Critique Request: Eviscerati.Org (Fiction area)

5 years ago | ubersoft (Member)

The first time I asked for a review for my webfiction site it... wasn't warmly received. :-) The site was considered a) ugly and b)kinda busy, with too elements detracting from the content.

I've made a few iterative changes since then, and when I merged all my websites together into one I then undercut some of those changes, because a site that has a lot of different things in it sort of dilutes any specific one thing in them (there are other advantages you get. It's a trade-off.)

Yesterday I finished migrating my site over from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7. During that process I had to adopt a new template, so the design had to be updated again, and I tried to make it a generally cleaner look. What I'd like to know is how well the fiction section of the site comes off. I don't pretend the design is optimal for what I'm trying to do (because I'm not a designer) and I'd like some data to process about what I might be able to do to improve things.

So here are a few links:

The "front page" of the fiction site: https://www.eviscerati.org/fiction or http://www.unexploredhorizons.net

The "front page" of The Points Between: https://www.eviscerati.org/fiction/points-between or http://www.thepointsbetween.com

The "front page" of Curveball: https://www.eviscerati.org/fiction/curveball or http://www.curveballchronicles.com

Any suggestions about ways I can improve the presentation of everything will be greatly appreciated, even if I can't immediately implement them.

Curveball (Updating)
A Rake by Starlight (Updating)

Read responses...

Responses

  1. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    If you ask for criticism, you will always get it. (And often, in the same quantities of positive and negative regardless of the quality of the thing being critiqued! People give "relative" responses.)

    I will give a fuller crit later, when I have the chance to look more closely, but I just gave it the "quick browse" test: that is, what does idle clicker who gives a site 2-5 seconds see?

    It's nice, it's professional... and I can't tell what kind of blog it is at a glance. Your ads are the only thing that scream "story" or even "entertainment." It could be the website for a law office with an edgy name.

    Even looking a little closer (i.e. 5-10 second test) I couldn't tell right off if there was anything that would interest me personally - no sense of flavor or genre in the heading text or image.

    However, I COULD see where to click for more info right away, even though I'm distracted. That's a critical test, and you get a big thumbs up for that. GOOD NAVIGATION! Huzzah!

    I suspect the problem is with your header(s) more than your layout -- I'll take a closer look when I have more time later.

    Camille

  2. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Thanks DN. I admit I didn't put much thought into how to make it look like an "x" kind of Site, so I can see what you mean. Mostly I was focusing on trying to make it look clean and readable despite all the different stuff I post there. I'm still concerned it might be a little too cluttered.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  3. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Okay, I'm coming at this as a graphic designer. I have a more old-school mindset, so maybe it'll be off, or maybe it will give you some perspective.

    I'ts also picky and analytical, and not meant to be a list of things to fix, but rather a look at how things work together on the page -- change any element and they all change.

    First thing: where does the user's eye land as soon as the page loads? And where does it go from there?

    This is something that gets overlooked when people talk about "clutter." A page can be full of stuff if the eye can easily negotiate it. It can be nearly empty, and still confuse the eye.

    When I call up your page, my eye hits the prime location -- center, just below the top. And being a reader, my eye wants to move to the right.

    So what do I see? An ad/cartoon with a green babe and the slogan directly below it "advertise on Project wonderful." NOTHING is to the right of that, which wouldn't be so bad, except that the first place my eye hit AND the second are both useless.

    So I have to search for where my eye should start. You have a nicely uncluttered page, so I can find the "The Points Between" banner pretty quickly. The fact that it has a subhead "chapter XX" is good because even though I have no instant visual cue as to what the heck "The Points Between" means, a half-beat later I know it's a book of some sort.

    I still don't know where I am though. Your site header, psychologically, is telling that this comic strip with the green babe is the branded ID for the site. Ads are usually up top these days, and even when not, the logo is usually bigger or brighter or than the ad. This is not a terrible flaw, since I'm assuming you want people who land on this page to identify where they are at as "the points between" not "eviscerati." However, the "chapter twenty-two" tells me that the next header is the ID for the post, not the blog.

    So I still am slightly disoriented.

    I think that if you put the ad at the very top, and moved the whole ad to above the masthead, and put teh whole "Eviscerati.Org" unit below it -- including that white menu bar which would rest on the dark grea bar that says "Home" -- that would change the eye's path.

    Sure the eye still has to move to find it's place, but it lands on a design element which is clear and orienting -- the end of the white navigation bar. Because it's text, the eye jumps to the beginning of it, and we quickly know we are on a site which has articles, comics, fiction and podcasts.

    And from there the eye leads straight to "Fiction RSS" and down to the content.

    I created a small png file to show what it would look like, but I don't see any way to upload it here. I put it on another site of mine. I'll leave it there for months, likely, but if I have to clear out files, that will be the first to go.
    http://www.camillelaguire.com/covertest/Eviscerati-Alteration.png

    Camille

  4. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Hm. I find the empty space above the logo a lot more distracting than the empty space between the logo and the site content. That said, I really like how the header looks in your screenshot if I crop out the ad entirely and keep the header a thin black strip at the top. It would also push the start of the content higher up the screen.

    Maybe I should consider removing the top banner ad entirely. At 20 cents a day there's little financial reason to keep it.

    The other possibility is to push it below the first block of content--so the ad appears under the novel tabs, and under the first block of content everywhere else on the site, then remove the tower ad on the lower left. The problem with *that* is it wouldn't appear on the individual content pages, which would lower its value to potential bidders, which returns me to the question "should I bother keeping it at all?" But it would probably still be more profitable than the tower ad on the lower left.

    Dunno. Hard to say. I could replace the leaderboard ad with a more traditionally sized banner ad, which is thinner and would fit more comfortably to the right of the logo, then push the login/account bar to the right of the site menu. But more people bid on leaderboards.

    I suppose the easiest thing to do is to remove the ad altogether, keep the rectangle and tower ad, and revisit the header design when/if my traffic picks up to the point where it's worth thinking about. :)

    Thanks for your help!

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  5. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Those all sound reasonable.

    The other thing to keep in mind about that ad is that you won't always have the same ad. A different ad might have a different effect on your design. For instance, I sometimes advertise my blog on PW as a way of supporting various sites. It's text-based design, and at a glance it could be mistaken for a blog header in a design such as yours. (I must remember to watch that when I bid on advertising....)

    Camille

  6. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    For the moment I removed the header ad. I like the change in the way the site looks immensely.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  7. SgL (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I think this is a pretty clean look overall. My eyes were immediately drawn to the whitespace.

    I'm not sure what DaringNovelist might suggest (as I"m not a designer), but I find the quest for the first installment to be confusing. For The Points Between, it took a bit of digging to get at the start of the story. (Had to figure out I would have go to the TOC and then had to scroll down past the landing page to find your Table of Contents although realized after the fact that the TOC is also appearing on the right side.) To me as a new reader, this would be a bit of a slowdown and a possible point of confusion. I wondered if it was possible to take the summary/details and put into that separate "About" tab and allow the TOC to appear right away instead after a scroll-down.

    Not sure whether this would just be me, but in terms of the three fiction serials, I'll say that CurveBall would probably get my attention first because it has the most interesting, eye-catching banner. (By nature, I like faces, as do many people.

  8. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Hi SgL, thanks for your comments.

    The difference between the Curveball graphic and the other graphics is the difference between me paying a professional artist to come up with art and me looking for something that will work. Unfortunately I can't afford to do that to the others, so while your point is well taken (and I basically agree with it) it's a matter of making do.

    The comment on the content in the tabs is something I'd like to explore a little more. Are you saying the first thing the reader should see is a table of contents? I can see your point about needing to make an obvious link to take a new reader to the beginning, but if I went to a page and all I saw was the TOC I'd probably just move on.

    My original intent for the snippet was to display an excerpt from the latest update so that the people actively following the story would recognize it as something new. I'm not entirely sure if that works... but I have struggled with how not to confuse new readers, and I agree I haven't really solved that problem yet. I think, however, that this could be solved if I added a "Start at the Beginning" button at the bottom of each tab for stories that are actively updating.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)

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