Monday, January 21, 2013

Poor Web Design Thoughts

By no means am I an expert in the field of web design. I'm a pure amateur in that field at best. I own a few domains and run at the moment 2 websites. ThePutzCast.com is a site for my more creative endeavours in hopes of creating a career out of entertainment and my personal blog Babies-On-Fire.com. Both very simple sites run on "blogger.com". Now I’m going to give you a small history on my history of "Web design".

I started working on my own personal blogs so I could have my own space on the internet for people to find me, not just YouTube or Facebook. I learned from the RoosterTeeth staff that it is best to have your own little space since at any point against my will sites like Facebook or YouTube can change any little thing and I'd have no real say on the matter. Being an amateur in web design and at the time having no knowledge of HTML or any code I chose Wordpress. With word press I made a few blogs and drifted from blog to blog learning slowly how to do things. From there I switched over to Blogger finding it to be more user-friendly as well as offering more options I could put into use with little code knowledge. I have personally found that to be the best blog/site hosting in my own opinion being that Wordpress requires money for a few of its features and Blogger does not have some of those features but requires no money for special features like widgets and scripts. From that point I decided to learn at least basic HTML coding. I've been studying it on my own for a little over a year. With this knowledge I'd like to give Wordpress a try again, but will more than likely stick with Blogger for my own uses.

With my own knowledge and history out of the way I am here to talk about a poorly designed site. Not poorly coded, just poorly planned and designed. I will use http://thezerolevel.com/ as an example of a bad design and as an obvious bias I will use my own site as an example of good design. I say this knowing full well this is extremely biased, that said I will say that my site at the moment is not flashing and is actually rather lacking in "style" but at the moment it is that way by choice. I am not talking about design in terms of style I'm talking about it terms use as well as simple looks. Firstly I will show you both sites.

First “The Zero Level”


Second “The PutzCast”

The very first thing you should have noticed is the size of each page. I hate to admit it but what most people think is true.
"The generation of the internet has a short attention span."

YouTube has proven it, of course there are exceptions to this but for the most part think of your first site like this. People should see your site and they need all the information you want them to have in the first 30 second of being there. When you look at The PutzCast site you can see everything we want to display to you. From the very beginning we see our logo and tag line, rather large right in the middle. This establishes our brand. Admittedly this is what you might call a problem with Blogger sites, they usually stick with a ratio for a banner as to make up for the width of the blog the banner comes out rather large, but at the same time if it is for a site you want people to remember it is actually very helpful. While a bit gaudy it leaves an impression. And from the tag line people can infer that our site in not for everyone and is comedy based simply by saying "Everything is funny, nothing is sacred." We have a simple page bar under the logo featuring links to what we would call our most important content. I will remind you this is where these 2 sites we are comparing come to head. The PutzCast is a website about a small group who make entertainment based content as opposed to a group of individuals each trying to market themselves. But at the same time there are ways around that grouping people based on their form of entertainment, video based in one category, audio in another and text if you so choose in another and you are all sorted out. There are sites out there that feature quite a few contributors such as TGWTG, The Agony Booth and Reviewers Unknown. The simplest way I can try to put this point is focus on smaller groups or group people differently. People have to be able to see the content you want them to see when they first come to your site.

To the left side we have a donation button, links to our social media outlets (in a way that tells you which site in a simple yet stylish way, the chicklet), a way for you to follow our site, if you like our site a way to share it and finally our archive in a drop down format to minimize space. In the middle of our page is our most recent content, and depending on that post's length our front page varies. To the Right of that we have at the moment a singular tower ad in an attempt to promote interesting content as well as earn some sort of revenue. For this we would personally recommend Project Wonderful ads. This source of ads allows you to choose what kind of ads you would allow to run on your site as well as being a simple chance to earn money for your site. Project wonderful uses a simple process to verify your site or blog on its merit and if you are able to run their ads on your site. If you read their agreement, and this is just from what I remember, There is a clause in their agreement that if you run Project Wonderful ads on your site you should not also run Google ads, because that can cause problems for them and they do not care for the clutter. So from what I have seen of a few sites they run both. So just be sure to read their information if they allow you into their system. And if you choose to we would appreciate if yo use this link, since it they have a referral system where we can make a small profit for leading you to them if you use their site. So if you have use for Project Wonderful please click that link.

From there we really don't have to go over anything else for The PutzCast, but I will point you down to the very last item on our page. We also have an ad, which is also a link, to our own store. It is unnecessary but it is our own attempt to try and catch your eye and direct you to the store after reading an article, since by our logic. If you like our content enough that you have read our article to the point you can see the bottom of the page then you might just might click that link.

Now let's move on to The Zero Level.

First thing you will notice is the waste of space that is their header. We see their logo taking up a small corner of their header with a blank space and a search bar on the other side. Their navigation bar has a total of 3 links. They are "Home" "Live Streams" and "Forum". This tells us nothing about the site other than they have live streams and a forum to discuss things like the live streams. Simply put looking at this site I know nothing about what it is or why I should venture deeper.
What are you? Channel Zero or The Zero Level?
Right under the header we will see a very strange and redundant. We have a slider of the most recent content for the site and right underneath that are from my count the 10 most recent articles, either video, audio or text in from what I can tell no particular order other than most recent. This is fundamentally redundant. We don't need to be told twice what is here. If we keep the slider we can remove the content posts, shortening the page length and giving people the content or links you want them to see. From here we can ignore all the content posts since have already seen them in the slider so let's focus on the sidebar, that continues down the page even when you run out of articles. In this side bar we have in order:

  • A Facebook Like widget
  • A list of their shows and content producers labeled "Our Shows" listed in alphabetical order
  • A Podcast player
  • Login Information
  • Recent Forum Posts which consist of the topic’s title, posted by, date and time of post
  • Channel Zero Twitter Feed
  • Channel Zero Web-ring widget
  • Affiliates widget
  • Friend widget
  • Sponsors widget
  • Cool Sites widget
  • 2 vertically stacked tower ads (Project Wonderful and Google ad respectively.)

Having compiled this site from top to bottom the site is 8604 pixels from top to bottom give or take a few pixels. This site is huge! Way too long without telling me anything about your site! So we will start with the side bar. A Facebook like widget is a very understandable thing to have to show off your popularity as well as give people the ability to like your site on a very popular social media site. So it seems to be in a pretty good place. Next “Our Shows”, I cannot list all of the producers they have on this site just for sheer lack of time! So instead I will show you a picture.
The very first thing I noticed after scrolling through their producers is that there is an "uncategorized" section and upon clicking it I am taken to this...

Which is nearly the exact same as if you click the "Sinner Radio" tab...

Not to mention other repeated links which show up in other widgets.

From here we move on to the podcast player. This widget is completely unneeded. Simply put as an owner of a podcast site this widget is a waste of space. People who listen to podcasts in general will download them to their own player, or will listen to them on their own designated page, not on the home page a little less than half way down surrounded by other "text links" to other podcasts. If this site lost that widget there would be not mourning in fact it could only help.

Following that we have the login information which should be at the top of the side bar. Announcing to new people that you can log in to this site and be a part of a community! Not half way down doing nothing. People have seen your content twice by this point and have literally no reason to keep scrolling down. So put this widget at the very top of the sidebar with the Facebook like widget below it and be done with it. Next is Recent Forum posts. This isn't needed either and honestly if you want it the best way I think you could implement it is to stretch it horizontally in the middle of the page under your content to try and emphasize that you are building a community for people to participate in. So put it in the middle and give people a few lines of what it is about, a summary if you will. Also make it so it is only the top 5 at most recent Forum posts.

Channel Zero Twitter Feed. This isn't needed, but if people want these they should be near the top to show what you have posted or give people a chance to see what you have to say on these things but really it isn't needed.

I have no idea why this next widget is here. The channel Zero Web-ring is a complete waste of space. It is and I quote a link to the homepage and 3 other possible partner sites which are not listed in the next widget marked affiliates. And under that widget is the widget marked friends, followed by sponsors and "cool Sites" Everything except Sponsors is a waste of space lump all of these together and lose the link to itself and you at least have a large list of site that "The Zero Level" seems to promote. Making separate widgets for things that are all basically the same is a waste of space on your page. Honestly if you want these so badly since they are square picture links just put them at the very bottom call them affiliates and just have them go in a line or 2 across the page instead of stacked on top of each other in separate widgets.

Lastly are the 2 stacked Tower ads. These are some of the worst placed ads I have ever seen. By this point on the page I have run out of content and am looking as a big blank space next to 2 ads. There is literally no reason I should have scrolled this low on the page. And since most ads are based on clicking these are gaining you nothing. They are sitting here wasting space and whoever is paying for them wasting their money since no one will see these. If you insist on running ads on your site put them at and really these are the only places they should go. Top above your content, bottom of page under your content or on the side next to your content to try and entice people to click them! Anywhere else and they are being wasted.

So that is all I can really tell you. Just stop and think about the design of your site before putting anything in place and if your site looks anything like this think about changing that. I hope this helped someone and Have a nice day.

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