It’s not the same as the old Front.

Greg Kuperberg has just finished working on the new Front for the mathematics arXiv. Except that it’s not just the mathematics arXiv anymore, it’s everything!

Otherwise, however, not much seems to have changed, and, to tell the truth, I liked the old look. Greg says that there are some new features still to be deployed, and I’m looking forward to seeing what these are. One thing I noticed is an OPML file describing RSS feeds for each category. Does anyone actually use RSS to read new arXiv posts? (I can see a good use for them anyway — I’m planning on using them to keep my little arXiv metadata project up to date.)

5 thoughts on “It’s not the same as the old Front.

  1. The new look is indeed hard on the eyes, but maybe we should explain what we mean by that — to see if we agree. If everyone agrees that some aspect is bad, maybe Greg will change it.

    To my mind, the worst problem is the vivid, rainbow-colored horizontal lines under the words “Front for the arXiv”, “Search” and “Browse”. Since everything else on the page is white, black, gray or dark blue, these lines are the most attention-grabbing feature of the whole page — your eyes automatically gravitate towards these lines, and then your eyes get dazzled by the afterimages of the bright colors on the white background.

    This is a design flaw, because these horizontal lines are not what you’re supposed to be looking at: they really just separate the different regions you are supposed to be looking at!

    The second worst problem is having a large portion of the screen devoted to cryptic abbreviations: “AI AR CC CE CG CL CR CV CY DB DC DL DM DS GL GR GT HC IR IT LG LO MA MM MS NA NE NI OH OS PF PL RO SC SD SE” etcetera. The old version, which only tried to cover mathematics, had room for the full names of the different branches of mathematics. The new version is dry and uninviting. I can easily imagine getting a sudden impulse to browse some abstracts on General Mathematics, or Digital Libraries. The chance that I’ll suddenly want to click on a mysterious item labelled GM or DL is much lower.

  2. In part, it’s just the overall effect. The font is smaller and hard to read. The grey boxes behind titles make them harder to read rather than easier. I agree the rainbow colored lines are rather ugly, especially since they’re the only color on the page. I feel like changing those to black and then changing the background to something more subtle and warm would make a huge difference. The condensing of the separate subjects on the front page is also pretty annoying, but easily solvable: just link to front.math.ucdavis.edu/math, which is laid out exactly like the old arXiv page, except with ugly rainbow lines running everywhere, and grey used instead of the pleasant yellow-beige of the old Front.

    I fear if I go on, I’ll just be ranting. The old Front seemed like a very well designed website to me (maybe having the anywhere box at the top of the search box would have been better), very user friendly and pleasant to read, so I just don’t see why there was any need to tweak the look. Extra features I will happy welcome, but my recommendation for the design is to just change it back.

  3. I just gave Greg a quick summary of these comments:

    Hi Greg,
    there’s been some discussion of the design aspects of the new Front over at
    https://sbseminar.wordpress.com/2007/06/14/its-not-the-same-as-the-old-front/
    The common complaint was that the rainbow horizontal lines are distracting, and should go. Another complaint was that the main page is too dense — a page full of 2-letter abbreviations doesn’t acheive much. Ben suggested mathematicians should just start using http://front.math.ucdavis.edu/math.
    Thanks for the work; I appreciate how difficult “little things” like adapting to a new identifier format can end up being!

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