How plain can a site get before it turns people away?

Discussion in 'HTML' started by Ian Rastall, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. Ian Rastall

    Ian Rastall Guest

    If I could direct peoples' attention to my site again
    (http://bookstacks.org/) ... I've run into another major fork in the
    road. I've realized that I can completely do without the sidebar that's
    in there right now. It just bothers me to have a single-column site. For
    instance, with no other sections to provide a contrast in color, there's
    no reason not to make the entire site plain white, with black text and
    regular link colors. But wouldn't that drive traffic away?

    My philosophy with my eBook site has always been maximum usability,
    above all else. Except ... without *some* window-dressing, just with the
    use of CSS, it would look too amateurish. Or at least this has been my
    belief. I would be interested to hear someone else's opinion on the
    subject, because, despite all the above reasons not to do it, this is
    the way I'm leaning.

    This is especially important, I think, for smaller devices. Having a
    sidebar ate up ~200px, and probably was squeezing the main text over to
    the right too much.

    --
    Ian
    http://bookstacks.org/
    Ian Rastall, Nov 10, 2012
    #1
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  2. Ian Rastall

    Ian Rastall Guest

    On 11/10/2012 2:13 AM, dorayme wrote:>
    > if you don't have columns, and you want to make a nice page or site,
    > you can hardly avoid CSS, why would you?


    CSS would still be widely-used, just not to change the colors.
    Black-and-white makes a *certain* amount of sense with an eBook site.

    > if it is very plain as you describe, it won't *drive* anyone away if
    > they are interested in what you offer. Don't worry about this business
    > of getting people interested by other than the content too much. Don't
    > worry about vague ideas about the need for "contrast".


    That's reasonable. I would expect them to want the content, not the
    presentation.

    > If you have no
    > ideas of your own about how to create elegant pages (no columns does
    > not preclude making it nice), then maybe you need to talk to or hire
    > someone who does.


    Oh, I'm already paying about a hundred a year for the privilege of
    offering a free site. :)

    > Worry about making the site user friendly first and foremost and
    > interesting content. For example you could give a few more clues to
    > users with your "To access the old offline documents (PDF, MOBI, EPUB,
    > XPS, and standalone HTML) please use this raw directory." How do they
    > use this? Tell them that they need to download stuff etc.


    That's true. To be honest, I was worried that if I explained how to use
    that section, people would think I was being condescending, and be
    offended by that. I mean, what else does one do with a directory of
    files? But you are correct. I need to make that more clear.

    This is all good. Thank you for taking the time.

    --
    Ian
    http://bookstacks.org/
    Ian Rastall, Nov 10, 2012
    #2
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  3. On Fri, 09 Nov 2012 21:16:47 -0500, Ian Rastall wrote:

    > If I could direct peoples' attention to my site again
    > (http://bookstacks.org/) ... I've run into another major fork in the
    > road. I've realized that I can completely do without the sidebar that's
    > in there right now. It just bothers me to have a single-column site. For
    > instance, with no other sections to provide a contrast in color, there's
    > no reason not to make the entire site plain white, with black text and
    > regular link colors. But wouldn't that drive traffic away?


    For what it's worth, I think that there's a lot to be said for a clean,
    crisp layout that's easy on the eye (decent contrast between text and
    background) and easy to navigate (consistent menu layouts, obvious if not
    overly emphasised links etc).

    If people are interested in your content and find your site easy to
    navigate they will come and they will read it - plain and simple does not
    drive people away, but being unable to find what they're looking for,
    struggling with the navigation, or slow loading times will.

    Just because every corporation and its dog uses <website buzzword>
    doesn't mean that people won't visit websites that don't.

    Rgds

    Denis McMahon
    Denis McMahon, Nov 10, 2012
    #3
  4. Ian Rastall

    dorayme Guest

    In article <Z0ons.320067$1.easynews.com>,
    Ian Rastall <> wrote:

    > On 11/10/2012 2:13 AM, dorayme wrote:>
    > > if you don't have columns, and you want to make a nice page or site,
    > > you can hardly avoid CSS, why would you?

    >
    > CSS would still be widely-used, just not to change the colors.
    > Black-and-white makes a *certain* amount of sense with an eBook site.
    >
    > > if it is very plain as you describe, it won't *drive* anyone away if
    > > they are interested in what you offer. Don't worry about this business
    > > of getting people interested by other than the content too much. Don't
    > > worry about vague ideas about the need for "contrast".

    >
    > That's reasonable. I would expect them to want the content, not the
    > presentation.
    >
    > > If you have no
    > > ideas of your own about how to create elegant pages (no columns does
    > > not preclude making it nice), then maybe you need to talk to or hire
    > > someone who does.

    >
    > Oh, I'm already paying about a hundred a year for the privilege of
    > offering a free site. :)
    >


    Perhaps a modest banner, in B&W, like this might be pleasing to add.
    Rather you did not use this particular one, but you might make one
    along these lines, namely a background pic that is infinite enough in
    width when implemented.

    <http://dorayme.netweaver.com.au/rastall/>

    I have changed very little of your markup, though some. Can't see the
    need to make the main heading a link. Note what happens when all
    styles are off (in Firefox there is a menu item to turn off the CSS).


    > > Worry about making the site user friendly first and foremost and
    > > interesting content. For example you could give a few more clues to
    > > users with your "To access the old offline documents (PDF, MOBI, EPUB,
    > > XPS, and standalone HTML) please use this raw directory." How do they
    > > use this? Tell them that they need to download stuff etc.

    >
    > That's true. To be honest, I was worried that if I explained how to use
    > that section, people would think I was being condescending, and be
    > offended by that. I mean, what else does one do with a directory of
    > files? But you are correct. I need to make that more clear.
    >


    No one worth not offending would be offended.

    > This is all good. Thank you for taking the time.


    --
    dorayme
    dorayme, Nov 11, 2012
    #4
  5. Ian Rastall

    Ian Rastall Guest

    On 11/10/2012 7:23 PM, dorayme wrote:
    >
    > Perhaps a modest banner, in B&W, like this might be pleasing to add.
    > Rather you did not use this particular one, but you might make one
    > along these lines, namely a background pic that is infinite enough in
    > width when implemented.
    >
    > <http://dorayme.netweaver.com.au/rastall/>


    Thank you for putting that together. I'm tempted to use your suggestion
    because you took the time to do that, but now that the site is bare
    bones, I'm kind of liking it that way. More importantly, though, I want
    this to be available to small devices. I'm a little perplexed over the
    max-width thing. It works fine at keeping the text at a readable width,
    but in situations (like on my Kindle) where it would be better for it to
    flow naturally, it can't.

    > I have changed very little of your markup, though some. Can't see the
    > need to make the main heading a link. Note what happens when all
    > styles are off (in Firefox there is a menu item to turn off the CSS).


    That header is one of the things I was hoping someone would bring up.
    Right now I'm using it as the "home" link--which is very important,
    since the home page also lists all the books and authors. That isn't
    clear, however I'm not sure how to make it more clear, and I figured
    with it being a link, and being in the top-left corner (where people
    expect a home link), it would be okay. Now I'm not so sure.

    > No one worth not offending would be offended.


    I've already made the decision to take your advice and re-word that
    section. Just haven't gotten that done yet. :) Hope you're well.

    --
    Ian
    http://bookstacks.org/
    Ian Rastall, Nov 11, 2012
    #5
  6. Ian Rastall

    dorayme Guest

    In article <68Ens.120399$1.easynews.com>,
    Ian Rastall <> wrote:

    > On 11/10/2012 7:23 PM, dorayme wrote:
    > >
    > > Perhaps a modest banner, in B&W, like this might be pleasing to add.
    > > Rather you did not use this particular one, but you might make one
    > > along these lines, namely a background pic that is infinite enough in
    > > width when implemented.
    > >
    > > <http://dorayme.netweaver.com.au/rastall/>

    >
    > Thank you for putting that together. I'm tempted to use your suggestion
    > because you took the time to do that, but now that the site is bare
    > bones, I'm kind of liking it that way. More importantly, though, I want
    > this to be available to small devices. I'm a little perplexed over the
    > max-width thing. It works fine at keeping the text at a readable width,
    > but in situations (like on my Kindle) where it would be better for it to
    > flow naturally, it can't.
    >
    > > I have changed very little of your markup, though some. Can't see the
    > > need to make the main heading a link. Note what happens when all
    > > styles are off (in Firefox there is a menu item to turn off the CSS).

    >
    > That header is one of the things I was hoping someone would bring up.
    > Right now I'm using it as the "home" link--which is very important,
    > since the home page also lists all the books and authors. That isn't
    > clear, however I'm not sure how to make it more clear, and I figured
    > with it being a link, and being in the top-left corner (where people
    > expect a home link), it would be okay. Now I'm not so sure.
    >

    Consider putting in a horizontal navigation menu under the banner, it
    is best to think of your site long term. This means it might develop
    and there will be extra pages and sections. Having a nav menu in the
    design from the word go, provides a design framework for yourself.
    Maybe something like this:

    <http://dorayme.netweaver.com.au/rastall/>

    Also consider explaining on the home page what your site is about, say
    things that give a quick picture of it. This will also help search
    engine robots index words and phrases that people might search for.
    Perhaps you can hive off the real business of your offerings, the
    books, to other pages that the navigation links take visitors to.

    > > No one worth not offending would be offended.

    >
    > I've already made the decision to take your advice and re-word that
    > section. Just haven't gotten that done yet. :) Hope you're well.


    In Sydney with weather like today, with beaches and sea, it is hard
    not to be. <g>

    --
    dorayme
    dorayme, Nov 11, 2012
    #6
  7. Ian Rastall

    Ian Rastall Guest

    On 11/11/2012 2:58 AM, dorayme wrote:
    >
    > Consider putting in a horizontal navigation menu under the banner, it
    > is best to think of your site long term. This means it might develop
    > and there will be extra pages and sections. Having a nav menu in the
    > design from the word go, provides a design framework for yourself.
    > Maybe something like this:
    >
    > <http://dorayme.netweaver.com.au/rastall/>


    I will keep that in mind. To be honest, I'm so enamored right now with
    the utilitarian look, it's hard to think of alternatives. I do realize I
    started this thread asking for ideas, but in a way it just solidified my
    notion of what I wanted to do anyway.

    For instance, I'm realizing now that there is a law of diminishing
    returns whenever I make things more complex. I mean, what if each
    chapter were sitting in MySQL, and inserted into the main content area?
    I could achieve the same effect, and make the site more scalable, but in
    the end, that's a lot of code to make it look the same.

    Aside from that, I want the site to be usable to people with limited
    bandwidth and a limited screen size. Adding in an image, especially,
    balloons the size of each page.

    But, of course, this will all change one day, and then I will be back
    here via search, trying to get ideas. :) So, thank you.

    > Also consider explaining on the home page what your site is about, say
    > things that give a quick picture of it. This will also help search
    > engine robots index words and phrases that people might search for.
    > Perhaps you can hive off the real business of your offerings, the
    > books, to other pages that the navigation links take visitors to.


    There definitely needs to be an explanation. That's a good idea.

    > In Sydney with weather like today, with beaches and sea, it is hard
    > not to be. <g>


    That sounds nice. We're getting the last of the enjoyable days here in
    Michigan.

    --
    Ian
    http://bookstacks.org/
    Ian Rastall, Nov 11, 2012
    #7
  8. Ian Rastall

    Guest

    well it looks like you're so unsure of what to do with the site or of your abilities that there's no content on there at the moment. (until you click on that 'raw directory'). why not have it whatever way it was before and go from there.

    was this site making money for you ? if not, then I guess it doesn't matter much what you do with it.
    , Jan 9, 2013
    #8
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