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Site Tweak: Thumbnailing The Obits Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 September 2016

Our redesign of the index pages last month has led to a few further refinements, particular of the responsive, small-screen version of the site. In fact, this morning the Archive got tweaked a bit, making it easier to use in portrait mode.

We have to admit that we like the text listings of headlines in the indices. And we have to add that we've been experimenting with adding to them the Feature thumbnails you see in the carousel at the top of the headline pages.

But so far that hasn't gone well.

The first problem is that not all the Features have thumbnails. We didn't do that in 2012 when we wrote our first feature story.

The second problem is that the indices show the whole title while the carousel thumbnails use a shortened title that fits within the width of the thumbnail. Which ain't very wide.

Those are design issues and, as such, they're fun to play with.

But one index doesn't suffer either of those problems: the obituaries of important photographers.

Well, about a dozen of them didn't have a thumbnail. We didn't start that until 2014.

While an editorial use of one of the more important photographs by a deceased photographer would certainly pass as fair use, we decided to go a different route.

And even then, you might not realize there even is a thumbnail.

When we publish an obituary, we add the thumbnail to the headline page carousel and it does get copied to the headline page for the year, so it's archived. But it doesn't show up on the obituary itself.

So you could click on an obituary from the left-hand list of stories on the main headline page or from the obituary index and never know there's a thumbnail associated with it.

Which is a shame because we put no little effort into that 192x112 crop.

While an editorial use of one of the more important photographs by a deceased photographer would certainly pass as fair use, we decided to go a different route.

It seems to us that this chance to describe the arc of a person's life and achievement is also an opportunity to look more closely at their work. So we start with an image we like and crop in a detail that says something about their work. We never manipulate the image, other than to crop it. Them's the rules.

This is a lot more fun than it sounds like.

First, we get to look at their work again and pick something we like. Then we get to isolate a detail we find particularly poignant. It can be tricky, which is part of the fun.

We had a lot of fun yesterday doing all the 2013 and a few 2014 thumbnails that had never been done.

But it was also something of a somber task, like going to the cemetery. And what made it even sadder was that many of the reference links in our obituaries were no longer active. After just a few years, publications had taken down their tributes or slide shows.

We left the full listing just text but for any particular year in the index, you'll see the thumbnail created to go with the obituary now.

And we can, if not rest in peace, at least take a little break.

(Oh, and we added a new section called 'Site Notes' to the Features index for items like this that describe our design decisions as we build this online publication. -- Editor)

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