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Friday, 25 March 2016


I just hope it's going to be truly responsive and work properly on big screens so I can see big pictures!

If I were to make a request for social media inclusion, it would be for flickr. Photos and talking and all that.

Wait till you have to resize it for the Apple wrist watch.

White background?! How will I know I'm reading TOP?

I hope the new TOP's default page can be the blog itself, like most blogagazines; the content, in other words, rather than the way it is now, where one goes to the main URL and is greeted by the "About" page and a link to the blog proper.

Good luck with the transition, Mike!

Good news, Mike. Best of luck with the refresh.

Could you not get popularity data from google analytics (visits, time on page, etc)? May be more reliable though you do have to dig a bit.

Any chance of post-publish comment moderation instead of pre?

The Google test is complete rubbish so far as TOP is concerned. TOP is very friendly to the iPad I read it on. A double tap on the text expands it so the text fills the page and I could use the Reader view in Safari if I wanted text even larger but lose your site's look and feel.
The main deficiency of TOP is in the comments where it is difficult to see where you have added more and sometimes I think a comment can be inserted amongst those I have already read. Since the comments are such an important part of TOP I feel that is where "improvements" should be concentrated. Anything which would cut down your work moderating and so speed up the postings of comments is probably the most important thing. I have long thought you ought to have a proper subscription model where you would have to sign in and possibly allow paying/regular guests to post without moderation.

not that I advocate Pinterest as a social-media site, but it is good for saving articles in an organized way.

DISQUS for comments — maybe not an option — is useful, in allowing to have replies and track activity (for us), but perhaps there are too many downsides to its use.

best wishes with the change.

A reference to Lightzone in yesterday's post led me to http://lightzoneproject.org/content/cleantalk-anti-spam-use-update-read-completely-if-you-have-been-rejected where it is said they are using https://cleantalk.org to exclude spammers and moderate comments. Maybe this is something you could use?

Mike, this is really good news. I love the things you've introduced me to, the discussion and the beautiful photography. I have felt the site design was a little dated, so a refresh sounds good. Are you sure it's not possible to make the photos larger? That seems so key to a photography site to me, and would be a shame not to change.

The awful consequence of that diktat from the Google monopoly is that there are a number of sites I no longer browse on my phone because the responsive/mobile versions are slow, lacking in features and generally not much fun to use.

Your layout is not that bad, clear and it is picked up very well by Firefox reader view. I would suggest having a choice of background color. Plain white can be a strain on the eyes in low light conditions when black with white text helps with reading comfort. And maybe have the beige as well. Check out arstechnica.com for an example, settings are under main menu.
Benoit, Bristol, UK

Please give us a short, memorable URL, please eliminate the "landing page" that needs one further click/tap.

Otherwise TOP should stay just as wonderful as it is.

Google forces everybody into the same corsage. Consolidate as much as possible of the existing style. A white background is fine and this even could fresh things up, but keep the two tones of yellow, the light brown and the existing typeface. Maybe you also could try out adding accents like pure lemon yellow and/or royal blue, but keep everything in a classical literary style.

When you create a visual identity three things matter most:
- Recognizability. That means that you have to be original and you should use style elements that are unique. The existing color scheme does that. Keep it, even in case you are after all these years fed up with it.
- Visualizing your identity. A bank, a patisserie or an online photographer are all very different. Looking at a presentation you somehow should be able to experience the core business and in what kind of environment you are, even without reading the text. Again, the existing platform is just fine. Neutral and serious, so it leaves a lot of space for all kinds of content.
- Consistency. Not only for the efficiency and recognizability. This also should give us the idea that TOP is serious and professional, even if in the case in reality the headquarters is a ruin. (The sign in front of it is in fact a cardinal sin. Even if you like it, it has a complete different style than the TOP blog. So before anything else: Sack your communication manager!).

I wonder what else Google is going to force everyone to do to remain near the top of their searches.

Good luck with the changes. I'd like to see threaded comments. Also, I'd like the ability to edit comments after posting.

Many blogs use Disqus to manage their comments and it seems to work well. I use Disqus on my blog (more of a vanity project than a real blog like yours) and it does a great job blocking spam as well as allowing trusted members to post without having to wait for moderation. Disqus was simple to install as a WordPress plug-in. Disqus will also send you an email (optional) when someone replies to your comment. It all adds up to a livelier more fast paced discussion.

You are the only few sites I do NOT access mainly via Facebook. There are issues like advertisement. Hence I understand. It is fine as it is. Even without like.

Like the content mainly.

But if you insist to have Facebook feature, please not just like as it is hard to click when you have those killing news. Have at least some others like sad.

Also some interaction between the posters at least on like level. You can look at arstechica, the other sites I went for more in-depth info (and like your site, very concern about the poster comments on the article).

Social media connections will be Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and—? Any preferences?


Please reconsider the 'social' media links! As soon as such a button appears at the site, they can then trace every visitor and add to their Database, no matter if you are logged in to FB or not, no matter if you are a member or not. Some sites (But I have only examples of German Pages) have set these so they must first be activated by the visitor, that makes sense to me.

The ability to share to Tumblr would be great too.


Hi Mike,

A few things:

1. I really, really, like the off-white background. But, change whatever you like, if it makes you happy.

2. It would be nice if it doesn't load lots of javascript and embed things from multiple sites. That slows load times, increases your bandwidth, and increases potential security risks for us. Please see the excellent and entertaining article The Website Obesity Crisis by Maciej Cegłowski.

3. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope things go well. Thanks.

PLEASE!!! No Flash!!!!

As a primarily-mobile reader these days, this is welcome news. Re: social media, you might also consider Reddit.

Good luck with the transition!

Hard to know what to suggest in changes that won't violate rule #1: don't make more work for the humble moderator or increase costs. Just spit-balling here:

1) reader gallery?
2) reader gallery with membership critique?
3) reader gallery with fee to post and a print purchase feature. TOP takes a cut, but reader prints/boxes/ships?
4) Classified section w/reasonable listing fee (e.g. $7.00 per ad like rangefinderforum). Photos could be listed in addition to books/camersa/lenses?

The first three might reinforce your "brand" (as I understand it, see below); the last would just be a pure revenue generator, but recognizes that you speak, in part, to a bunch of gear-heads (among whom I bashfully include myself) who are all secretly searching for one another's mint condition Rolleiflexes.

However, none of the above is necessary to make TOP a daily visit website for me, as I already come here to see what's up once a day at least.

[Curmudgeon Mode/on] . . .insert rant about the pace of digital change and the impermanence of all things here. .[Curmudgeon Mode/off]

FWIW: I think the TOP "brand" is that you have successfully created a site where each reader feels like he/she is in a conversation with you personally about photography in a broad sense and with a larger community of photographers through the comments section. It is hard to know how to do "more" of that in a way that does not take up more of your life at the same time. Maybe it sugars off to a "keep doing what you're doing" sort of thing, although I don't know that that is particularly helpful advice.

[Edit: As a side note, I am increasingly aware that I am usually part of a small universe, when it comes to how I see/understand these things. Maybe a future TOP post would be a reader-feedback, "what do YOU (e.g. readers) think the TOP brand is?" Q&A . . .and then be guided/advised by what your readers think you are doing rather than what you think you are doing.]

I do have to say that I am interested to see what your other readers suggest. Maybe that is part of the fun too.

Thumbs up on everything except a white background. As the white space will be 90+ %, it's not so easy on the eyes. It's not quite a 1x vs. 500px kind of thing, with all those thumbnails. It's more of a dpreview vs. diglloyd type of thing. Jeez, I got to quit spending so much time on the computer!

Responsive websites are the 'in thing' now it's true, but TOPs layout was never that hard to read on a tablet, esp in portrait format.

However, Google get to decide, I guess.

What I would like to see is some reorganisation of the subsections into major headings to make them easier to navigate to, eg Cameras and Lenses, Images and Portfolios, Guest Columns, Post-processing. There can be sub-categories of course, but 5-6 major categories should cover it.

Sadly the Google test site is not accurate. Tested against my iPhone 6 and my wife's website is still readable. Fully readable.

Could it be improved? Yes and it will be. But not based on Google's tool.

Also, the tool does not let a user rotate the phone to landscape mode which real people do.

The "like" button is the kiss of death for any real discourse. Use google analytics to see which posts are getting the most action.

There are three things that bring me to TOP. They are content, content and content.
Do what you need to do in order to keep it going and if it puts some more change in your jeans then good for you.
For the record I probably check the site via smartphone daily so making this more mobile friendly is not a bad thing.
Having some kind of Facebook presence is also a good idea.
I was not sure about it at first but Facebook has given me a chance to connect with old friends, other Rolleiflex junkies and Army Security Agency vets. TOP should find it useful.

Could we have an easier way to embed pictures in the comments. i.e. not having to point to some place on the web?

Another good thing to have, would be an easier way to browse past postings by category. e.g. with lists of titles and dates within the category.

Otherwise, great work, and I look forward to much more, however v3 should eventually look.

For just reading, I've been perfectly happy with the current format on my phones; double tap on the text and the center column fills the width of the phone screen nicely. That does keep me from seeing the ads in the margins, though. But I notice now that commenting is harder than out needs to be.

The terminology these days is “responsive design,” meaning the page responds to the size of the screen being used and displays the content appropriately. Your current design isn’t “responsive” but it’s not so mobile un-friendly, thanks to the narrow text column which can be zoomed-in to; I frequently read it on my phone.

My only advice is to recommend you keep it as simple as possible. Sometimes people get carried away with redesigns; another blog I frequently read was ruined by a redesign in which each post pops up as an overlay on the screen, which wrecks the linearity of the “vertical magazine” format and causes other problems. Please avoid overlays! Thanks!

Will miss the tan background. Always found it to be easy on the eyes.

I think there's an interesting research paper waiting to be written on the psychology of when and why people press Like buttons.
As for me, I come to this site because of the words, not the look.

Would love it if you could keep the tan background. It's so much nicer than white.

I very much prefer the tan background to white Mike - easier on the eye.

Too bad about the colors, I like them. But it's mostly about the content, so no big deal. Thinking bigger, I think it would be cool to have an in-house slideshow feature for guest writers and artists, if possible. Swipe right and left for mobile, large view for computer users.

Please keep the RSS feed.

I can't be bothered with readability on mobile devices, but I always found TOP's layout a bit busy (although that's mostly good news, as most of this is determined by the advertisements). The texts need more room to breathe, and the template's look is getting long in the tooth. Changing current layout won't certainly do TOP any harm.
A white background will be warmly welcome, and so would be slightly larger characters. That would improve readability even on PCs.
As for the 'like' buttons, they leave me cold. Just like the social media connections. Of course, sharing the posts on Facebook and other 'social' networks (are there any?) will considerably increase TOP's public awareness, so I guess it will be mostly a good thing.
All in all the changes you're planning have the potential to bring large benefits, so don't hesitate!

Keep the tan background, it is a trademark in a sea of identical white. It is to late to stand out by going to white, you just become one of the masses.

My only concern, based on what you have described, is the plain white background. I admit that the current tan morphs into a pale greenish yellow on many monitors, so perhaps that's due for improvement.
I associate "white background" with the hot, annoying, fatiguing, flickering-in-the-corner-of-the-eye appearance of so many websites, especially those that present a goodly amount of text.
Greenish and somewhat olde-timey though it may have been, the color on the Mk2 TOP helped to suppress buzzy visual nastiness one sees so often.

I will be disappointed to see the tan background change to white.
Tan seems to help with eyestrain, however change is inevitable on
the internet and probably will help with TOP's viability especially
the mobile platform. Good luck with the redesign.


Just do what works-we will still be here!


Is there algorithmic goodness in linking to the picture-oriented socials such as Instagram, Pinterest, or others of that ilk?

'don't like white backgrounds

Hey Mike, I would try to hang on to the tan color scheme. It's unique and gives the site a distinctive feel. A lot of websites end up looking the same when they become "mobile friendly".

Damn! Your web pages are almost perfectly arranged for me right now. Most changes will be for the worse, I fear.

Two requests:
1. Try to avoid those awful page tops that come and go when you scroll up and down the page. I have no trouble keeping the website that I'm reading in mind for more than one screenful of text. The top menu at The Atlantic that appears when I scroll the main banner off my screen distracts and annoys: I do not need a sunshade at the top of the page.

2. Also avoid the nauseating text over image arrangements where the text scrolls faster than the image. The first time I saw them I was impressed, but only for a very short time. Now they are sickening.

I used to work as a graphic designer and consequently used to change my website design every year just about, as an exercise in design primarily or when I got bored with it. Doesn't make much difference in the long run though as content is king. The actual website should disappear in normal usage and the photos or posts be the emphasis. I like white backgrounds and I like plain and simple (clean is the way I would describe it) so it sounds good to me Mike. The "Like" button is also a good idea. I look forward to welcoming TOP to the twenty-teens!

I was just thinking that a "like" button would be awesome. I often like what I'm reading but either don't have time to comment or don't have anything useful to say. Glad to hear you're adding one!

I have always felt TOP was easy to use on mobile as it is a long narrow format...

Well, my mother will soon be 92, so ...

My only comment, and hope, is that it will actually work. In different platforms, older and newer. Not everyone in this world uses the latest iPhone running the latest OS.
My feeling is that IT departments have the most up to date PCs and biggest screens and then they design everything to work nice in their own system. The problem is that 99% of real people have older, less sophisticated systems, and a surprising variety of them, still in daily use.

I would like to see announcements of new articles go out on your Twitter feed. You do have a Twitter account, don't you? Ah.

I'd like to see a quicker way to browse the archives and categories. At the moment, it is simply not possible to get an overview of the articles under one category, e.g. the "Film and Darkroom". How many articles are there? A dozen? Hundreds? On what (sub-)topics? All articles are displayed in full length, one after the other, so i have to scroll down one very looong page after the other. I'd prefer to have a list of all articles of a category, with the heading, the date, the author and may be even the first two or three sentences. This would make the wealth of your archive much more accessible.

Can each posting also be labeled with a number indicating its place in the sequence? Sorry to see the tan background disappear.

No like buttons, please, please.

They completely change the tone and dynamic of comments. Comments become shorter, snappier and more oriented towards pleasing the crowd. The crowd itself will change. Quieter, more reflective posters will drop away as they see that their posts are not rewarded, while others with shallower and more colorful posts are. That's just human nature. You will definitely lose the thoughtful, collegial atmosphere you have now. And tempers will rise and your work as a moderator will go up.

However, the number of page views will go up significantly as people will check back to see if anyone has contributed a new 'like' to their post.

The TOP comments section is a rarity, a gem in today's internets. Please don't rock the boat.

oh bother - I like TOP on my iPhone 5 just fine. Other sites that have gone mobile friendly (Luminous Landscape, and others) are unpleasant to view on mobile.

Would you consider LiveJournal and/or Tumblr? In my opinion both are much better to look at than either FB or G+. FB and G+ just hurt my eyes... but then biggest question is of course where your audience is.

You should tweet a link every time you post a new article. You would be amazed at how many people get their alerts that way.

Hi Mike and thanks for asking.

Well I've been wooed over to the Google+ behemoth if only because it is an elegant vehicle. For you it might be a necessary dance with the devil if you want to get your hit rate up.

I like the simplicity of your "vertical photography magazine". I come here for words not images as the conveyance of ideas so the embedded jpegs don't cause perspiration.

The serif font is good (I read somewhere that a serif font is easier to read than a non-serif at least for extensive text) But please, PLEASE get rid of the beige, I lost that colour from my wardrobe in the eighties!

Keep it as it is !. Also; I like the tan background.
But good luck whatever you do.

You should maybe poll users in order to find out what proportion of us read the site on mobile phones.

For God's sake don't change the font ;-)

"We'll be losing our tan background color and going to white."

Why? Does Google require this? Tan is IMHO better ...

A victory for form over content. What a terrible compromise that you will have to make. Several other photography related websites (Diglloyd and Ken Rockwell) have become severely deprecated for computer based use since this went into effect. On the other hand Luminous Landscape still looks pretty good.

Pintrest seems to have become a requirement as of late, though I've not been able to get into it.

I welcome the improvement for mobile, as I often read TOP on my phone.

But the buggest thing missing is surely the ability to use emoticons in the comment section ;-)

Hello Mike,

My only two wishes for a web site are:

1) Font size large enough that I don't have to enlarge. Your font size is not too bad for my monitor, I zoom to 200%. Of course, everyone's monitor resolution is different, so nothing much a webmaster can do about it.

2) Pleasing font color on background. Purple fonts on black background is the worst (Yes, I've seen such.)

For me, everything else is fluff. It's the content (the message) that's important. So, I have no suggestions about your new version.

Mobile friendly? It's the trend, I guess. I redesigned my site to pass that Google test. I had to add this to the source code:

meta name=viewport content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"

Best of success in your redesign.


Why can't you have large images? And responsive images? Many ways to do this without annoying Google (I'm a web developer).

I hope you are trying a bespoke solution, and not jumping into Wordpress (which used to be good, but is bloated and problematic now)

Beware of Disqus as someone suggested - many browser plugins will disable it and that will really annoy your visitors.

I'd like to put in a plug for not disabling zoom in mobile mode. For some reason, mobile site designers routinely disable the 'pinch zoom' that was at the core of what made the iPhone 'magic', and remains for me a fundamental functionality. Mobile design seems especially hard for designers to get right when photos are involved; they routinely set things up so that there is no way to view an uncropped 2:3 ratio picture in landscape mode, forcing you to look at a tiny version of the pic in vertical mode.
I actually prefer how top's current site works on my phone over many mobile 'optimized' (sic) websites. (Petapixel's recent conversion is a case in point, even after I got them to turn zooming back on).
So while I understand the driving force, I urge you to consider that iPhones (and most other devices) offer their users a great deal of control over how they view a site already, and 'responsive' designs which wrest viewing control away from the user frequently deliver a lowest common denominator compromise and shove it down the viewer's throat, which is one of the more frustrating web experiences around, especially when you know there's a better way.

Mike, reiterating what a number of commentators have said, but TOP reads fine on my iPad as-is. Double-tapping the text zooms and centers it on my screen, I can pinch zoom as necessary from there. I nearly always read TOP via the Netvibes RSS reader, so maintaining compatability with RSS readers would be highly helpful to me. Echoing what Richard Parkin wrote, my most wished for change would be to the comments, perhaps some way of flagging new comments, particularly when/if they have been 'inserted' between previous ones, as seems to happen from time to time. Also, maybe threaded comments? Lastly and FWIW, I'm not a huge fan of DISQUS for comments.

Otherwise, best of luck in the redesign. Oh, I like the tan, as well.

I find that a white background hurts my eyes. I'm happier reading black text on a pale background rather than grey text on a white background, so it's not just the contrast between text and background that is the problem.

A white background also does photos no favours. Is a white background a Google requirement? It might be better on a mobile device, but it's no good to me and my desktop iMac.

Might want to check this out as well:


Good luck! This stuff is hard. :)

I agree with those who oppose the "Like" button (I dislike the Like button, too, and find it creepy and childish). Instead, TOP could be ground breaking by including a "Lust" button, which would be used in response to equipment and photo book reviews, among other things. The "Lust" button will allow advertisers, vis-a-vis Google, to match products with those who lust for their "stuff." Which is why they exist, no?

Someone once said "Keep It Simple Stupid."

KISS works for me. Why waste space with Like buttons or Social Media buttons. The more buttons the less space for content (The King).

Existing design works fine for me. Only ever view TOP on mobile and have no issues with it. As many have said above; a double tap is all that is needed. Tan is great. Comments could be slightly easier to write on mobile but that's it really for me!

Echoing Alan Carmody's comments here: adding a more responsive comment platform such as disqus will detract from the interesting comments that characterize TOP.

And if you're surveying, I also read TOP on both a phone and iPad without any issue.

My only problem with the current design is that it is difficult to jump to the "first unread comment".

[See Jason Davidson's comment above. --Mike]

Hi Mike,

Good luck with your re-design.

One feature that might be worth considering is some kind of feed (RSS or even a separate webpage) that collects the "featured comments".

I concur with some of your earlier correspondents that up- and down-voting changes the character of a site.

"Please reconsider the 'social' media links! As soon as such a button appears at the site, they can then trace every visitor and add to their Database, no matter if you are logged in to FB or not, no matter if you are a member or not."

I would echo this.

You have a healthy, devoted reader base, and they are coming to your site because of the consistent quality of the dialog. No one is leaving the site because of lack of social media presence.

However, many readers who don't use social media (I know we are Dinosaurs) value privacy, and want to keep it that way.

I hate to rub some other commenters the wrong way, but the folks at "Photography Life" have ditched Disqusas a comments platform-

Dinosaur or Luddite, you be the judge.

Dear Mike,

Long time reader and very occasional commenter. Very happy multiple TOP Print owner.

A "feature" that I very much value (although I'm certain it wasn't designed as as such) is the ability to click on the Date&Time under the last comment I have read. This link then turns brown allowing me to easily return to the last read comment. Absolutely best of all is that this is synced between iPad, iPhone and Mac Safari under iOS9.

Threaded comments, whilst making it easier on the first read through, make catching up on later comments incredibly difficult. Personally, I am not a fan.

Looking forward to the new design but you also have my sympathies -designing a new website takes far, far longer that you first thought. I know from experience!

For the past one and a half year I have read TOP mainly via my Xperia Z, similar in size to an iPhone 6(s). I actually had no problems reading it.

But I like to second the readers who have suggested you look at ArsTechnica.com. Having the option of light text on a dark background is so much easier on the eyes in dimly lit surroundings such as a bedroom. Just try it for yourself. It does not need to be standard, just a readers option.

Hi Mike,
first thanks for a great site. I read it often.
Don't change it please. It is the most phone and tablet readable design I can imagine, just because it is not "responsive" to the device. The posts are listed in order and there are no need for extra clicks to read the latest or yesterdays post. The content is in no way obscured by the form, which seems to be the current trend.

I'd love to see more interactions among readers, not just between readers and the TOP editor (not that there's anything wrong with that!). To that end, please tally another vote for a threaded comment system.

For me Kirk Tuck's blog is about the worst for displaying on my iPad Air 2. When I put the URL into that Google thing it says "Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly". How can that be? Maybe because he uses blogspot which I think is by Google ;-(

Ya gotta have a Twitter button. As for the "like" button for a post, I suppose one may infer some meaning from it, but I don't know what. Does it actually mean a person liked the post? Or that she had read it? Or has not actually liked anything for a week, but "likes" it because he/she feels guilty for not having "like"-d any for a week? Of course, we could like a page easier than commenting on it, but not sure that's a good thing.

Just to add that I think Disqus is a huge nuisance. Although I have signed up, I rarely use it. Not sure a lot of people will go through the hassle just to comment.

An "likes" on the comment section as I think someone suggested above. No thank you. I don't comment as part of a popularity contest.

Please ...
* no "livelier more fast paced discussion" - discussion becomes debate becomes flame-war aka DPR. Keep a comment-section, not a forum.

* no "likes" of any kind - good grief! - we're all grown-ups here.

* keep it lean, no flash.

* another vote for the "soothing" cream-coloured backround.

* keep the serif type.

I prefer the Comments as they currently are. A threaded discussion runs the risk of readers arguing with each other rather than directing their comments to Our Humble Editor.

Likes? Uh, not needed or wanted.

The current site displays very well on my iPhone 5s. Why in the world would Google rate this as mobile unfriendly?

Discus? Some ad/beacon/tracking blockers block Discus.

As many others have already stated, the background color is very pleasant. I wish more sites would consider their color palette.

Please, no Social Media buttons. Those can expose user information.

I'm looking forward to the rollout of the new TOP.

I have to strongly agree with the minority who are voting for continuity and simplicity. I have been a daily visitor for many years and continue to visit your site (and use your Amazon link) because of excellent content and your focus on content rather than dazzle and doo-dads.

***Grumpy old (35) man alert! I don't own a mobile phone or an iPad and don't want to. I do my computing on a computer, and then I shut it off, go outside, and try to live my life with limited electronic distraction. Now get off my lawn!***

Every website I have watched go from traditional to "mobilized" over the past few years has been reduced (even ruined) by the transition. I don't visit most of those websites anymore as it's not worth my time to filter through all the "features" to get to the information I care about.

Do whatever you need to do to provide the content that brings so many of us here each day. If TOP needs razzle-dazzle to survive then I will suffer through it, but it's definitely not necessary for an old codger like me.

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