Okay so here's the thing. I try not to judge by appearances. I really do. I talk nicely to strange looking people everyday. I am willing to eat things just because someone else tells me it's edible. But when it comes to graphic design I just can't help myself because I'm an artist/designer and it's just how I'm wired. Thus I feel the need to critique layouts and designs of pretty much everything that crosses my eyes (ask anyone who's gone book shopping with me!), and thus I am going to do a critique of The Sword Review's site design. It's all in love I promise, because I love what the site is doing and want it to be as effective as possible.
Also I did a complete redesign yesterday to illustrate my points. Because I'm crazy that way.
First off: Cover page
Now I'm not a huge fan of splash pages in the first place, it's just one more click for the lazy internet clicker. But for an Ezine I can see the apeal of having a cover page. Plus it's a nice place to slap that arkwork up.
What I like:
-It ties in with the rest of the site well.
What I have trouble with:
-First off, it was hard to find the enter link. I know, there are two, but neither stand out. I had to stare too long to figure it out.
-There is too much information on the front page. Remember the lazy internet clicker? He's not going to read all that anyway so it just clutters the place up.
-The text over the cover image makes the text hard to read and the cover hard to admire. It's a lose lose situation.
What I did instead:
(have a look)
-First off I made the entire cover image a link to inside. Big links are nice and people will be trying to click the picture anyway. No seriously they will, so it might as well be a link.
-Next I took the majority of the text and put it beside. Beside is nice because it minimizes scrolling (lazy people again...just accept that people don't feel like scrolling).
-Also I used a pretty font, made it green and added some swirlies. But I'll get into that inside.
The cover page should entice people in...not overload them with info.
Secondly: Inside the zine!
What I like:
-It's well coded. Everything is working, the tables are spaced and padded properly.
-The links aren't underlined (I hate underlined links on pages, it's just a thing)
-The font is readable and the colours all match(ish) and are again, readable.
What I have trouble with:
-There is simply too much going on. To much writing. I know I know, it is a writing type thing, but still...makes it messy and hard for the eyes to focus. Too many other things as well.
-Doubles: there are 3 donation buttons and 2 places to buy archived issues. Clutter makes it hard to find things. So by putting up doubles you actually decrease the chance of things being found just because the eyes tune out the clutter.
-The right sidebar goes way further than the others, making it unlikely that people will bother scrolling all the way down.
-The colours/banner. Straight black is not your friend. Most artists don't even use straight black in paintings because it simply is not a natural colour. It's flat. I'm not a huge fan of brown and grey either. It just doesn't say anything other than "I'm a serious dark page". I'm actually not going to comment on the banner, not everyone is an artist, A for effort. The text is hard to read though.
What I did: (have a look)
-First off I made it green. Green is a nice neutral colour (but it's still a colour!). I kept it fairly dark, because I believe they were going for a mysterious and mature mood. I'm not that good at doing mysterious and mature...but I did put an effort in.
-I made a pretty header/footer. Pretty things make people happy. No artistic skill needed here, it was a quick and dirty photo manip using free stock from Stock.XCHNG. I love that site. Same swirlies and pretty font. Oh and I scattered swords about (don't step on any!) for general swordiness.
-I put the navigation up at the top where you can find it, and simplified it down. Again, less is more, people are more likely to click to figure things out than to sit and read about the link options for a while.
-I put the article big and in front, because that gives you something to do right when you arrive. Instant gratification. Plus I found it interesting. I put the cover info below, because the spot needed an image to keep it interesting.
-I put all the current features to the right. They are still right there and easy to find. Also, I organized them by type as it was driving me crazy hunting around when I only wanted to read the poetry. I also cut the descriptions out to avoid visual clutter. That's a personal choice and I'm not sure if you'd agree, but I didn't find that a couple lines of intro made me more likely to read the piece.
As a side not, the comments in forum thing seems a little overkill to me. I would just set it up with wordpress so that people could comment under the article. Again, less clicks.
The Moral of the story is:
Keep it clean, keep it simple...make it easy for lazy people to get about. Also, colour is your friend...it makes a site cozy and comfy to hang about in.
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Please discuss!
PS Yes I know my links have underlines. I know! I can't figure out how to turn it off and it's making me nutty.
PPS Karl fixed it! We love you Karl!