This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2009-11-19 at 6:39 a.m.
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See TidBITS Article Summaries as Pop-up Balloons

by Adam C. Engst

Web design is nothing if not an iterative process, and with the number of articles and ExtraBITS links we're publishing these days, I became unhappy with how quickly articles on our home page were pushed "below the fold" - visible only after scrolling. Depending on the length of article summaries, a MacBook screen might display only the two or three most recent articles, and while users can of course scroll to see more headlines, research shows that many people don't.

So Glenn and Jeff and I put our heads together and came up with an optional refinement to the design of our headline pages that shows more headlines in the same space (headline pages include the Latest Stories home page [1], plus each of our individual sections and staff pages accessible from the left-side navigation bar). Instead of presenting the full article summary between the headline and its associated metadata, the redesign hides the summary entirely, displaying it in a pop-up balloon when you mouse over it.

[image link] [2]

We didn't want to confuse regular readers, so the feature is turned off by default. To switch to balloon mode, click the Hide Summaries of Articles link under the featured article on any section's headline page. It becomes a Show Summaries of Articles link, and clicking that restores the previous design so you can easily choose whichever approach you prefer. A cookie records your Hide/Show selection so it can be honored on your subsequent visits. Give it a try and see what you think.

You'll also notice that we've updated the search results interface [3] to use a similar approach.

Let us know in the comments if you have suggestions for improvements to this feature or other aspects of our Web site.