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onSite Reviews:

Started by CorvusErebus, January 28, 2010, 11:46:42 PM

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Okay. Today we'll be reviewing Sacred Grounds. Hold on tight and lets dig in!

Okay. From the outset, I'm going to be completely honest with you. There's nothing really good about this website. I thought for a while about how to present this review without hurting anybody. After a while though, I came to the decision that I would be doing you all a disservice by sugarcoating this article. You're here to learn, and I'm here to teach, and we can't do that if we let our feelings get too involved. So let's get down to business.


Well, The good news is that almost everything on the site is "Above The Fold". The bad news is, there's still too much wasted space. Much too much. For a website this sparse, I shouldn't be seeing a scrollbar with a 900 pixel tall view port. The banner is far too tall, and the padding too large. It just wastes so much space presenting nothing. We'll address both these issues further in to the article.


Nothing really works here. I can't say that the colour choices are bad really. Red and Gold can certainly work in theory. But not like this. The stock coffee bean backing sprinkled around feels like a generic windows 95 wallpaper. I understand it's supposed to be a coffee theme (I think), but it just isn't working.

What we need to do s establish a pallet. You've done the first step, which is picking two primaries. Red will act as our dark base colour, and gold will be our lighter accenting colour. But now we need to tweak those colours, and expand the pallet just a bit.

The red will work as a deep backdrop colour, but the gold is far too dark to act as an accent colour. We'll need to lighten it up just a bit. Try #FFFF66 (R255 G255 B102). A nice yellow that will act as a bright accent. Of course, you may find another colour you prefer. The point is to brighten up that secondary colour!

Now we'll also need to expand the pallet. You have your polarized primary colours. But now what about the more subtle colours in between? What colour will your text backdrop be? Will you use a separate colour for your comic area? You need to block out all your primary regions, and decide what colours each one will use.

I also notice you're writing in gold. This is just wrong. It's been wrong since the end of the nineties, and with any luck, will be wrong for the duration of the Internet. Coloured text is harder to read, becomes an eyesore, and is just generally considered tacky. Header text is acceptable, but colouring all your text? Keep your primary text black (or in some extreme cases, white).

Finally, the backdrop photo. Now, photos can successfully be used as a backdrop. However, not only is this the wrong photo to use, it's a long way from a finished backdrop image. It's loud, distracting, and generally feels unrelated to your comic. Learning how to make a photo blend in to a website subtly is a bit of an art that I can't explain in a paragraph or two. My best advice is to simply not do it right now.

*Note: I'm sure after this is published, I'll get links to a dozen sites that use coloured text. Out of these dozen, Three will use it well. Trust me however, you're not one of those three. Only very experienced designers can pull off coloured text.*

BANNER - 0/5

First of all, this banner is HUGE! The smallest width I could get this down to was 1084 Pixels. Current statistics ( agree that approximately 25% of the Internet using populace run at 1024x768 resolution. While this number fluctuates, and is decreasing rapidly, that's a quarter of the Internet that will see a scrollbar at the bottom of their browser for no reason. The rule of thumb for designers right now is Nothing wider the 900 Pixels. I think 925 to 950 are the most extreme widths I've seen acceptable.

But the real question here should be "What Banner?" Once again, we have the generic coffee beans, with some generic pixel font. It's taking up a HUGE amount of space, and is generally telling me nothing. My advice here is to scrap the whole affair.

Redesign a simple banner or sidesaddle logo at half height, and no more then 900 pixels width. The key words here being redesign. Nothing here works, and that includes the aliased not-quite-papyrus text we have here. Logo design is another topic deserving of it's own article, so I won't attempt to condense years of advice in to a few paragraphs. Just do your research, and ask for tips and opinions from people you know have good design skills.


You get a point for a decent theoretical layout. Not much else though. While the three columns with the sidebar blog had potential, It's ruined by 1990s esque table borders, huge padding, and the overall poor design flaws I've mentioned throughout this article. There are so many things wrong with the site that I really can't give you advice on how to fix this, because it depends FAR too heavily on what choices you make in the earlier parts of the article. But the layout has promise. A three column layout could really work.


There's not much to say here. You aren't using any social tools that I can find. Take a look at some other reviewed sites to get a good idea on how to approach this.


Once again, I'm forced to ask "What Content"? There isn't even a cast page, or any way to contact you. I can't grade what doesn't exist.

TOTAL – 0.5 out of 5

In closing, Here is my advice. It's clear to me you don't understand a great deal about HTML/CSS or PHP coding, or design. As such, take the two colours you've chosen, and scrap everything else. I recommend installing a basic content management system. ComicPress ( is good because it will do all the designing for you. You can tweak the colours, add a banner, and have a passable site without too much work. It will also automate the comic uploading process, and give you a much better blog interface. I have a suspicion these are both being updated by hand. Then as you learn more (Or hire a designer) you could look at a custom theme, or other less automated content systems.

I really hope that I didn't upset or offend too many people with this article. But consider it an indicator of things to come. The first couple of websites where really fantastic. But it's not all lollipops and gumdrops here. I'm here to tell you the honest truth about your websites, not hold your hands.

NEXT WEEK: We review Hallow! Keep up the Coding. EXCELSIOR!


You did a good job of breaking bad news in an encouraging way.  You gave some good advice!

For the folks at Sacred Grounds: If you'd like help setting up a comicpress site, hit me up on Twitter and I'd be happy to help!


Ooh, that was pretty harsh.  I'm getting nervous for when it's my turn.  :-[

Though I do agree with the review.  I think what nags at me the most is how the comic itself doesn't really integrate with the site design.

Comicpress is a viable option, though (as I'm certain Xade would tell you) there are others you might want to consider, like hosting sites such as Drunk Duck or Comic Genesis.


Yes, but, as I'm sure I'll have to tell Xade, Comicpress is still the easiest of all CMS's out there to jump in and use (I know this from experience). It's also the best looking out of the box. And I'll never reccomend any one who's serious about comics use a free and in my opinion sub-par host, when they already own webspace.


Good review. Fair but not intentionally mean. I'm sure Westly knew there were issues at the site. Hopefully, if Westly wants the help, we can come together and get something a bit better going for them over at Sacred Grounds.

The art deserves something better.  ;)


Quote from: CorvusErebus on January 29, 2010, 12:30:05 AM
Yes, but, as I'm sure I'll have to tell Xade, Comicpress is still the easiest of all CMS's out there to jump in and use (I know this from experience). It's also the best looking out of the box. And I'll never reccomend any one who's serious about comics use a free and in my opinion sub-par host, when they already own webspace.

That's not necessarily true--the one thing I have always hated about comicspress is the archives. They're ugly and often will list like 5 comics per page with huge thumbnails. That's one of the reasons I've choses Smackjeeves Premium over my own webspace. The other is that, as much as Comicpress totes versatility and ease of use, and makes comics look 'good', wordpress was not designed to host comics.  Smackjeeves is, and has every function I could ever want for a webcomic, laid out in a simple way with excellent and fast tech support. It's also completely customizable--I don't even need to link to smackjeeves, but chose to because it's been so good to me, I can post my own ads and gain revenue from them (I don't, but I could if I wanted to) and the way it is coded makes making it look however I wanted very, very simple.

On top of that, it's easy to do things like: remove comments entirely, ban users and spambots, easy upload and chapter organization, attaching a domain name to your account instead of the typical sj url, and most importantly for those who feel like using smackjeeves doesn't make you a serious comic artist, the ability to completely disassociate yourself with smackjeeves.


I happen to use ComicPress myself, and I actually like it so far.  I only didn't want it to seem like the only option.  But Ran, I happen to think the archives are one of ComicPress's best features.  Go take a look at mine, I'm very satisfied with it.  But the whole point is that it's customizable, and does a lot of complicated things for you automatically, like generating links and thumbnails.  And, you can set the size and number of thumbnails for each page to whatever you want.

Also, pretty much every other feature you described can be done with ComicPress quite easily.


Unless comicspress's inner workings have drastically changed since the last time I used them, I can tell you that the organizational tools of comicspress cannot compare to SJ's comics panel for chapter organization and uploading. Also, I find that all comicspress pages tend to look exactly the same no matter how customized--I can absolutely tell that they are comicspress pages, and I think they're kind of ugly. Seriously, make a dummy account at SJ and check out their chapter/page management system and you'll see what I mean.


Yeah, I use comicpress and for the life of me, I just can't get the archives running well. To be fair, I suck at coding. Besides that, though, I really like it. Once you get it set up it's pretty easy to use the UI... with a few exceptions.

Also, Corvus takes out the claws on this one! All of the criticism was entirely constructive, though.

Please don't feed the ancient deities.

Dr. BlkKnight

Harsh, but I have to agree with it.

Also remember that I'm working on my own system, so if there's something you'd like to see implemented (or eventually implemented) let me know.


Just want to add a note that I really like the comic. The website needs work, but the comic is good.

I'm the kind of person who hates to do critiques because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but the review was right on the money.

ComicPress does make it easy to put up a good looking, well functioning site with fairly minimal effort. There are lots of themes available too.

One tool that can help with the whole color scheme picking deal is adobe's kuler

This does feel a bit like staging an intervention. "We love you and we're here to help you make changes for the better."  :D


I should mention that MotA is run on an alternative to ComicPress developed by a webcomic type named J.D.. He's done some amazing things. Its a pretty potent engine.


Quote from: jeffa on January 29, 2010, 05:44:59 PM
One tool that can help with the whole color scheme picking deal is adobe's kuler

That is a really nice site. *bookmark'd*


Okay. I feel the need to clarify something. I'm not recommending the most powerful CMS. I'm not recommending the most flexible CMS. I'm not recommending the prettiest CMS. I'm recommending what I FEEL in MY experience to be the easiest to use CMS for beginners.

It's great that you all understand the diversity of CMS's. I prefer Drupal myself for just about everything. One day I'd like to write a neutral POV article on the multiverse of CMSs that exist. But that's not what this is about. I know some of you feel like you chose the best CMS out there for comics. I get that. But this isn't about what CMS is best. This was me telling her what, in my opinion is the best CMS for beginners, who want to keep their hosting. I just wanted to clarify, I'm not a ComicPress Fanboy. I'm not trying to poopoo any ones choices.

Smack Jeeves looks pretty great Ran. But unless some one says they don't like/want their current host, I'm not recommending anything they can't install on their own server. There's a sense of pride some people take in paying for thier own chunk of the interweb, and I'm not going to recommend they deflate that.

Quote from: JeffaOne tool that can help with the whole color scheme picking deal is adobe's kuler

Great find Jeffa. Bookmarked as well.


Hey there!

I'm gonna start off by saying I really appreciate what you've done, and I'm super glad that there's folks out there to help me.  Please read the following with sincerity, and no sarcasm, because I am being very sincere, and would love to have a site that is lovely to look at!  I do appreciate the help and lack of sugar, High Fructose Corn Syurp or any other sweetening product!  A harsh, helpful crit IS actually what I was looking for!

I do know it needs a lot of work, and it's not 'finished' yet (I've been busy building other projects!  ^_^ like my adorable fursuit! ) but I will be the first to admit that I don't like trying to jam my ideas into stuff that other people build (IE Comicpress or any other Website-tonight ideas) and would rather try to figure out how to make something that looks nice on my own, and not rely on other people's code (Which is why I write all of mine myself, by hand, no WYSIWYG! I am rather new at it, but you learn by doing, y'know?)  Lack of content is because I have yet to rebuild it from the first version of the site.  Trust me, Character bios used to be there!

I may take some of the kind folks up on just getting the comic up and running with ComicPress... I'll hit MattStout and Rob up for help on getting Comic press up on my site!  I really do appreciate it! 

I'll also continue to keep developing my site in the background (I love learning this stuff too much to just give it up!), so that I can work on improving it even as I use ComicPress.  Does anyone have any good dead-tree format books that would be helpful for designing this sort of thing?

Thank you again!  And I'm looking forward to learning from other people's sites as well!

Owner, Sacred Grounds