Review Request: Unexploredhorizons.net

6 years ago | ubersoft (Member)

Hello!

I am rather new to the online fiction world, but I'm not new to web publishing. I publish a webcomic, "Help Desk" (https://www.ubersoft.net) and have been doing so since 1996.

Unfortunately this has proven to be a detriment rather than an asset when it comes to designing a site that works for publishing a web novel. Webcomics have the advantage of being primarily visual, so it's easy to point the reader in the direction where you want them to go. Publishing a web novel on a site that you want to ultimately design to accommodate more than one work is a lot harder to pull off, especially when the only thing you're used to designing is your web comic, and you have a habit of reusing the same Drupal template over and over and over again (because creating a Drupal template is a painfully difficult process).

At any rate, for the last three months of 2010 I set up a site for my web novel (https://www.unexploredhorizons.net) and a week after going live I massively redesigned it because it was intolerably difficult to use. It's a lot easier to navigate now -- it truly is -- but I'm pretty sure it's still miles away from where it actually needs to be before it can be called "comfortably usable." So for those of you who have had experience with these things, I would love some advice on the site design... for those of you with no specific experience in designing, but a lot of experience in using/navigating these sites, I'd like your feedback as well.

Thanks for any feedback you can provide.

Curveball (Updating)
A Rake by Starlight (Updating)

Read responses...

Page: 12

Responses

  1. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Less is more, when it comes to web novels. My feeling is you've got too much stuff on your page, and you really need to cut elements. Also, stark horizontal lines like you are using really dominate the page, to the point where it can be difficult to see anything else.

    These are some sites I've done -- I'm not saying I'm much of a designer (I'm not, and they are all based on free WordPress templates), but I do think they are pretty easy to navigate:
    http://fiction.courage-my-friend.org/
    http://srsuleski.com/
    http://lleelowe.com/

    Finally, while I know this is going to be an unpopular position for several of the people here, ditch Drupal, unless you really need all the forums and other features. WordPress has a large number of free, attractive, easily customized templates, and, while it is not perfect, is a much better fit for web fiction than is Drupal.

    Chris.

  2. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Thanks for your response! The suggestion to simplify is probably a good idea -- I tend to like cluttered websites and I know it works against most people -- and I do confess I go heavy on stark horizontal lines, and cutting those out is probably a good thing. I've looked at those sites a little and had a few "ohhhh, I see" moments, which I may or may not be able to translate into something useful on my end.

    At this point, though, I don't see ditching Drupal as an option. For one thing, it would mean an extra layer of management on my sites -- currently I manage three sites with one installation and one database, all drupal-based, which means when I need to apply a security patch or update I only need to do so once. That's a huge time saver. Second, if you're willing to get into the weeds, Drupal has some tremendously useful tools. In my experience, Drupal is much better at tagging, storing and associating meta-information than WordPress is.

    The tradeoff is that Drupal templates are significantly more complicated. I'll just have to learn to do it anyway. :)

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  3. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    It's your call on what software is appropriate for your needs, but, to address your administration concerns, you can upgrade a WordPress install with one shell command, if you use Subversion to install it. That's how I administer all of my sites (including WFG).

    http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing/Updating_WordPress_with_Subversion

    Chris.

  4. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    So I actually spent some time to re-design the site, using a completely different template as a base. And I find that what I've actually done is taken that template and made it look more like my original design. :-)

    Apparently I have stark, horizontal lines on the brain. It is a little less cluttered, though.

    I think I'm going to resign myself to the site being somewhat less than artistically pleasing for a while...

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  5. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    UBERSOFT! I love you man. I need to go back, actually, haven't read ubersoft in a year.

    Anyways... Im fond of an about page that leads to the story. Alexandra Erin does it that way at http://www.tomu.com, and both of my stories are done that way as well (see my profile).

    The standard blog line of multiple posts, partially hidden, on the main screen, isn't as useful because its sequential. You aren't looking for a topic that interests. You are looking for either the first post, or most recent post. In that regards, having the newest one up, ala a webcomic, Is great once its well established, but you need to make sure if you go that route that there is a very visible, first chapter, button somewhere central on the screen.

    When you click read more on any of the posts, the post page has a menu on the sidebar that lists the chapters. That needs to be on the main page as well.

  6. Shutsumon (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi!

    I think the landing page idea is a good one. Or, more to the point, this should be your landing page for new readers. https://www.unexploredhorizons.net/novel/pay-me-bug/pay-me-bug Where a comic can speak for itself dropping someone into a page of text without without preamble can be bewildering so most of us use landing pages.

    Other than that it looks quite good to me. :-)

    Becka

  7. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    landing page, thats what they are called! thanks. i was trying to remember the word.

  8. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Thanks for the extra comments...

    Alexander, are you sure tomu.com is the right url? Because when I go there all I get is a header, a footer, and some random text that looks vaguely kanji.

    I see what you both mean about a landing page, but I'm sort of lost on how to effectively implement that. I ultimately intend to use unexploredhorizons as a landing page for multiple fiction projects of various types... putting the TOC for Pay Me, Bug! on the front page would be fine for that novel but wouldn't be much use for the others... which is irrelevant at the moment since I'm not posting anything else, so maybe that's not relevant at the moment. :) I am still trying to add more useful navigation widgets to the page, though...

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  9. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    no,no its not, I suck. http://www.talesofmu.com, but it seems shes changed from the landing page idea as well.....

    Ahh, if its a multiple story page, then yeah, a link to a landing page specific for that story. Also, if its possible for the blog entry listing, just the most recent update for each story, so that several updates for one doesnt bury the others.

  10. Shutsumon (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi again,

    I hope you don't mind me using my own site as an example. It's not an attempt at self-advertising (that's what the link in the sig's for) it's just that I know how I handled this question and hope it might help.

    My serial "The Dragon Wars Saga" is on my site Firebird Fiction. I have a main landing page for the site here http://firebird-fiction.com/ and a landing page for the story here http://firebird-fiction.com/the-dragon-wars as I intend to eventually host other stuff at the site. I mostly link to the story landing page though as I advertise the story not the site (Which is why the front page needs a lot more work).

    So yeah, a main landing page and a seperate landing page for each story and mostly try and push one story at a time so you don't overwhelm people.

    Becka

  11. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    How on Earth did I not see this thread earlier? Welcome to the webfic fold, Chris! I remember proofing the first iteration of Pay Me, Bug! on its forum, though I probably wasn't as helpful as I wanted to be, and eventually got distracted by a lot of life shit I was going through at the time. Please accept my apology for that.

    Hope things are going well for you on this end of the interwebs.

    Regards,
    Ryan

  12. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I do the same as Becka. My main website is dreamfantastic.com, which has links to the various stories' landing pages. Of course, I also intend multiple authors to have work there eventually, hence the central website before you get to any story. BUT, I mostly advertise different stories individually, not the site as a whole.

    Wait.... No I don't. I always.... Crap. I just realize, I never advertised any one story... and that's stupid of me.

    THANK YOU BECKA!

  13. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi Becka,

    I don't mind you using your site as an example at all. I see what you're doing -- you have a general site and then landing pages for each specific site. I can probably use the Pay Me, Bug! TOC as the landing page for that. Although... for the one banner ad I'm running I use the first chapter instead of the TOC.

    I note that you are emphasizing your story (Dragon Wars) far more than your site (Firebird Fiction). Which makes perfect sense, for the duration fo the story... but what will you do when the story ends? How do you plan to entice readers to the next story/other content on your site? I had the mindset that if readers were used to going to unexploredhorizons.net in order to get story updates, there'd be less friction involved in getting them to go there for other stories... but that's something I picked up from webcomics and may not hold true in webfic? I don't know. I'm very green on this side of things.

    And hi Ryan! Things are as well as can be expected.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  14. Shutsumon (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi Ubersoft,

    Well the Dragon Wars Saga is to be a fairly long term serial, so it's not going to come up for a while yet (I'm still in arc one and the story has at least seven). I actually plan to have other stories going eventually and advertise them seperately. The most obvious is the one which has a link in the navbar - The Haventon Chronicles - which I really want to start posting this year some time. Haventon is Paranormal Fantasy, so I'll be pushing it in different places to Dragon Wars.

    Becka

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