Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Practical Suggestions Appreciated

I have learned two things in my redesign:

1. Grognardia doesn't belong to me anymore. Enough people read it regularly that pretty much anything I do will be met with dissatisfaction of varying degrees and, frustrating though this fact is for me as I try to find a new look I like, I need to give greater consideration to what readers like.

2. I must be the only person in the world who doesn't have trouble with white text on black background.

So, those two whines out of the way, I'm throwing open the doors to specific, practical suggestions on how to improve the basic look of the site. I'm probably not going to change the layout, because I prefer three columns to two, but I'm open to most other suggestions. I'll only add that I went with a dark color scheme because my current banner is dark and I always found it jarring against the blue scheme I previously used, but if someone can suggest an alternative, I'm open to it. Until I get a new banner -- and that's a whole 'nother can of worms -- I'd like a look that better matches it (though if anyone wants to create a new banner for me, I am not opposed to the possibility).


  1. For me, James, it's the content, not the appearance, that's important, and you keep the single best old-school blog out there. Though for the record, I don't have problem with dark text and light background, either. In fact, I prefer it.

  2. One thing I can tell you from my experience at guardian.co.uk - whatever changes you make people will winge. See also the changes at bbc.co.uk.

    Firstly, people don't like change. You have to give people time to get used to a new look before you start taking account of what they think.

    And secondly, it's the unhappy people who make the most noise. You might find that a silent majority are perfectly happy with your changes.

    Simon B.

  3. I concur with Jason above: it's the content that we truly come here for, so the package doesn't really matter. that being said, I don't mind the white on "smoky grey" or whatever you have now! I like your current banner, and will sorely miss it if it changes to something entirely different! Otherwise, no other complaints!

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  5. Hi James

    Long-time reader, but never commented before. I think Jason above has the right of it - it's the content, not the look. But, with that in mind, though I like the three column grid, I think there's something indefinably wrong with the hierarchy of it - the central content column looks a little squashed between the left and right borders. I don't think this is helped by the banner being aligned left either. So, my specific suggestions are:

    - experiment with narrowing the left hand column a bit (like a couple of cms) and expand the central column into that space

    - transpose the links of interest in the left hand with the blog-archive in the right hand column - basically at the point at which one of the columns empties, I think you should have the right hand column with the content rather than the left hand as having stuff on the left and centrae alone seems to overbalance the page for me.

    I hope these make sense and are helpful. And for the record I personlly don't have a worry about the white on black!

    Keep up with the great content as well, it's given me much pleasure, thank you.


  6. I don't mind the light on dark, but I'm afraid it is true that many, many people have difficulty reading it. So a designer has to weigh his aesthetic against all the people who can't or won't read light on dark. Since virtually no one has a problem with dark on light, that just seems like th rational choice to me.

    I think most websites go with text that is far too small and line spacing that is far too narrow. I'd encourage you to think about larger text with more linespacing. I took it rather far with my blog at http://stevelawson.name/seealso You won't want to do that if you are keeping the sidebars, but I'd still encourage you to think about it.

  7. Looks fine to me at first glance. One of the benefits of having a terrible memory is I can barely remember what the old site looked like to compare!

    One thing I always like to see on blogs is a blogroll with most recent post summaries, as I stumble onto a lot of great new blogs that way. I always found the blogroll on Grognardia a little overwhelming and it means I've neglected to visit the majority of them.

  8. Yeah, white on black is a UI no-no; there's even research to support this.

    Beyond that, I'd like to see something that *looked* old school: paper style background, and a typewriter font.

  9. There's a couple of good on-line tools you can use for the web to determine good color combinations and the ease on the eyes.

    http://colorschemedesigner.com/ Mostly for assests of the site.

    There's also a good list here:


  10. I love the three-columns look. I would suggest you to update the header to make it fit better with this new template, maybe something black'n'white. Anyway, I personally consider my blog as my own little child, and the look is part of the game! So you should make it look the better for you. Also, I bet there are artists in the net interested in the OSR that will be glad to provide you with some cool-looking illustrations for the layout, as per the Swords Against the Outer Dark blog. Fight On
    Il Male™

  11. I am also a white on black tolerant mutant. I dig the new look.

  12. I like the new look to look at - but not so much to read lengthy texts, and I think I would prefer too a broader middle column, either with or without one on the left.
    And something I saw by looking at your psionic concepts to wich you linked a few posts back... the colour of the texts describing the attack modes was black or almost black and unreadable without highlighting it.
    But yes, it's the content.

  13. I agree with many of the comments above. It's hard to accept change sometimes. There seem to be many white on black blogs, and everyone was just accustomed to your old one.

    I miss the left-side blogs and right sidebars, but that comes from reading your blog for so long. Everyone will grow accustomed to the new format.

    I think what may be adding to the "crowding effect" is the large pics on the left. The central text seems squeezed. It is probably just an aesthetic thing for all I know. The cenral text may be just as wide as it was before, the eyes are just seeing it differently.


  14. I can read the white text on black just fine. I like the new look.

  15. I actually find it easier to read with white text on a black background, though I notice when my eyes switch to the comments pop-up my eyes go all wig-out from the sudden change in contrast.

    On another note, the black background kinda makes the site have more of that dungeon-appeal, which I think fits great for an old-school blog.

  16. I like the new look. But what is important is content... and you have fantastic content.

    Appearance is secondary to great content.

  17. James, light text on a dark background tends to have a lower distinct contrast. It can work. You've already got a san-serif font. The other step might be to increase the default font size and make sure your blog works with that larger font. Otherwise, for many of us, eye strain will result.

  18. well, there will always be peolple that doesnt like our work, but the oposite is true too ^_^

    your blog is a reference here, in brazil osr community. i like the new design, (althought the previous was better, IMO).


  19. As an iPad user I find the 3-column format makes the page more difficult to read. When you zoom in to make the text more legible, scrolling is easy when things are left-aligned since it's you can swipe your finger at a bit of an angle to keep the page 'pressed' against the side of the screen. When reading + scrolling content in the center or right of the screen the page tends to slide left and right unless you pay careful attention to and keep your finger swipes completely straight (harder than it sounds, at least for me). I also find dark text on a light background is easier to read.

    That said, I'll continue to read you posts even if you decide electric green flashing text is the way to go.

  20. Please keep the comments coming. I'm finding them very helpful, although I'm not sure how easily I can implement certain solutions. My own technical skills are limited, hampered by the fact that Blogger's tools are similarly limited. But I do appreciate everyone's taking the time to help me get this right. It may take a few days, but I'm the end result will be a good one.

  21. I think light on black looks cool, but it gives my eyes fits. This unavoidably means less patient reading and more skimming of your content. Bummer.

  22. Definitely keep the three columns, and if you like the white-on-black aesthetic, I say keep it.

    One thing I might suggest is making the comments open up in the main window, rather than opening up in a separate window. It's a bit of an annoyance to have to remember to deactivate my popup blocker each time I want to read comments...

  23. James, I'll just reiterate my thoughts from yesterday that white-on-black is perfectly fine, just lighten the text (your sidebar text is actually a good color).

    Forget the arguments about "there's a reason you don't print white on black". That's wrong thinking since reverse text is used in printing all the time. Printing a book that way would drive you out of business on ink costs. But reading off an illuminated screen is a different ballgame.

    If it wasn't readable it wouldn't be a default option in many blogger templates, right? We're not talking green text on a red background after all!

    I think what you've run into is that it's just so different that readers have singled out that particular change. Give it a few weeks and we'll all adjust. :)

  24. I use a light gray text on The Metal Earth, you might try something like that. But, really I'm with Jay.

  25. Yeah, I like the new design.

    Regardless, so long as the content remains as top shelf as it has been, I frankly don't care what it looks like. It could be pink, purple and have little hearts, butterflies and flowers for all I care.

    Keep up the good work.

    Oh, and white font on black background is actually easier to read and easier on the eyes. It's a fact. Look it up. ;)

    The Fool on the Hill

  26. LAYOUT I like the 3-column format quite a bit. It feels a lot less "crowded" than the old format, and looks more "professional" to me. That might be an odd thing to say about a blog, but since this is one of only two blogs that I consistently read, it makes a difference to me.

    COLOR SCHEME I was one of the people who said yesterday that white-on-black was hard to read. It does appear that way to me - I found myself squinting while looking at the new format last night. It's something I learned back in graphic design class in high school and college. However, having done some quick research on the subject, it seems that the idea of white-on-black being hard to read is mostly only true from the context of having a light that's behind you, over your shoulder, shining onto your reading material. A computer screen with a "back-light" is a different story, making white-on-black a more viable choice than in the print world. Since I'm more used to the print world, I think I over-reacted and maybe psychologically started to think that your new format was hard to read. All that said, I much prefer the new "smoky gray" background, and not just from an "easy-to-read" standpoint. I just think the color looks better. Stark black backgrounds, to me, seem more "amateurish".

    FONT I like the font. Since you're still in the mode of trying to tweak your design a bit, if you could slightly increase the font size, as a reader, I would really appreciate it. An increase of just one point would be fine. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the new font size is slightly smaller than before, but that could just be a trick on my eyes.

    THE BANNER Having read through all of your posts from the past 2 1/2 years or more, I remember you saying at one point that you were toying with changing your banner at the top. I realize there may be legal issues involved with using artwork to which you don't own the rights, but hopefully that can be sorted out. I love the banner you have now, and honestly it's one of the the things I quickly responded to when I first came to your blog a few months ago. I had no idea there was even such a thing as an "Old School Renaissance", but when I saw that old Player's Handbook artwork in your banner, I thought to myself, "This is cool - I have to see what this is about." It's a great "advertisement" for your site because it says so much in such a small space. Of course - it is your site, so if you're not happy with it, then by all means, change it!

    READER CRITICISMS You mentioned that Grognardia doesn't "belong" to you any more. I get what you're saying, but hopefully you took yesterday's comments in the spirit they were intended. As someone pointed out above - yes, people don't like change. But, I think most of the comments last night weren't made from the standpoint of saying, "Don't change it!" but rather, "If you do change it, please try to adhere to a design that's easy to read."

    MOST IMPORTANTLY I love the site - keep it coming!

  27. Looking good. I'd still argue that more space between lines would help. If you want to try that and aren't sure how, look for the line in the style sheet that refers to ".post-body" and change the line-height from 1.4 to something greater. Start with 2 and see what you think.

    (I mostly read you in Google Reader, so this isn't a demand for my sake, just trying to provide helpful hints. I enjoy your blog very much.)

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  30. I can deal with this. You could make the text purple on yellow, and I'd still make an effort to read this blog. 8)

  31. I just want to mention how much I enjoy the content of the blog and that the layout is secondary to the very interesting perspective you have on my hobby! :-)