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Yes – We’ve Rearranged the Furniture

Read Friday, 20 Feb 2015

As a new look pushes off from the jetty, Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams and digital manager Jon Tjhia talk through some of the changes. 

Image: Our new website, shown on an iPad.
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Just don’t call it 2.0

Change is hard. Personally, socially, professionally; I even hate it when a café I like changes its menu.

A funny thing happened on the way to our fifth birthday: we held over 1100 events – involving more than 1800 speakers – to live audiences of over 205,000 people.

And the more astute of you will have noticed that the very website this is written on has undergone a severe makeover in the past week.  

The old site, which we loved, was built at a time when the idea of what the Wheeler Centre was a bit on the abstract side. Five years ago, the world was quite different: Twitter was barely a thing; most of the people on our website were using AltaVista. This is almost certainly not true.

We knew that we wanted to host video and audio of our events, that original written content would be good, that a decent events calendar that made bookings easy was essential and that some type of capacity to comment would be nice.

But a funny thing happened on the way to our fifth birthday: we held over 1100 events – involving more than 1800 speakers – to live audiences of over 205,000 people. 

The ideal of ‘some’ video and audio content suddenly looked like well over 800 video and audio recordings, a depth and breadth of content with specific needs when it came to sorting and browsing. In five years, we’ve built a library of high quality books, writing and ideas content that is unique and extraordinary and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

So – the new version of our website has been designed by the very talented team at Icelab to address all this, and more.

Image: Our new events calendar makes it - we hope - easier to plan your bookings.
Our new events calendar makes it easier to plan your weeks and months

Searchable by topic, browseable by speaker, easier podcast listening, better relationships between different types of content. These are only some of the technical benefits that the new site brings. Above all, it aims to make it easier for you to find what you want from the Wheeler Centre’s past, present and future. Plus, it’s really good looking.

But my ridiculously technical terminology might be difficult to follow. Here’s the Centre’s digital manager, Jon Tjhia – who has been the true brains and workhorse behind this project – with his take on what I understand should not be referred to as ‘ 2.0’. Enjoy!

– Michael Williams, director

It’s about you

Michael’s right! These first five years of the Wheeler Centre have been incredibly full. And looking back – as you do at times like these – we realised we had a big challenge on our hands, with the aforementioned thousands of discussions, written articles and projects, recordings, people and interactions to account for.

But let’s forget about that stuff for a second, because this whole thing is about you.

Image: Browse our website by topics.
Topics. You can now browse them!

If I can attempt to say this sans hubris: we’re driven by the desire to be your favourite place for exchanges that make y/our world more thoughtful, more informed and more interesting. That’s the simple aim at the heart of this change. 

In collaboration with Icelab, we’ve sharpened our focus on making our website inviting, natural and pleasurable to use. You can now browse (and go deeper) by topic, explore curated collections, or dive straight into what you’re looking for – something to attend, something to watch or listen to, something to read.

Because it’s natural to ask who?, we’d like to invite you to explore our People. Click on a person and you’ll see every event they’ve contributed to, every recording we’ve made of them, as well as any articles they’ve written for (or shared with) us. 

Image: Smartphone preview animation.
Our site is a natural fit for smartphones and small screens (as well as big ones)

Drawing inspiration from familiar month-to-view wall calendars, our redesigned events page makes it easier to plan ahead – and collapses elegantly into a series of event tiles on smartphone (and smaller tablet) screens. New ‘booking fast’ overlays help us to let you know when it’s time to stop dilly-dallying and commit!

And on pages for individual events, not only will you find everything you need to get there – complete with maps – but you’ll be able to follow an event through its life cycle, including any recordings posted online after the fact. 

If you’re hunting for our Dailies articles, you’ll want to head for Notes. Rather than bringing you pieces on a strictly daily schedule, we’re adopting a more flexible approach to the stories and ideas we bring you. You’ll find longer and shorter writing, sounds and videos and anything else we find that’ll stoke your curiosity or interest.

In addition to faster and better looking video pages, you can find every one of our filmed discussions on YouTube – so you can watch them easily on your mobile screen or smart TV, and share them effortlessly. 

Image: Video pages.

You’ll find you can more easily listen to talks in your browser (and skip forward and backward, too – just drag the progress bar). We’ve given our podcasts the home they deserve (more exciting news on this front, later).

Everywhere, you’ll find stronger relationships between subjects of interest and the opportunities to explore and discuss them. 

We’re not done here

Our ‘to do’ list remains long, and we can’t wait to unveil new features. Coming soon, we’ll return comments to the site with a new and improved discussion system. We’ll make everything easier to share around, and to handball between your devices and networks.

We’ll continue to refine how we deliver content from our archives, honing some of the styles and interactive flourishes you see now. (If you’re using a very old web browser, certain elements may display oddly; for practical reasons, and based on audience research, the new site is optimised for modern browsers. Where possible, we’ll keep improving compatibility.)  

Fact: If you watched our entire video archive back to back and non-stop, it would take you a solid month. Please don’t.

For those subscribed to our newsletter, your new look Wheeler Weekly will be delivered this coming Monday.

If you keep visiting – and I sincerely hope you’ll visit often – you’ll see updates and improvements being unfurled over the coming weeks. Dealing with an archive the size of ours takes time, and it will necessarily take a little time for us to iron out the kinks. Thanks in advance for your understanding!

We’re working hard to create a place for better, and more sustained, discussions about the things that can inform and transform our inner and outer lives – from a wide variety of places. We have big sleeves, and lots up them. Stay a while.

– Jon Tjhia, digital manager

We’d love to hear what you think of our new website. Send your constructive suggestions and feedback to

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.