- News articles tend to fall off the front page rather quickly. Right now it's set to show 10 articles per page before you're forced to view page 2, 3, and so on. The last thing I want to do is set a parameter to show 50 articles per page and have a user scroll for eons.
- Featured articles is ugly. That row up there with the 5 most recent featured articles barely works. it was a stopgap measure to highlight some articles and provide a little bit more longevity on their front page appearance.
- The sidebar is a mess. I keep adding things and it's going to get taller and taller. There are things that I want to put there but haven't yet for this very reason.
- Article pages does not show comments. This is by design though, since we didn't want to have to moderate comments on articles AND moderate comments on our forums. So we disabled wordpress user registration and copied the article content into a forum post.
- The header space is too tall. The banner image is gigantic, I think the Cars theme is the worst offender, and it pushes relevant content down so a user has to scroll further to see anything worth looking at.
Well I took my gripes about the page and hired a friend/former co-worker of mine to help me redesign the page. Please take a look at it here. Some notes about the mockup:
- Yes, it's in black and white, the final design will not be in black and white.
- There are separate articles lists for Star Wars, Reviews, Other LEGO News, and Miscellaneous News. You only see a teaser image, and a headline. This allows more articles spread over more categories to live longer on the front page, addressing gripe #1 above.
note: other lego news is mislabeled. it should be "lego licensed news" and will feature all licensed related news that is not star wars. it's position will switch with reviews.
by splitting up the news in this way, you, the reader, can skim across the articles and click on the ones that interest you and ignore the ones that don't.
- The featured articles box at the top just below the header addresses gripe #2 above. it will show full sized images, article headline, and some text of the 10 most recent featured articles and will cycle through them in a slideshow format.
- The sidebar is completely revamped. a lot of the static links are moved to the header, and new content will show up such as a dedicated contests box, an accordian style box for forum topics, comments, and set guide entries.
- there's no mockup of the article page yet, but it will remain largely unchanged in terms of how the content is displayed. The sidebar will be completely redone, and the page will show the comments left in the related forum thread underneath the article content. up to 20 comments will be displayed with a link going to the forum thread.
- the header is completely revamped containing much of the sidebar elements. unfortunately the branding of the site will also temporarily disappear. I have plans for site branding that are not shown in the mockup but will eventually be implemented.
and by "branding of the site will also temporarily disappear" i mean the user selectable themes will completely go away. i realize that there is a drop down on the top right of the mockup that has the theme chooser, but that is going to change to a different menu.
i honestly don't know how many of you like the themes we produce for the site. they will be going away during the upgrade process, but i promise you they will be back in a different form.
there are a ton of other changes that aren't visible in the mockup, but they're all designed with the same goal in mind: which is to make relevant news to you, the reader, more accessible.
i present this to you, the community, to hear your feedback. I realize the change is extremely different from the blog format we've had for some time, but i feel like the changes are necessary for the reasons I outlined above. I want to avoid the mistakes of facebook and gawker and not at least prepare you for the changes ahead. and rather than make all the changes all at once, i'll be implementing them gradually over the next few weeks with a goal of having everything complete by december 1. please be frank in your response, but don't be a rooster. constructive criticism is welcome.