Upcoming changes to WFG

Hi all,


In the next week or two, I'll be making some changes to the WFG software. The primary change will be that new listings will no longer be displayed on the home page, nor in the primary site RSS feed. Instead, there will be a new feed expressly for new listings, and a link on the listings page to the most recent listing. Listings will also be linked together in a chain on two dimensions: listing date (newest-to-oldest) and ranking.


The vacated home page space and primary feed will instead be used to publicize events: new articles (as before), new editorial ratings at or above 3 stars (in place of the new listings), and bulletins from listings at or above 3.5 stars (as before). Hopefully, this will help make the home page more useful to new and regular users, as everything there will be vetted and of a certain quality level.


I'm also going to be working on making some kind of guided-tour functionality -- to make it easier for new users to find good stuff without having to traipse through the entire catalogue. I'm still working out the details, but I'm seeing this as something both editors and active members will be able to participate in. More on this as I work it out.


If there are any other burning issues you guys would like addressed, please post here and I may try to get to some of them if I can.


Chris.


Just my two cents as a user, Chris, but I think the current home page is doing a great job of highlighting new listings and reviews! It sounds like with the changes you plan there would be a lot less turnover of new content on the home page. Not broke, don't fix it?


People have said that they have a hard time finding the particularly good things amidst everything else, so it may be that there's too much new stuff on the front page.


I think that's what Chris is responding to with what he's currently working on.


Hi Fiona,


The problem is that few of our readers have the time or inclination to sift through dozens of new (and mostly mediocre) listings each week. Dumping all the new listings on the home page has resulted in a user experience that doesn't inspire new visitors to return, because the first stuff they see is mostly not terribly interesting. And a problem for our visitors is a problem for the site.


The intention of the changes is to use the home page to call attention to the good stuff. Actually, I'm also reworking the listings index to make it easier for readers to find what they are looking for -- whether that be good stuff, popular stuff, new stuff, or whatever.


The truth is that, while we are listing more and more material, WFG's reader base has stagnated -- despite much higher rankings in Google search results for valuable terms. This, to me, indicates something *is* wrong. Admittedly, I'm taking a guess at what the problem is, but I'm pretty sure it's the right guess, since these particular problems bug me, too.


Chris.


@Chris - "Admittedly, I'm taking a guess at what the problem is, but I'm pretty sure it's the right guess, since these particular problems bug me, too."


Looks like you're going at this with a good combination of statistical analysis and gut feeling. I'm a web developer myself, so I know that's the best you can go with sometimes!


I'd be hypocritical if I said I was upset with the changes, since to date I've yet to even look at the new listings on the home page... for exactly the reasons you identify. So okay, when I finally do submit, I may not get the "instant exposure" of being sloshed out in the cluster. But I'm hoping your plan works and results in more quality referrals.


However, if I were to ask for a change that would make the site more useful to me as a reader, then it would be making it easier to navigate through the categories.


Right now the subsections are listed in numerical order based on usage. I'm looking for the kinds of stories I like, regardless of their relative popularity. (Indeed, your readers may well be coming here exactly because it's so hard to find the stories they enjoy!) So while it's awesome that you have one hundred thirty-two "fantasy" stories, I may only care about your five "pirate" stories... assuming I can find them.


If you could offer an alphabetical listing instead, that would make finding the desired content far easier for your readers, and I don't think it would be terribly difficult to implement.


Thanks for being so open with us about the process!


-J


Hi J,


Hopefully the new listings page will do something to address your concerns. However, in terms of the overall site navigation, the search box really is important and does work. For instance, if you type "pirate" or "pirates" into the search box and hit enter, you will get a list of those entries in the pirates category. We do have a lot of tags, so chances are hopefully good that you will get useful results.


Chris.


I think that last problem could be solved by making the 'pick a sub section' link more prominently.


I think the review an unreviewed listing should be more prominent if the new listings are going to dissappear from the home page.


Something else I find quite annoying, but I fear is unresolvable, is that works are tagged with formats instead of plots and genres. Well mostly they are tagged with everything, and I'd wish they weren't. But as far as my database knowledge goes, that's unfixable now.

What I think would be doable though is put the tags under the title instead of under the blurb, so you can more easily see if it's in your field of interest.


Also I have been promoting the WFG like crazy (though admitted probably more to authors then to readers) so I'm a little dissapointed it didn't show. Will have to change my strategies.


OK, well may I suggest you keep a featured listing on the home page (from a pool of highly rated listings).


The directions affirmed in this thread sound right. Online fiction is the future.With print publishing moving in the way of music, a site like this is an excellent way to midwife the transition.


Janoda: With regards to promoting WFG, it's worth noting that you started doing it in the summer (well, for the northern hemisphere). In summer sites tend to get less viewership. Thus, WFG went down a bit in the summer and is coming slowly back up to normal as summer winds down.


Similarly, the number of referrals WFG has gotten from Twitter (and your page on it) has been going up consistently.


Thanks for the update!


Chris: something I noticed, the sublinks on the navigation don't always show up. I have it on 2 computers (well, before one crashed that is) and both with firefox and IE.


Hi Janoda,


Next time it happens, can you send me a screenshot? My user name at webfictionguide.com. Thanks!


Chris.


P.S. The first round of changes will be up today or tomorrow -- and will include easier access to the full category list from the category navigation bar.


Well, there isn't anything to take a screenshot of...

The Visit the Forums, Register and Login things just don't show up. Next time it happens I'll note down the time and etc though, so you at least check if it something on your end. Because with how my technology has been acting lately, it could well be something on my end. *rolls eyes*


Hi all,


The first drop of the changes are now on the main site. There are a few missing features I'll probably add over the next couple of weeks, and I may tweak the new colour scheme a bit.


In any event, there is now RSS support built into WFG. What this means is that each reasonably-rated listing where we can read the RSS feed properly will show recent updates on the listing on the side panel. Additionally, our best listings will have their updates aggregated to the home page.


The new listings pages make it easy to get to editor picks, member picks, and other "quality" measures -- those who wanted an easy way to find the "good stuff", have at it. Some of these subsets are now also linked from the navigation bar, for easy access. Hopefully, these changes will meet your needs.


Also note that the section navigation bar has been enhanced with a "more" link, which will load the full list of available subsections. Hopefully that will make navigation through the sections a little easier.


Anyway, have a look around and let me know what you think. In particular, there may be bugs -- I didn't test much. Let me know if you find anything that doesn't seem right.


Thanks!


Chris.


Liking the new design. Feels more modern and less flowery! The addition of the RSS updates on the front page is an excellent idea.


New format is spiffy! I like it!


Wondering how the overall ranking of the listings is calculated - some formula involving # of votes and star ratings?


..and the "Recently Updated Listings" will reward authors who update frequently :) Good idea!


There may be a bug in the "Recommended by.." under Member Picks.

For example, for "An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom" it says "Recommended by Meilin Miranda and 4 other members", when actually its recommended by a long list of members (more than four and not including MeiLin herself!)


OK, that's my last post....for now.


That last one is either a labeling issue or a design flaw, depending on how you look at it -- the Member Picks only consider the votes of "trusted members" -- ie. those members who have been regularly contributing quality reviews or other value to the site. For the general membership, their votes go into the regular ranking. However, that MeiLin is being counted on her own listing is a bad thing -- I'll fix it.


Chris.


There seems to be a bug with the automatic RSS feeds, or caching, or something. At any rate, Tamao has updated since Disruptive Protesters, the update shows in the feed, but it isn't showing up on the site.


I do like the new design, though.