My latest commission — RSA Comment — is a website where you can read opinion pieces, watch topical videos, comment on them and even submit your own writing. The site carefully follows the corporate branding of the RSA. It uses WordPress as its underlying CMS, has a complex home page layout and multiple columns on all pages. This was one of my most complex website designs so far – and a pleasure to work on.
The Disqus commenting system is integrated into the site. Disqus gives the RSA more control over how they moderate conversations, as well as enabling visitors to sign in using their Facebook, OpenID, Twitter or similar logins rather than having to have a password specific to the RSA Comment website.
Despite some initial awkwardness when setting up the Disqus account, it seems to be working well and makes the site more user friendly and flexible.
We used a number of WordPress plugins including:
- Add to Any – click to share the post on Facebook, social bookmarking sites etc
- Configurable Tag Cloud – big improvement over the tag cloud widget included in WordPress
- Google XML Sitemaps – gets your posts noticed almost immediately by search engines
- Theme Switcher – an easy way to enable users to switch to large text and high contrast versions of the site
- User photo – authors can have their photo next to their article
- TweetMeme Retweet button – quick and easy retweeting of posts on Twitter
Some of these plugins I’d used before and recommended, others were already in use on other RSA websites. The plugins we rely on most were all checked to make sure they’re both mature, popular, reliable and regularly updated.
Layout and branding
The site has a non-standard layout for a blog and incorporates multiple columns, multiple sidebars and a box for video. The home page layout was the most challenging aspect of the site, and it took time and effort to make the site properly across a number of browsers including Firefox, IE8, IE7, IE6, Safari, Opera and Chrome.
The branding had to match other RSA websites. Fortunately the RSA were able to give a detailed specification and closely monitored and commented on the look of the site as I was developing it.