The New Website – A Touron June 26, 2012 at 4:37 am
TL;DR: If you always want a single click to get to the latest strip, bookmark http://www.thedailyblink.com/?latestcomic – If you’re still curious about the new site, please keep reading.
Now that Holden and I have had a chance to get a few hours to sleep, fix a few bugs, and get some more feedback, I wanted to take people through some of the new features of the site: Stuff we have up, stuff we’re still putting into practice, and some things that run behind the scenes the drive the decisions we make about design.
First, it’s very easy to say that the website just needed a fresh coat of paint and that we wanted it to look nicer. Of course, that’s 100% true. However, there were several reader requests and internal needs that we wanted to address when doing this redesign. Here are those needs, along with how we took them on:
- The strip itself hampers presenting other info to readers, and simultaneously needs more space so we can make it wider
Our strip, for a webcomic, is an awkward shape. It has no vertical limit (I mean, take a look at this bad boy), it was an awful 525px wide because I was apparently on some controlled substances when I was working on the initial strips and thought an ODD NUMBER was a great dimension to build a layout around, and as a design element is just wide enough and certainly tall enough to prevent being able to offer anything of substance to readers in a position that anyone will find without taking on a monumental level of effort to find (read: Scrolling down).
I knew from the very start that it would be an unpopular move with some of our readers to take the strip off the front page and have people click through for the latest comic — a practice that PvP, Penny Arcade, and Looking For Group have either always done or made the transition to. It was pointed out on our forums that this wasn’t that useful a move as compared to, say, Penny Arcade because we didn’t have nearly as much non-comic content to share. My response to that is to say that this is backwards – it is precisely because so few find our non-comic content that we’ve never felt moved to produce it. This new design allows us to offer more of ourselves and know that more eyeballs will come across it. We intend to share more, promote more non-comic content, and put more effort into making repeated visits worthwhile.
Conversely, our strip can now expand much more into horizontal space, which will hopefully assist with keeping it from extending past the 2500px tall behemoths that it has been known to flirt with from time to time. (I’m sorry, we like words. We’re seeing a doctor about it, there’s injections involved, we don’t like talking about it.)
- We have very few search features to find the strip you’re looking for if you want to dig through the archives
This is a project that is ongoing, but we’ve enabled the ability to use tags and transcripts in a way that’s useful without being a space-monger. You’ll notice down at the bottom of our strips we’ve added tabs so that comments, transcripts, and “notes” (more on that later) all inhabit the same real estate. Eventually, when you search for a strip, it’ll utilize all of the keywords and dialogue available. This is something that will take some time (and we’re looking at implementing ways for eager readers to help fill this information in if they so choose), but it’s worth it and it’s definitely something that multiple people have asked for.
Also, we programmed a whole new feature for readers: The comic navigation now has sub-navigation bars for major strip categories. Just wanna see our movie poster parodies? You can skim through them easily with our new system. Same goes for our “Meanwhile at Blizzard HQ” strips, or strips focused on a specific class, or a few other categories we’ve already built into the site. We’re adding more of those as time goes on, as well as a menu to offer this browsing method as a starting point, rather than just something you’ll stumble upon as you browse.
- Our reluctance to release a blog post with every strip means sharing information other than the strip itself isn’t really supported
As mentioned before, we’ve added the ability to add a director’s commentary of sorts to strips, if we have more to say on the subject presented or just want to share a funny or informative anecdote about how a strip was made. This is something we won’t inform people about ahead of time: You’ll just want to keep an eye on the archives as we add more to the database.
- We have a lot of people who really enjoy the strip and want to be more involved but we’ve done a (frankly) crappy job of giving people that opportunity
This is where I apologize to members of Deeps More Deeping for not giving the guild the attention it really deserves. We still want to allow readers to interact with each other and enjoy a place where people can be friendly and socialize without putting up with Barrens Chat-style behavior, and so we’ve built a forum that we believe is worth a damn. The key difference here is that the comments for every strip exist as a thread on the forum, and vice versa- so each of the main preferences for our readers exist. It also means if you want to strike up a convo about some of our older content, you can without lamenting the fact that nobody will see your insightful question about content from 2010. The forum gives it a chance to be seen and to have a conversation begin. We’ve also taken some steps since the redesign launched to not have the new system be too restrictive as compared to the old comments — we’ve added Twitter and OpenID login options, and we’ll continue to stay open to more ways to not have this design turn away people who otherwise want to interact.
Lastly, for you design wonks: While it’s a huge departure from the original design, I do want to state that this site still runs on WordPress using the Comicpress theme and plugin, but will soon be making a full transition over to Comic Easel, a plugin developed by Philip M. “Frumph” Hofer, who also is the current sole developer supporting Comicpress and keeping it compatible with WP updates as they’ve been released. We’ve had a great relationship with Frumph over the last few months and Holden and I are going to be working with him on Comic Easel and other software projects he’s interested in working on and expanding.
As always, much of this redesign is built around making this website easier for you to use and get value out of, so please continue sharing your feelings and experiences in the comments. If there’s a feature we’ve neglected, or would like to see, or is already here but you don’t care for or would like to see tweaked, let us know so that we can keep looking and improve on what we got. This website is pointless without visitors and so we’d be silly to ignore what you think on the subject.