Needing opinions

Okay, so I'm changing things up. Once I realized how much work it would be to set up another site for the sequel to Children of the Halo, I decided instead it would be more prudent to set up a whole new site to encompass the entire Engines of Creation series.


So I've set up a Drupal installation and I'm simultaneously posting to that and the current "official" CoTH site. Before I make it entirely public, I'd like to get some opinions on it from you guys. What is it missing? What does it need? Any suggestions will be seriously considered.


The link is: Here.


It needs prettier URLs, for a start. ;-) I look more later.


I have no idea about setting a site, but from a readers viewpoint, my observations are:

a) better 'formatting' of the site. p.e. the first thing that my eye falls upon is the login/password bit. I see no need for it to be in such a prominent place. After all, if one wants to log in I assume he took the time to at least let his eyes wander in the screen. Maybe swapping the celephi network table with the user login table would be better.


On the same note, it is a bit redundant to have the same name for different things and vise-versa. I mean you can click on the table of contents for Halo for the full table of contents, or you can click on the news and without scrolling you get another (half) table of contents, or you can click on the engines of creation and get (yet again) the same half of the table of contents, etc. Couldn't you just link them all to the full table of contest, or better yet just leave one of those links around?


b)color/theme. You use too 'soft' colors in my opinion. My eyes kept drifting to the adds 'cause there was color to attract them and not to your content.


c)Links in the main story. Right now (from what I gathered as a non-registered member) if I click p.e. on the prologue, I have to go back to click on the 1st chapter, go back to go to the second, etc. Maybe a link like :next chapter/page, on the end of each chapter would be nice.


just my 2 cents though.


Disclaimer: I haven't read your series, so it's quite possible there are some references that I'm missing in my general critique. That said, it's also possible that I'll be giving the opinion of a potentially new reader, someone who isn't well-versed in the universe's nuances.


I'm going to echo shadowphoenix's thought on the login page location. A general web design rule of thumb is to put the most important visuals/images in the top left corner, since that's where a visitor's eyes will go first. Since the banner isn't anything huge (the small graphic reads more like a logo than anything that would tell me about the site's content), my eyes scanned below it to see the login page. It makes me think that the primary importance of the site is to be a communication network (forums/blogs/etc) instead of a fiction site. I would suggest putting the "Engine Creations" section above the 'log-in' area. That'll help readers understand that the site's for fiction, as well as be able to find it with a lot less effort.


Perhaps having a strong central image in the banner or on the page would help to draw the eye. As things currently stand, the most vibrant images are the ads on the page -- which are great for the advertisors (since they catch my eye), but not so great for your site. The problem with your current image/logo is that it blends into the background. It doesn't stand out, and it doesn't really tell me much about the style of fiction you hope to be hosting. Graphics aren't terribly hard to come by, even if you have to hire someone (I know people who do banner graphics and the like for $10, etc). The benefit of graphics, however, is immense -- they draw the eye, they help set the mood of the site, and they can betray in a simple image the content that a reader will find.


As for your 'Welcome' sticky, I would put the actual explanation of the content above the "New Readers, start here" section (as a side note, don't randomly capitalize the word 'readers' in that sentence). You want your readers to be able to figure out what the site is about as easily as possible. Another web design rule is to realize that visitors generally spend five seconds on a website before deciding to stay or move on. In that sense, a single sentence could very well make or break a potential reader. It's also more intuitive that way -- new readers are more likely to want to start after they know what they'll be reading.


Also, I don't know how attached you are to "Engines of Creation" as the main site name, but I'm not really fond of it. It doesn't tell me much about your site, your intent, or your genres -- it actually makes me think of applied arts more than fiction. ^^;;


The final thing is the color scheme. That sort of icy blue seems very detached -- blue, in general, is a cool color, which can lead to a bit of a 'meh' feeling from visitors. Perhaps, if those colors are of particular significance (or if you can't adjust them due to the colors being provided by a template), you can keep them, but I wouldn't. Instead, I would choose colors that evoke the feel of your series.


Hope that helps, and isn't too overwhelming. ^^


I thought that the header was a really fantastic image although I disliked the flashing advertisement which I thought spoilt the overall first impression of the site.


Hey EJ!


I'm a longtime (since 2003 and 4.5) Drupal developer and still do it professionally from time to time. If you have any questions, feel free to ping me. You might also look at the documentation I have up at DigitalNovelists.com, which is Drupal-specific (for Drupal 6.x, but generally applies for 5 and up). It's also web novel-specific, but then, that's the whole point of DN. :)


Initial comments:


--You're using too much stock Drupal. Get out of the Garland theme and into something a little nicer looking. Themes are easy to install and customize, especially the ones that use the color module.


--Set up an actual front page with some pointers on where to find stuff. If you look at the front page at MeiLinMiranda.com you'll see what I mean. Right now it looks like you're using the default front page view (~/node), which is rarely helpful as a front page. I use ~/node as my "newest first" page.


--Start using URL aliases, aka the "path" module. You want to get away from page names like http://engines.celephi.com/node/39 and towards page names like http://engines.celephi.com/welcome. This is built into Drupal; you just need to enable it and start using it.


--Start organizing your content into "books." You'll see an "outline" tab when you're signed in. This allows you to organize chapters into a book that generates a table of contents and "previous/up/next" navigation on your pages.


Good luck!