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Author Topic: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You  (Read 6436 times)

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Offline Dragon Powered

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Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« on: April 30, 2010, 12:07:46 AM »

Welcome back to those wild college days, everyone. We are about to join a sorrowful Peter, aka 'Slugger', as he retells his days of sex, drugs and, well, rock-n-roll and the friends he found and lost along the way.

Review Site: Pictures of You, by Gibson Twist

FIRST IMPRESSION:
I remember when I was little my grandmother made this bread that was absolutely horrible smelling. When we opened the door I thought, wow, Grampa's had way too many beans. She actually called it "Stink-bread". That bread was one of the most wonderful tasting things I've ever eaten, but had it not been from my grandmother, I never would have tried it.

That brings me to my first impression of Pictures of You. Upon first visiting the site you're greeted with this message:


Granted, the theme of the comic is not for kids, but this message makes one think "Ok, this is a porn site." Hmm, let me check my anti-virus. Yep, all updated, click OK to have my eyeballs seared and my computer infected. But that's not what happens. What's inside is something worth finding.

*Load Speed: 8
The site is not graphic heavy and loads quickly, once past the warning message.

*Color Mix: 9
The colors of the site not only work together well, but also set the mood for the comic itself.

LAYOUT:

*Content vs Layout: 7
Although the overall layout flows with the comic content, the divisions on the main page can confuse. The main page contains a blog on the right side which is in a borderless division. The blog cuts off at the bottom of the page, and the page doesn't scroll, so you need to place your pointer over the blog and scroll to read it. There is a scrollbar on the right side of the window, but it gives the feeling the page itself scrolls while only a small portion actually does. Plus, when reading through the blog you see it's dated June of 2009, nearly a year ago. This gives the site a feeling of not being updated, even though it updates three times a week.

I would suggest keeping the left side layout but replacing the blog with a teaser image of the current comic. Also, get rid of that terrible popup warning and place a disclaimer warning with the teaser image, either above or below. I like the character image on the left with the links that flow around it, perhaps you could expand that with a script that changes the image to another character with each visit.

*Ease of use / Navigation: 9
The navigation is easy to find, and easy to use. It's nice that the navigation division stays in the same place while reading the comic or the comments but it limits what you can do with that area. At least in the comic section the non-scrolling division is a very small portion of the page, so you don't have to think of where your pointer is when scrolling (usually). The addition of a "Favorites" link to save your place is nice, especially considering the size of the archives and the amount of reading involved.

*Clutter: 6
The home page is very clean, but when reading the comic you find a pile of icon links under the comic image, separating it from the comments area. There are so many image links there that they become a forest, and to really 'see' them you have to stop and study them, something I don't believe most readers will do. It's been noted that readers don't see the Donate button, even when they look for one. However, all the clutter is contained in one place, kind of like cleaning your room by sweeping everything into a pile in the corner.

I'd suggest adding two more pages to the site, one to display your Recommended Reading in a nice format, and another for your Comic Resources. Take your Donate and Vote buttons and place them under your navigation links on the left side, they'll be easy to find there and would be where most people would look first. Also, make the links division able to be scrolled in some way, or let it scroll with the page. There are already navigation links along the bottom of the comic, so scrolling the sidebar with the page wouldn't hurt anything.

*Ads & Placement: 6
I see three ad banners, one at the top of the comic, and two lost in the clutter below it. There is also one small banner at the top of the blog on the main page. The ads could actually all stay the same and be much more valuable if the excess link images were cleared.

TOP-DOWN IMPRESSION: 7
The basic layout allows for a large format comic, which is well drawn and written. The black background doesn't distract, and actually works with the darkly emotional feel of the comic. The background used for the comments works with the style, but the comments themselves seem awkwardly laid out. Text flows around and under the commentor's avatar (which is a bit largish), making it feel out of place. The ads and links under the comic get quickly skipped over to get to the comments.
 
*Information: 5
The website is primarily the comic, and that's pretty much all there is. The meta description, while accurate for the home page, doesn't change with the comics, nor does the meta title. There are no biographies or introductions for the characters that I can find, they introduce themselves throughout the comic story. There isn't much information about the author, aside from the outdated blog. Contact information is a simple email link, which could do better as a form, and result in a lot less spam. Plus a contact page could give other information such as convention schedules and other projects.

*Secondary Content: 4
There is no secondary content, aside from the Archives, which are laid out similar to the home page except the blog is replaced with the archive list. The archives seem small at first, listed by chapter with a few links under the chapter, but each link opens a sub chapter with lots of page links.

*Social Content: 4
There are comments on the comics and that is the only social aspect. Each comic does have a large number of comments, which indicates a fairly dedicated readership. I think forums would be a nice addition, along with other social tools to encourage reader feedback. I would think there would be a nice selection of fanart with such a readership. A gallery for it would be a good thing to add.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8
The popup warning upon first entering should go away. I can't even imagine how many new readers are turned away by that. Certainly the comic is not for children, with recreational drug use, profanity, and some nudity, but none of it is extreme. Not enough to warrant that kind of warning.

The layout sets the mood for the story, which is thoughtful and very well written. The art of the comic is good. The site would benefit by some additional pages with extra content, and some social tools. It would be nice if the comic pages had their own descriptions, but the warning popup probably keeps them from being indexed anyway. The author does provide a descriptive comment as the leading comment with each comic.

*Overall Rating: 7
Good artwork, compelling story, fairly pleasing look. The warning is worse than anything contained in the comic.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading novels and is old enough not to be offended by occassional profanity and drug use.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2010, 11:10:24 AM by Rob »

Offline ran

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2010, 08:37:16 AM »
The problem with the mature warning box is that smackjeeves requires comics with mature content to have it. Dan, owner of smackjeeves is a fan of Pictures Of You, has asked Gib to include the popup.

Gib--a long time ago you asked me if it would be possible to set up on comicpress a certain way. Back then, I had no idea how to custom comicpress, and it was a much older version hat was clunky and horrble. I'm confident enough in my design skills now that I could likely set it up for you, exactly how you want. Smackjeeves has been good to you, and while I can understand being reluctant to leave them, because it was a big point of debate with my latest endeavour, there comes a time when your intentions outgrow what smackjeeves can offer you.

It would be easy to set you and any of your comics up on your own space, and redirect your sj pages to the new location. My offer is still open, and if you think it's a good idea, I could start as soon as today.

Offline Gibson

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2010, 11:42:00 AM »
But how do you feel about that pop-up warning?

This is a fair review of the site, I think. Most of my quibbles would be semantic and not worth bringing up. The articles on the front page aren't a blog, they're just for site-related news of which there hasn't been any since June, but you're right that having it un-updated on the front page like that is a little offputting. The forest of links is something I've already been planning to remedy, it's there mostly because it's the only place I could figure out to put them with my very limited knowledge of coding. They don't look good, though, you're right.

The pop-up. A lot of people have complained about it and it was removed for a long time but, as Ran said, the administrator for my host insisted on it when the recent nudity happened. There isn't much I can do about it. I am thinking of changing the write-up to something a little softer, if I can, but short of changing hosts (which I'm not really interested in doing right now, sorry Ran) I'm stuck with the window. I do want some kind of warning, though, if only as a thin liability shield from angry parents. I think one pop-up when you first reach the site is better than the giant screen-sized banners that you have to scroll down through on every page like some sites I've seen, but your point is taken. I will work on a better solution.

As for the social tools, do you have any suggestions that aren't Facebook and/or Twitter? I am notoriously vocal in hating these things and I'm not ever going to put them on my site, not to mention the massive hypocrite I would look if I did. I'm not against social tools, per se, but every time someone says those words they mean Facebook and Twitter, and those aren't options.

Thanks very much for taking the time and giving me this feedback. It's definitely going to prove valuable. If you have any other suggestions (or if anyone does) I'd love to hear them. Also, thanks for the kind words about the story, it is appreciated!

Offline Dragon Powered

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2010, 03:22:04 PM »
Social Tools don't have to be the most well known toys out there, such as Facebook and Twitter. Each of those have their uses, if used well, but often just end up being a time sink and can do more harm than good if you have too many "friends" to respond to all of them.

When I mention social tools, I mean any kind of tool that allows interaction between both you and your fans and between your fans with other fans. A forum is probably one of the best tools, because your friends can have ongoing discussions about your story, and bounce ideas off each other even without much input from you. It provides an avenue for them to become friends of each other as well and gives you a free idea pool.  Setting up fan-art galleries lets your fans show their appreciation while receiving a bit of praise themselves. You could also set aside a place for fan-fiction written in the little world you've created.  Those are social tools, a gathering spot for fans to meet and greet while drinking from your creative well.

Forums and the like can be slow getting started, but if you know even one friendly and conversational fan to get things started you're ahead of the game. You can also do promotions, contests and the like.

Offline Alectric

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2010, 04:43:23 PM »
Formspring can be pretty nice to have, especially for webcomics.

I'm pretty sure my computer screen is a standard size, but it's definitely smaller than Gibson's and Dragon's, because for me the site cuts off right at the Sinister Squid Studios link.  I would try to condense the content or make it scaleable for those of us without such massive monitors.

The HOME link on your comic pages is unrecognizable as such...I'd give it an actual label.

...That's all I got.

Offline Dragon Powered

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2010, 05:21:15 PM »
I have two workstations I use, one is 1650 x 1080 and the other is 1920 x 1200.  Yeah, they're kind of largish, but when I view websites I use a browser window of roughly 1024 x 768.  Gibson's home page doesn't scroll on the left side, something I mentioned in the review, so if your view resolution is not very tall, or you have extra toolbars installed in your browser, you may not see everything on that left side.  That can be a problem when a division is set to absolute placement without scrolling, and is a very good point you bring up.

If your browser is an updated version, however, you can generally see that kind of content by sizing your view with CTRL - <scroll wheel>, or look in the View menu for Zoom.

Offline Alectric

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2010, 06:49:52 PM »
I actually meant it cuts off vertically.  As in my screen is not tall enough to fit the whole image.  But anyway, I didn't know about the zoom thing.  Neat!

Offline Gibson

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2010, 02:44:01 PM »
Setting up fan-art galleries lets your fans show their appreciation while receiving a bit of praise themselves. You could also set aside a place for fan-fiction written in the little world you've created.

Not as a disagreement but for the sake of information, I've never received any fan art. If I ever did, I would display it proudly, but none of the dozens of people who've said they were doing fan art have ever sent it to me. The closest I've come is someone doing a joke fan art with stick people and artists who draw Snapshots guest comics doing some sketches. I'd probably put up fanfics too if I ever got those. Also, with contests, I did try one last summer and received only one entry. I'm a little soured on contests, but one reader did ask if we were doing more of them, so maybe...

I'm still giving consideration to a forum, even though when I brought it up on-site the reaction was luke-warm with most respondents saying they wouldn't join. If anything, I would set it up so that readers could talk amongst each other when it came to the story. The entire series is already plotted and tends to take twists, so I wouldn't want to get too involved in that discussion. I'm also not really looking for ideas about the story itself, because it is fairly tightly woven, and I don't seem to have any shortage of people sending me ideas as it is. My suspicion on the forum is that my audience is generally too apathetic to join, out of a couple thousand people that read the series I have less than 40 who comment with any regularity, so I wouldn't have enough readers at the moment to get the percentage I'd need. Still, since there is so much interaction in the comments already, I am certainly considering it further.

Definitely, though, there is room to expand the social elements of the site, you're right. Planning the new site's gonna be a big job. I think I might need to learn html.

Offline Rob

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2010, 02:58:43 PM »
I think I might need to learn html.

One does not simply learn HTML



Offline ran

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2010, 08:56:18 AM »
Oddly enough, I did some fanart for you. I added it to an SJ meme, and then somehow forgot to ever mention it to you. Hm :S



Html is great and all, but you might want to learn a bit more about CSS. There are a variety of tools you can use to make it easier, and some that will even teach you how as you go. I think Enkida did most of the styles on your current site using them, because she looooves CSS.

Offline Gibson

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2010, 11:45:20 AM »
ooh! Swanky! That looks great! Yay, fan art! Thanks Ran!

Yes, now that you mention it, CSS is probably the better option.

Offline Dragon Powered

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2010, 12:40:53 PM »
Um, CSS and HTML are not exclusive of each other.

The web is built with Hypertext Markup Language, Cascading Style Sheets enhance it.

Offline Alectric

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Re: Dragon Does Reviews - Pictures Of You
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2010, 09:52:53 PM »
http://w3schools.com/

HTML, CSS, Javascript; whatever your needs, I highly recommend.  You're welcome. ;)