After returning from a particularly fruitful tutorial with my operations management lecturer at university today I set about working on a few site layout changes I've been meaning to make. First of all let me apologise to those people trying to browse the file database while changes were being made, by the time I realised I was doing live changes instead of changes on my test server it was too late. Oops.
The main focus of these changes has been on increasing the overall size of the main content area, not least for those users who are still in the archaic blind-man 1024x768 resolution. I've pretty much given up on the 1.55% of visitors to this site who still use 800x600 or lower resolutions.
The edits made yesterday with the introduction of an AJAX page loader were a precursor move to gauge feedback and assess a new file page layout that would have this AJAX loader at the core of the layout in the form of a tabbed navigation. The navigation reduces the number of information boxes on the page (see: clutter) and replaces most of them with a centralised, tabbed navigation. This has enabled me to completely remove the right-hand columns taken up by the image gallery, files, actions and tags information boxes respectively. This has saved on 210 pixels of space, enabling the main content area originally taken up by just the file description to expand into this new space. The gallery has been moved to the top area with the author name, uploader name, file version, number of downloads, number of views and rating boxes wrapping around it. The other sections have been moved to the new centralised tabbed navigation.
So the plus side is that 210 pixels have been freed from captivity and put to use expanding the width of the core content area. Similarly certain features, such as the file comments, tags and action log were originally displayed in seperate pages or pop-up windows, but are now displayed on the same page at the click of a button. This reduces the need for the user to traverse multiple pages in order to get the information needed.
The down side is that the new system is not browser tabbing friendly. You can't directly open new tabs for the description, comments and images, for example. That is, not unless you access the file page three times and click each navigation tab in each tab. Similarly certain pieces of core information, such as the downloadable files themselves are now an extra click away. Web developers are often taught the common sense concept that the less clicks users need to make before getting what they want, the better. My choice was between making the downloadable file links available directly on the page somewhere, adding to the clutter I'm trying to remove, or adding it to a tab that is an extra click away.
I can't really find a place for the downloadable information on the page. I have to take into account that there are some entries, like Midas Magic Spells of Aurum
, that have a lot of downloadable files. If I put the downloadable information at the top of the page then it has the possibility of making the user scroll to reach the central information (i.e. the description) on the page. Putting it to the right of the central area, as it was before, would defeat the whole point of the changes, and putting it below the main central area would mean users would have to scroll a mile and a half on some pages just to get to the downloads. So you see the riveting predicament.
I've made my file layout changes and set it out in the most aesthetic and efficient manner possible, in my own eyes. After 6 years of developing this site I've learnt that, for one (wrong) reason or another, people don't always agree with my opinions on these things. So here is your time to shine and express your opinion on the layout of the file page. What would you change? Where would you put things? Are you taking into account that advertising is paying for this site and has to be in the top-fold (visible without having to scroll)? Mumm-Ra forbid that you might actually like this change!