Bay Nature

Behind the Bay Nature Web Redesign

September 26, 2018

A decade ago, our Ask the Naturalist columnist Michael Ellis answered a reader’s question about why dragonflies swarm. It’s no exaggeration to say we can track the season and weather by the traffic to that story. For a decade now, for several weeks every summer, readers from across the country have swarmed to it, each presumably finding it after inquiring in a search engine about some local dragonfly swarm of their own. Here’s a graph of what that has looked like for the last three years in web traffic:

This is not the only story in our archive that tracks the life history of its subject. In nearly 20 years Bay Nature has generated more than 2,500 stories, and many of them are strongly seasonal. How about that classic sign of fall, pumpkin spiders on the move, which spikes every year around Halloween?

Or the Bay Area’s ubiquitous sign of early spring, the blooming of the invasive yellow sourgrass Oxalis pes-caprae?

When we started thinking about remaking our website, this is what we thought about: people looking for ways to understand the world around them even as it was changing in front of their eyes. And we asked, How could we design a site to better connect you to the immediacy of nature—to better respond to seasonal events, capture urgent ideas, follow our changing regional phenomena as the calendar turns?

Introducing the New We’ve refreshed the look of our website to offer a better reading experience and emphasize stories and art. We’re highlighting a cleaner reading experience on articles, with larger photos and a new serif typeface. We’ve added sitewide art elements — like seasonal illustrations from Jane Kim and InkDwell studios at the top of the page, and colors from a new Bay Area seasonal color palette created by our print designer Susan Scandrett. (The color on the dropcaps and below the navigation menu is one we call “eucalyptus.”)

Seasonal Picks. You’ll find a selection of timely articles at the top of the home page, chosen weekly from our archive to help you connect to the seasons and provide nature context for the news. These are like a Bay Nature best-of, highlighting some of our favorite trails, species, and stories at just the right time of year to experience them for yourself.

Essays and Explanations. We’re offering new columns weekly from Bay Area thinkers, artists, scientists, and journalists in the section we’re calling First Look. Our October lineup includes Jennifer Rycenga on nature in the age of contempt, Gregg Castro on the 25th anniversary of the Gathering of Ohlone Peoples, Grace Ha on what it’s like to name a new species, David Loeb on the 25th anniversary of Friends of Edgewood Preserve, Allison Gong on anemone identity, Amanda Machado on the science of nature awe, and many more. Check the home page every Monday morning or sign up for our newsletter  to see new stories as we post them.

Nature Questions Answered. We’re continuing our crowdfunded Ask the Naturalist campaign with our partners at the California Center for Natural History, with new questions and answers every two weeks on Tuesday. For October, we’re working on questions about Lake Merritt bioluminescence and bats.

Finally, a reminder that Bay Nature is a small nonprofit and we rely on our readers to keep the lights on and to keep our unique blend of natural history, journalism and art going. Please help us spread the word—tell your family and friends, or use those redesigned “share” buttons to tell people on social media. Or if you like what you’re reading, consider subscribing to our print magazine or donating.

About the Author

Eric Simons is a former digital editor at Bay Nature. He is author of The Secret Lives of Sports Fans and Darwin Slept Here, and is coauthor, with Tessa Hill, of At Every Depth: Our Growing Knowledge of the Changing Oceans.