There’s something special about obituaries.

They are the stories of our friends, neighbors, relatives and friendly faces we’ve never known. As a reader, I find these stories compelling, wanting to know more about each person. I am always disappointed when I realize I will never meet the person who inspired the story I’m reading.

This past winter, though, I was reminded that as much as readers value obituaries, they’re much more important to the grieving families who place them. While placing my own grandmother’s obituary in the paper, I had to stop several times, overcome by the finality of writing and then publishing a summation of her life.

Then, seeing her story in the BDN online, I — just like many of you — didn’t like seeing all the advertisements cluttering up her story. The last word on her life shouldn’t look so commercial.

And yet, as an employee of a newspaper working hard to sustain itself, I know darn well those ads have an important purpose: to help support the journalism the readers of the BDN expect and that Maine depends upon. So, we thought, there must be a better way.

Now there is. Today, I am happy to be able to show you something we’ve been working hard on: an improved online obituary experience, on a new site — with fewer ads — that’s made for honoring our loved ones.

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Now my grandmother’s story is on the new site, with no ads, and you can see her recipe for the delicious gluten-free cookies that were always in her cookie jar.

I hope you’ll agree with me that our new site is a big improvement. Here’s what’s different:

  • No ads on individual obituary pages
  • Fewer ads overall
  • An attractive layout on mobile and tablet
  • Simpler navigation
  • Powerful and more accurate search
  • Easy to share through email, Facebook and Twitter
  • Easy to add photos, memories, and milestones along an interactive timeline
  • A moderated and ad-free guestbook
  • A family member can become the “story keeper,” which gives them last-word control over the obituary and all submissions to it
  • An easy to use order form for placing new notices

We’ve also created a new Facebook page to more widely share the stories of Mainers whose obituaries we publish.

If you read obituaries regularly, how you browse will change a little bit.

  • To view obits by location, scan the cards for each person’s story (the location is in bold), or type the city into the advanced search.
  • To view recent obits, click “view all obituaries” to scan the recent cards, or type the dates you want into the advanced search.

We hope you’ll like the changes. Send me a note — jeaston@bangordailynews.com — if you run into any problems reading or using the site. Your feedback will help us adjust the site as we go.

Thank you for reading the BDN.