Sunday, May 08, 2005


I spent some time this afternoon completing the first pass at a consistent re-formatting, via style sheets, of the various pages of the site. Most of this should be transparent to the user; the reasons for doing it include ease of maintaining the site, and a necessary enforcement of more consistent layout, via template pages. I mention it here just in case anyone notices any problems... which you shouldn't, unless you're using an antiquated browser (and can't be bothered downloading for free the latest), which might not interpret the css style tags correctly.

So far I've reformatted each of the latest Monitor pages -- that would be New Books, New Magazines, New in Paperback, Classic Reprints, and Bestsellers -- as well as the Directories pages [and their 2004 equivalents] -- and the standing Future History pages, where I've also implemented a tweak to the color scheme (since, I decided, the old scheme was too close to the Monitor page scheme): Author Events, Conventions, and Forthcoming Books. I'm abandoning the on-again off-again Announcements page, and will post such items amidst the Conventions items, in a distinctive font color. One of the changes for consistency is that all pages will now be 750 pixels wide (or a bit wider, in the case of the Bestsellers page, which has for some time now been 800 pixels wide).

I tackled the most difficult pages first -- those that involve various special formatting, for lists, bibliographic information, and whatnot -- and so expect to complete similar reformatting of all the other current pages of the site (news, features, Locus magazine issue pages, and the various 'about' the website and the magazines pages) relatively quickly... within the next week... Though again, you shouldn't notice any difference; the changes will be at the level of html coding. OTOH, I also will be updating the actual text of the FAQ page, the about the website, about the magazine, pages, and so on. A general upgrade. I'll mention it here again when it's all done.
" unless you're using an antiquated browser (and can't be bothered downloading for free the latest)"

Well.... not in all cases. Up until a few months ago the machine I was using at Hopkins was a Windows 95 machine, which rather limited one's options.

I now have a Windows XP Pro machine with Firefox, which is really, really good.
Hmm, yes I suppose; I'm probably being too harsh. I do try to be conservative about introducing new website engineering techniques; Locus Online is hardly cutting edge that way. But I figure if anyone has trouble seeing Locus Online in whatever browser they're using, then they're not seeing much else on the web either...
Trying to design for a wide variety of browsers is a pain, and the curve has steepened drastically in the past few years. Frankly, I've given up - I love Firefox, so I build to make the page look good in Firefox and urge people to download it. Beyond that, I'm just sorry!

Still, you've done a better job than most, Mark. At least Locus Online redesigns once in a while, unlike most sites!
The layout is a mess, thank god you're updating it. It looks like it hasn't been changed since 1997. While you're at it, who is this "editor" Mark and why should anyone care about his Views from Medina Road? Is this the blog representing Locus Magazine or some college sophomore?

The front page is terrible. If you can't fix it, hire someone who can. It reflects poorly on you and the magazine. Why does a magazine devoted to science fiction have such a poor web presense?
Actually, 'Karl', in 1997 the site looked like this, and by mid-1999 it had become this, from which it has been gradually refined ever since.

I didn't say I was changing the layout; I said I was modifying some of the underlying html formatting.

However I'm open to suggestions for improving the layout, if you have anything substantive to offer. However there is no budget for any kind of slick makeover; Locus isn't scifi.com, or even the SF Museum. I'm curious why you think the front page is so terrible, since it seems to me not dissimilar to (non-SF) sites that post a comparable amount of daily and weekly content. What other websites would you suggest as models?
I think at the end it is content that matters, not the beauty of the design. And regarding content, Locus is without a second thought my number 1 SciFi online magazine.
I love how the title of the website is "Locus Online: edited by Mark R. Kelly: Science Fiction News, Reviews, Resources, Perspectives." I know of no other magazine that is titled this way. Does anyone care who Mark R Kelly is? Are you operating under the delusion that people come to this site to get the literary and political opinions of its webmaster? (Maybe in a future blog entry you can tell the world who you are, what you have achieved and why we should care about your opinions.)

It sounds like the real editors and management of the magazine don't care very much what goes on with its website. Otherwise, they wouldn't have let its webmaster play the king of infinite space inside a nutshell. Your responsibility is simply to present information in a practical and aesthetically pleasing format. It seems like you grasp the basic idea of how you go about doing this. If you don't, hire someone who does. In the mean time, please devote more effort into making the front page more professional with a better layout and more frequent updates. Nobody cares about your "Views from Medina Road." Stop pretending to be a literary editor and get the website up to snuff.

The magazine is great but the website needs a lot of work. The former pays for the latter. Therefore, as a subscriber, I ask that you bring the site up to the standards of the magazine.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Actually, Karl, the magazine covers only basic operating expenses of the website -- it doesn't pay for my time. I launched the website and have maintained it for 8 years; I decide what content goes on it, including the selection and editing of feature reviews and articles (which I pay for out my own pocket); I compiled and maintain the Index to SF Awards; and I do so after hours, after my day job. And it's all available to you for free. There is no budget from the magazine for anything more.

You still haven't explained what "more professional with a better layout" or "standards of the magazine" means, or offered examples of websites that meet your standards.

If as a subscriber to the magazine you feel cheated by a deficient website, you're welcome to take it up with Locus management.
(For some reason hand-coding the email address above to 'Locus Management' does not seem to survive the Blogger posting process. The email address is locus@locusmag.com.)
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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