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Author Topic: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net  (Read 9282 times)

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Offline CorvusErebus

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onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« on: January 15, 2010, 12:44:50 AM »
Okay Boys and Ghouls, Gather round. Today we look at Grimstone.net, on the very first edition of...


   I have to say, Grimstone.net actually has a lot of good stuff going for it! While there are a few suggestions I can make, I think that, on the whole, this is a pretty good website. So let's get started, shall we?

For those of you who are new to the game, the term “Above the Fold” Reffers to how much content fits on the screen without having to scroll. Now this varies based on monitor resolution, and window size, so something that might be Above the Fold for you, may be lower down on my browser, or Visa Versa. This is why you almost always see ads at the very tip top of the screen. Above the fold ads often pay more then other ads, and placing them at the top guarantees they are above the fold no matter what  the viewers screen size.

I must say, you certainly have done a decent job at keeping things above the fold. On my screen, with the browser maximized,(screen resolution 1680 x 1050) I can see the entire comic above the fold! Considering how large you run the comic, that's not bad at all!


   It would be hard to get much more above the fold, but there are still a few changes we could make to squeeze a few more pixels out. Now, if it sounds like I'm nitpicking as we go through this article, it's because you haven't really left me much to point out. So congratulations!

   The first thing we can do to squeeze some out some room is downsize the header and navigation buttons. Both of these things are a tad large for what they accomplish. A reduction to 75% of the original size can free up a bit of space and bring a bit more of our comic up within view.


   Another improvement we could make is the introduction of marketing tools. Do you use Twitter? Reddit? Facebook? Stumbleupon? I don't see any info up here on how I can spread the word! If you don't use these services, you should consider it. Letting your fans spread the word for you is an easy way to get free advertising. Many people implement a toolbar just bellow the comic.

   I also noticed the content areas of your blog and other pages are white text on a black background. It might be wise, given your chosen dark colour scheme, to create a white field around your blog and page content, so it better stands out from the red and black. A white backdrop will catch the eye better on a darker website. This is important since you will have a very limited time frame between the end of the comic and the start of the next page, to get your readers attention.

   I also noticed your archives. While the archives themselves are fairly straightforward, The about page, and front page sidebar both list 'Storylines”. They aren't mentioned on your archive page either. These SEEM to take you to different parts of the archive, but the completion of the storyline doesn't lead in to the next part of the archive. This is a little confusing, and has me wondering about continuity. Keeping this all sorted out on the archive page might alleviate some potential headaches.

   Now, I assume that, if you where interested in running Banner ads above the fold, you would be already. But for the sake of readers, I'm going to go over how we could run a banner ad as well.

   Header banners are rarely a good idea if you want to make money off your comic. While they look great, they take up valuable space that could be working for you to bring in a little more cash, via third party ads, or by alerting readers to your own store deals. Therefore I am a huge proponent of the sidesaddle logo. That would be a square or nearly square logo that can sit next to an advertising banner at the top.

   The header image actually works very well though, believe it or not. The skeleton and Vampire tell us right away what we can expect, without having read any of the archives. And the logo font helps set a great mood. But there's one extraneous item we could get rid of. The haunted mansion. While it does reinforce the theme, it doesn't really say much that isn't already said by the anthropomorphic skeleton.

   If we where to dump that image, and place the cast OVER the logo, we've suddenly created a sidesaddle logo, kept the key elements, and freed up a great deal of space that can now run a full sized  banner ad.


Now, with a LITTLE bit of reworking on the side saddle logo, to decrease its width, You could even fit a LEADERBOARD Ad up there!

Well, That about sums up my advice. Over all you have a good site. While you could tighten it up a tiny bit, you're not bad off as it is. Keep up the good work!Until next time...

~Jarred D. Leverton

Offline CorvusErebus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2010, 12:47:42 AM »
Like that 10 minute Logo there? I hope so because I don't plan to make a real one in the next couple weeks.  ;D

And yes, I appreciate the irony of running a website review on a webpage that still uses tables.

I'm working on it! :'(
« Last Edit: January 15, 2010, 01:08:14 AM by CorvusErebus »

Offline Alectric

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2010, 01:42:36 AM »
I'm quite impressed by how you showed what you were talking about so well, manipulating a single screenshot to create many believable versions of the site.

Although, it would be nice to have the review go section by section (home, archives, about, etc.) along with a screenshot for each, and any edited screenshots of ways to improve them.  Basically, I liked the way you reviewed the home page, but I wish you'd have done that for every page.  You mention the archives, but don't show anything, so it's not quite as convenient and immediately understandable as when you're talking about the home page.

But seriously, good job!

And thus ends the first On-Site Reviews Review. ;D

mwytrykus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2010, 01:53:40 AM »
A couple counter-points, if I may, since it is my site and all.

Before I begin though, I would like to thank you for going so easy on my site. I was expecting a slightly harsher critique, but that's mostly because I myself am never truly satisfied with my site layout. Now on to my counter-points.

Above the Fold: I'm not too concerned about this, as my comic is usually a standard four-panel strip and the site looks like this:


Once I finish the current storyline, it will return to the smaller format.

Spreading the Word: You probably just missed it, because it's not that large or directly beneath the comic, but there is a ShareThis button below the comic info. I have been thinking about more prominent placing of that. But it is there. If you look closely, you can see it in the above screenshot.

Colors: I'm always playing around with color schemes. That's the area I'm never happy with. I'll keep your suggestions in mind next time I tinker with it. I had a lighter background in the past with black text. I may at some point return to that.

Quote
   I also noticed your archives. While the archives themselves are fairly straightforward, The about page, and front page sidebar both list 'Storylines”. They aren't mentioned on your archive page either. These SEEM to take you to different parts of the archive, but the completion of the storyline doesn't lead in to the next part of the archive. This is a little confusing, and has me wondering about continuity. Keeping this all sorted out on the archive page might alleviate some potential headaches.

This is something that I haven't really thought about. The storyline DOES take you to a different archive. There's a date based one and a storyline based one. The Archive page is the date based one, all comics in chronological order of publication. The storyline is listed in order of when the stories take place, which is pretty much the same order as the date archive. The comic is fairly linear. Once upon a time, several site versions ago, there was a navigation that took you from one storyline to another. I've thought about simply dropping the storyline list and putting a dropdown underneath the comic. I dunno, I kind of prefer the story based archive, as a date based one never made a lot of sense to me. I will contemplate ways to make this less confusing. Thanks for bringing this point to my attention.

Leaderboards: You are correct in that if I wanted to use them, I would be already. I really don't have a need for them right now as my site doesn't get enough traffic to warrant one. In fact, I have more ads already than I should have. If my site ever increases in popularity, I may add one. But then I would probably just try to work it in above the header and just make some things smaller to keep it all above the fold.

Thanks again for your suggestions. It's reassuring to know that I am doing most of the stuff correctly with my site. But there's always room for improvement.

Offline CorvusErebus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2010, 03:03:44 AM »
You should seriously consider changing your marketing tools method anyway. I spent a full day scouring your site for stuff to mention, and I never associated that little text link with your comic. I know there will be a lot of readers who miss it too. Take a look at Trevors implementation. http://www.takacomics.com/ Try asking him how he set it up. It's really one of the best methods I've seen. Evil Inc uses the same thing.

mwytrykus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2010, 04:44:07 AM »
You should seriously consider changing your marketing tools method anyway. I spent a full day scouring your site for stuff to mention, and I never associated that little text link with your comic. I know there will be a lot of readers who miss it too. Take a look at Trevors implementation. http://www.takacomics.com/ Try asking him how he set it up. It's really one of the best methods I've seen. Evil Inc uses the same thing.

I took a look at their sites and it appears that Trevor is using the Sociable plug-in for WordPress. I checked it out and I like it better than the ShareThis plugin I was using. Although it seems that there is a way to get the ShareThis plugin to work the same way, but you have to contact their support and I don't feel like doing that right now. It was simpler to switch over to Sociable. I have it placed on the right side of the page, directly beneath the comic. Take a look and let me know what you think: http://www.grimstone.net/2000/10/09/an-afterlife-less-ordinary/
« Last Edit: January 15, 2010, 06:12:55 AM by Mike Wytrykus »

Offline Rob

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2010, 09:14:28 AM »
Went to your site to check out the social networking change (and it is definitely more visible now) and sae something interesting.



Enjoy the 3 cents or whatever.  :D


It's a small world after all.... it's a small world after all...

Offline thedugs

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2010, 11:02:52 AM »
Regardless of my opinion of the comic in question (and for the record, I really like the layout of grimstone.net... easy to navigate between storys, individual comics etc. I have no problems with scrolling down to read a comic.) I think this is an excellent use of this site- to post reviews and constructive criticism of different comic site.

Very good review.
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TakaComics

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2010, 02:11:24 PM »
I took a look at their sites and it appears that Trevor is using the Sociable plug-in for WordPress. I checked it out and I like it better than the ShareThis plugin I was using. Although it seems that there is a way to get the ShareThis plugin to work the same way, but you have to contact their support and I don't feel like doing that right now. It was simpler to switch over to Sociable. I have it placed on the right side of the page, directly beneath the comic. Take a look and let me know what you think: http://www.grimstone.net/2000/10/09/an-afterlife-less-ordinary/

That is much better. Noticeable and people recognize those icons, so they know what they will do.

Offline jeffa

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2010, 03:07:23 PM »
Regardless of my opinion of the comic in question (and for the record, I really like the layout of grimstone.net... easy to navigate between storys, individual comics etc. I have no problems with scrolling down to read a comic.) I think this is an excellent use of this site- to post reviews and constructive criticism of different comic site.

Very good review.

I very much agree about the value of doing critiques here. Excellent use of the facilities!

Good analysis of the site design too.

I agree that your new social link is better, Mike. The old one was easy to miss.

I'm in the process of redesigning my site and this article has given me some good ideas.

Maybe when I'm done with my redesign I'll get up the nerve to submit it for review. Lord knows I don't want anyone reviewing it at the moment!

jeffa

mwytrykus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2010, 03:39:25 PM »
Thanks everyone. This has been a very useful and constructive discussion. I hope this is a trend that continues on this site. I'm feeling pretty good about the site right now. NOw it's time to focus on the comic itself :)

Offline CorvusErebus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2010, 12:47:13 AM »
Indeed, a great deal better! Though, if you could get it up in the white area, it would work even better. ;) (And yes I realize the white is the image. You'd have to wrap the comic in a white field to do that. Yes I know how much work that can entail, and No, I don't expect you'll have the time to do it.  :P)

Offline Swaptrick

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2010, 04:19:39 PM »
This was a very good article that featured an informative review and breakdown of function and quality of a web comic site. This is very useful information for any web comic artist or writer whether they have been doing this for a while or are very new to the game.

Offline zieglarf

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2010, 02:38:05 PM »
I've got two problems with the review.

1) You didn't link the comic you're reviewing. That seems like a common sense thing to do, IMO.

2) The comic has not updated in 3 months. It seems to me, that a review would be better for everyone if the comic was still going.

Other than that I though it was good and agreed with your points.

mwytrykus

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Re: onSite Reviews: grimstone.net
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2010, 06:13:02 PM »
2) The comic has not updated in 3 months. It seems to me, that a review would be better for everyone if the comic was still going.

And if he was reviewing the comic itself, I would have to agree with you. But I do not see how my update schedule is relevant to the design & layout of the site. A well designed site is a well designed site, and a poorly designed site is a poorly designed site. The frequency of the content is not going to change that.