I love wireframing. It's like playing with LEGOs -- you can build anything, hate it, tear it down, and then start all over again at a moment's notice. The idea's simple enough -- create the barebones design for your web site, focusing on the user interface without getting bogged down in graphics, colors and arguments over whether the hyperlinks should be underlined or not.
Attached as PDFs to this post are my initial tier one and tier three "evolutionary" wireframes for the Nuketown redesign. These aren't a radical change from what we have now, but they accomplish a number of my design goals, including integrating microcontent into the home page, creating some new advertising options the (the skyscraper ad on the home page, the box add on the tier 3 page), a place to show case projects/features, and columns for exposing content like top rated stories and comments. It also gets rid of the login forms in favor of a login link in the primary nav (the sidebar login is something I hate in the current design) and cleans up the layout.
It's been pretty quiet around Nuketown for the last few weeks, but it's not because I haven't been working. It's just that I have been working, but haven't had much I could talk about yet. The big thing I've been working on is a scope document for Nuketown's redesign.
The idea behind the scope document is to nail down exactly what it is I'm doing as part of the redesign. It's not meant to be a soap-to-nuts document -- I have to sleep some time -- but I wanted to summarize my objectives, create some solid tasks to accomplish them, and then identify goals to see whether or not my plan worked.
It was worth the time it took to write it up -- as I was working on the IA and analytics, I realized that I'd gone to far in thinking about how I would do what I wanted, with out identifying what it was I wanted to do. It's an easy trap to fall into when you're working on a hobby project like this, but it ends up costing you dearly when you get halfway through the project and realize it's a muddled mess. I don't have a lot of free time -- and I seem to have less and less of it as life goes on -- so I can't afford to make those kinds of mistakes.
Nuketown's information architecture has taken on several different forms over the years. At one point there where two major buckets: News and Features. This then evolved into the current, broader buckets that break out the old News section by media: Books (Bookshelf), Games (Game Room), Hoaxes (Hoax Central), Links (Link Port), Music and Audio (Music Hall), TV and Movies (Theatre) and Podcasts.
Cutsy names aside, from my perspective the problem with this structure hasn't been the top level links, but rather the secondary ones. Each section has subcategories, such as reviews and columns. The major sections have sidebar navigation elements that exposes the subcategories, but they are buried in the sidebar, and not readily apparent. They're also not comprehensive, exposing only the first tier of subcategories: there's no easy way to get to finer-grained categories like "Savage Worlds"-related posts.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post when I look at the the existing sitemap, another problem I see is that its hard to tell what's a column, and what's not. There are no buckets for columns, and at a glance its not easy to see that "Off the Bookshelf", "Game Day" and "The Libertarian Gamer" are columns. Adding a parent taxonomy might help.
With analytics in hand, I've conducted an inventory of Nuketown's content. Below is a list (as of 7/13/2011) of the categories that comprise Nuketown, and their corresponding post counts.
It's an interesting report. I expected that the "Games" section would have the most posts, but that honor goes to the "Blog" section with 907 posts. I expect this is a legacy of the early Aughts and my frequent rages against the Republicrat political machine, coupled with numerous Geek Dad updates as my fury gave way to wonder and exhaustion as my kids were born.
It's been five years since Nuketown's last redesign. The imputus then was to experiment with this nifty new open source content management system I'd heard about: Drupal. I converted Nuketown from the homegrown CMS I'd written, created a Drupal theme, and then had fun experimenting with views, content types and way too many modules.
Five year later it's time for another Drupal upgrade: Drupal 7. Unlike the last few Drupal upgrades, Drupal 7 changes a lot of things under the hood, including the theme. Rebuilding the current Nuketown theme -- which has sabertooth-like incisors -- seems like a waste of time ... why not take the opportunity to do something new?
Thus, the redesign. A lot has changed in the last five years and as I re-work Nuketown, I want to acknowledge those changes and incorporate them into the design. A good example is social media and the microcontent associated with it. In 2006, Facebook was still largely a college phenomenon and Twitter had just launched. Five years later I've made 14,339 tweets, much of which might have been a blog post in an earlier age, almost all of which isn't captured on Nuketown in anyway.
I'm in the progress of updating Nuketown's Mac Role-Playing Game Tools page, which has developed an embarassing case of bitrot.
Unfortunately some of the more stalwart tools, like Crystal Ball, as well as one-offs like the Town Creator and D&D Manager, are no longer available, and their sites have gone to the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky. Still others, like Dunjinni, no longer work with under Mac OS Lion and don't seem likely to be updated any time soon.
Nuketown now has an official twitter feed: NuketownSF. The new @NuketownSF feed updates about the ol'thermonuclear burg as well as news and reviews about stuff we've seen or read that we don't have time to cover in the webzine.
Nuketown's not a big site: never was, likely never will be. In 2009, the ol'thermonuclear burg had 113,630 visits; in 2010 this declined to 103,546. As I mentioned in my introductory redesign post, Nuketown's traffic is down significantly from 2010, with 44,301 visits (compared with 57,000 for the same time period last year, a decline of about 22%).
It's a big drop, and easily the most eye-popping of the numbers I get from Google Analytics.
What's the reason for the drop? At first glance my thought was that I wasn't posting enough, but the truth of the matter is that a lot of Nuketown's traffic comes from a small number of high profile posts ... and those posts are getting long in the tooth.
Check the batteries in your motion trackers, refuel your flamethrowers, lock and load your shotgun, and make sure you've everything you need to make a few dozen pipe bombs.
Monster Week is here.
The week-long celebration of speculative fiction's monster movies is running July 25-31 at Nuketown. It focuses on "creature features", movies like Aliens, Predator and The Thing that pit humanity against overwhelming horrors. It will include movie reviews, audio commentary, game reviews and RPG reviews and anything else we can shove out the airlock.