Monday, July 28, 2008

Toying with Redesign 

Inspired by recent comments and e-mails I've been rethinking the design of the Locus Online homepage, and supporting pages, the past couple weeks -- the sort of rethinking that's appropriate every couple three years anyway. It's been a year since the homepage was widened to include box ads in the right margin; and roughly three years since the current homepage color scheme and drop-down menus were introduced.

Since I've gotten absolutely no comments to my previous post that invited comments or suggestions about such a redesign, I feel free to do whatever I want.

I'm considering a couple options. Both would reorganize the archive links in an attempt to better make site content more findable, along the lines of the site's logo subtitle, and introduce some gradient graphics to give the site an up-to-date look. One alternative would completely retain the blog-like homepage, while a second option -- an option I experimented with back in 2005, and find myself drawn to once again -- would remove fly-out menus and place instead directory boxes of various site category contents down the homepage, with only a handful of recent posts at the top... making the entire site contents more visible, hopefully. Not sure I'll finish either version and make a decision in the next week...

Because in a week I'll be leaving for Denver, and the Worldcon. I'm not on the program and have only a couple appointments; will be around for the entire con, probably hanging out at the Locus table in the Dealers Room part of the time, and would be happy to chat with anyone reading this blog...

Meanwhile, have read quite a few interesting books lately (see sidebar thumbnails) and will post comments about them, sooner or later.
Hi Mark,

I dunno - I'm having trouble visualizing exactly how these changes would look, so I can't vote on them. Any thoughts to having mock-ups we can throw bricks at?

My only real thought on the Locus home page at the moment is that it still looks a little narrow on both my work and home monitors. But it looks like it was designed for 1024x768, so I can't really complain.

- John
Narrow? Hmm. I tend to go about as wide as my major benchmarks -- sites like CNN, Slate, et al -- and no farther; I persist in fixed-width designs. Mock-ups: OK, here the 2005 design study, where the idea is to highlight just a couple three of the latest items at the top, followed by categorized headlines. Easy to see a lot at a glance. A tad like CNN, or now Sci Fi Weekly, though I don't think it looked as it does now in 2005.

After a day's more experimentation, I've rejected this line of design, simply because we're now committed to four ad spots on the homepage, and the ad sizes are so *large* that they would overwhelm the tight compact 2005 mock-up.

So now I'm going with this 2008 mod, with gradient graphics and site content packed into four categories of menus at the top. Center pane posts will then always be preceded by category/subcategory headings, to reinforce the underlying structure. Eventually will rework post pages, though if I can redo center pane posts in the next two days, I'll be tempted to post this redesign of the homepage before I leave for Worldcon...
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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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