Does the Bureau need a makeover?

Let’s face it, folks, this site is kinda ugly.

I know it (I should know, I put together this which we laughingly call a design). You know it. theangrymob knows it, which is why he put together this mock-up of a new site design.


So, what do you think of it? Heck, what do you think of what we’ve got here, now? Any favorite colours that we should include in any potential new layout?


As long as we’re looking at a makeover, anything else that should go in while we’re rooting through the code? What new feature or bugfix would you love to see on this site?


Basically this is an open gripe-fest. Go to it, folks.

36 replies on “Does the Bureau need a makeover?”

  1. Dave says:

    and as long as we’re at it…
    … the banner ads aren’t making anyone any money, really. Will anyone have hurt feelings if they get scaled back, perhaps to be replaced by Google’s text ads?

    Nah, didn’t think so. :-)

    • theangrymob says:

      Re: and as long as we’re at it…

      … the banner ads aren’t making anyone any money, really. Will anyone have hurt feelings if they get scaled back, perhaps to be replaced by Google’s text ads?

      Nah, didn’t think so. :-)

      Or Amazon ads. Just a thought… :)

    • fiziko says:

      Re: and as long as we’re at it…

      … the banner ads aren’t making anyone any money, really. Will
      anyone have hurt feelings if they get scaled back, perhaps to be
      replaced by Google’s text ads?

      Nah, didn’t think so. :-)

      Maybe it’s just the future teacher in me talking, but I’ll vote for
      anything that gets rid of the “he worked all night and got a B, she
      bought someone else’s work, stuck her name on it, and got an
      A” banner that keeps coming up.

    • vanyel says:

      Re: and as long as we’re at it…

      … the banner ads aren’t making anyone any money, really. Will anyone have hurt feelings if they get scaled back, perhaps to be replaced by Google’s text ads?

      Nah, didn’t think so. :-)

      I don’t mind the banner ads as long as they’re not animated. But please use background/text colors that make the text easier to read. white on blue works well, but white on black for some reason just doesn’t (though it’s not nearly as bad as some sites I’ve been to).

      • Radish03 says:

        Re: and as long as we’re at it…
        I too don’t mind the banner ads as they currently are. One thing in the mockup bugs me though. The banner is between the title image and the rest of the site, with the side panels around it, almost framing it. The banner and the title image should be swapped, to how they are currently. And as several have stated, customizable color schemes would be wonderful. Make sure to add a Classic scheme for those afraid of change. :)

        • Dave says:

          Re: and as long as we’re at it…

          And as several have stated, customizable color schemes would be wonderful. Make sure to add a Classic scheme for those afraid of change. :)

          Dear God/dess, you don’t know how hard that would be. Entirely too much of the site’s code mixes form and function in ways that is really just Bad Design (TM) but which made a lot of sense at the time. (Originally, the site was just me prototyping some ‘generic bl0g’ code that was going to be cleaned up and used for a different project altogether that never panned out. The layout, et cetera, was basically “what I whipped up in an hour or so to show off the functionality to a random client”.

          *Most* of the site’s design and layout elements are tucked away in one directory, but there are probably a few things I’ve overlooked here and there, and in general this is one of those things that’s likely to be disastrous. Heck, any layout change is likely to be disastrous at some stage. I’m gonna have to whip up, somewhere, a second copy of the site, just for tinkering with the layout and getting it all right, before it goes “live.”

          In particular, themes would horribly break the site’s caching system. I haven’t yet moved the site onto one of the servers in my office (I’ve been working at a small local ISP for most of the last year), and the present Web host has asked me to keep the database load down.

          Thus, a home-brew caching system. “Heavy” pages (the front page, some stories with lots of comments, the RDF, etc.) are generated every five minutes and stored in the database. Then, when someone views the front page, about 99% of the time I only have to do a dozen or so database queries (to put together the ‘parts’ of the front page, and make sure none of them are stale), instead of a couple hundred.

          Themes would blow that all to Hell, since I’d have to start caching (number of pieces-parts * number of themes) items, and do more database queries to sort out the different parts, and then do more user state-tracking (cookies or something) to track which users want which themes, and it’s just generally not gonna work too well. If I’d put that sort of thing in when I first started working on the site, it’d be a different matter entirely, but to be blunt, I have neither the time nor any special desire to re-write substantially the entire site engine. Sorry ’bout that.

          • vanyel says:

            Re: and as long as we’re at it…
            I don’t care about customizing it as long as it’s easily readable…

          • Insomniac says:

            Re: and as long as we’re at it…

            And as several have stated, customizable color schemes would be wonderful. Make sure to add a Classic scheme for those afraid of change. :)

            Dear God/dess, you don’t know how hard that would be. Entirely too much of the site’s code mixes form and function in ways that is really just Bad Design (TM) but which made a lot of sense at the time. (Originally, the site was just me prototyping some ‘generic bl0g’ code that was going to be cleaned up and used for a different project altogether that never panned out. The layout, et cetera, was basically “what I whipped up in an hour or so to show off the functionality to a random client”.

            *Most* of the site’s design and layout elements are tucked away in one directory, but there are probably a few things I’ve overlooked here and there, and in general this is one of those things that’s likely to be disastrous. Heck, any layout change is likely to be disastrous at some stage. I’m gonna have to whip up, somewhere, a second copy of the site, just for tinkering with the layout and getting it all right, before it goes “live.”

            In particular, themes would horribly break the site’s caching system. I haven’t yet moved the site onto one of the servers in my office (I’ve been working at a small local ISP for most of the last year), and the present Web host has asked me to keep the database load down.

            Thus, a home-brew caching system. “Heavy” pages (the front page, some stories with lots of comments, the RDF, etc.) are generated every five minutes and stored in the database. Then, when someone views the front page, about 99% of the time I only have to do a dozen or so database queries (to put together the ‘parts’ of the front page, and make sure none of them are stale), instead of a couple hundred.

            Themes would blow that all to Hell, since I’d have to start caching (number of pieces-parts * number of themes) items, and do more database queries to sort out the different parts, and then do more user state-tracking (cookies or something) to track which users want which themes, and it’s just generally not gonna work too well. If I’d put that sort of thing in when I first started working on the site, it’d be a different matter entirely, but to be blunt, I have neither the time nor any special desire to re-write substantially the entire site engine. Sorry ’bout that.

            Being a web developer I can completely sympathise, I work for local government and I’m constantly having to bodge/re-write entire web apps cos the somebody decides they want it to do something else too :-(

            But… So long as you limited the thematic differences to blocks of CSS controlled colours and images and relied on Javascript & cookies instead of server-side code to control the change, I don’t imagine there would be too much impact on the core code? But then I don’t know exactly how you do it so feel free to call me stupid ;-)

            Like others have already said, the beige in the new design is a bit horrid, especially against the black. The current colours (white on black, lime on black) are a little hard to read as well, but I feel the lime has become synonymous with your site and it would be a shame not to integrate it into a new design somehow…

            Keep up the good work though. :-)

          • bondgrrl says:

            Re: and as long as we’re at it…

            Entirely too much of the site’s code mixes form and function in ways that is really just Bad Design (TM) but which made a lot of sense at the time.

            Just started reading this site today, first time posting.

            Why not jsut move the site over to something like Movable Type? It would allow all of the same site functionality (that I have seen so far) and would allow you to have a completely CSS controlled design, so that you can easily change design if you so wish or have alternate stylesheets, as some people (not me) desire.

            Worth thinking about? Check out my new site that I set up a couple of days ago using Movable Type. (Content is still being loaded so don’t mock it).

            • Daemonik says:

              Re: and as long as we’re at it…

              Entirely too much of the site’s code mixes form and function in ways that is really just Bad Design (TM) but which made a lot of sense at the time.

              Just started reading this site today, first time posting.

              Why not jsut move the site over to something like Movable Type? It would allow all of the same site functionality (that I have seen so far) and would allow you to have a completely CSS controlled design, so that you can easily change design if you so wish or have alternate stylesheets, as some people (not me) desire.

              Worth thinking about? Check out my new site that I set up a couple of days ago using Movable Type. (Content is still being loaded so don’t mock it).

              Rather than Moveable Type, how about going over to SlashCode?

              • Dave says:

                Re: and as long as we’re at it…

                Why not jsut move the site over to something like Movable Type?

                Rather than Moveable Type, how about going over to SlashCode?

                Moving the site to any other engine would likely involve losing everything that has come before, due to varying, conflicting, mutually incompatible database schema.

                And Slashcode just isn’t gonna happen, on account of it being a big bloated mess. I won’t use code I can’t understand.

                If another site engine were to be involved at some point, it would most likely be PHP-Nuke.

    • TwistyHat says:

      Ok, here is a gripe
      You are still abusing stylesheets. Webpages are supposed to be resizeable. You specify an absolute size in stylesheets /(which is a design no no – one should specify percentage weights), in MSIE you can’t scale the fonts, meaning that to some people (like me) it readers the page undreadable because the letters are so small. (Of course if you know enough about computers you can do some hacking along the way, but everybody doesn’t)

  2. Icehouseman says:

    Mock-up.
    I like the mock-up. I’d say go with that.

  3. bombadil says:

    How about customized styles?
    Why don’t you make the color scheme come from a user selectable style sheet? Start with two or three color schemes and let users submit/post their own concoctions…

    My eyes tear from reading white on black for too long.

  4. dkichline says:

    The tan color…
    I don’t know about that Tan color though. Just does not do it for me. I have to say the green has kind of grown on me over the years.

    However, to be completely honest, I do not see the homepage very often. I come in from Slashdot, and rely on the RDF export to see any new updates.

    Looks good!

  5. GrimSean says:

    No Jupiter?
    I’d try to keep the Jupiter symbol in the new design, as it’s always been the thing that I liked the most (it’s astronomical, it’s 42, it fits)

    Other than that… the new design is aight. It seems to be lacking in the green department however – I’ve always liked the high contrast in the current design – like bombadil above, user selectable colour schemes are something I wouldn’t mind.

    • Alexius says:

      Re: No Jupiter?

      I’d try to keep the Jupiter symbol in the new design, as it’s always been the thing that I liked the most (it’s astronomical, it’s 42, it fits)

      Other than that… the new design is aight. It seems to be lacking in the green department however – I’ve always liked the high contrast in the current design – like bombadil above, user selectable colour schemes are something I wouldn’t mind.

      I’ve Been Scrolling And Scrolling For Someone Else To Mention The Jupiter42 Logo. I Loved That Since I First Saw It.

      As For The Other Things, I Actually Like The White On Black, And I Liked The Lime On Black.

      Maybe I’m Just Afraid Of Change, But The Way The Site Looks Was Always Refreshing. It’s Simple, And Easy To Read, I Know Where To Look For What I Want. I’d Kill The Lame Banner Ads, Or Move To The Text Ads, But Besides That, I’ve Always Liked It. I Think The Boxes Split Things Up Too Much.

  6. rickyjames says:

    Go With The Green
    THe mock-up page is OK but I feel pretty strongly you should change the tan to the same glowing green you currently have. To me, that is your trademark and it’s cool. Don’t lose it.

    • Dave says:

      Re: Go With The Green

      THe mock-up page is OK but I feel pretty strongly you should change the tan to the same glowing green you currently have. To me, that is your trademark and it’s cool. Don’t lose it.

      Hm. mob, could you hack on that prototype of yours and basically change the ‘khaki’ or ‘tan’ or ‘beige’ or whatever it is to green and see what happens?

    • dgswensen says:

      Re: Go With The Green

      THe mock-up page is OK but I feel pretty strongly you should change the tan to the same glowing green you currently have. To me, that is your trademark and it’s cool. Don’t lose it.

      I don’t know — I really like the tan. This green is OK, but it always was a bit gaudy for my tastes. I think the tan really makes it work. But that’s just me.

  7. Lurch_Kimded says:

    My two penny’s
    I like the new mock up, it feels a lot cleaner, but I do agree with many that you should keep the symbol and the trademark alien abduction green. Customisable style sheet options are always cool and promote a feeling of belonging and individuality within a site, or something like that.

    Then again, I can’t exactly talk about what should and shouldn’t be in web design. You should see the butchering of CSS’s and colour schemes that my web sites have been through, and I occasionally admit to being artistically competent ;-)

    The worst part is that I’ve now got idea floating around my head of how to make a bureau image with the 42 symbol, nuts, there goes my working day. To Photoshop Robin! ;-)

  8. Daemonik says:

    Suggestions
    For one, the white text/black background is a little hard on the eyes. The color scheme on the mock-up isn’t that much of an improvement.

    Allow people to make posts with text or html, sometimes we forget to put in the tags. ;)

    I like the categories list on the mock-up but there’ll be trouble deciding which shows are listed by name and which are dumped into generic subjects, that is unless you want a 3 page long categories list.

    The logo on the mock-up reminds me of a tan X-box.

    Provide a review submission page so that more people can submit reviews and then you can filter out the sucky ones. Or allow popular voting on reviews.

    Hrmm, that’s all for now.

    • nkuzmik says:

      Re: Suggestions

      For one, the white text/black background is a little hard on the eyes. The color scheme on the mock-up isn’t that much of an improvement.

      I’m going to agree with that. I’ve had vision problems for the better part of ten years and high contrast pages like this one can give me a headache. You may want to consider a background that provides enough contrast to make the text readable, but not harsh. For example,a background that I’ve always liked was:

        Hue: 201
        Sat: 63
        Val: 231
        Red: 174
        Green: 211
        Blue: 231

      And use that with black text. I think it’s pretty good, but that’s just me.

      One other idea I know will be shot down for technical reasons is a easy way for users to archive(either locally or remotely) the threads they comment in. This came up because I said something in a comment once and I wanted to use it in a paper a few months later but it was gone. Can this be done?

  9. Canthros says:

    Just FWIW

    I really like the beige (and white text on a black background), but you need to make the text bigger, or move to a bolder font, with that color scheme. The current one is too small or fine and that makes it hard to read — on my screen, at least.

    You might also try specifying the text size in points, not in pixels. Using pixels means it will be harder to read at higher resolutions on a screen of a given physical size, where points should be fairly independent of screen size.

  10. macwhiz says:

    White (well, black) space

    The new design looks pretty good, but one thing it needs is more
    “white space” — blank space between elements. People who don’t do
    graphic design for a living are often afraid of blank space, but it can
    really make or break a layout.

    By putting a bit more space between the columns, and between the
    items, and perhaps even more leading in the text, the site would be
    much more readable.

    Sometimes, when people say “the text is too small” they mean that
    there aren’t enough pixels per character to render the text. However, a
    lot of the time they really mean that the ratio between the text size and
    the leading is too small. The leading (line spacing) makes a big impact
    on how readable text is.

  11. Cerberus7 says:

    Mixed feelings
    What if I like the existing site? :) It’s got character, though I never did quite get the “24” logo (yes, I know, it’s “42”).

    But, I do like the new mockup, and I for one welcome our… Oops, wrong site. ;)

  12. graikor says:

    One other thing…
    Is there any way you can code the board so Alexius’s posts will be altered to follow standard rules of capitalization and won’t be so darned hard to read?

    Just joking… well, mostly.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: One other thing…

      Is there any way you can code the board so Alexius’s posts will be altered to follow standard rules of capitalization and won’t be so darned hard to read?

      I’m Liking That Idea.

      • dgswensen says:

        Re: One other thing…

        Is there any way you can code the board so Alexius’s posts will be altered to follow standard rules of capitalization and won’t be so darned hard to read?

        I’m Liking That Idea.

        Me Too, I Think It’s Great, Because Frankly Trying To Read Text Like That Makes Me A Little Nuts After Awhile

        • starbreeze says:

          Re: One other thing…

          Me Too, I Think It’s Great, Because Frankly Trying To Read Text Like That Makes Me A Little Nuts After Awhile

          *laughing* i’ve actually had people complain about his comments on my lj being typed how they are. but then, i never use capitalization to begin with.

  13. dgswensen says:

    Nuke the site from orbit…
    Is that PHP-Nuke I spy? :)

    If so, go for it. I’ve run more than one site with PHPNuke and it’s great. I definitely like the new design, too; the current one, I’m afraid, is really hard on my eyes, and one of the reasons I don’t read / post here as much as I’d like. Basically I find it too headache-inducing to try to follow discussions the way the post nesting / quoting system goes.

    So I would say definitely go with the re-design.

    • dgswensen says:

      Re: Nuke the site from orbit…

      Is that PHP-Nuke I spy? :)

      If so, go for it. I’ve run more than one site with PHPNuke and it’s great. I definitely like the new design, too; the current one, I’m afraid, is really hard on my eyes, and one of the reasons I don’t read / post here as much as I’d like. Basically I find it too headache-inducing to try to follow discussions the way the post nesting / quoting system goes.

      So I would say definitely go with the re-design.

      And yes by that I mean this particular mock-up, it looks really good.

  14. Eldhrin says:

    Standards? Standards!
    The mockup is an improvement, although it would be a shame to lose
    the green, and some comments that have been made (especially about
    extra whitespace) I definitely agree with.

    One thing I would like to see though is a redesign which generates code
    which validates at the W3C’s validator. Don’t care if it’s HTML or XHTML
    or what flavour of those it is, as long as it conforms!

    Although were I doing it, I’d be going fot XHTML 1.0 Strict with CSS2 and
    forget browser compatibility. But then I can afford to do that with my
    site.

    Anyone still using the walking cadaver known to most as Netscape 4?

    • Dave says:

      Re: Standards? Standards!

      Anyone still using the walking cadaver known to most as Netscape 4?

      Yeah, several hundred customers at the ISP at which I work.
      Not many people that view this site, but that’s not the point.

  15. starbreeze says:

    my comments/suggestions
    ok, this may already have been said, because i only skimmed the current comments, but i’d love to be able to edit my user info like a .profile. if someone wanted to say, link to their homepage, or include an IM contact name or something in their info, that would be real swell. maybe a quote or something, ya know.

    i sent dave an email with a bunch of suggestions a while back, but i clean out my send box periodically.

    if you use any of those php packages, let us use skins. tan on black makes me cranky because it’s not pretty ;)

    other than that, don’t fuck with the layout of where things are too much; i hate when sites get makeovers and then you can’t find anything. current/older headlines on the right, etc. the prototype looks good, but make the title clickable to take us back to home.

    and after previewing my post, please include an option in posting to make automatic page breaks. i always forget to add the code when i’m writing comments.

  16. pythor says:

    It appears that I’m alone, but…
    I frankly like the current site. White on black is fine, especially when I’m having a migraine. I’m very light sensitive, and any kind of colored background other than black (including white) makes my brain bleed.

    Apparently I’m also in the minority with my screen resolution, because the text size works just fine for me. Or maybe my nearsightedness makes that work, since people at work tell me they can’t read my screen there, either.

    Possibly the best idea would be to setup most major elements with css, since even IE allows users to override the css of a page if they want to. If you go that route, it’s very nice to have the css described in a FAQ somewhere so that those who want know what they’re doing when they start overriding.

    Last but not least, if there is anyway users can select their own backgrounds, mack sure your images have good transparency settings. otherwise you whole background may be white/blue/gree, but your images will still end up big black blobs… Oh, and feel free to ignore any and all of this advice if it’s too difficult. The web designers where I work do ;)

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