Please don’t change things just to say you did

play-buttonIt was a trend during the dark days of the web (read: before html5, when the world required Flash for animations on the web) that designers would create custom, wacky, non-standard navigation elements on their sites in an effort to look more “hip” or “cool.” When you went to any given website that employed this tactic, the first few minutes were spent hovering over icons to figure out what each of them did. This is, of course, after you waited for the website to “load.” This sort of horrible design got so bad that it became known as Flashturbation.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen much of Flashturbation since around the time MySpace died (correlation, not causation, I’m sure).

Still, it crops up from time to time.

Why am I writing about this? I just wanted to call out Red Bull’s website and their decision to break the play button, which has been a dominant design standard since the 1960s. I got halfway down the page before my mouse accidentally hovered over the triangle icon and it was then I discovered that the images were actually videos that could be played.

It’s okay to style an icon. It’s not okay to break it.

An experiment in front page design

My gaming site and gaming persona, GameBlaster64, has been online for just over 3 years. In that time, the front page has never changed in any significant way. It’s still a blog layout, much like this one. Given that it’s more of a videogame review/preview/opinion site combined with a sort of wiki archive, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have it this way.

So, tonight, I changed it.

GameBlaster64 Front Page
The New Layout

Instead of articles listed in chronological order with full bodies, only the 9 most recent article titles + one thumbnail each will be displayed, with no pagination, in a grid. People who go to the front page of a site aren’t interested at all in articles that are months old, so why bother offering pagination? They want to see, immediately, what’s new and what’s changed since the last time they hit the site (if they don’t already subscribe to the RSS).

The content on the site is categorized by taxonomy, aka tags, so users who want to look at, say, all the articles on Minecraft, are totally free to do that. The taxonomy pages are laid out just like the front page, except with pagination, since those folks are probably looking for an article in particular or just want to read from A-Z. The most popular taxonomy tags and posts are available in the header.

The only other site I can think of that eschews pagination on the front page in favor of a grid layout is Google News.

Hopefully my users will like it!

Liveblogging Guelph Game Jam 4

Guelph Game Jam #4 just started. I’ll be liveblogging here, tracking our progress on our Rogue-like. It’s Michael Hoyle and Me, along with a touch of art asset assistance from Amy.

The theme of this game jam is Growth.

We’re still trying to figure out how that will be implemented in our idea for a Rogue-like, but our first few ideas are pretty promising.

It’s going to be a tight schedule because we’re breaking my first rule of game jams: don’t build your own engine. Hoyle and I have been building a small JavaScript Rogue-like engine for the past week in preparation but there are still a few things left to do. I’ve come up with the idea of taking the first two hours of the jam to complete the features of the engine that we need today then taking the remaining 6 hours to make the game.

If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to be ruthless and pull the plug after those two hours and switch to the game. If we let it slip and say “we’ll do one extra hour on the engine” we’ve lost.

Wish us luck!