GameProducer.net Update, Version 6.0

This is now the sixth GameProducer.net update. I decided to take away the bigger pictures and give more room to the text content, now the text in the top left gives a brief idea about the site and should help new people to first read the introduction. There’s still couple of visual things that I’m changing (like some fonts might be too big in some pages).

To make sure this is not a post only about GameProducer.net visual update, I’m writing here the lesson I learned today: compare your website to other people’s websites when making changes. I basically went to see the list of most popular blogs at Technorati and picked roughly 10. Then I typed three words on a notepad “better”, “equal”, “worse”. It was my idea to simply look at one popular site and then look at my new template and mark X after one of these words. I compared simply “how my site looks and feels compared to these sites visually, and which one is cleaner?”. I got one “x” in the “worse”, one mark in the “better” and rest I marked “equal” (although I felt there could have been few more marks in the “better” and also maybe one more in the “worse” category). I knew that I couldn’t beat the one site in simplicity at this point (simply because I’m keeping that much stuff in the sidebar) but for me this result was good enough. It helped me to put some final touches on how to arrange the layout and how to keep it clean. I also managed to find the colors for the header links quite well thanks to this comparison.

Here’s the list of the changed stuff:

  • Visuals: I removed 4 big images, and added a simpler header – and a small greyscale picture of me. I suppose this helps reminding readers that there’s only one guy behind this blog.
  • Introduction: I put a link to introduction in the top left corner with few welcome notes. My intention is to help new people to quickly understand what this site is all about (“daily gaming business & production tips”).
  • Free stuff: Everybody loves that, right? Now I have added free stuff section where I shall list (surprise, surprise) free stuff. At the moment there’s not much to check, but at least something – and I will be putting more free stuff there in the future.
  • Newsletter: I have had newsletter for some time already, but now I have put it in bit more visible space in the top left corner.
  • RSS feed: Like newsletter, RSS feed has changed place. Now it can be found via the header links, and also from the top left corner.
  • Reader introductions: About 60 people have already told about them in the Introduce yourself blog entry, and I’ve now put this item in the header links – to give it bit more visible spot that in the previous layout.

Those are probably the most visible changes, and feel free to browse the site to check out more. The good old sales stats are available and the article archives contains now over 500 posts. I will be making tiny changes on that page as well.

That’s it. In the end I would like to mention that Adrian Crook (Game Producer at Relic Entertainment) has given me an interview, and I will be putting this article online within just a few hours.

Stay tuned, and remember to subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you get informed when new interviews, sales stats and other special reports are available.

Feel free to tell your opinion about the new visuals.

P.S. I’m also postponing the Carnival of Game Production’s 3rd edition – I’m waiting to get few more articles before putting it online.

11 thoughts on “GameProducer.net Update, Version 6.0

  1. Anonymous

    Juuso, sorry it took awhile to confirm, been on travel.
    Scroll bar is gone. Much better! Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Nathan Says:

    > I’m not entirely sure if I like the balance of this new design. The left sidebar seems too distracting. Maybe if it was not as wide and didn’t have bold text it would not scream “look at me!” so much.
    I’ll see what I can do about it. Thanks.

    >”I find it odd how the bar on the top suddenly stops, instead of going all the way across the page. Maybe the black bar would appear more balanced if the whole page was centered?”
    Maybe… I’ll think about this. It also depends if I get that nice banner (see below)

    > “I don’t know. I kind of liked the artwork that you use to have. It added character. Now the site is very plain and generic.”
    I planned to have a big banner on top. Maybe when I find some 800×100 (or something) nice banner I’ll try and see how it would look like.

    >The “next entries” link on the bottom of the page (looks like double arrows on the front page) goes too far to the right — beyond the invisible boundary set by the black bars.
    Yes, that is on my to do list… haven’t done that yet :)

    >”Your “TextLinkAds” link on the bottom of the page is broken. It has an extra http// (without a colon.)”
    Fixed, thanks

    Thanks all for the comments and suggestions, I’ll do some tweaking and ask more comments later. For now I try to do what Toraux said: “Maybe you could find what worked from the old one, and what people like the most about the new one, and incorporate both of them.”

    Reply
  3. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Daniel: First I want to remind people to visits your site (http://sonicron.solaristudios.com/) and also TIGRS that has just been re-launched. It’s great work you’ve done there.

    The next thing I want to say is to thank you for taking time to give detailed comments. I’ll give some responses.

    [noisy]
    This was actually the point where I ticked “worse” compared to some of the popular sites, but I must say that I wasn’t borrowing their features by taking items out of context. I should have explained it clearer in the post, so I’ll do this now. What I was doing was merely checking how the site layout (not context) compares to other sites. I also checked other sites to find the right color for the header links. First it looked bad when I had two rows, white borders etc. on those links, but after checking some other sites I realised that by merely changing the link background a bit it looks better.

    When I made the update, the “noise remains” so in that sense this new update has not brought any more “noise”. It has been there, and I have realised that. With noise it’s bit problematic, you for example, said how the “recent comments” are useless while same time I personally like them and some days ago I got an email from one people who said that the comment lines should be longer. So that’s personal taste partially – I think that most of the “dynamic stuff” that changes often (like comments) should be on top, so it’s easy to know what has changed. Archives, categories etc. are not the way how people navigate the site. Some do, but when you navigate via “categories” then you will do so less often. That’s why I don’t think it’s so relevant to keep categories so high, but the reason I like to keep them is that for example new people who come to the site can get a quick impression what the site is all about and what kind of stuff they might be interested in.

    Featured and recent articles could be somewhere else, although I personally like to read some blogs so that I can easily navigate to the most recent articles. If the recent articles are only on the front page, then it takes time to find out which articles are interesting and which are not. It takes time to scroll a long page compared to take a one look in the recent posts. Since my site has the ‘articles’ section (where people can find most recent articles) it might be okay to get rid of those. Naturally RSS reader can help with picking the recent articles as well. I will think about this.

    As a short reminder: everybody can subscribe to full RSS feed and read it as clean they want.

    [pro]
    > “Again, I’m sorry, because I’m sure you worked hard on it, but I think you need a lesson in user interface design, or need to hire a professional to design the site the “right” way.”
    No need to be sorry, and I’ve actually done usability and interface design for quite a while, and there are some things that need to be polished to make it right for readers. At this point I’m not going to hire a professional to design my site :)

    [text link ads]
    > “I can’t help but wonder what text link ads for text link advertisement have to do with game production.”
    I have few thousands reasons for that ;) I won’t go very deep into this, but I’ll simply say that this site is also read by marketers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists – not just game producers – and selling text links is pretty good business in the Internet. With the raise of in-game advertisement, and alternative business models (such as releasing the game for free, and then selling ads or using google ads) I think text links are relevant to some of the readers. Naturally not everybody wants to see them or use them, but if I can keep my site ad free from other ads (like automated contextual ads) and they help supporting me and my game production I will be keeping them.

    [other notes]
    I took away the ‘recommended money makers’ since they have been there for quite a while now, and like there has been some other useless stuff as well. I took many things away now to make it look less crowded.

    Thanks a lot for your comments.

    Reply
  4. Nathan

    I’m not entirely sure if I like the balance of this new design. The left sidebar seems too distracting. Maybe if it was not as wide and didn’t have bold text it would not scream “look at me!” so much.

    I find it odd how the bar on the top suddenly stops, instead of going all the way across the page. Maybe the black bar would appear more balanced if the whole page was centered?

    The “next entries” link on the bottom of the page (looks like double arrows on the front page) goes too far to the right — beyond the invisible boundary set by the black bars.

    Your “TextLinkAds” link on the bottom of the page is broken. It has an extra http// (without a colon.)

    I don’t know. I kind of liked the artwork that you use to have. It added character. Now the site is very plain and generic.

    Reply
  5. Toraux

    I think I kind of have to agree with Daniel Kinney, the old layout was at the very least a bit easier on they eyes, the new one is a bit too busy, or the sidebars are too wide or something… I can’t place my finger on it, and I’m not an expert in the field, but something seems out of place.

    Maybe you could find what worked from the old one, and what people like the most about the new one, and incorporate both of them.

    Reply
  6. Daniel Kinney

    I know you probably worked hard on the new site, but I just can’t help but notice how “noisy” it is. It’s WAY too busy — there’s far too much text — and most of the content is trivial. I don’t see why you need recent posts, featured articles, recent comments, insiders members list, and recommended money makers on the sidebar.

    Recent posts can be retrieved from the front page, featured articles can be rotated in a ticker on the top menu, recent comments are useless without context, the insiders member list would be better placed on the insiders page, and I can’t help but wonder what text link ads for text link advertisement have to do with game production.

    In my opinion, it’s a mistake examining the top blogs and borrowing their features, because you’re often taking items out of context. Or, worse, you’ve ended up making a jungle out of your page; the page is effectively full of so much noise, no link has any value. (Do you or have you ever run one of those heatmap trackers?)

    Again, I’m sorry, because I’m sure you worked hard on it, but I think you need a lesson in user interface design, or need to hire a professional to design the site the “right” way.

    Reply
  7. Juuso

    @Anon: thanks for mentioning this, it was a small IE problem that I now fixed. Can you confirm me that the width is now okay? (I would really appreciate that)

    @Michael: *phew*… I hope I get more comments like yours ;)

    P.S. I (at least temporarily) disabled MyBlogLog avatars since the plugin was giving a JavaScript error…

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I’m running at 1024×768, and your page is wider than that, which means I’ve got a scroll bar on the bottom of my browser. I hate that. Can you adjust your page width?

    Also, there is a HUGE gap between this post and yesterday’s post on your main page.

    Other than that, the new design looks simple and clean.

    Reply

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