One thing I’ve been mildly-yet-obsessively entranced with for a number of years is how nicely Gawker plays with thumbnails: Gawker thumbnails screen shot One of the minor irritations of modern web design is that, even you HTML the hell out a blog post to make it look perfect in terms of graphical layout, by the time you trim, sanitize and otherwise disembowel that HTML for your teaser text, at best you’ll have something dull, at worst you’ll have something that wreaks havoc on the rest of your page. Gawker, however, automatically crops and resizes a photo as needed to create interesting, all-purpose graphic work that can be popped in wherever it pleases.

I was so jealous of the effect that I began working on my own Drupal module to copy it until I realize that, not only does such a module exist, but it’s one of Drupal’s most popular: ImageCache. Combined with views, you can do some really cool things, so of course the first thing I did was a really-cool-in-my-head-and-stupid-on-paper idea for Spare Change News: It’s entire multimedia library would be represented in a graphical grid of thumbnails. For usability, I’d put a snippet of the headline for each multimedia piece under its gridlet.

I don’t have any screenshots of this design, fortunately, but it was live for a few months until I realize that 40 characters of text was never enough to explain what people were clicking on to (just ask Dave Winer).

So I wised up, still using the thumbnails but adding a lot of room for explanatory text that may-or-may-not get used on Spare Change News brand-spanking-new multimedia page. You’ll note that currently, there’s a mix of just three pieces: Two videos and a complete spoken word album. Why so little? Spare Change Needs sponsors! If you’d like to support Spare Change News and its mission of homeless empowerment, call ‘em up so I can afford the hosting to add more great content. Or even just donate some quality hosting space for us!

Please note that I don’t receive a dime off any Spare Change advertising: It’s a volunteer project for a good cause.

I did, however, steal some of what I learned to improve my own archives. What can I say: I really liked those thumbnails.