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thomas

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It's too early to release any news, but it looks as if japanreference.com will soon engage in a project that would largely boost our popularity. Anyhow, this project requires us to redesign parts of the site. Since I am bored with our current design and layout, I would like to gather your opinions on what should be changed.

1. What do you really dislike about japanreference.com, what should be improved?

2. Colour combinations: I'm thinking of returning to a less colourful layout with plain white background and red, black and different nuances of grey as theme colours (since it's a Japan-related site).

I'll frequently bump this thread, as I'm really interested in your views. Please be frank!

Thanks! 😄
 

lineartube

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I kind of like the pratical look of it, but I guess I got used to it so I am being biased. :)

Let me see....

1. Too much information on first page.
- Keep the last 5 topics of the forum (If you could include for instance the XXXX first character of the first topic, could be great)
- Drop the links to the sub-foruns and you'll gain more space.
- Put the search box on the header and get a smaller logo. There's plenty of space up there and you'll gain a few inches on the right columm.
- Commercial People don't complain about you having the banner in the bottom? It should be in the "line of sight", the first 450 pixels that are seen as soon as someone enters the page.
- Bigger buttons or legends. They are cool but only if you are young and with a pair of healthy eyes. People with eye sight problems may find it difficult to read.
- Do you really need the hitbox image? Checking the numbers and showing them is cool, but it's only ego tripping and besides, it must slowdown page download since it's a 88x62 pixels image linked to another website. Drop it. Your contents and activity all over the website speak for themselves.
- Tell a friend: I've seen it in some sites but... is it really used?
- Consider removing the Japan Directory scetion from the homepage. It occupies a lot of space and you already have plenty of offsite links around. First-Page Screen Space is precious.
- You may want to consider wich sections are more important (more used) and which would you consider adding or removing.

Well, this were comments to the current design, so it may or may not be of use in the new layout design. Hope it helps.
 
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thomas

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Luis, obrigado! I appreciate your time and advice! :)

Directory: the links directory is actually the "heart" of japanreference.com, I'm very much inclined to leave it on the top page, テ? la Yahoo.

Tell friends: will be history soon, lol.

Hitbox: hm, I admit that stats are something of an ego thing for junior webmasters, but I use them to get important feedback on users. Hitbox is free, their stats are excellent. I dislike that image too, but I haven't found anything comparable yet.
:(

Banner, buttons + logo: excellent advice! I will upload some preliminary design studies for scrutiny. My aim is purely utilitaristic: make as many of my visitors as happy as possible.

Thanks again for your advice, it really means a lot.
 

Twisted

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The Japan Directory should indeed be more clear since that is the core business. I suggest it put on top, outlined and placed in neat columns instead of the current rows. The Forum box, which is now on top, could be placed underneath that.

Oh, that hitbox is for statistics? I thought it was just a banner. :)
Have you ever looked into Nedstat? I don't know how it compares to Hitbox, but I find it useful enough.

The stuff in the sidebar doesn't bother me. Perhaps because all the colours and fonts of the text are the same throughout the page, the sidebar's stuff doesn't stand out. Perhaps it's possible to experiment a bit with that. I guess that's the key to a good design: Experiment a lot. :)

In the meantime, I'm curious about this popularity boosting project... ;)
 
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thomas

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Lol, Photopshop is ready, but my hangover prevents me from getting really constructive...

:snore:

Thanks for your suggestions, Peter! The Hitbox stats are amazing, but their paid services are too expensive for a humble non-profit page as jref.com.

> In the mean time, i'm curious about this popularity
> boosting project...

Me too, still negotiating, hope it worx out. ;)
 

Maciamo

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Where is this hitbox image ? I've looked for it without success ! Does it show the site stats ?
 
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thomas

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It's the casino image at the bottom of each page. The stats however are not public.
 
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thomas

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I will soon post some screenshots.

Anyhow, I decided for the colours mentioned above, say sayonara to the orange background.

Another question: are our fonts too small? Should I use larger fonts?
 

lineartube

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They're fine by me, but you could add a CSS selector, in order for people to enlarge or diminish font size. It's not that hard to do, and if you need help with it, just send me an e-mail.

As for the Links directory, I know that it is the heart of your website, but I'm a big fan of Google and as Mie Van der Rohe said, less is more. I know that it's a different type of websites to compare with, but I should note that Google does have also a Links directory, altough they prefer to put it down in the visible heirarchy of the website.
 

Twisted

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Fontsize is perfect for me, but i have extremely good eyes. :mad:
 

thomas

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There's one more reason why I would like to keep the directory on the index page: search engine ranking.
;)

Guys, you really gave me a lot of invaluable info, tonight I will upload a screenshot of what I have on my mind. I'll think of the font size later on.

I also want to thank Leah from SEO for sharing some of her secrets with me!

😄
 

thomas

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Here's a screenie on what I'm working on

screenie01.gif


What do you think?
 

Chakan

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Excellent work, Thomas. I think this design demo does a great job of focusing on the directory while still providing access to the other site features on the main page.
 

thomas

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Thanks, I appreciate your feedback! I'm back to minimalism, lol.
 

Twisted

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Looks good.
But the links don't seem to work. I clicked for ages... :D
 

thomas

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Oh no, do you really want me to link all of them, jeez....... 🙂
 

lineartube

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Works for me. Here goes my comments:

ON THE HEADER
- I like the choice of a sans serif font for the header buttons but they need to be more visible. Since they are top level links, try to use a nice solid background colour that will make them more visible.
- There's plenty of space on the right side so you can brake the line between the buttons cell and the search box cell and it would blend more nicely.
- Give some space between the search box, the submit button and the table border. Don't use the background color for the button itself. Try a darker or lighter color. The difference doesn't need to be striking but it must show that there is one.
- The logo looks cool but I would advise a solid color (white, red, orange, green, ???...) so that the logo will be more visible, too.

As for the rest, I don't have much else to say except about the image. Can you enlarge the thumbnail photo in order to be between 100-90% of the column width? It's a nice eyecandy and I think it deserves a bigger spotlight.
 

thomas

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Originally posted by lineartube
I like the choice of a sans serif font for the header buttons but they need to be more visible. Since they are top level links, try to use a nice solid background colour that will make them more visible.

Thanks for the advice. The buttons have a little td background mouseover effect. I will test the entire design either on Topsites Japan or our banner exchange in order to improve usability and user-friendlienss. So nothing's final yet. I'll just do as M$: (ab)use visitors as guinea-pigs.
;)

Give some space between the search box, the submit button and the table border. Don't use the background color for the button itself. Try a darker or lighter color. The difference doesn't need to be striking but it must show that there is one.

On my list.

The logo looks cool but I would advise a solid color (white, red, orange, green, ???...) so that the logo will be more visible, too.

The logo is actually white, but crisp. Anyhow, in regard to SEO I will have to add a HTML text at the top of each page, so the logo will definitely be changed.

Can you enlarge the thumbnail photo in order to be between 100-90% of the column width? It's a nice eyecandy and I think it deserves a bigger spotlight.

Excellent idea. These thumbs are automatically created by our gallery script, I'll see if I can change their size.

Luis, I am much obliged! 🙂
 

thomas

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HTML text instead of the logo - what do you think?

screenie02.gif


Any ideas? 😏
 

lineartube

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If you add an alt tag to the logo, I don't see why it should be plain text. Actually you should use alt tags to all of your relevant images.

As for the plain text logo, the slogan should be smaller and the Japanreference should be bigger.

If you define a Japanese charset, you can still use Japanese characters (characters... is this definition correct?) on your website. Since it is about Japan, I think it makes sense people finding them a bit around.
 

thomas

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I updated the screenshot. I actually like the "anti-aliased" effect of larger fonts.
:)

The HTML text has a few advantages over images. Furthermore, Google obviously doesn't index the image alt text anymore.

The Japanese characters I used before were TT fonts. So unless a visitor has previously downloaded that particular font set they are not displayed in her/his browser.
 
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lineartube

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The HTML text has a few advantages over images. Furthermore, Google obviously doesn't index the image alt text anymore.

If placed properly, everything is relevant. Besides, Google isn't the only fish in the sea.

This may be of help:
Webmaster Guidelines
Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site, which is the best way to ensure you'll be included in Google's results. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the "Quality Guidelines," which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index. Once a site has been removed, it will no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google's partner sites.

Design and Content Guidelines:

Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map into separate pages.
Create a useful, information-rich site and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in images.
Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive and accurate.
Check for broken links and correct HTML.
If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a '?' character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them small.
Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).
Technical Guidelines:

Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. If fancy features such as Javascript, cookies, session ID's, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.
Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session ID's or arguments that track their path through the site. These techniques are useful for tracking individual user behavior, but the access pattern of bots is entirely different. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site, as bots may not be able to eliminate URLs that look different but actually point to the same page.
Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This feature allows your webserver to tell Google whether your content has changed since we last crawled your site. Supporting this feature saves you bandwidth and overhead.
Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server. This file tells crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. Make sure it's current for your site so that you don't accidentally block the Googlebot crawler. Visit http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/faq.html for a FAQ answering questions regarding robots and how to control them when they visit your site.
If your company buys a content management system, make sure that the system can export your content so that search engine spiders can crawl your site.
When your site is ready:

Once your site is online, submit it to Google at http://www.google.com/addurl.html.
Make sure all the sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.
Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!.
Periodically review Google's webmaster section for more information.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quality Guidelines - Basic principles:

Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users, or present different content to search engines than you display to users.
Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
Don't use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing resources and violate our terms of service. Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold邃「 that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.
Quality Guidelines - Specific recommendations:

Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
Don't send automated queries to Google.
Don't load pages with irrelevant words.
Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie-cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behaviour, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here, (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known web sites). It's not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn't included on this page, Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

If you believe that another site is abusing Google's quality guidelines, please report that site at http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html. Google prefers developing scalable and automated solutions to problems, so we attempt to minimize hand-to-hand spam fighting. The spam reports we receive are used to create scalable algorithms that recognize and block future spam attempts.

in http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html
 

thomas

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At the moment Google/Yahoo seem to become some sort of M$ among search engines. Altavista doesn't offer anything apart from Babelfish. There's Teoma and Alltheweb, the rest of the pack is pretty marginal. SEO focuses more or less on Google.

Thanks for the Google link.

Here's my reference for the alt tags:

Google Ditches IMG Alt Text


(registration is free; it's one of the best webmaster fora around).
 

lineartube

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lol

There was a misunderstanding here. The purpose of the alt tags that I was recommending isn't for SE indexing but for a better usability feature.

And as for Search Engines, it's not up to you to check every single rule they create, or you might lose your sanity. Just follow the standards and you will be okay.

Someday even meta-tags will bite the dust.
 

thomas

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Hehe, sorry, I'm completely focused on SEO at the moment. Of course I'll continue to use alt tags in regard to usability.

And as for Search Engines, it's not up to you to check every single rule they create, or you might loose your sanity. Just follow the standards and you will be okay.

LOL, that's true! It seems you know my current state of mind. :D

PS: Interesting article!
 
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