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Jan 9, 2012 09:25 AM

Change in the site header

I want to alert you about changes coming to our top navigation bar. We haven't liked it, and neither have you. One of the most common complaints we've heard about the site is that navigation is confusing, and that one of the most confusing parts is that top bar. (For those who have somehow managed to ignore this problem, it's this: when you click from CHOW to Chowhound or back, the buttons in the top navigation bar change. On CHOW they're "Recipes," "Top Stories" and "Video," and on Chowhound they're "Discussion," "Digest," "Restaurants," "Recipes," "Video.") Many people have told us this is disorienting and, worse, that it makes it difficult for them to get where they want to go. In retrospect this may seem obvious, but when we implemented it, it really did seem like a good idea: the CHOW experience was different from the Chowhound experience, and we felt they each deserved their own nav. We were wrong.

So we're changing that top bar and making navigation consistent across CHOW and Chowhound. Starting early next week, we will have a new header, and those navigation buttons will be the same no matter what page you're on. If you're on CHOW or if you're on Chowhound, you'll see top nav buttons that say "Stories," "Video," "Recipes," and "Chowhound Discussions." In addition, we're bringing back drop-down menus, so that you can get where you want to go with one click.

One change that's less simple is this: we will be eliminating the top nav button for "Restaurants." It's the first step toward removing the restaurant pages altogether. This may be alarming to some who have used those pages to post restaurant reviews, tips, and reference data. But please don't worry: the pages themselves will still be around for a while, and any reviews that you posted will be available to you for quite some time. We'll have more information on that soon.

Why the change? We originally offered restaurant information in order to make the Chowhound boards more useful. We thought we'd forestall the slightly annoying need to continually reply to a post with the question, "Where is this place you're talking about?" However, those good intentions have not been well served. We have heard that our restaurant listings have not been particularly helpful to most people most of the time, and they've slowed down the performance of the site. So we're beginning the process to eliminate those pages. More on that as the project commences. You will be well forewarned before any of this takes place.

Those changes are in the future. Right now, we're just changing the nav, and will be launching the new header next week. We hope that it's intuitive and seamless enough that you won't even notice.

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  1. jane

    i hope the restaurant info will be coming soon.

    Like anything on Chowhound, user input seems to either be misinterpreted or come from mysterious sources.

    I will wait for you post about the restaurant database and I hope I am misreading your post.

    However, I can't think of one person who has ever commented on this site that the restaurant database was a problem. it was one of the few good features on this site.

    What was a problem was the implementation. The autolinking feature worked badly.

    However, like anything else, it seems a done deal whatever it is.

    Speaking of bad splits. I hope there are some plans in the future to reinstate the search so it can comb both Chow and Chowhound at the same time.

    7 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I'm happy to report that a full site-wide search will be returning with the launch of the new header, along with some other small changes to search.

      1. re: Engineering

        I haven't played with it much, but love the way search is now set up. it is lots more intuitive.

        What are the other small changes to search?

        I really like what looks like I can easily get to the recipes be they chow, chowhoound or both. there were times I really wanted to check out chow recipes but the search was so convoluted I gave up. Seems better now even if that is qualified as I haven't used it much.

        I actually like the new tabs so far because they at a quick look seem to remove the problems i had with the site redesign a few years back. Now if you'd only leave the restaurant database you'd have one happy Chowhound instead of a bitter customer. Just simplify that database. Leave the header. Allow manual linking to anyone who wants to provide an address That works now. I just don't understand the reason for throwing the baby out with the bath water.

        1. re: rworange

          Off the top of my head: dedicated search tabs for Stories and Videos, the simplified search-box in the header, and a unified search page with all tabs available at once.

          1. re: Engineering

            Yes, that is better, especially the stories which I asked about recently.

            Stories would be useful if it maybe eliminated some categoris and added others.

            I wanted to get to a series Chow did on mushrooms and asked about it as I mentioned.


            Using the word Mushrooms I gave up on the new search about page five on both the best match and recency. A comment about that word. I had to look it up. Most recent is clearer.

            Better search division would be to remove Table Manners, Supertaster and replace them with Feature and Project.

            This is what dragged people into Chowhound in the past and the useful part of Chow. It is real information. That is why anyone searches.

            Table Manners is amusing, but it seems to be made up scenarios and while it can be funny, I have never found any practical etiquette advice there. It is the Chow equivalent of the Not About Food board. It is chatty. It gets momentary attention, but it has no legs.

            Supertaster is the equivalent of the Chains board, another board that I would bet the bank doesn't get as much search action as the other boards. Again, momentarily fun but no real need to search on.

            But Features and Projects ... that is real info. Useful info. IMO, it needs more attention.

            Also the Digest needs its own search. Preferably it would be a search by individual digest. .

            The problem with the mushroom search was that the Digest articles have lots of mushrom mentions.

            I'll bet if there was a search by feature option I would have found it immediatly.

            The Juice, Food Media, Nagging Question, CHOW Cooks from Books, CHOW Recipe Challenge, CHOW Tour, Healthy Eating are all categories I'd be more likely to want to search rather than table manners or supertaster.


      2. re: rworange

        Thanks, rworange. Yes, more soon. And, as you can see, our engineering team is working hard on improved search.

        1. re: rworange

          FYI: nearly 3 years ago, to the date, posts were made by users such as me regarding problems with the restaurant database:

          1. re: Caralien

            Caalien, please note again that none of the posters interested here have said that the database is without problems.

            What we have said is that our posts about the problems with the database and the fixes needed have been misinterpreted compounded by new bells and whistles that made the problems worse.

            Had your simple post about the search function been address back then, we probably wouldn't be in this situation today. I totally agree with that.

            Rather than fixing search, a badly implemented autolinking function was added, unreliable data providers further added to the problem. Search got worse. Reliable review link input over the years were wiped out without notice.

            If Chow addressed the specific problems that we have been documenting over the years instead of what seems like throwing up its hands and saying everyithing is bad this would be one fabulous database.

            Chow didn't seem to be your thing in 2009. You have said in another post you have a limited attention span with any discussion forum and don't participate anywhere very long.

            Yelp is not a discussion forum and that seems to be what makes you happy in terms of restaurant sites.

            As far as the restaurant database. It is something fixable.

            And with those fixes, even someone like you would be pleased and find yourself relying on Chowhound rather than yelp to get your restaurant info.

            Maybe with those fixes you might have found your maple donut that disgruntled you years ago.

        2. Since the introduction of the restaurant pages, CHOW editorial pieces that referred to specific venues have routinely (and helpfully) linked to the appropriate CHOW place records. This enjoyable look back at Charlie Trotter's career, to pick just one example, includes a bunch of them ...

          By now there must be thousands of those links. Will CHOW staff remove them? If they're left up as dead links, I expect it'll give much of this site a "nobody home," ghost-town feel.

          3 Replies
          1. re: squid kun

            I've started a new topic here to talk about "Restaurants", as this one is about changing the site header and who cares about that? maybe you want to repost there.

              1. re: grayelf

                Thanks, I've been extra circumspect today. :-J

          2. Jane, I would suggest that the new site header include "Digest". It took ages to get it added to the Chowhound header and despite repeated requests, never made it to the Chow header. Is there a reason for ditching Digest? Is it going away too? I hope not.

            7 Replies
              1. re: jane

                Thanks for the reassurance. I hope that Digest for the Toronto area will be developed. It's long overdue.

                I'll also point out that "Digest" in the page header was one of two ways to navigate directly to Digest features. The other was the "Local Buzz" feed on regional Restaurants pages. E.g., , and if that's going away and it's removed from the header, we need another way to find Digest.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Melanie, I wanted to doublecheck before I responded: Digest will be a button on the "What's New" dropdown.

                  1. re: jane

                    Thank you, and the "What's New" dropdown menu is attached to one of the header buttons?

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Yes -- What's New, Video, Recipes, Chowhound Discussions are the main navigation buttons. The Chowhound Discussions button will be redundant on the Chowhound homepage, but better redundant than difficult to find.

                      1. re: jane

                        Digest is listed under What's New on the full site. But the mobile version does not have a drop down menu and there is no way to navigate to Digests. On mobile, the What's New button navigates directly to Top Stories, and unfortunately, that feed does not include Digest articles. Nor is Digest listed at the bottom of the page as a choice

                        1. re: jane

                          Digest still does not show on mobile version. There's no menu and the articles are not part of the blog roll.

              2. I guess I wasn't one of the people confused by the headers. It actually looks nice.

                This change doesn't really bother me except in one way. Between the Chow header and the Chowhound subheader, the space taken up at the top is now huge. This isn't really a big deal except that MY PROFILE is somehow left stranded way way way at the top of the page. So two questions: 1) as discussed with the prior changes in the site (and probably the ones before that too), can MY POSTS please please please be something that can be added to the my favorite boards box?; and 2) if not, then can you please make the BACK TO THE TOP button go, well, actually TO THE TOP? Now it just goes to the top of the thread and you have to continue to scroll up to get to the my profile link. What a pain.


                1 Reply
                1. re: LNG212

                  Yes, please, re: "Back to the Top." Because the search engine back button doesn't clear "new" messages, I need to click on "My Profile" after I've viewed each thread. I agree it should be someplace more conveniently reached.

                2. "It's the first step toward removing the restaurant pages altogether."

                  Hells yeah! I never saw the use of this section. It worked particularly badly on the Quebec board where addresses in French seemed to create much confusion.

                  And we've got a "Start New Thread" button instead of "Add New Post" ! That made my day.