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.