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Our New-Look Website

We’re still dealing with the odd glitch, but now the SPR’s new-look website has had time to settle down, visitors might like to know a bit about its redesign and future direction.

As can be seen, apart from the obvious makeover there’s some new content. Members can now access digital pdfs of the Journal and Paranormal Review in addition to receiving print copies, and non-members can see the contents going back about five years. There’s a new page containing the entire catalogue of summaries of past research (which I’ll say a bit more about in a later post). And we expect eventually to publish a small selection of articles from different time periods that will give new visitors an idea of what psi research is about.

A big change is that the site can now be read easily on mobile phones. A few years ago that wouldn’t have seemed such a big deal – the inaccessibility of a website’s layout was only a problem if and when you managed to connect to it. For me, that changed with the iPhone 6, with its usefully larger screen, together with the arrival of 4G that connects to the internet at least as fast as broadband. I soon found myself using my phone to read articles on all sorts of topics, especially on buses and trains, sometimes even at home in preference to sitting at a desk. The kind of news sites I spend most time on are either designed specifically for the mobile screen, or automatically resize to it. That’s increasingly also the case for smaller sites like this one, all the more since last year, when Google announced that non-responsive sites would be penalised in its rankings.

For development we used our hosting company Circle Interactive, which is attractively housed in an old riverside warehouse in Bristol. They got involved in the development of the Psi Encyclopedia, completed by the end of last year, and having directed that process I’d no great desire to go through it all again – I hoped they’d wave a magic wand and transform the existing SPR site into something acceptably modern without any help from me. Alas, that was never going to happen. I started to reconstruct the site page by page, trying to envisage how each one should be presented and getting the developers to execute the plan.  

An early discovery was that the Drupal software, while gratifyingly powerful in lots of ways, is useless when it comes placing images within text – a commonplace feature of print publishing.  We achieved it here and there, but it took ages. So any idea of creating an attractive magazine-style layout had to be abandoned in favour of a more functional, but hopefully coherent layout.   

The new look has startled some people, but is not unlike what one sees with other organisations of our kind.  Personal taste is a factor when it comes to colours, shapes and so on. My hunch is that getting used to change is the hard part; after a while one stops noticing. What most visitors to a website care about is the usefulness of the information and the ease with which it can be accessed. Still, some elements may see refinements in the coming months.

Looking ahead, an aim is that the website become a sort of publishing hub for occasional posts (like this one) about SPR activities and research. Ours is quite an active organisation, but from the outside that may not always seem to be the case, and the idea is to talk more about what we get up to. (We’re also giving thought to the creation of a discussion forum, although given the issues around trolling it would most likely be restricted to members.)

As the many organisations that embark on this journey have found, it requires something of a culture change. People who are used to working with each other need to start cultivating the habit of occasionally also opening up to the outside world. That takes time and perseverance. Will it work? Frankly, I don’t know. It may be a slow burn, and the new Blogs and Articles section is likely to seem somewhat bare until we get going. But that’s the way the world’s been going for some time, and if psi research is to be known and appreciated as much as we’d like, it makes sense to keep up with it.

robertmcluhan@gmail.com