Thoughts on the Lit & Lat website

Hi again KB!

As always, love Scrivener :wink: However, I am something of a web-designer/information architecture freak, and thought you might like some of my thoughts on the overall literatureandlatte.com experience. Feel free to ignore, of course – the book and everyday stuff always comes first.

The Front Page
Nice and clean, pretty professional looking and Mac-esque with the white.

This is probably because I am blind, but the little navigation links at the top? I didn’t notice them for quite some time. I kept using the random ‘visit our forums’ type blurb at the bottom.

Links/Free stuff/About pages

I keeping with the main page. I suggest matching the column width on the ‘Free Stuff’ page to that of all your other content pages. It all flows nicely, but Free Stuff jars a little because the page width does not match any of the others. This is a minor niggle though.

I also suggest using the ‘download’ icon from the scrivener page for each ‘free download’ as well, to keep continutity. Perhaps even mirror the little download/purchase box for each freebie, with the ‘purchase’ greyed out to highlight the freeness.

Blog
Design looks great, except for one niggle which also applies to the forum.

Forum
I know you’re a busy guy - but I really recommend getting a customised skin for the forums.

  1. They don’t match the rest of the site.
  2. They are generic - and it is obviously the default, this does not look as professional as one where the colours have been tweaked.

(I know something about creating skins, and will make a simple litandlat-esque one for free, will have a go soon and email you the result.)

My second thought is that for the non-scrivener forums, you have a few too many forums. You really only need separate forums for very closely related issues when you have more than 20 threads on a particular topic. As and when is always the best approach - I suggest consolidating the literature and latte ‘categories’, and a few of the forums in that category, and moving them to the top of the forum listing to promote the community aspect of the forum.

I also suggest appointing a moderator to move threads to the correct forums --> a lot of the forums are cluttered with posts/threads which would be better off elsewhere, or are misplaced. That might mean a need for a review of the actual purpose vs how a forum is used. E.g. Tips and Tricks seems to be used as much for questions as for actual tips/tricks that people have discovered. As a result I have some difficulty digging out real tips vs things which should have been in the Technical Support forum.

Okay, now I’m babbling. Generally - a lot of your forums are extraneous right now, and empty/dead forums never does much to promote community - cull and consolidate, then expand when needed.

Navigation
I think it would help with the overall coherence of the site if this navigation line

Home | Scrivener | Forum | Blog | Free Stuff | Links | About

was visible on your forums and your blog too. I know the blog as a link to the main site, but it helps keep the flow of navigation together for visitors to all parts of your site. I often look for that top line when I want to get back to your front page, but there is no way to get to it.

These are all MINOR NIGGLES AND DO NOT NEED ATTENTION I just…want to comment on it, and this seemed the appropriate place :wink: I have a lot of experience in managing large forums, so I suppose I am somewhat qualified to comment.

Erm. I’ll shush. :wink: Enjoy your day! (And sorry to hear about the Intel Mac problems, KB)

Thanks for your feedback. I am not a professional web designer, but over all, I like the site. Mellel and Jer’s also have the bog-standard PHPBB forum, so I don’t think it hurts anyone.

Either way, I haven’t got the time to spend tweaking the website to perfection - that time is better served on Scrivener. :slight_smile:

All the best,
Keith

I for one am used to the forum format and like it just fine. There’s something to be said for plain vanilla standard formats and this one seems to get the job done. And I think the rest of the site is quite good looking.

My 2 cents.

E

Yes, I agree - overall the site is great. My comments were meant for basic tidying up of the design IF KB ever had time for it :wink:

I am really not talking about changing the format all that much, or at all. Merely aligning the look with the rest of the scrivener site.

And totally - time best spent on scrivener. I’m just saying my honest reactions, whenever I come across phpbb/vbulletin’s standard skins I kinda roll my eyes - EVERYONE HAS THEM, and Scrivener is something that stands out from the pack.

So, i shall get to work on a proper phpbb skin for the scrivener site, to save KB having to do it :wink: Just an example of what could be done, have a look at phpbb.com/styles/demo.php and select ProWhite - it even has similar yin-yang style buttons to Scrivener, and it is free. (That said, I am not suggesting KB use it, as it is very bright :frowning: my eyes go ow.) Saphic is also very nice, and easy on the eyes. It could also be easily adapted with the Lit and lat graphic, and some scrivener icons to bring tha scrivener flava

Why I am banging on about the forum skin

The community in which a product is discussed is as much about branding and promoting as the website. Mellel and Jer don’t have a skin - and I thought the same thing about their sites too, they simply weren’t worthy of the software. If it wasn’t for recommendations from trusted sites, I wouldn’t have bothered downloading either of them. At some point, as someone who has been involved in community building and forum management for over 5 years, I would recommend that KB put aside some time to fix the navigation niggles, and bring the forum thematically inline with the rest of the website.

Yes, the current one looks fine, and gets the job done; but in terms of long term promotion and branding, and retaining users online, it will need visual improvements eventually.

That’s all the feed back I am giving, I am not bashing/hating on the website, which does look great, I am just giving feedback which KB will hopefully be able to use in future. I just love this software, and want more people to discover the Zen of Scrivener :wink: Making the community more obvious is a great way to promote the software, as a lot of people chose their software on the basis of an active developer and supporting/supportive community.

I don’t agree that overall site design is an issue here, especially when it comes to the forums (which, no offense, Ink, seems a trivial concern at best). The site is right on target – it says “small, dedicated and literary.” Isn’t that the message at this point?

If you’re going to spend any time on your web presence, I’d focus on adding simple third-party endorsements to your landing page. Those five mice from MacUser will do a whole lot more for you than a new skin on the forum ever could.

Yes the overall design is great. My changes were minor details - literally A NUMBER in either a piece of css or some straight html code that would have given a browser consistent column widths on the Free Stuff/Links/Scrivener/About pages. Tiny tiny niggle. And the addition of a line of links at the top of the blog.

Really, so…the overall design is great! The forum skin was neither here nor there - that is my personal opinion about the standard skin of any forum. But I don’t really get the disagreement with me over the website design - I have MUCH LOVE for it , and suggested two minor tweaks to do with site-wide navigation, and an-odd-one-out column width.

Or am I typing in the language of Mongeese and Huffalumps or something? :confused: Have I been typing out something completely different to my thoughts? :unamused: Man those fingers, what will they do next.

Now I’m not jumping down your throat, and I realize that you’re not complaining. But I do disagree. My reaction to Scrivener and the site in general is never that they didn’t “bother” to design the site carefully, but that they didn’t “need” or “choose” to add unnecessary design. The site and forum work, they’re not ugly and the content is what counts. If you’ve been put off a good product because a detail in the design put you off, maybe you should look beyond those details more often.

This site is minimalist in it’s sales pitchery, but the forum community is healthy and the program is great – as you know. Sometimes a detail is just a detail, and not terribly meaningful. The web is full of great eye catching design fronting crappy software. Here the design is focused on substance and community- and it shows. Which is one reason I hang here way too much! I’m not dissing your ideas - they may be very good - but I for one am glad that the person running the show is not too worried about such details – He’s just a writer who wants a better tool.

Cheers,

E

I agree with Inkling that his modest changes would enhance things. I also agree with Eiron that the site as it is has an appropriate feeling. Keep the latter; implement the former in a while; and let Keith have a breather. :smiley:

Dave

I do see what you mean - the forums are functional, they get the job done. I guess I just love a little eye candy, but I was never asking for the forums to be funky-tastic, merely that they fit slightly better with the lovely - simple and elegant - design that KB has for Scrivener :wink:

I apologise for getting defensive :unamused: I get kinda passionate about those small details sometimes. I also get passionate about scrivener 8)

Passion is good. You won’t hear me complaining.

If nothing else comes of all this, at least we got to read the word “pitchery”, which is excellent.

Actually, there are two things I’d like to see which would make navigating the forum easier in my view:
(1) “Previous/Next Thread” links at the bottom of the thread page. While you can get there by clicking “Back to Top” and then “Next Thread” from there, as you have presumably reached the bottom by reading down through the posts, a link there makes it easier to move on.

(2) a “Go to first unread” link at the top of each thread. As it currently stands, if you have used the “Next Thread” link within one thread, you are taken to the opening post of the new thread, and then have to run down through it to find the point at which there are new posts, which may in some cases be a number of pages further on. It would be good to be able to go straight there by clicking a link.

I’m not a web-designer at a level to know how difficult these might be to program in, but to see what I mean, take a look at the OmniGroup forums – “fora” for those with a penchant for classicism :slight_smile:
forums.omnigroup.com/

Mark

Omni is using vBulletin, which is a commercial forum software. This here is phpBB, an open source forum. As far as I can tell, they haven’t done much to modify theirs either. I’d imagine that editing forum software is probably about as complex as editing shopping cart applications. What might seem simple is probably a labyrinth of inter-dependant PHP files. If it is anything as wild as OSCommerce, it is “spaghetti code” smashed up with a meat tenderiser and then left to rot in the pantry for six months, with vast core components cryptically commented in Russian.

Amber is right about Omni-group, although they have made some significant changes, the colour code is the same. However - altering colours on vBulletin is as easy as entering the html colour code into a well labelled box in the administration pages. I’ve spent the last 5 years administering, hacking and designing for a vbulletin forum (alleria.com/forums) and you can see the branding.

Of course, Alleria is geared towards immersing people in a particular world/brand, and we’ve had those colours for a significant period of time, it would have been silly for us not to use them when we deployed vBulletin in 2002.

If a forum software is any good, they generally have a good templating system that allows you to make changes to the basic look of the site without messing around in the code. That said, I haven’t touched phpbb for about 5 years >>

Amber and Inkling,

Thanks for the comments … I thought something like that might be the case. Nisus also use phpBB, and I miss those links on their site too. Personally, I am not that concerned about the colours, these are just as easy on the eye as the colours on the OmniGroup site, but I do miss the navigation links in question.

Ah well … I spend more time than I ought to on this forum anyway :slight_smile:

Mark

Scrivener development + full time job + writing + kids = forum customisation & website enhancments low priority.

Only yesterday I had someone telling me that their friend thought my Scrivener product page was all copywriting bumf with no substance because of the hyperbolic claims about “Draft the next blockbuster” etc (what did they expect? “Draft the next medium-grossing family drama” for crying out loud?).

Suddenly everybody’s a critic. :slight_smile:

Scrivener works just fine for writing utter dreck. I know, I have first-hand experience!

Ha! It’s also perfect for writing obscure, excruciatingly long, pseudo intellectual stageplays! Whether it can help make them watchable has yet to proven round here.

E

Are you down to five hours yet, Eiron?

Ha. Funny. :slight_smile: :slight_smile: It’s great for revising dreck as well, which my readers will be able to attest to in a couple of weeks (dissertation readers, that is!).