The Times, They Are A-Changin'

We told you before that big changes were coming to The Bent Musket. Here, we give you a preview of the new layout and major changes coming in the upcoming SB Nation United migration. With pics!

A few weeks ago, we gave you a sneak peek at some of the changes coming down the pipeline for this blog when we unveiled our new logo design. Today we have a much bigger reveal for you. SB Nation United is coming, and it's coming very, very soon. Here at The Bent Musket, we couldn't be happier with the moves being made.

Before we show off screenshots of the full layout re-design, we want to reassure everyone that, in this case, change is definitely good. There will likely be a learning curve, but after adjusting to the new look and functionality, we're confident that every one of our readers (and any new readers) will be far happier with the look and feel we're displaying. Of course, the quality of our content will not suffer. We're simply presenting it in ways that make it easier for all of you to digest.

Join us after the jump for the reasons behind the SB Nation United initiative and some screenshots of what's coming.

For those of you who aren't aware, SB Nation is a big network. There are over 300 blogs covering most conceivable sports and leagues - including colleges - consistently churning out high-quality content and nurturing sometimes-enormous communities of commenters, readers, and contributors. Beyond that, SB Nation is a part of Vox Media, a company that also owns The Verge and the soon-to-be-launched Polygon websites.

To this point, SB Nation has been a network that promotes the individuality of each and every blog, sometimes to a fault. There's a large section of people who are active members of blogs on the network who have no idea that the website they visit every day is a part of SB Nation. The decision-makers at SB Nation HQ saw an opportunity to not only improve the user experience on all of SB Nation's blogs, but also streamline the blogs a little bit to make it more apparent that we're all here, together, and we're all a family under one network. Cross-promotion is something The Bent Musket has always done, and we're always in favor of ways to foster that sort of cooperation.

Furthermore, SB Nation has been growing at a startling rate. A small collection of similar blogs became Sports Blog Nation in 2005. In 2009, it was a network of 185 blogs across several sports. Now, it's upwards of 330. The Bent Musket was only launched in early 2011, but already you could consider us a veteran presence. Regardless, blogs like us had the benefit of newer technology and a better platform, while older blogs struggled to keep up. The network grew, but the growth was uneven, and eventually what was meant to be a strong coalition of blogs and regional hubs became a loose amalgamation of largely-independent websites.

With this new re-design, every blog, sport site, and regional hub will be migrated to the same updated proprietary platform. There will be options available to us as writers and editors to publish and produce content that some of us have never experienced before; there will be options that allow us to deliver not only the same great commentary and analysis, but better commentary and analysis, and in a much prettier package.

Here are some highlights of what the changes mean. I'm ripping most of this bullet list directly from Our Daily Bears, SBN's Baylor website:

  • Faster loading times: The "clutter" that eats up much of the site will be going away and the platform itself will load much quicker than it does today. No more worries about memory being eaten up by an SBN site.
  • Flexible layout and modern design: Each site is going to have more individuality than it does today simply because of the flexibility we have on how to present our content, and the increased number of tools at our disposal to better accomplish our goals.
  • An adaptive experience, no matter what the device: SB Nation will run on an "adaptive" platform, presenting a seamless experience no matter what device you are viewing the website on. Desktops, laptops, tablets and phones; no matter where you might be, your experience will not change.
  • Game Threads, FanPosts, and FanShots: These will, of course, remain. We value the interaction with our community and the contributions you guys provide this website on a daily basis. Our focus on this aspect of ODB and SB Nation will not change at all.
  • Our content will not change, not one bit: As I stated above, our content will not change. We will simply be presenting it in a much better format.

Now let's look at some screens. Keep in mind, none of these are shots of The Bent Musket; just imagine the new logo at the top and a blue/red/white color scheme and you'll get the idea.

The Cover:

Cover_three_up_niners_nation_medium

Here's a good look at what the cover can look like. Gone is the forced reverse-chronological order; we can now pin and unpin stories up top to highlight features or important pieces, and keep focus on particular events if we want to. This is format is called "three-up." There are several others. A couple of examples:

Five-up

Cover_five_up_house_of_sparky_medium

Four-up

Four_up_cover_silver_screen_and_roll_medium

Tryptic

Land-grant_cover_tryptic_medium

As you can see, the cover style is infinitely more slick, and the images really pop. We'll be able to constantly sift through these and other covers based on the content we provide; expect to see us make use of all options at our disposal. For a view of the full website, including stories below the cover (an area known now as "the river"), click here.

Story Streams:

This is something we're really excited about (me in particular). For anyone who has followed the bit of work that I also do over at SB Nation Boston, you will have noticed that I cover games at that hub using Story Streams. Well, that same functionality is coming to The Bent Musket. With this tool, we will be able to group posts about evolving stories into one area where they will be easy to locate. Moreover, you can subscribe to have updates to that stream sent to you on Facebook. For example, remember last season when we were frantically scrambling to post constant updates on the Rajko Lekic transfer saga? With Streams, instead of cluttering the entire front page with individual posts saying "will he, won't he, and how much?", we'll be able to keep them all collated in one spot, while featuring the latest update if we so choose.

Storystream_full_page_cfb_medium

FanShots and FanPosts:

FanShots and FanPosts will retain their functionality, and will still feature on the front page. However, the individual FanShots and FanPosts pages will look more like this:

Fanshot_page_amazing_ave_medium

Mobile:

Mobile and tablet browsing has become a big part of SB Nation's traffic in recent years, and it's experiencing incredible growth. As a result, there was an extra focus on streamlining the appearance of the sites in these formats. Here's a look:

Mobile phone

Mobile_1_medium

Tablet

Tablet_defending_big_d_river_medium

Questions, Comments, And Concerns

We're open and available for all inquiries, guys. Like I said above, this change is coming, and it's coming soon. If you have anything at all you want to know, anything you're concerned about, or even if you just want to marvel at the beauty, leave a comment below. If it's a major concern, feel free to email us at thebentmusket@gmail.com.

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