When I launched Nuketown’s latest design in June, I consciously switched it away from an “issue-based” model in which content was published on a set schedule, to a blog-like model, in which content was published when I felt like it. The goal, on my end, was to relieve some of the self-imposed stress of trying to meet a deadline, while simultaneously making the ol’thermonuclear burg more timely by posting every few days.
For the most part, it worked well. After the new design went live, I got a lot of positive feedback (including some of the most positive feedback of all, in the form of a paid advertiser — Redjack Publishing). In addition, Nuketown has been more timely in its publication, and I’ve felt a lot less stressed.
There have been unexpected consequences. Ditching a schedule in favor of publishing when the mood strikes me worked well as a new dad with too little time, but it created gaping content holes on the site. For example, the “Movies & DVD” section hasn’t been updated since July 2004. The popular “Hoaxes” section sees updates every six months or so. “Books & Print” has been fairing better with monthly updates, as have the “Music & Audio” and “Games” sections. “Links” comes and goes in spurts, usually based on when I’m writing a column for Knights of the Dinner Table or a review for SCI-FI.com, and I find something that doesn’t quite fit either publication. “Netheads” sees heavy updating; the “NukeShop” is positively anemic. The “Blog” section is sporadic, but that’s understandable, since it is the “Blog” section.
The bias hasn’t been conscious on my part — it’s just a result of me writing whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it, but it has left these unsightly holes in my content.
In another, somewhat unrelated experiment I ditched e-mail links in favor of a feedback form. I wanted to cut down the amount of spam I received (thanks to e-mail harvesters crawling the web, and gathering my e-mail addresses), and to standardize the way people responded to Nuketown. By using the form, I’m able to color code all of the Nuketown-related inquiries, which in turn helps prevent them from getting lost in the ongoing flood of spam.
Spam-wise, the change did little. The e-mail addresses I use for Nuketown have been circulating too long, and nothing short of abandoning them will reduce the spam they receive. The inquiry form did standard Nuketown’s feedback though, and that in turn allowed me to respond to inquiries in a timely manner.
There is a downside or two though. Some readers are confused by the category terminology on the form; I’ve had numerous responses submitted as “Request a Review”, which I intended to be used to request book/game/whatever reviews, but which people use to send me regular messages (presumably to “review” what they’ve sent me).
The biggest drawback is the drop off in of hoax submissions; people don’t appear to be comfortable with cutting and pasting the hoax information into the form, and the number of debunking submissions I receive has plummeted since the redesign.
I don’t even know Nuketown’s erratic schedule is really a problem. No one’s complained, and while that doesn’t mean that people aren’t pissed, it could be this problem’s all in my head.
In order to figure out whether or not my readers care about this (and to judge people’s overall thought on the site and its future) I’m going to be running a Reader Survey starting sometime next week and ending in mid-April. The survey will let you comment on whether you prefer a blog-like or magazine-like approach, what sections you like, etc., and will hopefully help answer this question.
Regardless of what readers end up telling me, the content holes bug me personally, so I will be taking some steps to deal with them. For one thing, I’m going to draw up a simple schedule of articles that must run each month, so that at the very least every section will see a new post every 30 days.
With regards to the feedback form, I may make a few tweaks to its terminology, but I plan on keeping it — it’s just been too useful to ditch entirely. I am going to start offering e-mail links as well though, particularly in the Hoaxes section.
And finally, I’m expanding Nuketown’s writing staff. I’ve got three new contributors who want to write for the site and I’m hoping I can get a few more, particularly ones interested in writing book, movie and DVD reviews for the site. Expect another call for contributors soon.
Overall, I think the redesign and the switch were good for Nuketown and myself. It kept the zine publishing, and while it did create a few holes in the line up, the ol’thermonuclear burg is seeing more traffic than prior to it’s relaunch. And it’s hard to argue with that kind of success.
I’d love to hear from readers about the current state of Nuketown. If you have any suggestions, you can e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.