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Author Topic: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana  (Read 7980 times)

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Offline CorvusErebus

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onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« on: March 19, 2010, 12:47:21 AM »
Okay. Today we'll be reviewing Mysteries of the Arcana. Hold on tight and lets dig in!


All right. Today we have an exceptionally average site. While it scores very well in a couple of places, the over all site tends towards a cluttered distracting sight. A few changes could really improve eye focus and site flow.

ABOVE THE FOLD - 3/5

The biggest issue with the AtF rating is bloat. Everything feels slightly chunkier then it needs to be. A slight size reduction would net a solid 4.

USE OF COLOUR - 2/5

While the theme itself is obvious, the colours chosen could use some work. A vibrant green and purple are competing for my attention. This causes less focus on the primary website content. A more subdued background colour (of one colour!) will alleviate this. Perhaps a pea green, or violet.

The important thing is that you need to pick a dominant colour. Either Green, Or purple needs to become your primary.

BANNER - 2/5

It acuratly delivers your update schedule, and provides an identity. Unfortunately, the background is still fighting for attention, and the white text is noticed as an afterthought. Finally, it could stand to be smaller, and the logo text could be brought out more.

NAVIGATION & LAYOUT - 4/5

The site has really good navigation and layout. You even have comic navigation buttons above and bellow the comic, which is an often overlooked benefit for long form comics because it speeds up the ability to browse you archives without scrolling.

The only downside to your layout is the sidebar. At present it feels cluttered and bloated. It could easily be reduced to half its current width, and give the comic much more page dominance. As it stands, the comic feels almost shunned to the side.

SOCIAL TOOLS - 2.5/5

While you have no “Share This” tools ( A common complaint in these reviews), you make up for it in a few ways. First, you have your twitter prominently positioned, along with your E mail and RSS. You are very easy to socialize with both in public and private.

Second, you have a Forum! But it's not really being all that it can be. First and foremost, you're sharing forums rather then running a dedicated forum, meaning that, among other things, it looks like another community, not an extension of your site. The people who will participate in your forum will be your readership. You aren't really going to gain a lot of readers by sharing forums.

See, You're banking on having a lot of overlap with other comics, but in truth, that's rarely the case. More often then not your efforts will be better spent (From a marketing and brand building perspective) building something catered exclusively to the needs of YOUR community. Unless you and all these other comics are planning to merge and build a brand (Not a collective mind you, but an actual brand), then your efforts would all be better spent catering to your own unique needs.

If you're too small for a full dedicated forum, you could try a comment thread style forum, such as the one used by Sheldon and Evil Inc. But this members only forum that belongs to some one else will really alienate more then it will help.

Still, A+ for effort.

Get some form of dedicated on site forum for a solid 3.

Add tools like Sociable or the like for a solid 3.5 (Or 4 if you also fallow the above tip)

SECONDARY CONTENT - 4/5

I have no complaints or comments here. There's plenty of content. A well written about Page, a solid cast page, plenty of Extras. Bravo.

TOTAL – 3 out of 5

Over all the site isn't bad. At first glance it feels garish and unorganized. But upon closer examination, all it needs is some resizing on the header and side bar, some slight tweaking to the colour scheme to choose just one primary, and a little extra work on the Banner to bring the focus more on the logo and less on the background pictures.

For Extra Credit, consolidate your community so it feels like YOUR community, not an extension of some one else.

NEXT WEEK: We review Crossing Death!

Offline JGray

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2010, 07:17:36 AM »
I'll reserve my own comments for the moment. I'm curious what other people think of the review.

Offline ran

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2010, 10:21:57 AM »
I agree on all points, save for the forum--usually if people are sharing forums, they are sharing for a reason. Forums are hard to keep going unless you're LICD or CAD, and unless you have a really hardcore following, you're going to have  amostly inactive forum. I'd keep the shared forum until your fanbase is larger.

Offline Alectric

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2010, 12:10:42 PM »
My biggest complaint wasn't even mentioned, and that's the beige border you give everything.  It's...ugly.

Though I do like the green to purple gradient.  It seems like a part of your comic, given how long you've had it.  I'd just try to subdue it a little, but otherwise keep it.

Offline Gibson

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2010, 12:22:02 PM »
I disagree about the forums too, but I disagree with the idea that social networking tools in general are a measure of how good a comic's site is. Many very successful webcomics have little or none of it.

Offline amanda

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2010, 12:27:09 PM »
I do tend to agree on the sidebar needing to be slightly more narrow, but otherwise, I've never had an issue navigating or viewing the site ^.^
/

Offline Dragon Powered

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2010, 01:21:07 PM »
Actually, not a bad review at all.  The points are fairly accurate, though naturally I agree with some and disagree with others.  The color scheme is at first a little jarring, but it does exactly what it's intended to do, set the site apart from other average blog and comment sites.  It gives immediate color and warmth.  I agree the sidebar is too large and doesn't allow the comic to be the main focus.  The beige bar around everything is because the comic is based on the tarot, and is intended to give things the look of being captured within tarot cards.  Probably taking the border off the sidebar items and narrowing it a bit would bring focus in better.

As for the forum and social tool, MotA does have it's own dedicated forum as well as little niceties to encourage interaction with it's readers.  However, being that the comic is fairly new and just really building it's readership up, the forums were seldom posted in.  Even though J Gray made a point to post a new topic for discussion with each new comic, the number of replies were so sparse it made it seem a little sad.  So he moved his forum to a shared community with other like minded comickers.  He's stated before that he expects to return to his own dedicated forum once there is enough interest to make it strong.

There are a couple of other little things, which I've mentioned to J Gray myself, but overall I think Mysteries of the Arcana does what it is supposed to.

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2010, 02:40:31 PM »
On the color scheme, here's a rule of thumb. Pick a base color. Now everything else is an accent. When home designers talk about accent colors, they are talking about little pops of color around the room. In this case, the room is your website. You wouldn't paint half a room one color and half another color. You'd pick one for your walls, corresponding colors for your furniture, and an accent color that leads your eye around easily. In website design, think of your site's background as your wall, your framework as your furniture, and things like icons, hover colors, and even text, as your accent.

Here's another thought about that background. You have the two colors merging together, and they have their own side. This splits your site and makes the readers not focus on your content. If you make one color, say the purple, run down the middle with the green at either side, it would give your content a place to live, and a place for readers to focus their eyes.



Granted this is just a quick Photoshop edit, but you can see that, even with those colors that I'd agree have to be changed, you can still have a focal point.

Offline JGray

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2010, 03:40:45 PM »
I'll be posting more indepth at a later time, when I have a moment to sit down. :)

First, I might paint half a room one color and half another. I think that's a rather neat idea.

Second, the colors serve a purpose. Most people might miss it consciously but I suspect it filters into the subcon. The green is Theresa. The purple is Chrys. Putting one color at the center implies an importance the character doesn't have. This is a cooperative ensemble. :) True, Theresa's on the left and, so, more prominent since as a society we think from left to right, but I'm okay with that since she's the viewpoint character.

A little highbrow, maybe. But this is a tarot inspired comic. Symbolism's important. There's a meaning behind almost everything, visually, from the page design to the background elements of the comic pages.

Offline ran

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2010, 04:05:10 PM »
I'll be posting more indepth at a later time, when I have a moment to sit down. :)

First, I might paint half a room one color and half another. I think that's a rather neat idea.

Second, the colors serve a purpose. Most people might miss it consciously but I suspect it filters into the subcon. The green is Theresa. The purple is Chrys. Putting one color at the center implies an importance the character doesn't have. This is a cooperative ensemble. :) True, Theresa's on the left and, so, more prominent since as a society we think from left to right, but I'm okay with that since she's the viewpoint character.

A little highbrow, maybe. But this is a tarot inspired comic. Symbolism's important. There's a meaning behind almost everything, visually, from the page design to the background elements of the comic pages.

I'm kind of curious--why ask for an on-site review if you're not interested in making any of the suggested changes? Also, I highly doubt that anyone is going to read all that deeply into your website's background gradient. I'm not trying to offend you or anything, but from a designer's point of view, your website lacks balance and is really kind of boring to the point that it looks really out of date. It uses colours that don't really look all that great together when considering how you've used them, and feels very empty and clunky overall.

You don't need to make every change suggested--you don't need to make *any* changes suggested, actually, but if you don't, then its's still going to stay boring and clunky. It's up to you. Your response just seemed overly defensive when it really shouldn't be; you asked for this, remember?

Offline Gibson

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2010, 04:39:52 PM »
Symbolism's important.

This is true, but there are other important things as well, a big one being the aesthetic. Ask yourself, would you rather have symbolism (even if it's pretty vague symbolism that you have to explain because people don't pick up on it) or readers (without whom the symbolism doesn't mean much)? There's also a matter of laying it on too thick...you can ruin a story or an image or a web page design very easily by trying to do too much. Also, and I think this is key, just because you like it doesn't mean it works. That's why authors and artists have editors, because we don't always know best.

There's a balance between what's substantive and what's pretty. I think what's being said is that you may not have found a good balance.

Offline JGray

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2010, 04:45:30 PM »
I'm kind of curious--why ask for an on-site review if you're not interested in making any of the suggested changes?

Who said I wasn't? :)  I'm doing a site overhaul soon. The background is something I plan on changing.

Trust me, if I were defensive, there'd be angry typing. My keys are tranquil.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2010, 04:48:58 PM by JGray »

Offline Miluette

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2010, 07:25:32 PM »
This review is essentially what I've wanted to say about the MotA site for a while but hadn't been able to vocalize eloquently. (It adds up to be an "okay" site, pretty much.)

I disagree about the forums, too; if you're too small to have your own forum, shared forums are great. Webcomic readers who comment on good/similar comics and join forums are likely to be on shared forums already. No need to sign up to yet another website! I know I don't join individual comic forums anymore for this reason.

The color scheme is ugly. Purple, green, and beige do not go together. (I've seen maybe one site that used purple/green well in tandem; it was impressive, but I forgot what it was now, lol.) Purple and green are colors often used in combination to evoke a sense of disgust in the viewer; they're also associated sometimes with sickness and disease. (Y'know in RPGs how "Poison" or "Sick" status are always purple or green?) I like how your characters have color schemes, but the only place the purple and green should remain is in the header image. Not the background. The background is so ugly. I'm sorry, it makes me weep, both color-wise and gradient-wise (gradients are okay sometimes). Along with the beige. It may evoke the feeling of cards, but I personally just don't like the look of it/think it can be done better. Like a layout that actually looked like cards' borders. That'd be awesome. I'd spend more time on a site like that-- a site that makes me as a viewer feel comfortable. Right now it's fine organizationally, but the design is just...eehhh. It's honestly why I don't check your site as often as I'd like to... Yes, I do visit sites that are easier to look at with more frequency. (And I read sites/comics that are less than attractive in RSS readers...lol)

I strongly agree with the sidebar thing too. It's so very distracting, and on every single page.

This is slightly off topic, but I also hate your logo, because it gives special emphasis to only one word, with the rest virtually disappearing at lower sizes, being near-unreadable at large sizes, and no with alternatives when it comes to size reproduction. I'd look into it. It drives me crazy after having taken a Corporate ID class. XD;;; I'm sorry, ILU JGray.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2010, 07:30:07 PM by Senshuu »

Offline JGray

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2010, 07:57:51 PM »
Logo re-design is also in my plans. :)

Luv you too, jess.

Offline Rob

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Re: onSite Reviews - Mysteries Of the Arcana
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2010, 09:11:04 PM »
I've already written my thoughts on this site.

I think MotA has a great site with a niche theme for a starting webcomic which is fine. They just turned a year old and so they are a starting webcomic.

I think the consensus is you are going to have to up your game on site design if you want to go to the next level.

But, and this may be a topic for discussion in another thread; I'm learning that a lot of the "traditional" rules of web design don't necessarily apply all that well to webcomics and that many of the most successful sites tend to break those rules in some way or another.

And I honestly believe that to get to that professional level of site design, for a webcomic, takes a very special person/designer who understands presentation, marketing, merchandising, entertainment and the social elements of webcomickry that just aren't present in the majority of folks who design websites.

It's trickier than I ever thought it was. Even following all the rules won't get you a great site.