Over the past few days, the Product team at LexBlog has been launching a few bodies of work that have been a long time coming. While our Success team launches sites and solutions on a hourly basis, the product side of LexBlog has the luxury of spending weeks, sometimes months, working on new features. It’s a truly fortunate situation, and one that we don’t take for granted.
This week, our team had the pleasure of being in the same offices together with Scott Fennell (who blogs over at Code in the Cold) and Brian Biddle (LexBlog’s Lead Developer and Director of Design, respectively) making their quarterly visit to the home base (now at WeWork!), and we made sure to capitalize. This Thursday and Friday we celebrated our team’s geographical unity, short-lived though it may be, by launching a new admin color scheme, a redesigned LXBN – named The LexBlog Network from here on out – and LexBlog Network subscription options for each author on LexBlog’s publishing platform.
While our authors may not find the new admin color scheme groundbreaking, this update was the source of some of the larger philosophical headaches for me, and served as a great technical opportunity for Mr. Biddle and Angelo Carosio, LexBlog’s in-house DJ and developer extraordinaire.
My frustration was primarily around the notion of the update itself! As a curmudgeon, UI changes annoy me (I avoided Bitbucket’s new UI for months!), and while the old admin color palette was not my favorite, making changes for the sake of making changes is a bad habit that too many companies fall into. Ultimately, I overcame these mental challenges (which were primarily self-inflicted) by making a simple decision: To give our authors control.
To that end, the new admin color scheme comes with a default palette that reflects our updated brand and falls in line with our new LexBlog Network design and two additional options for those that want something a bit different from our off-the-rack option.
The technical fun was that Brian got the opportunity to stretch his technical legs and learn a bit of Sass and Git – a huge departure for a self-proclaimed lover of Photoshop. Meanwhile, Angelo dodged around some core WordPress issues, which has it’s own expectations for color schemes, to make sure that publishers and admins logging in for the first time were greeted by the new look.
Here are each of these three options in all their glory:
This update was launched Friday, shortly after our team finalized the new Lexblog Network’s design. The LexBlog Network (a.k.a., The Artist Formerly Known as LXBN) is LexBlog’s portal to all of our client’s content. Built in 2013, the site had not received a proper facelift in years, and feature additions were managed in an ad hoc fashion, creating a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a theme.
Over the past several sprints, Angelo and Scott – with guidance from Brian – updated our core theme to support the site. This forced us to engage in a practice called dogfooding, or, put differently, use the same products for our corporate properties that we ask our clients. Now The LexBlog Network, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, and this blog, all make use of the same core technology that our publishers use everyday. Eating our own dogfood, as it were.
For The LexBlog Network, this is just the beginning. This facelift is part of a larger effort for LexBlog to reinvest in our publishers’ content and engage our network of over 15,000 authors, which is why the third major update was targeted at helping these authors subscribe to specific channels. Over the last few years, we’ve added the capability to subscribe to the site by category, allowing authors that are interested in only employment law to get content from blogs focused on employment and labor concerns. Until now, the subscriptions were managed entirely through a form on the site, but with some hard work from Angelo and Scott each publisher on the platform can manage their subscriptions through their user profile!
To view this yourself, just log into your blog (if you have multiple blogs with LexBlog, any blog will do), click on the “Howdy, [your name]” link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and navigate to the bottom of your user profile. Here you will see an option to click on a button to manage your subscriptions to content from The LexBlog Network. For Premier blog admins, this capability is present in the Network User Management screens for individual users as well, giving you the capability to expose your authors to content from hundreds of blogs on subjects that matter to them.
Our intrepid document writer, Ted Cox, has put together an article on our help center that should guide you through the process better than my feeble attempts at explaining, and if you’re a publisher on our network you should be seeing some emails coming to you shortly from our marketing team, led by Mellina White-Cusack (who has a blog of her own – also on our network – The Seattle Conservative).
Overall, a great week, and fun things to get out the door. Moving forward, The LexBlog Network will continue to be a focus for the LexBlog team, both in terms of how content gets to the site and how we use it to shine a light on our publishers, giving our team a lot to bite off and chew over the next few months.