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Author Topic: Suggestions for revamping the site  (Read 644 times)

Offline MetalCrypt

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Suggestions for revamping the site
« 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:

Offline MetalMike

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #1 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.
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Offline Sargon the Terrible

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #2 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.

Offline MetalCrypt

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #3 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

Offline MetalMike

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #4 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.
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Offline Sargon the Terrible

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #5 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?

Offline BrunoRedSox

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #6 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)
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Offline MetalCrypt

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #7 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).

Offline MetalMike

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #8 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.
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Offline ReignInBloodyGore

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #9 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.

Offline MetalMike

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #10 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.
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Offline Sargon the Terrible

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #11 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.

Offline MetalCrypt

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #12 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

Offline MetalCrypt

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #13 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.

Offline MetalCrypt

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Re: Suggestions for revamping the site
« Reply #14 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.