In case you haven't been there lately, the New Yorker's website has been redesigned. Among other things, Eustace Tilley's little butterfly buddy has been taking flying lessons. For more than eight decades, the foppish little member of the Lepidoptera Club -- every bit as much of a dandy as his larger friend with the top hat -- has been suspended, as if immobilized in amber, right in front of his pal's monocle, just hanging there, motionless. Now, suddenly, the butterfly has been granted the gift of flight. Whenever a page loads or you click on a link, the creature flutters off in search of nectar, perhaps like the ideal reader in search of a treat. The butterfly doesn't have to go far, and neither does the reader.
Until now, the New Yorker's website had seemed like a reluctant concession to the realities of the computer age, grudgingly assembled and almost deliberately unattractive. While you could find the articles the magazine chose to post online, such as the latest Seymour Hersh, it wasn't particularly friendly, and every week the previous week's table of contents was replaced by a new one and disappeared. Although the New Yorker archived many articles and most of its fiction, it did not make it easy to find them.
The new site is a major improvement. It actually manages to provide a pretty good online equivalent of the experience of browsing through the print edition -- not just the articles and stories, but the graphics and photos that have been a feature since the Tina Brown days. Also, cartoons now appear along with the articles, as they do in print. It's a crowded site, but not cluttered, with design and white space being used to create functional areas that quickly become familiar. The problem of the table of contents that disappears all too soon has been solved, with links to the three most recent contents displayed on the upper right. A collection of links to recent articles of note is displayed at the bottom of the screen. There's also a greater selection than there used to be of internet extras like audio, video, and animation (including a selection of New Yorker cartoons that have been rendered as animations with sound). Click on the link above, or check out the post at Emdashes for more information and links to other reactions.