew is right. When viewed in the MOBILE format, there is a ‘Related’ section underneath each Monevator post, before the comments. Three related post titles are shown in the box. Before each post title is a circle with a date inside. The circle should show the publication date of the related post. Instead, all three dates are identical, showing the date of the post above. Interestingly, I cannot see the ‘Related’ section when viewing the site on a desktop/full-screen. That may be causing your confusion at the comment. Hope that helps.

    Thanks again.

  • 42 Nathan September 14, 2016, 11:44 am

    @The Investor

    Chrome on iPad seems to be the problem. Most of the time it just hangs like this;

    https://postimg.org/image/fn0133es9/

    Occasionally it’ll load and render the homepage after a minute or so.

    I’ve access to 2 iPads and it happens on both (always has done). I just remember to use safari for monevator.

  • 43 Andrew September 16, 2016, 1:15 pm

    @Al, thanks for clarifying that’s exactly what I meant without explaining it very well!

    @The Investor, I’m using Chrome on a Samsung phone if that makes any difference.

  • 44 The Investor September 16, 2016, 9:10 pm

    @Andrew @Al — Hmm, I see. Will have a poke about over the weekend! Thanks for coming back with the extra information, and the ongoing interest in seeing it all working. 🙂

  • 45 Tobeman September 22, 2016, 3:14 pm

    Just to echo the thoughts of one other in here, I hadn’t spotted the redesign so found myself zooming out of the page when I opened it this afternoon – my first view of the site in about a month.

    I’m running at 75% zoom in Chrome, on a 1920×1080 24″ monitor which feels like it did before and I find this far easier to consume. It felt a bit like reading a broadsheet newspaper column but holding the newspaper against my (relatively small) nose with the new changes at 100% zoom.

    Happy to go with the masses, as just zooming out a little does the trick for me. Admittedly I am probably a bit younger than the average reader though…!

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