Travel the dunes with the LEGO� Star Wars™ Ultimate Collector Series Sancrawler™

FBTB - From Bricks To Bothans

Follow us: RSS
News? Questions? Comments? Email!

redesign in the works

We are always interested in improving our community. Got an idea? Let us hear it!

redesign in the works

Postby onions » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:45 pm

FBTB has come a long way since the Yakface days, and while the blog format works, the truth of the matter is it doesn't work very well. Here's a list of the shortcomings that I see:

  • 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.

thank you.
Damp Noodle
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:45 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby onions » Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:02 pm

also, this is your opportunity to point out any deficiencies or areas that need improvement. or even a wishlist of what you'd like to see.
Damp Noodle
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:45 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby Flynn » Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:11 pm

onions wrote: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.

This here is my only gripe with the new layout- everything else looks very nice- clean, organized, fixes all the problems with the old layout, etc. I always liked the user-selectable themes, though, if only for the knowledge that I at least had the choice to change the theme (Mine's always set at Toy Story), and I loved the creativity in some of the designs. I can understand not keeping them if they cause a problem with the new design or something, but I'd be anxious to see them return in some shape or another. Other than that, it all looks extremely good, and I'm looking forward to seeing it implemented.
joecrowaz on Flickr wrote:Flynn you little wussy with a purple robed fairy for an icon,

Flickr Brickshelf
Posts: 806
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:38 am

Re: redesign in the works

Postby volumex » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:22 am

Upgrade? when this in the pipeline?
Posts: 338
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:01 am

Re: redesign in the works

Postby onions » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:35 am

i'm hoping to get all the changes in by december 1. it'll be a slow upgrade process.
Damp Noodle
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:45 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby MrCRskater » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:41 am

This all looks amazing. All of your upgrades basically put more info at users' fingertips in essentially the same amount of space. LOVE the slideshow featured articles. I especially like that it allows a little more compartmentalization on the front page, so folks can dive right into reviews, news, or forum stuff right away and all at once without sifting through several blog entries.

With the added writers, it seems that MOC's and sales are being posted with greater frequency, too. Would it be possible/worthwhile to add a similar feedbox for those areas (the way there is a "Star Wars News" and "Reviews" box)?

Also, it would be nice to have an obvious direct link somewhere on the front page to buy FBTB shirts, especially if there are plans for more schwag further down the road (mugs? thumb drives? aprons? commemorative china plates?).

Lastly, I'll just echo Flynn on the themes front and say I think it's a great site element that's worth keeping. I certainly utilize it and change my theme around from time to time, the designs so far have been quite clever. If it's possible to implement them with the new layout, I'm all for that.
Staff Writer
Posts: 677
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:44 am

Re: redesign in the works

Postby elijah » Fri Oct 28, 2011 12:41 am

Great idea. i think the site would look good modeled like here's the link

Also i think that a Picture up the top would be good. Also you may like to change the Star background. And while your at it you may also add new Smilies because although we have quite a lot there old and a new "face might be nice". Also if you allowed avatars that would be awesome but the other side says that if you have avatars people then will have very different ones making the page look messy. Also you wont to put the links to the forum's on one side. Then Add the Links to the other side below A contests box which contains the latest contests pictures and news. And change the link to Lego Star wars it looks old.

Also if you Change pictures up the top every now and then the sit will look really good.
The walking Encyclopedia and geek. My flicker is at this
Posts: 33
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:08 pm
Location: Australia

Re: redesign in the works

Postby onions » Fri Oct 28, 2011 1:08 am

i'm going to take a wild guess and say that itjive is your site?
Damp Noodle
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:45 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby Alfa Animations » Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:22 am

the stars are fine but add different things like maybe a space ship, an explosion(they fix every thing< transformers for example... oh, no, sorry to fix that is a to bigger ask....) and maybe some Bricks
Alfa Animations
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:14 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby RJH » Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:23 am

Hi, my first post. I only joined to read what you have planned. As an avid reader and blogger myself. I know how hard it is to get the right look for your site. Having seen the mock up you have done, I think you have achieved a fantastic balance and look forward to seeing it live.

Having just recently updated my own blog with a new theme I know how much work is involved and my site isn't very old compared to yours so do not envy the work you have to do.
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:18 am
Location: Sheffield UK

Re: redesign in the works

Postby JamesBenjamin » Fri Oct 28, 2011 3:30 am

I like it.
We are such stuff as manure is made of, so let's drink up and forget it... -Eugiene O'Neill
Posts: 252
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:14 pm
Location: Northern VA.

Re: redesign in the works

Postby Knobby Plastic » Fri Oct 28, 2011 4:22 am

Looks quite nice, I'm going to miss the big photo on the top, but I guess that has to go...
View my photostream on flickr
Knobby Plastic
Knobby Plastic
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby » Fri Oct 28, 2011 5:51 am

I've seen other sites like io9 do redesigns and, to ease transition, offered users the option to keep the old interface at a different URL. As far as I can tell, it shouldn't mess with your workflow to post since you're still going to create the big images for the Article-view (where you go when you click on a title.) Just to throw that out there.

The new homepage definitely looks clean and fixes some of the issues you've brought up. I agree that it's great to have access to more stories, etc. It also brings up some new functionality issues:

    (1) I get the attempt to create content categories (eg Reviews vs. News), but some users may not differentiate between Star Wars news and Licensed Theme news. From my daily use, I could see how separating out the reviews might be helpful, but I can't say that I've minded seeing those in my list of daily articles that I sift through. And I definitely don't separate Star Wars vs Licensed theme news, so for me as a user I'll now have to look at two different areas to make sure I didn't miss anything. So, if anything, it adds more "work" for users who browse the way I do. (Refer to my opening comment about options.)
    (2) My daily user habit is to come to the site, see the handful of new articles, and then leave to either the forums briefly or elsewhere. So I'm all about the blog style of 10 articles since you never really post more than 10 articles a day. It could be a few days before things start requiring me to click to another list of 10 articles. I don't mind this since, in my head, I "missed" the last few days and need to do some extra work to catch up. Plus, it's "news", so it's timely in theory. So I don't mind if I can't see the old stuff immediately. It's like an archive to me...I read today's newspaper (the homepage) and if I want to see what happened before, I go to the "stacks", so to speak. It might be good to get an idea of who actually needs to see more than 10 articles on the homepage before basing the redesign on that premise. As far as I know, I might be one of a handful of users who browse FBTB the way I do, so in which case, it's a moot point.
    (3) The biggest concern I'd have is that, since the new layout offers significantly less info on each post in favor of what I'd characterize as a more table-of-contents-with-tiny-cut-off-blurb approach, it now requires users to click to see more of a story to figure out if it's something that interests them. I envision this taking me twice as long to see what I'm interested in and move on, which may be something you want, but as a user it'll get cumbersome. Now I just look at each story and often never leave the homepage...I read the posts right there. The new design pretty much requires users to click through to get even the gist of the news item. Sure, the titles are somewhat self-explanatory, but the pieces of the post just aren't enough to satisfy me as a reader so I'd have to click through each article to see what it says. For example, the text of the placeholder articles read something like, "In an effort to match the Toys R Us 25% off deal this weekend..." To much of a teaser. As is, I can read each post all on one page. If something really interests me, I click through.

Basically the new direction seems to take a more-is-more approach (i.e. The old search engine days of Alta Vista, Yahoo, etc. vs. Google slim-and-trim) that might effectively be an offer-less-but-require-more-effort approach from a user perspective. Obviously I'm a fan whose developed a "habit" / style of website use that could be hampered by the new design. And, even if you do do the change, I'm still about my daily visits to this awesome site. But I'm such the advocate for having an alternative "traditional blog" style view as an alternative to the new much so that I'd volunteer to mock it up. I completely agree with some of the concerns you had to begin with that drove the redesign, like slimming down the header and features, so the alt-homepage I'm envisioning could still accomplish those things without some of the features I pointed out in the list above. It's all about customization anyway, right? Web 2.0 and all that?

Anyway, thanks for soliciting feedback. Good to know users have a say.
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:21 am
Location: Daly City, CA

Re: redesign in the works

Postby akunthita » Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:33 am

I very much like the new layout! Very clean, easy on the eyes, and easy to find things! In response to's 3rd concern (which I think is very valid), is it possible to have a scrolling news section at the same time with full-length posts? Keep the homepage as it is, but if users click in the NEWS button on the navigation bar, it would take them to all the posts in the previous blog-format. I know this can be done in the theme I'm using in wordpress, so it should be possible. This way users who prefer to see all posts in the old format would only have to click once. Other than this, I very much like the new layout! :p

P.S.: Just one more thing: the word "REVIEWS" in the to navigation bar is mis-spelled. Just want to make sure you catch that. ;)
Last edited by akunthita on Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:52 am, edited 2 times in total.
Tips & Tricks with LEGO Bricks!
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:09 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby onions » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:08 am

specific article pages aside, 'page 2' is the third most visited page on the site, behind 'forums' and the front page. so there is a need to provide more content on the homepage.

you hit the nail on the head about the 'news' tab: it will take you to a catch-all page encompassing all the news from all themes, it will be a condensed listing with each article showing a thumbnail, headline, and teaser text. i have considered keeping the old blog format at a specific url so if enough people clamor for it, i'll implement it.
Damp Noodle
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:45 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby atxdad » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:28 am

I am one of those daily visitors that rarely leaves the front page, so a 'headlines only' front page is just going to create more work for me to click through to actual content. Keeping a 'blog format' page that I can link to directly is a great idea. Thanks for your consideration!
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:25 am

Re: redesign in the works

Postby elijah » Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:07 am

i'm going to take a wild guess and say that itjive is your site?
No i'st not, i just like it. but coming to think of it, you may wont, to add a small moc Box Which contains a featured Moc.

The walking Encyclopedia and geek. My flicker is at this
Posts: 33
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:08 pm
Location: Australia

Re: redesign in the works

Postby Datoth » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:30 am

The new site mock-up looks great! I always appreciated the featured article bar but felt it contained too few items.

My primary reading method for the site is via RSS feed ... do you plan to continue to publish an RSS feed of all of your articles? Some folks may also appreciate RSS feeds for certain things (news, reviews, star wars only, etc.) as well.

I'm looking forward to December 1st! XD

Datoth aka Jason
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:20 pm

Re: redesign in the works

Postby Stardusty » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:07 am

Woah! That looks VERY nice!
I just hope ads won't ruin the look of the page.

I can't wait to see new site in action. It's going to look great!
Posts: 112
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:30 am
Location: Zagreb, Croatia

Re: redesign in the works

Postby fallenangel327 » Sat Oct 29, 2011 5:42 pm

Maybe this is just a nostalgia thing, but I miss the old blue-and-white interface, with Greg's trench run panel at the top and no 'shininess' to be found. A nice, simple forum that looks as if it belonged on Windows 98... is it possible?
Supersonic wrote:nobody is going to see the differences between the Rebels and ESB AT-AT. Definitely not kids.
Posts: 370
Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:38 pm


Return to Suggestions

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests