META: Site redesign

So I've been unhappy for a while with the design of the site. Originally, when UGO first re-designed it after bringing the application completely in-house, was just a landing page, whose only purpose was to give general information about what the program was, and to move people on to the live HeroMachine 2.5 application.

Over the last few years, though, since that time, I launched the interactive blog part of the site and I think the main program has gotten on its legs enough that it doesn't need to be the main focus any longer. Plus, recently relaunched itself with a much cleaner, nicer front-end. Finally, the bright colors the daily panels, the character posts, and some of the other blog content have come to compete with the bright four-color overall blog design and the ads, making a bit of a muddle visually.

I finally sat down over the weekend and put together a first pass at a proposed site redesign. The goals are:

  • Make the main points of interest (links to the various HeroMachine versions; the ads; and the blog content) easier to focus on;
  • Build the site around the idea that this is an interactive blog site, not just an intermediate landing/launching page;
  • Keep the visual interest on the content, not the surrounding design elements;
  • Make it obviously part of the UGO family, without looking like just a sub-page.

To that end, here's the first pass of many. Keeping in mind there are lots of changes and iterations to go through, I wanted to get your feedback on the overall direction and concept. Any comments, positive or negative, are very welcome. I haven't passed this by UGO yet, I am still in the ideation phase, and wanted to make sure the most important people of all -- you guys -- had the chance to tear into it from the ground up.

The "Follow us" widget just below the Search box needs a lot of changes. The words will probably go away, or at least change drastically, and the icons will be for Facebook, RSS, Forums (looks like a double word balloon), FAQ (question mark), and Contact Us (envelope).

I also have to figure out how to format the date on the posts, as well as the other per-post information like categories and such. I did away with the small banner that says "HeroMachine Blog" because I figured that should be obvious. I also don't think the big colorful date mini-banner above every post is necessary.

13 Responses to META: Site redesign

  1. Danny Beaty says:

    Looks good to me.

  2. Brad says:

    I’d like to give a big fat “H-E-Double hockey sticks yea!” for this idea- it really cleans up the whole thing and makes it look totally wonderful.

  3. redvector says:

    Much cleaner and more visually appealing.

  4. The Eric says:

    I don’t think i like the way the character pictures are split up over the versions. It makes it look sort of like the characters were made from those versions.

  5. Brons says:

    On the whole I like it. It’s clean and simpler and relatively elegant. I have only three suggestions, none all that major.

    1. With the whitespace intruding into the black around the logo and the H having the stylized triangular crossbar, I find the “Hero” in the logo hard to read.

    2. As the Eric suggests, I think the pictures should go with the labels on the version links.

    3. I’d like to see a bit more HM3-generated art in the header or sidebar. Failing that, a bit of Jeff art. The site is about a program that generates artwork. I’d like to see it featured.

    On the whole, though. Very good start.

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    The three images in the header would be from the appropriate matching version, yes. The ones now are just place-holders.

    I would like to do the “Featured Hero” character in the header as you see, which would be either the character design contest winner or some other cool character. I could do the same thing in the side bar, I reckon. You raise a good point about the site being about generating artwork, I need to figure out how to emphasize that better.

  7. darkvatican says:

    Other than the three images representing the 3 versions of HM(which has already been raised and explained), I like it.

  8. Hammerknight says:

    Maybe for the Artwork idea you could have a guess artist for the week show casing of of their work. Be it Hero Machine or hand drawn. Also along that line maybe a Hero Machine comic strip done by you or guess artist/writers. And also maybe a writers section that would show case some of the great stories being done based on HM designs.

  9. spidercow2010 says:

    Looks great. I would ask for a longer list of Most Recent Entries–space certainly allows it–to make for quicker search and access.
    And while I’ve got you, re: the Featured Hero, uh, feature, how about a Hero of the Day, open to all comers, freestyle, no contest or voting, no big prize except getting your hero published; you, Jeff, pick one and slap it in there. I play with HM a lot, and I’ve got quite a few characters I’d like to share with an appreciative audience, but they don’t fit the contest criteria. Where better to put them than here?
    Contest winners would still get the big splash space (where Superwoman is now); daily winners up in the top left under the HM logo.

  10. MartianBlue says:

    I like it aswell. I like the idea of the three individual characters from their respective program.

    Not a big deal, maybe even ovrkill, and I know it’s already in the contest link, but Maybe a linking banner advertisising the weeks current contest, changing weekly.

  11. MartianBlue says:

    Also you could probably put your date in the current blog entry header. Smaller than the title on the opposite end.
    [SOD.65 Superwoman Saturday March 6th, 2010]
    Maybe place the date under the day?

  12. CPrime says:

    I never really noticed a need for changes, to be honest. But your design does look a whole lot better.