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 Post subject: STICKY: 2012 Website Revamp (NOW LIVE!)
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:24 pm 
The Almighty
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So, Over the course of the year, I'm planning on redesigning the website, and adding more features or updating existing ones. As with all my major creative projects, deadlines subject to be moved or otherwise failed, but what the hell.

I'd like to see the main site get more usage. I suspect that most of us mainly jump straight to the forums these days, besides perhaps using our lovely guides (which get a lot of traffic from people outside the kin, so we're doing good work there.

I have plans & possible ideas, and would love any feedback (constructive criticism welcome!) on ways to improve the site.

Roadmap for the Future

I'm going to talk a bit more about some of the more significant changes i intend or hope to make. Feedback most welcome.

1. Redesign the homepage, taking the focus away from displaying the news articles, and instead be more of a splash screen giving a brief overview of EVERYTHING

How will this look? Well there will be panels for just about anything - News, Screenshots, On The Forums, Kin Calendar.....

News will be condensed into one panel, headlined "News", and will display the titles of the last 5 or so news posts & their post dates. Possibly with a little brief summary of what the articles about (The summary feature actually exists in code, but isn't used :P)

Kin Calendar can the full size job like on it is on it's dedicated page, occupying the lowest part of the main screen on the homepage.

Screenshot will display a thumbnail of the latest screenshot, possibly displaying the titles of other most recent screenshots as clickies much like the news section.

On The Forums to be presented pretty much as-is. Maybe with more features, but definately with extended and more prominate screen space to reflect the heavy forum usage these days.

Featured Page Section A brief section to draw attention to nifty pages that might be overlooked because they are further down the navigation hierarchy. Intended to draw attention to things like raid or character guides.

2. Simplify the design of the site. Clean up rough edges. Make it look amazing. Add skins/themes, and allow users to set their favourite in their preferences.

Header - I quite like the overall layout of the header - A banner, and a bit underneath. This will more or less stay the same. Header links (Teamspeak, Loot List etc) maybe getting moved elwhere to give them more prominance, if a suitable alternative can be found.

Menu & Menu Clearup - As far as I'm aware, the dropdown menu doesn't cause any display issues for anyone (please correct me if i'm wrong) but i'm thinking of maybe having a more static menu, possibly a two tier design (for example, you click "News" and get taken to the default news section page. A bar underneath the main menu will display all the subsections of News - in this case "Latest Post" (default) and "News Archive".
  • Pro's - Simple, effective, less coding and code rage on my part.
  • Con's - unline dropdown menu, can't see all subsections of the menu, which may mean less travelled areas of the site get lost even more.

The Videos section will be removed. Privately hosted videos are fairly intensive on transfer limits, our system doesn't work except for very small/short videos, and frankly YouTube is the better alternative. This maybe be adapted in a way to display/ link to our videos on YouTube, or removed in it's entirety. The jury's still out on this one. In the meantime, shameless plug:



Did you know: You can embed YouTube videos directly in the forums by encasing the video ID in a youtube tag?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltONuAmUAx8
can be linked as:

[Youtube]ltONuAmUAx8[/Youtube]


3. More News. More Updates. Regular Updates. More love to sections of the site that support dynamicly posted content (News, Songs, Images). Others to Help add even more guides to the site.

News - More news is always a good thing. I tend to go into overdrive near major content releases, but updates in between tend to be more sparse. Make use of the news section more, and if the below stuff happens, they can be announced in news.

Songs - Our songs database has quite a few songs in it, but ultimately hasn't been updated or probably even added to since it's original addition to the site. Needs more love, and more songs. Even though none of them will sound good on the new pibgorn. Possibly opening up posting permissions to this section to officers, as there is minimal possibility of collateral damage. Possibly expanding the content of this section so users (any registered kin member) can vote as to whether this sound sounds good/bad either in general, or on specific instruments.

Images - Get more awesome screenshots posted on a semi-regular basis. No need to be crazy, as there are caps on site storage space, even if we are hardly using any of it at the moment. Officers have posting rights to this section, so there is little if any development work needed on this section besides cosmetics.

Calendar
Once the calendar is revamped, and takes moer prominence on the homepage, hopefully people can take time to keep it updated. The Events section of the forum will remain where events are planned, but adding the event title and date to the calendar, and a little bit of text and/or a forum link to your event topic will enable people to see at a glance what's happening in the future. It's a lot easier than looking at the forum and going "Ok, there's Orthanc on the 2nd/3rd/6th, bg on the 4th, draigoch on the 5th...er.... what day is that? How far in the future is that?". Probably opening this feature up to all kin members (I beleive it's open to officers atm), so anyone can post any event, no matter how great or small.

Guides / FAQ's
I've written a lot of guides that are used extensively not just by the kin, but the community in general, in most cases thanks to a lot of input from you guys to work out what (de-)buffs are present, who causes them, what tier loot drops etc etc. There are still many many guides to be written however - Not just for instances and raids, but generic guides like what each option does on the options screen, or what keyboard shortcuts you can use to make your life easier. Theres a lot of draft guides on the forums, And i'd love to see these polished into final drafts so we can get more up there. Unfortunately, I lack the dedication to get all these done by myself, So i'd greatly appreciate it if anyone wants to help out by writing some of these up for me. I don't like delegating the creative control, but it's for the best.

Ideally all guides will follow the same format (I can elaborate on this - just ask). The guides i've written do tend to go into extensive detail ("The boss does this, you do this, this is why you do what you do....etc etc") rather than just a simple "you do this" list that means that although you might know what you HAVE to do, you don't have a clue why you are doing it, or what you could do better. Balanced against this however, I like to try and keep things as clear and brief as possible. Short and sweet, no walls of text except where absolutely necessary. As well as the main guide, you'll notice that i like to use the side panel to breakdown the boss like an LM inspection panel, and provide the summary of key features of that boss/mob (details can go in the main guide).

A good example of the format i'm after is our Durchest guide. There's still room for improvement, but it displays the basics outline above: http://www.rangersoferiador.com/guides/ ... /durchest/

  • Introduction - To introduce the boss/instance and sumarrise what's to be expected
  • Group Composition / Roles - List the REQUIRED roles/classes, what they will be doing. If appropriate, give a "prefered" or "optimal" setup. Although a team might be down to a leaders preference, you should be able to justify you preferred setup in the guide.
  • A Bestiary - Name all the mobs, what they do (nasty aoe attack, give out pottable effects, need corruptions removed or X happens). Basically, go through what they do in detail, so you don't need to explain it EVERY time you talk about this mob in the guide - Instead you can get away with comments like "as always, make sure you remove corruptions on the overseers". This keeps the main guide shorter and clearer.
  • Fight Mechanics - Basically the same function as the bestiary, but for a boss fight. Take the Durchest guide linked above as an example. It removes the key mechanics from the guide, so the actual tactis section can be a more step by step guide. Quite often, like durchest, the fight mechanics aren't matched up to occur at the same time as other events, so trying to talk about the side-by-side with the main walkthough could lead to confusion.
  • Tactics/Walkthrough - The main section of the guide. You should now have given details about everything in the instance. Now you can give your step by step "Do this, do that" breakdown. If people don't know why they are doing something (eg removeing corruptions, potting a fear), they can easily refer to your earlier sections for the details if they havent already. Tactics may need to be broken down according to Tier or Hard Mode.
  • Loot - Applicable to bosses, a section to list as possible loot drops, indicate whether they always drop, or only sometimes drop (ie, rare loot). Tooltip screenshots for ease of reference. Cosmetic screenshots can be added too, if you can get hold of them.

4. Add more functionality for users when they are logged in. Provide more reason to register on the main site.

A rank-and-file member doesn't currently have much reason to register. An officer does, as they can post to some - though not all - sections of the site. For me, it's essential, as it's how i run the site (short of getting down and dirty with the database when i fuck something up).

Allow Kinsmen to post to some more sections
ie, Calendar. Possibly songs.

Allow Officers to post to some more sections
ie, Songs, News

Add more funtionality to your profiles/prefences
Expand the alt listing system. Maybe get a way to link in mylotro stuff. Add akins to the website (Themes like Rohan or ISengard, which change the colour schemes and images used on the site - while you are logged in). More ideas welcome.

Did you know: If you register on the site, and add your alts to your profile, other players can use the search feature on the site to enter the name of your alt, and find out who it belongs to!

Possibly add new sections to the site
Voting Polls? Taking any and all ideas!

Going Forward

I'd love to hear any and all feedback you have on the site - especially contructive criticism - as well as your thought on my uber post above.

A cosmetic redesign is a major project, and i'm hoping to be able to use the design for my other non-lotro sites (both existing and future planned), meaning that i only have one design across all sites to update/adapt from time to time. Makes my life easier :)

I can and will use this thread to track progress over time, maybe stick up some screenshots of what i'm working on so you can see how it looks, provide feedback while it's a work in progress etc, to make the end design the best it can be, and hopefully fulfill our needs so i can once again avoid it like the plague for a couple more years :)

If all goes well, i might be able to roll it out for our 3rd Birthday in August (knowing me, sooner is unlikely :mrgreen:), failing that theres always the Hobbit release at years end.

If you've somehow missed the epic trailer:




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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:44 pm 
Man-At-Arms
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Good post, I will start up my brains sometime in the weekend and see if I can grow some ideas on those empty fields of plain green grass which is called my brain. It's -20 here and snowing so I will have loads of oppertunities to prevent a meltdown.



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:00 pm 
RIVEN!!!
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Sounds like a plan brya. Know you already put at lot of work into running the main site


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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:40 pm 
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I'm affraid I'm one of those guilty of never using the main site but you'll be glad to know I plan to make up for this by making a comprehensive orthanc guide over the next few weeks (when i remember my login info for the main site). May need some guidance on how to do this exactly but I'll get the content sorted when I have some free time in the next few weeks. But as always, thank you for creating and maintaining our truely fantastic site/forums, I'd be far too lazy/stupid to do all this :p



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:38 am 
The Almighty
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I actually got bored and spent most of tonight (read: last night, it's now 3:30am and i'm still going :mrgreen: ) working on the new design.

Made a lot of progress, solved one pestilent coding issue that's bugged me for months, and slowly coming up with the layout for the new templates. Hopefully if I'm still working on it tomorrow (read: today), I'll have it in a condition worth showing the work in progress, and walking you through it.

Not that it really matters much to you guys, but already i've made the code under a fifth of the length it was before - Less code, cleaner code, less confused bal, faster page load times, HUZZAH! :lol:



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:04 am 
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as ever the work is appreciated and how bored must you have been to do all that haha- btw the mistymountain cold song int he trailer is frigging epic



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:44 pm 
The Almighty
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OK, so i've got enough in place to show you the current state of things and take on board any comments/feedback you have. Keep in mind this is still a work in progress: textures, colours etc are mostly placeholders and not final.

Beta v0.1

I'll talk you through some of the design changes.

Header
As mentioned in the original post, I'm pretty happy with the current (live) header, so i only wanted to make small cosmetic changes here. The new header features a taller banner (120px beta vs 100px live) which will allow for more detail in whatever pictures we put in there. The text links have moved from on top of the banner to the bar underneath, where they are much more prominent. This replaces the elrond quote on live which itself is just really a placeholder. The searchbar will feature on the beta header psotioned to the right just as it is on live, but it's to be added later (a lot of cosmetic coding for something so small). The Icon (in this case the one ring) is also bigger (100px beta vs 80px live) to again allow more detail in whatever we use. Both the banner and the icon will have the possibility to be random images. This might be tied to the theme (ie if you have a rohan theme, you always get the SAME rohan banner and icon), or completely random (evertime you load a page, you get a random banner/icon from the selection pool). Currently just running with enlarged copies of the banner/icon from live.

Menu
To be added. Probably will be the last cosmetic feature to be designed due to the complexity.

Page Title
Now a prominent feature with it's own proper theming. On live, this is just some white text hacked in, which looks a bit nasty if i'm honest.

Panel Layout
I rather like the current layout of the pages on live - Main panels with all the primary content, and side panels for smaller or independant content. This style will continue. Main panels are approximately the same size as on live. Side panels are getting some extra width so they have it when they need it.

Each of the boxes on beta has a bit of text talking about itself and what it's trying to do, so have a little read of those. Lots of subtly different ways of styling them (i'm not talking about the graphics, but they play a part too).

Most boxes use a graphic in some fashion. These are to increase the "LOTR-ness" of the site, and i quite like the "drawing-on-parchment" feel of these. Some are indeed better than others, i'll leave you to decide which you prefer (personally love the fellowship one in the first side panel - that's going to be used for the login form!)

Map panels are pretty much guaranteed the chop. However using a map as the website background (ie, the current white stuff) is a very strong possibility at this point. This means we get the awesomeness of having a map (and a bloody large one at that) without it interfereing with text, or being hidden behind other boxes.

Footer
The End. 'Nuff said.

-----

Would love to hear everyones thoughts on the current prototype.
  • What do you like?
  • What don't you like?
  • If you don't like something, how would YOU want to change it?
  • Anything else you can think of!



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:54 pm 
Man-At-Arms
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Gonna give you some of my noobish newbie feedback :P

You don't have the original file of the header anymore which you can adjust? I am assuming you made it in photoshop, reason I am asking is that I can see you increased the size of the header so the quality get's a bit less. I personally don't mind this and I'm only giving feedback. Also, in the header itself, some parts do not blend that well and are obvious "blends" / no blends at all. I also did my share of designing and coding, and whenever I did it, I wanted things to be perfect, so every little detail counted.

Quote:
Menu will go here. Style TBD.

What kind of menu will be going there? You have already a menu below the header, or will that disappear? Or you will have some links of the menu "double" like with the current design?

Last thing, the green in the content "box" is not that good looking, but that is my personal opinion aswell ofcourse. It would fit if there would be a nice matching background image/color.

PS. I did not read your whole post now, did not have much time, but I am hoping all the stuff I said was already stuff that you were thinking about yourself or things that you already know, if so, I don't have anything else to mention :)



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:52 pm 
The Almighty
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Hardist wrote:
You don't have the original file of the header anymore which you can adjust? I am assuming you made it in photoshop, reason I am asking is that I can see you increased the size of the header so the quality get's a bit less. I personally don't mind this and I'm only giving feedback. Also, in the header itself, some parts do not blend that well and are obvious "blends" / no blends at all. I also did my share of designing and coding, and whenever I did it, I wanted things to be perfect, so every little detail counted.


That's just a placeholder until a get a new one in.

Hardist wrote:
Quote:
Menu will go here. Style TBD.

What kind of menu will be going there? You have already a menu below the header, or will that disappear? Or you will have some links of the menu "double" like with the current design?


The mini menu on the header section is mainly for the things that don't go anywhere else in the main menu, or need to be extra visible to users (teamspeak, loot list etc).

The main menu might be a dropdown like on the live site, or something completely different. Have yet to decide on a style.

Hardist wrote:
Last thing, the green in the content "box" is not that good looking, but that is my personal opinion aswell ofcourse. It would fit if there would be a nice matching background image/color.


Again, it's just a placeholder. There will likely be something green-ish going in there, since the default design is gravitating to a rohan-esque theme. But i've still yet to decide what's going in there.



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 Post subject: Re: Rangers of Eriador - 2012
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:13 am 
Man-At-Arms
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So all the stuff I mentioned is useless, I'm glad cuz that means I was right about something, yay :D :P

Anyway, like I said, it's looking good, a decent header will always catch a visitor's attention the most I think so if you can whip up something nice looking I am sure people who visit the site will love it.



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