The Metal Crypt

Discussion Forums => Redesign Suggestions => Topic started by: MetalCrypt on September 03, 2017, 03:25:20 pm

Title: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 03, 2017, 03:25:20 pm
For the first time in 13 years I'm about to change web hosting companies. I'm a bit reluctant since the current web host has been very reliable (I went through maybe five different web hosts in the first five years, so 13 years with the same one, that should tell you something). The new host should be about $10 less per month while offering a bit more. Mostly good reviews out there, so I'm hopeful. I do get a 60-day free trial so I'll be able to test-drive it.

I want to rewrite the site's back-end and also in the process redo the site's look and feel. It hasn't changed all that much since early 2002. I made a few changes here and there but overall it's been the same. It works but it has felt dated for a long time. Among other things I'd like to make it mobile-friendly since so many people (including myself) use smartphones and tablets these days.

Use this thread to make suggestions (keeping in mind that I only have so much free time, of course... :naughty:) No, I don't think sound samples will make it in. ;)

 :deal:
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalMike on September 03, 2017, 05:16:07 pm
I like (read: am used to) the current site so I'd like to see things like the current reviews, interviews and editorials stay in some form. I also like the random review feature. I've found a bunch of albums that way.

I could certainly go for more color without becoming Metal Rules. I can't think of anything else off the top of my head.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: Sargon the Terrible on September 03, 2017, 05:39:50 pm
I am not really sure, on a technical level, what is entailed in making it more mobile-friendly.  I feel like the dated look is because of the frames, and it would look more modern with a bigger banner across the top and the different sections below it.  I like the random review feature too, and the latest posts helps keep the board alive.  If we got rid of that people might forget the board entirely.  I like the nav bar down the side, but it could use an appearance update.

That said, I would be down for providing graphical elements and letterheads and logos and such.  I have been acquiring more fonts and getting better with photoshop, so if I have some parameters I can make all kinds of visual elements.

Maybe we should think about changing from the white on black look?  I like the dark aesthetic, but I sometimes find it hard to read longer pieces like interviews because of eyestrain.  Maybe we could keep a darker color scheme but still make the text areas black on white, or at least black on a light gray maybe.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 03, 2017, 06:35:15 pm
I got rid of the frames a long time ago.

The sections/features you each mentioned are here to stay. My "challenge" has always been: how can we organize it differently on the page? That's been my major blockage for many years now.

Not sure about the mobile stuff yet, but it's something along the lines of "serving" a mobile-friendly page when a mobile device is identified. It wouldn't affect the look if viewing from a "full-size" computer.

And yes, help with graphics/logos/etc would be appreciated as I really suck at that stuff. Maybe I'd suck less at it if I spent some time getting better at it. :lol
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalMike on September 03, 2017, 07:53:31 pm
I am also willing to help though I am fairly computer illiterate when it comes to programming. If there are things that need editing, reformatting, etc. I'm glad to do what I can.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: Sargon the Terrible on September 04, 2017, 01:12:44 am
Well, I was not sure how big a redesign you were talking about.  Do we want to think about changing up the color scheme, or we going to stick with monochrome?
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: BrunoRedSox on September 04, 2017, 08:16:39 am
Maybe we should think about changing from the white on black look?  I like the dark aesthetic, but I sometimes find it hard to read longer pieces like interviews because of eyestrain.  Maybe we could keep a darker color scheme but still make the text areas black on white, or at least black on a light gray maybe.

I second that. Shades of gray would help out a lot and wouldn't stray far from the current layout. I also find interesting to apply that wine-color on the logo to some selected areas (borders and such)
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 04, 2017, 09:02:58 am
I'm totally open to changing the colour scheme, but I need some "hard" suggestions. For 10+ years now I've had people say, "oh you should update the look blablabla" but when I asked, "OK, what do you suggest", then they disappeared. :lol Once I have something that works, somehow my brain freezes and gets stuck on autopilot, so I need some good suggestions to get the juices flowing again.

It's not only the layout of the main page, but also the layout of the reviews. It's kind of basic and not very flexible at the moment. Adding more information about albums, now that would be difficult as there are around 8,500 albums in the database at the moment and it's not humanely possible to go back to add more information. We stopped publishing track listings many years ago and I'm not planning on bringing those back, in case anyone was wondering. That kind of information is easily available for those that really want it and sites such as Metal-Archives are much better suited for that level of detail.

In case some are wondering, "what's gotten into him"... Well, I'm about to change projects at work and instead of doing desktop software development I will be developing web-based applications using ASP.NET MVC. Since I know very little about this, I figured I could use the learning experience to benefit both work and the site here. At the moment the site is all written in PHP. (Just some gratuitous information for those who care/know about this stuff). I've also been thinking of a way for site administration to be easier than it is now (it's kind of a bitch at the moment) and I would do that at the same time.

I'd like to bring back the trivias. I had to taken them down because the software I was using had been abandoned by the software maker (they don't exist anymore) and it wasn't behaving well with newer versions of some of the backend software. That's an entirely different thing, however.

I would also like to clean up the database so that the genres are more uniform. In the first several years we'd just put any kind of stupid stuff in there sometimes (e.g. "Unbelievable Garbage" was used once or twice). For the past few years I've tried to stick to the basics for genres and let the reviews do the talking to highlight variations on the basic genre(s). If we could get the number of genres down to something reasonable, then it would be possible to browse by genre, for example. That, of course, requires editing a number of old albums (though I think the vast majority have the genre right).
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalMike on September 04, 2017, 01:41:31 pm
I'll be happy to take on the 1st stage of the database cleanup. Once we decide on a set list of genres, I'll go through the list and identify those that are outside the parameters and get them properly categorized. Being able to sort by genre (or country) is a feature I've used at M-A before and would be a nice addition.

For color I'm red/green colorblind so my opinion of what looks good may be skewed  :lol. For my two cents if the background is going to be a shade of gray vs. black I think the logo would look cool in a shade of blue.

Trivia is nice and interactive as long as we can get enough content.

What about a temporary Suggestions link on the side? I know 95% will be useless but maybe a reader that isn't on the boards will have something we can use. I can monitor an email address for responses to weed out the crap.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: ReignInBloodyGore on September 04, 2017, 04:02:26 pm
I've been using the non-forum end of the site since around 2002, and I've never gotten tired of the review layout. It's great being alphabetical, with scores immediately viewed. Sometimes I only needed to see scoring and genre to know whether or not I wanted to read an entry to learn more. I can't really imagine a more efficient grouping for reviews unless it was done by genre, which has already been mentioned.

I had a unique idea, which may be nothing more than me thinking way outside the box. But along with defining our genre grouping going forward, I feel it could be a fun and particularly useful thing if we could have a way to group bands of similar styles together.  For example, playing off the title of the site, we could have genre "crypts," and within each genre crypt would be a group of band names who go together. If the groupings were too specific it would take forever to do, but if it is more loose fitting where bands could be recommendable to listeners who like another band in the group, it could be helpful.  And these crypts could be graphics, or just a page of their own. It seems really out there, but one thing I think would be nice is a way to go from one band of liking to another based on a simple similar bands recommendation area.  Metal-Archives has this in the form of a band's similar to tab, which is sometimes very spot on, but I don't think it's necessary to just copy that.

Also, I think the forum could be expanded into more sections rather than a small box where a general section contains a large number of threads that are easy to lose sight of. However, if we had more specific topic areas such as "video and art," "movies and TV," "gaming," "PC stuff," and others that can be havens for sub topics, it would be easier to find specific threads and might increase forum activity a little. Just a feeling though. I used to be on another forum with more fleshed out areas and the forum was booming. And it was simple to find stuff.

All this stuff aside, I really like this site as is, but I thought I'd provide a few ideas since this thread occurred.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalMike on September 04, 2017, 06:03:27 pm
The linking of similar bands at M-A is something I've used but it is VERY subjective and therefore inaccurate a lot of times (like when you see Savatage listed as a similar artist to Helloween). It would have to be heavily monitored and would potentially be a lot of work to maintain. That said, done right, it could be useful if an easy way to do it could be found.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: Sargon the Terrible on September 04, 2017, 07:21:07 pm
I think the gray we have right here on the boards would make a much more readable background than the white on black we have now for the reviews and features.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 04, 2017, 07:32:54 pm
I've been using the non-forum end of the site since around 2002, and I've never gotten tired of the review layout. It's great being alphabetical, with scores immediately viewed. Sometimes I only needed to see scoring and genre to know whether or not I wanted to read an entry to learn more. I can't really imagine a more efficient grouping for reviews unless it was done by genre, which has already been mentioned.

I had a unique idea, which may be nothing more than me thinking way outside the box. But along with defining our genre grouping going forward, I feel it could be a fun and particularly useful thing if we could have a way to group bands of similar styles together.  For example, playing off the title of the site, we could have genre "crypts," and within each genre crypt would be a group of band names who go together. If the groupings were too specific it would take forever to do, but if it is more loose fitting where bands could be recommendable to listeners who like another band in the group, it could be helpful.  And these crypts could be graphics, or just a page of their own. It seems really out there, but one thing I think would be nice is a way to go from one band of liking to another based on a simple similar bands recommendation area.  Metal-Archives has this in the form of a band's similar to tab, which is sometimes very spot on, but I don't think it's necessary to just copy that.

Also, I think the forum could be expanded into more sections rather than a small box where a general section contains a large number of threads that are easy to lose sight of. However, if we had more specific topic areas such as "video and art," "movies and TV," "gaming," "PC stuff," and others that can be havens for sub topics, it would be easier to find specific threads and might increase forum activity a little. Just a feeling though. I used to be on another forum with more fleshed out areas and the forum was booming. And it was simple to find stuff.

All this stuff aside, I really like this site as is, but I thought I'd provide a few ideas since this thread occurred.

The grouping for reviews and other stuff like that doesn't have to change - it's more about modernizing the look a little bit but especially starting from a clean slate as far as the code is concerned. At the moment it's a bitch to add new stuff or even modify what's presented on the screen. The code feels a bit band-aid-ish and it's time for a reset. What I do want to AVOID however, is falling into the same trap as many sites that underwent a redesign and the new design was completely impractical. There are sites that I used to visit regularly that I don't visit anymore because they really messed up their redesign.

Interesting idea about the "crypts". Something to keep in mind. As for the message board, that doesn't need any kind of redesign since it would just be a matter of adding more forums. That's something that can be done in a few minutes. The thing is that we don't have enough traffic to make it worth having so many specific forums. Even the old popular boards have died down quite a bit and have reduced the number of forums. But anyway, like I said, if need be that can be done easily. The board is just a third-party "addon" and not something I wrote.

I've been having problems fighting off spambots registering on the board and registrations have been closed for a while. Maybe I can reopen them and see if the spambots have gone away to pester somebody else. :lol
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 04, 2017, 07:35:35 pm
I'll be happy to take on the 1st stage of the database cleanup. Once we decide on a set list of genres, I'll go through the list and identify those that are outside the parameters and get them properly categorized. Being able to sort by genre (or country) is a feature I've used at M-A before and would be a nice addition.

For color I'm red/green colorblind so my opinion of what looks good may be skewed  :lol. For my two cents if the background is going to be a shade of gray vs. black I think the logo would look cool in a shade of blue.

Trivia is nice and interactive as long as we can get enough content.

What about a temporary Suggestions link on the side? I know 95% will be useless but maybe a reader that isn't on the boards will have something we can use. I can monitor an email address for responses to weed out the crap.

I'll want to clean up the database to remove albums for which the reviews are gone first - probably a few hundred - so that time is not wasted. I just need to figure out how to do this without messing up. :lol Then I'll see about coming up with a "short list" of genres and maybe try to figure out a way to make it easy to edit that data directly rather than have to create a list and then have to edit it by hand on my side.

The suggestions thing is doable. I'll try to do that later this week.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 04, 2017, 07:37:25 pm
I think the gray we have right here on the boards would make a much more readable background than the white on black we have now for the reviews and features.

I experimented a little bit a few years ago but the current code is so messy that it was a bitch to make it all uniform.  I'll take the ease of change of the look and feel into account when I rewrite the code.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: Sargon the Terrible on September 04, 2017, 11:20:21 pm
The suggestions thing is doable. I'll try to do that later this week.

Could just make a generally-open forum thread.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalMike on September 05, 2017, 06:00:29 am
If you can make the font on the link a little different so it catches readers' eyes that would help with participation.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: PetrifiedNapkin on September 05, 2017, 12:47:11 pm
I like the site how it currently is. It is easy to navigate and like ReignInBloodyGore said, all the good information is listed on the reviews page.

I seem to be the odd one out here, but I like the white on black with the grim reaper in the background. Very cool, matches the site theme and very metal.

One thing i would like to see, is a better way to see the 5 and 5+ album reviews. It's not hard to click all reviews and sort by rating, but i think that could be improved a little. Maybe that could be expanded on so that you could see All 5, 4, 3, 2 1 star reviews.... and also into genre's, like see all thrash metal reviews, death metal reviews etc, and then see all reviewer's reviews.

I figured this site was written in PHP (right click view source) but its nice to have some confirmation lol. I use PHP at my job and this site is laid out very similar to how i do pages (click to column sort and a left bar on the side).


I dont know what database you are using, but if you are looking for albums that have an album name and no review, then you could look for something like:
SELECT *
FROM table
WHERE (albumname is not null or albumname != '') AND (review is null or ='')

The select shows you what you would be deleting before actually deleting it.
Then just wrap that up in a delete statement (make sure you have backups):

DELETE FROM table WHERE (albumname is not null or albumname != '') AND (review is null or ='')

ASP.NET should be interesting.. I learned it in school and never used it since. Visual Studio is nice to drag and drop with, but i've always preferred PHP (to be fair, that's what i use at my job)
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: Chris Foley on September 05, 2017, 02:35:01 pm
I'll second Mr. Terrible on the grays like the forum idea. I also think the perfect amount of information is given at present in our reviews, anything more proves to be extra hassle for all involved. In fact I could comfortably lose the running time, particularly since I can't seem to find a reliable indicator to it in iTunes. We normally comment if an album is too long or short.

Increasing the size of the album artwork would be nice if possible? Maybe times .5 or .75? I also wonder if now is the time to consider a comments section for reviews? I'm sure this has been discussed/vetoed in the past, and I'm not sure how much moderation would be necessary, but it could make for a larger community.

How about making a change to the font on the side bars? Something along the lines of unity with font across the website on the whole? Also, what about an album of the month feature? Nothing too in depth, a quick whip around at the start of the month to see which staff would be on board for the last month's AOTM, and then a simple quick paragraph and if necessary a couple of honorable mentions. I love the editorial activity of late, and this could further that.

The suggestions thing sounds nice, maybe taking the route of a "you may also like" type thing. Or maybe something personal to that reviewer. For instance if they reviewed a black metal album positively a few links could be generated to albums in that style scored similarly?

Just food for thought. This is one of the best sites on the internet, and a lot of it stems from the underground charm. Wouldn't want to see any drastic changes.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalMike on September 05, 2017, 05:51:23 pm
Could just make a generally-open forum thread.

I think we need something on the front page to catch readers eyes. I wouldn't want to assume people will navigate to the boards and look for a suggestion thread. An open thread at the end of the link would be the way to go.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 05, 2017, 06:33:24 pm
Could just make a generally-open forum thread.

It would have to be a separate forum on the board. I can't set permissions on a single thread. But that could work. Just have to be wary of spambots.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 05, 2017, 06:45:08 pm
I seem to be the odd one out here, but I like the white on black with the grim reaper in the background. Very cool, matches the site theme and very metal.

I like it too, but change could be good if I can find something that looks good. Gotta look evil though. :naughty:

Quote
One thing i would like to see, is a better way to see the 5 and 5+ album reviews. It's not hard to click all reviews and sort by rating, but i think that could be improved a little. Maybe that could be expanded on so that you could see All 5, 4, 3, 2 1 star reviews.... and also into genre's, like see all thrash metal reviews, death metal reviews etc, and then see all reviewer's reviews.

Yeah, I've been thinking about such things for years but always waited "until we clean up the weird genres from the database". I guess the time has come. Well, it's going to take a while to do this redesign. I work on computers all day so sometimes I need a break in the evening plus I'm a director on my condo board and that takes some time away as well.

Quote
I dont know what database you are using, but if you are looking for albums that have an album name and no review, then you could look for something like:

That would be the basis of it, but I also need to make sure that the albums are not in the database just for the sake of another section such as best-of - i.e. the album is in the database and used on the site, but it wasn't actually reviewed. Unfortunately I was a bit lazy with the database model and introduced a couple of ways to trip over myself. :lol Really it's just a matter of sitting down and doing it.

Quote
ASP.NET should be interesting.. I learned it in school and never used it since. Visual Studio is nice to drag and drop with, but i've always preferred PHP (to be fair, that's what i use at my job)

I tend to be too undisciplined with PHP, but I like it overall. It's really to help learn the new stuff for work that I figured I could use ASP.NET for this project here. Plus I've been using .NET at work since late 2002 (except for a couple of years in PowerBuilder), so I know my way around the basic framework. I think I'll have less of a hard time being disciplined with it. I don't drag and drop much with Visual Studio. On occasion I'd start a WPF form by drag and dropping the main controls and then finish everything by hand. I tend not to like the code the designer generates though it's gotten much, much better on that front. I don't know about the designer for web apps though. I used it very briefly at a course back in 2008 but things have changed A LOT since then.
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 05, 2017, 06:59:24 pm
I'll second Mr. Terrible on the grays like the forum idea. I also think the perfect amount of information is given at present in our reviews, anything more proves to be extra hassle for all involved. In fact I could comfortably lose the running time, particularly since I can't seem to find a reliable indicator to it in iTunes. We normally comment if an album is too long or short.

I just grab it from M-A (most albums have it) or look at the running time on my media player (I use Clementine; it doesn't suck like iTunes which sucks sucks sucks). I like having it there. I don't know why, I just do. :lol

Quote
Increasing the size of the album artwork would be nice if possible? Maybe times .5 or .75?

That's relatively easily done (unless I can't find an image of the cover art big enough), but going back to redo the existing reviews would be a major undertaking. You may have noticed that older reviews have smaller artwork. I originally used 120x120 and now 160x160. I can't blow them up because they'll be blurry and look like crap. The artwork on the main page is displayed at 70x70 which is probably fine still, but I'll see once it's time to redesign it if anything a bit bigger would look good. I wouldn't want to steal too much screen real estate from other content on that page.

Quote
I also wonder if now is the time to consider a comments section for reviews? I'm sure this has been discussed/vetoed in the past, and I'm not sure how much moderation would be necessary, but it could make for a larger community.

I've seen some sites that do that and I was rarely impressed by the quality of the comments. It would also require some moderation effort and, with nearly 9,500 reviews already, that could be a bitch.

Quote
How about making a change to the font on the side bars? Something along the lines of unity with font across the website on the whole? Also, what about an album of the month feature? Nothing too in depth, a quick whip around at the start of the month to see which staff would be on board for the last month's AOTM, and then a simple quick paragraph and if necessary a couple of honorable mentions. I love the editorial activity of late, and this could further that.

Not sure what you mean about the font on the side bars but that's likely to change with help from Sargon the Fontmeister.

Album of the month could be cool if the reviewers are on board. I also don't want to turn this place into one that puts too much demand on the reviewers like a certain site that shall remain nameless. :deal:

Quote
The suggestions thing sounds nice, maybe taking the route of a "you may also like" type thing. Or maybe something personal to that reviewer. For instance if they reviewed a black metal album positively a few links could be generated to albums in that style scored similarly?

Hmmm... Not sure, but I'm taking notes.

Quote
Just food for thought. This is one of the best sites on the internet, and a lot of it stems from the underground charm. Wouldn't want to see any drastic changes.

I don't want to go crazy, just clean it up and refresh it somewhat without it turning into a nightmare for visitors. Also I have to write that stuff and maintain it, so that'll help keep things relatively simple. :lol
Title: Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
Post by: MetalCrypt on September 05, 2017, 07:05:11 pm
I've created a new forum for suggestions. No registration required. I guess the best thing to go about it for now is to create a separate thread to make it easier to discuss some suggestions.