Help A New Author With A Site Critique

11 years ago | DevinO (Member)

Hello all! Like many here, I've been inspired to finally pick up my digital pen. Something I hadn't anticipated is just how much time can be spent tweaking and re-tweaking website design and functions; I have a degree in CS, but this isn't the sort of programming I'm accustomed to doing, and issues of pure design are outside my purview entirely.

Accordingly, I'm looking forward to opinions and suggestions from the loving and supportive community here. Everything is fair game; I am working with Drupal on the back end, so some changes are easier than others.

The site: (.com works also, it's aliased to the .net address)

Many thanks!

DisAbled Oddities: A modern supernatural tale of a girl, her cane, and a whole lot of secrets.

Read responses...

Page: 12


  1. Miladysa (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Looks OK to me. Easy on the eye - always a blessing and quick to load even with my slooow connection lol

    I liked the 'start reading' link at the top of the page and the easy links at the bottom of the page.

    The only negative for me was that the link took me to a mixed post page rather than the first page of the story or the latest chapter.

    Good luck :)

  2. DevinO (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    There, tweaked a little. Thank you so much, and best of luck to you too :) (Although you have quite the reputation already!)

    DisAbled Oddities: A modern supernatural tale of a girl, her cane, and a whole lot of secrets.
  3. Linton Robinson (Banned)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I hope you don't mind if I say it has way too little impact.
    The little logo is nice, but the rest has "generic free default template" written all over it.
    I just read an interview with a weblitter who got published by a print house and he stressed that the initital impression on readers is visual and you have to grab them. '
    This does not grab.
    As you browse around this site you'll see some projects that grab you. That's what you need.

    Further, the navigation is just, well, kind of non-existant. If this was wordpress (instead of, I gather, a home-coded thing--very impressive) you could add lot of TOC, tag type help to get people into your story and move them through it, rather than just hit them with something and let them figure out what it is.

    Personally, I think some sort of "landing page" is a good idea.. they hit and are told what they're looking at and how to read it.

    I would say, and I hope you don't take this badly, that this is very flat and needs some spicing up to get and hold eyeballs.

    Good luck.

  4. amberlaine (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Well, the site's not home-coded--it's a Drupal website, so it's got a powerful backend and is super flexible.

    On the other hand, this could be part of the problem.

    I agree with the above post that it's too generic. But, having designed a number of Drupal sites myself, I can tell you that Drupal can be....complicated. As hell. Powerful, and unwieldy.

    If you choose to continue with Drpal, i'd say get the bang for your buck--do something really badass with the site. Drupal is highly configurable and highly adaptive to most projects, but if you don't do anything awesome with it it's overkill.

    But yeah--i'd feel more compelled to browse the site if it didn't *look* like Drupal. (I knew without even reading your post it was Drupal, because it's almost the out of te box theme). It looks a bit like an enterprise intranet--probably not what you're going for!

    Good luck with it!

  5. vjchambers (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    The good: It's clean, and easy to read.

    The bad: It doesn't really tell me what your story is about. I don't know if there needs to be a lot of pictures and colors on the site, but I do think something's got to set the mood.

    Maybe your color scheme is totally appropriate to the type of story you're telling. But I don't know what that is.

    I suggest a running head that says "Disabled Oddities: A Postmodern Consideration of Chicken Houses" (or whatever your story is about. If you ever do write a postmodern consideration of chicken houses, please let me know. I'd like to read it.)

    Breathless: Sex, Satanists, Secret Societies, and (just a hint of the) Supernatural
  6. Linton Robinson (Banned)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Interesting. I've been hearing a lot about drupal from weblitters lately. It sounds like Joomla (which I'm familiar with and would consider a masochistic way to put up a web serial) but probably a better system.

    Thing is with wordpress, there are so many little plugp-ins and widgets to give you control easily. The guy over at Muse's success even has a TOC plug-in specifically for web novelists.

    I don't know if you hook that stuff up in this CMS or not.
    But I am preety sure it wouldn't be hard to get rid of the "IBM blue" and run some sort of graphic. I hope this doesn't sound like picking on this project: it's obviously very new and I think we can assume the writer plans on working on it.

  7. amberlaine (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Drupal is crazy awesome. But it's not a lightweight :) Yes, it's very similar to Joomla--I personally prefer Drupal, but it comes down to preference. Joomla used to suck but i hear it's gotten a lot better over the years.

  8. Lizzy (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I like that it's snappy, easy on the eyes, and navigation is straightforward.

    I do agree with amber, linton, and vj: there isn't anything unique about it visually. The look and feel is rather generic. That said, I find that generic and aesthetically pleasing is preferable to unique and ugly.

    I'm in the process of building a site to host a serial novel from scratch, so I'll be watching this thread with interest!

  9. irk (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Hey Devin! My serial WebLit site's running on Drupal too (linked in my sig), and it took awhile to find a premade theme I liked. If you're a dab hand at theme hacking, I suggest starting with the Zen theming kit (it's on and working off of that. Or just look for another free theme there and then hack it up until you come up with something nice. If you need help with Drupal I really suggest asking MeiLin Miranda about it - she's a font of knowledge when it comes to Drupal. (She's on WFG and is also easily findable at ) I've been working with Drupal for awhile but I'm more the graphics person than the web admin.

    An important thing to do to a Drupal site is give it a different front page than the default recent updates page. I think there's a module called Front Page for that on You can set an info page up front instead that introduces people to your story and gives them a little information about you, some story hooks, art, recipes, whatever. Also, if you haven't installed the Advanced Forum Module yet, do so. It's much better than the default forum module. (Unless the Advanced Forum came with your Drupal install, in which case disregard this statement. I first set up Drupal about six months ago and they update pretty swiftly.)

    I'm gonna withhold specific advice for now because any more advice really depends on the base theme you pick. Remember to go for readability and also remember that themes can be very flexible when you pick at the graphics. As an experiment I found this: and turned it into this:

    Going for a theme that lets you drop in a header graphic at the top can really help establish a good look for the site, and something to build off of. If you get really serious about Drupal, I suggest this book:

    I'm working with it in tandem with this book: I'm learning CSS now, and pairing that book up with the Drupal book's big section on theming has made a lot of things click for me.

    Drupal is a big time investment - I REALLY consider it worth it if you're willing to go the long haul on it. You'll definitely become a developer in the process. Wordpress is more user-friendly, but you can't do as much with it as you can do with Drupal. BOTH have a very big, supportive community and a large library of themes to pick from. (By the way, you can also take any CSS template you find and apply it to Drupal with some minimal hacking. That Drupal book goes into detail on how to do it, and it's basic enough that I understood it on the first read-through.)

    The Peacock King - Is a mere servant a match for the ruler of half the known world? Probably not.
  10. DevinO (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Wow, thank you all! This has been a really big help.

    I think part of the 'default' feel might be coming from the choice of blue as a theme color; I had tried green, but it wasn't quite working out as I would have liked. In part it seemed that the shade had to be chosen very carefully not to be reminiscent of vomit, and also because it seemed to clash with hyperlink blue. Perhaps I'll give it another go, though. Ironically, this forum is a really good example of it done right.

    I had liked how new chapters show up immediately on the front page, but perhaps that's at too much of a cost in terms of not defining what the site is about.

    I'm a little puzzled by thoughts on the navigation being inadequate; what were you looking for links to that you didn't see immediately?

    I'll see what I can do in terms of spicing it up further, in the meanwhile :)

    Thank you all!

    DisAbled Oddities: A modern supernatural tale of a girl, her cane, and a whole lot of secrets.
  11. DevinO (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    That is seriously neat. It would make an excellent forum game of sorts.

    It also reminds me of some of my favorite stories, where one character or another does something that just drives me insane and I want to grab them by the shirt and forcefully rewrite the whole thing, except that's frowned upon ;)

    DisAbled Oddities: A modern supernatural tale of a girl, her cane, and a whole lot of secrets.
  12. Linton Robinson (Banned)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Actually, DevinO, on a second look, it's not as hard to get around as my first impression. Forgive me for not poking around more.

    However, note that while you see a TOC (called "selector" here) after clicking on the lead chapter displayed, you don't see it on first look.

    Consider having a "CONTENTS" link to this page in a visible location.

    What you see is like, Chapter Three. The "start reading" makes more sense from a "landing page" than from "Chapter Three", if you see what I mean.

    Speaking of the TOC, the long chapter titles, while really cool, are going to give you a REALLY overlong TOC as you amass chapters. I realize that they are automatically placed by the CMS. Perhaps there is a way to use dhte short chapter titles and have the longer version as a subhead or somesuch? Just a thought.

    And the thing is, a first quick look is all you can really expect out there. I think as you gain graphic impact you;ll have people more willing to look around. You can help that by "welcoming" them right off the bat...making it as easy and natural as you can for them to start reading your work.

    --I hate the green, too, by the way :-)

  13. vjchambers (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Re: the new chapters showing up immediately.

    I think it's a balance we all have to try to strike between making our sites friendly to the casual stumbler (new reader) and easy to navigate for our returning readers. My site usually has a big link that says "Latest episode" at the top of the landing page, but the landing page has all the info about the story that a casual browser might want. (Or maybe too much. I'm not sure, honestly.)

    I kind of like the green. It's bright. :)

    Breathless: Sex, Satanists, Secret Societies, and (just a hint of the) Supernatural
  14. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Hi all,

    For those of you who saw it, I've deleted the last post to this topic and banned the user.


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