Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Big Debut

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is on the eve of the release of the new All About Birds site, but also of something special (more on that in a moment).

Yesterday, after watching a preview of the new All About Birds site, Rick Bonney (Director of Program Development and Evaluation) reminisced about a meeting that took place some five-plus years ago. Like Rick, I remembered John Fitzpatrick sketching his vision of the Lab's web site, which included a series of "doors and windows" that allowed visitors to delve deep into information about each species and to easily move to additional pages for continual discovery. Within those rooms was a treasure trove of information, regularly updated and improved as our knowledge of each species expanded. It looked great on paper, but the functionality and architecture of the site had to be carefully designed, painstakingly developed.

"What you guys have done is commendable," Rick concluded. "You've actually done it."

All About Birds is just what the title implies: information on everything from how to approach bird identification, how to attract them to your yard, what gear to choose to enhances your experience, and my one-click bookmarked favorite: accounts of 500+ species that occur in North America. The pages attract 500,00 unique visitors a month, and still growing.

For a few weeks now the Communications team has worked furiously to create pages that are more robust, more user-friendly, exploding with useful content . . . and tomorrow, it goes live. I will be anxious to hear your impressions - we've been collecting input from users for months now via the Lab's Round Robin blog. I'm not officially involved in developing these new pages, but as a wannabe educator I'm curious to know your thoughts - privately, or in the comments here.

And now something special: I'm probably letting a cat out of the bag, but one thing you won't see on the new pages is the Lab's familiar logo, affectionately called the "Everybird." Tomorrow we're rolling out a new logo, a new "brand."

The "Everybird" will be retired over the next few months, replaced by a new identity - something I find fascinating. Though I've been passionate about science writing since my college days, recently I've developed an appreciation of the art of communicating through symbols, emblems, fonts; by what's conveyed behind the words. I was not part of the team that worked with the outside company on the logo, but I've been keenly interested in the couple of staff meetings where we discussed the ideas.

That's all I'll say right now, but I am very interested in your thoughts on the Lab's new logo.

So, a request: please drop me some feedback about the new pages and about the new logo, either here in the comments or by email (noflickster AT gmail DOT com). Comment section preferred, I'd love to see some discourse among readers, but if you don't want to go public, private email works, too. Call the neighbors, wake the kids, I'm interested in a wide variety of opinions. Blog about it, or point your visitors here to drop comments. Seriously, and thanks in advance.

And in the meantime, if you're sentimental, especially if the "Everybird" conveys "Cornell Lab of Ornithology" without needing any words, read this 2005 interview with Peter Parnall, the designer of the "Everybird."


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