A guide to Version 5.0 of NPI's Cascadia Advocate
To the left: the Emmons Glacier, photographed by NPI staff from Sunrise. To the right: the Ranger Station at Camp Schurman on the Emmons Glacier, photographed by LBNA2009 and reproduced under a Creative Commons license.

Today, in con­junc­tion with The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate’s twen­ti­eth anniver­sary, we’re debut­ing a new theme for the blog that pro­vides a bet­ter read­ing experience. 

Code­named “Emmons”, after the Emmons Glac­i­er on Mount Rainier (which in turn was named for Samuel Franklin Emmons, a pro­lif­ic writer), this fifth ver­sion of The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate brings a huge num­ber of improve­ments. This post serves as a guide to what’s changed and why for any read­ers who are interested.

I. A responsive, mobile-friendly design for all

Emmons uti­lizes a ful­ly-respon­sive design that adjusts to the width of the user’s screen. You can see this for your­self if you resize your brows­er win­dow — you’ll see ele­ments shrink or expand to fit the avail­able space. Unlike past themes, Emmons is mobile-friend­ly, so if you’re read­ing on a phone or a tablet, you’ll see posts for­mat­ted for the size of your screen. You won’t need to pinch, zoom, and scroll to read, or load up an AMP (Accel­er­at­ed Mobile Pages) ver­sion of a post to get a bet­ter read­ing experience. 

II. New nameplate and heading background

Emmons brings a new name­plate — that’s pub­lish­er-speak for designed title as it appears on the front page or cov­er — which uti­lizes the WebP for­mat. The name­plate also appears in front of a high­er-res­o­lu­tion back­drop of the Cas­cade Range. Like the pre­vi­ous back­drop, the pho­to in use depicts the Cas­cades on a sun­ny July morn­ing from the year 2012, not too far from the cur­rent mid­point in the blog’s history.

NPI's Cascadia Advocate
The name­plate of The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, in WebP format

III. Featured images now display above article text

Owing to its age (it was devel­oped dur­ing a bygone web era) The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate’s pre­vi­ous theme did not dis­play fea­tured images by default. Emmons does. They’re always shown at the begin­ning of each arti­cle. Many of our posts go live with orig­i­nal pho­tos or graph­ics of our cre­ation, and Emmons allows them to be enjoyed as part of the default read­ing expe­ri­ence, rather than only on AMP pages or on exter­nal platforms. 

IV. Excerpts are now shown beneath article titles

The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has long made use of excerpts, or con­tent sum­maries, which are a core fea­ture of Word­Press, the free, libre, and open source soft­ware (FLOSS) that this blog runs on. But they were not shown by default in our pre­vi­ous theme except on archive pages and search results pages. Now you’ll find them shown under­neath arti­cle titles on sin­gle posts as well, pro­vid­ing con­text for posts that you open. 

V. Author bylines appear at the top of posts, and author biographies appear below them

Until today, we have shown author bylines only at the bot­tom of posts. But it’s com­mon prac­tice in the pub­lish­ing world to show author bylines above arti­cles. We now fol­low that prac­tice! Author bylines also remain in post foot­ers, and below post foot­ers, you’ll also find author bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion, which is a first for The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate. We feel this enhance­ment will be espe­cial­ly help­ful to new read­ers who are com­ing across our research and advo­ca­cy for the first time.

VI. Article text utilizes a larger font and a more neutral color

We’ve increased the default font size of our arti­cles so they’re eas­i­er to read, and switched from dark blue text to dark gray text as our default. The font fam­i­ly for body text and head­ings remains Tahoma, as it has been since The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate’s incep­tion, although a dif­fer­ent font may be shown to read­ers on iOS and Android if Tahoma is not avail­able. (For read­ers on GNU/Linux dis­tri­b­u­tions like Ubun­tu, you can install Tahoma on your sys­tem to see The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate as it was meant to be seen!) 

VII. Comments are easier to read

We’ve sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved the look and feel of our post dis­cus­sion area, with accents and bold­er bor­ders to denote each com­ment. Gra­vatar is now enabled for our com­ment threads, so if you com­ment and use an email address that has a Gra­vatar account, your cho­sen avatar will appear next to your name, under­neath your com­ment. Oth­er­wise, you’ll be iden­ti­fied by an avatar with a ran­dom col­or­ful design. And when you leave a com­ment or reply to anoth­er com­ment, you’ll see a reminder about our Com­ment­ing Guide­lines with a link to where you can read them in their entirety. 

VIII. A “Top Stories” layout is now available for an alternative browsing experience

Sto­ries pub­lished on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate have always been pre­sent­ed in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order, and that remains true with Emmons. But new­ly avail­able is anoth­er way to explore recent­ly pub­lished con­tent that we think is worth read­ing: our Top Sto­ries page. This page show­cas­es what we’ve been writ­ing about using a lay­out that is sim­i­lar to what many news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines use on their website. 

Our head­ing back­ground has always show­cased the Mid­dle Cas­cades. We’ve now added a foot­er that show­cas­es the North Cas­cades. If you scroll to the bot­tom of the blog, you’ll see a panoram­ic view of some of our region’s finest peaks, includ­ing the appro­pri­ate­ly named Glac­i­er Peak, or Dakobed (known in the Sauk-Suiat­tle dialect of the Lushoot­seed lan­guage as “Tda-ko-buh-ba” or “Tako­bia”), tak­en from the leg­endary Heather — Maple Pass Loop, a chal­leng­ing trail that is well worth hik­ing. The foot­er con­tin­ues to show recent posts and recent com­ments from read­ers and recog­ni­tion of Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate sponsors. 

X. New primary navigation menu

Emmons intro­duces a brand new pri­ma­ry nav­i­ga­tion menu below the head­ing that pro­vides quick and easy access to infor­ma­tion about The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, includ­ing answers to fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions, NPI’s Code of Ethics, Com­ment­ing Guide­lines, guest post sub­mis­sion infor­ma­tion, and com­mer­cial adver­tis­ing disclosures. 

XI. A single sidebar

Ver­sion 4.0 of The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate uti­lized two side­bars, on the right and the left. In keep­ing with its respon­sive design ethos, Emmons uti­lizes just one side­bar on most posts and pages, and none on the Top Sto­ries page. All of the key ele­ments from the pre­vi­ous side­bars remain intact in the sim­pli­fied con­sol­i­dat­ed sidebar. 

XII. Ready for the future

Emmons makes use of the News­pack theme cre­at­ed by Automat­tic for the ben­e­fit of news orga­ni­za­tions, along with an exten­sive suite of cus­tomiza­tions cre­at­ed and cod­ed by the NPI staff, which give this new iter­a­tion of The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate a unique look and feel. News­pack has been under active devel­op­ment for about half a decade and is well sup­port­ed by a team I’m proud to have worked with.

Automat­tic’s long-term com­mit­ment to News­pack is impor­tant, because pub­lish­ers need to be able to invest in soft­ware that isn’t going to become aban­don­ware. As the web evolves in the next few years, News­pack is set to keep pace with reg­u­lar updates, which means our staff won’t have to go back to the draw­ing board and pick a new them­ing plat­form. We’ll sim­ply keep build­ing on what we’ve unveiled today.

Questions or comments?

The dis­cus­sion area is open if you have thoughts on the redesign or sug­ges­tions for future minor improve­ments. Hav­ing just fin­ished work on Emmons, we have no plans for anoth­er big redesign, but there will be a Ver­sion 5.1 com­ing down the road, like­ly with­in the next year. We hope you enjoy The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate’s new theme as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it togeth­er for you. 

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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