Two months ago I posted a request for a site review, and ever since then I've been trying to figure out ways to make my site look less, um... "stark." I was a huge fan of boxes and lines, and it came off as kind of cluttered and distracting.
To that end, I've been working on ways to clean up the site and make it more usable. This is an incremental process, but this weekend I introduced the next "version" of my site at https://www.unexploredhorizons.net .
There are a few ways I've attempted to soften the overall look of the site, mostly by using the border-radius css element to add "rounded corners" to the design (which won't show up on any version of Internet Explorer below version 9, so IE users are still stuck with a blocky design). But what I've mostly focused on is the idea that I want to be able to display multiple stories on my site simultaneously.
Obviously this can be a challenge as far as the front page is concerned. It was already getting crowded just with the one story/podcast, and I was trying to ease up on clutter... so what I did was rework my drupal theme to include a features area that contained a tabbed block that could hold multiple chunks of content. So now I can have a tab for each story which will display the latest chapter, and I can put in navigation items to direct readers to related content. With Pay Me, Bug! I show the latest chapter and the latest podcast -- for the other two placeholders I show the prologue of two stories along with an info block related to the novel.
One of the advantages of the tabbed block is that I don't need to cram as much information in the sidebars. This is a good thing, though I haven't quite optimized that part of it yet.
The second thing I've done -- and this is still in very rudimentary form, I'm afraid, because I'm having technical issues with the module I'm using in Drupal to get this done -- is to create a "splash page" for the novel that contains links to all related information. This can be seen for Pay Me, Bug! here:
It's set up as a grid:
- top left is a graphic related to the novel (think of it as a placeholder for a novel jacket cover), along with a link to a little info on the novel itself
- top right is the most recent podcast (would be empty for novels without an associated podcast)
- center is the latest chapter, with an excerpt from that chapter on display
- bottom left contains "worldbuilding" entries (i.e., extra, world-related information that is relevant to but not directly included in the novel, or that goes into more detail of something mentioned in the novel)
- bottom right is the complete table of contents for the novel
Currently it isn't styled very well because Drupal is having an issue displaying css information that was displaying perfectly well last night. Even if it were, though, it was very rudimentary and needed work... (and the top left graphic is... terrible. I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, which works heavily against me here). But you get the general idea -- it's a splash page where someone can see every piece of information related to a novel.
I think this will give me a good organizational model going forward -- the next step is to make the site integrate better visually, hopefully to make a reader more comfortable nosing around.
Anyway, if any of you have any comments or suggestions on this implementation I'd love to hear them!