Brass Tasks of the Layout

Matt Barton's picture

Okay. I've been working too long on this, so let me share my thoughts now (even though they are still a bit muddled). I'm trying to get my slowly growing knowledge of theme development organized. The key theme issues that we need to settle seem to be these:

Top Banner. This is clearly the top priority in designing our layout. You can see what I'm talking about here. Clearly, we want something at least as distinctive as the banners we had at the old AA. I like the idea of having buttons on or below the banner, as in this example. If we wanted to be clever, we might have a console (like the one at the old site) whose buttons would actually be alternate navigation buttons for the site.

One kind of crazy idea I just had was that instead of basing a theme on an actual console, we might just create a sort of generic console look. If we wanted to abandon the console look, we might go instead for a banner emphasizing certain games from the past and modern eras. I'm thinking perhaps of something like this, but with more variety.

Some interesting examples:
* Joystiq has an animated PONG banner. Quite neat.
* AG has an NES-style controller on the banner. Rather plain.

The layout of the modules. Some sites have boxes around modules like "Who's Online" and "Recent Comments." Others have no boxes. Compare Brussels with Mac Geekery. These boxes do seem to make a profound impact on the site's aesthetic, so it's not something we want to consider lightly. I really enjoy boxes with shadows.

Fonts and colors. Pretty self-explanatory here. We obviously will want to stick to web-standard fonts and colors. Again, this is one of those small things that ends up making a huge difference in the way a site looks and feels.

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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I think an elaborate top

I think an elaborate top banner with clear menus is a key to making our site look like it's just not about blogs. I like the idea of tabbed menus. I also like the idea of a generic console theme. However, I'd like to go one step further and mix in generic console AND computer elements. I don't want anyone to think we're just about videogames. That gets my goat. In any case, no matter what we do with graphics, we have to remember navigation clarity must reign supreme!

When I'm not at work, I'll look at some of the other stuff and start to offer more helpful feedback about look and feel.
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Bill Loguidice - Armchair Arcade Co-Founder and Editor
www.billandchristina.com (includes Videogame and Computer Collection)
www.mythcore.com (creative development company)

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Matt Barton
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More Specific Ideas

Elizabeth may be able to come up with something for this. I'm trying to feed her more specific information. Do we want videogame characters or themes in the banner? She did a really cool thing for my office door using Pac-Man (the maze spelled out my name).

I agree strongly with you on one thing--we don't want to give the impression that we're dedicated to classic consoles. That's only a small part of what we do. Perhaps sticking more to games rather than hardware might help us overcome this--particularly if we mixed old games with new ones.

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Bill Loguidice
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I want to steer clear of

I want to steer clear of copyright infringement issues, so unless she creates generic videogame-like characters (which might be cool, actually - perhaps pixelated ones like this: http://images.google.com/images?q=tbn:1zD8l-Z-YMuuEM:www.dsrevolution.co... - Mark is good at these too), I'd rather we keep it to hardware and hardware-like things.
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Bill Loguidice - Armchair Arcade Co-Founder and Editor
www.billandchristina.com (includes Videogame and Computer Collection)
www.mythcore.com (creative development company)

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Matt Barton
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Copyrights

That's a good point. I hadn't thought of that. I wouldn't be surprised to get a C&D from Nintendo or some such nonsense if we tried to use Mario. Either we'd have to get permission beforehand (which would probably be denied in a knee-jerk fashion), or we could make sure the characters were distinct enough from the real things not to cause a problem. This wouldn't be a big issue if it were the cover or an illustration, but since it will be part of our trademark, we'll have to be especially careful.

Still, Game Pro has some pretty obvious game characters on their site, yet I don't see any notices of whether they have permission to use them. There may be a loophole here that we're not aware of. I'm am sure that we can use these things as we need them in a review/editorial capacity and not a branding one.

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Bill Loguidice
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Agreed. There is a definite

Agreed. There is a definite distinction between branding/association versus review/news/editorial usage. We can knock around some ideas. In any case, I'm heading home now. I'll try to log on later tonight and address some of the other things in more detail. Progress!
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Bill Loguidice - Armchair Arcade Co-Founder and Editor
www.billandchristina.com (includes Videogame and Computer Collection)
www.mythcore.com (creative development company)

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Matt Barton
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Videogame Themes

I've been really wracking my brain trying to think of images that would suggest the whole spectrum of topics we desire to discuss at AA. If we don't use recognizable characters, we still need some way for this spectrum to come through. I can sort of see, perhaps, an image of a hand on an Atari-style joystick on one side, and an image of a hand gripping an Xbox 360 style controller on the other. Somewhere in there we could get a shot of a gaming type mouse (perhaps a logitech laser mouse and Saitek gamer's keyboard). Thoughts?

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Bill Loguidice
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You know, photos would work

You know, photos would work extremely well, as you hint at! See: http://www.coleconation.com/ . I think that would really perk things up, particularly if someone like Elizabeth would be able to put them in attractive "holders". Goodness knows we have access to every type of hardware, accessory and software available between my stuff (http://www.billandchristina.com/vgamecomp/systems.htm) and what the rest of you guys have. We may need to put a small disclaimer at the bottom through a modification of our current one, but otherwise I see no issue with doing this. It's like "free" graphics.
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Bill Loguidice - Armchair Arcade Co-Founder and Editor
www.billandchristina.com (includes Videogame and Computer Collection)
www.mythcore.com (creative development company)

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Matt Barton
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Photos

I think then that we're feeling pretty positive towards photos. I had another thought--perhaps we want photos of the team as well? I'm not sure how we could mix photos of us and game equipment, but I think it's a good way to go.

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Bill Loguidice
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My ego insists... But

My ego insists... But seriously, it's important to put a face to the names, which again is why I believe it's terribly important - as we've already established - to use our real names. We still need an "About Us" page on here and that would be a good place for the photos (http://www.snarc.net/c-about.php - as one weak example), as well as - if possible - our blog headers. We'll figure something out.

I think we've established our vision for a clear identity. Photos and revolve the site around the personalities that make up AA. Sounds like a plan. Next!
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Bill Loguidice - Armchair Arcade Co-Founder and Editor
www.billandchristina.com (includes Videogame and Computer Collection)
www.mythcore.com (creative development company)

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Mark Vergeer
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Real identity

Yes, I have always been a strong believer in being non-anonymous. Using photo's on the 'about us' page is a good idea in my opinion.

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