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Giving sections their own look and feel

By SIGFPE in Meta
Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 06:41:48 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

Kuro5hin seems to loosely model its format on that of a magazine. It has sections like 'columns' and 'op-ed' and 'news'. However unlike a real magazine every section looks the same apart from small differences - it has the name of the section on the story and a small icon. In fact most of the time I don't even know what section a particular story is in. Consider any widely circulated magazine. You know you are reading an editorial piece, or a feature story, or a letter, merely by the way the page looks. This plays an important part in the look and feel of the magazine.

I think it would enhance K5 if each section had some unique defining features - for example its own colour, layout or font. Some advantages of this are
  • We would eventually learn how to associate each section with a distinct look so that fewer misclassifications of submissions would happen in future.
  • It would be easier to find old stories because we might remember how they looked and hence where they were. If you read something in Scientific American you would be unlikely to forget whether it was in a feature story or in a letter. On K5 it's easy to forget whether it was Op-Ed or MLP.
  • I think it might help focus the kinds of submissions that K5 receives because each individual section would have a stronger identity.
  • And the way every section looks the same right now is a bit monotonous :-)


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Different sections should feel different
o No 24%
o Subtly different (Like a slight colour change) 42%
o More different (Maybe a change of font and colour but still K5 style) 29%
o Very different (Completely changed layout) 4%

Votes: 116
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Giving sections their own look and feel | 23 comments (22 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
good idea (4.33 / 6) (#1)
by Seumas on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:00:56 PM EST

I think this actually sounds like a good idea. I don't think there needs to be a drastic alteration for it to have an impact, either. Just a little color change for each section, even -- that would do. And not the whole page, maybe make a line or a bar here and there 'red' instead of blue or make it light gray instead of blue or red, and so on. Just to provide a distinction between areas. The distinction (ever so slight) would have to be made at the top/section of the page and then in the posting/voting section -- and then perhaps something to denote the submission in the queue, by color or something.

Anything beyond a subtle change would ruin the pleasent design of the site as it currently is, though.
I just read K5 for the articles.

Maybe (3.66 / 3) (#2)
by duxup on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:11:11 PM EST

I think it would be an interesting idea . . . as long as I could disable such features :-)

css (4.75 / 4) (#3)
by jesterzog on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:17:06 PM EST

It sounds interesting, but if it's done could it maybe be done as much as possible with style sheets? (Which also makes it easier to maintain.)

This makes it easier for me to switch it off if it gets in the way, and it opens up the possibility for people to decide what styles they want, and where they want them. (Even design their own styles and share them with other people.)

jesterzog Fight the light

Sounds good to me and all... (4.60 / 5) (#4)
by Captain_Tenille on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:17:45 PM EST

But it would be really nice if either a.) you could customize the colors to your needs or b.) the colors selected would be chosen in such a way that they won't drive the colorblind k5 readers (like yours truly) insane.

I've come across so many web sites that are probably interesting and all, but they have color schemes that are so atrocious that I just can't use them. Please, k5 lords, admins, and masters, take pity on that 10% of your readership that sees color differently than you. :-D
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!

Designer/Admin thoughts (3.00 / 5) (#5)
by qslack on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:28:15 PM EST

I think Hurst put it well when he said this on IRC:

<hurstdog> driph, you see that story in the queue about how you don't have enough to do?
<Driph> about me?
<hurstdog> asking for different themes for each section?
<Driph> heheh
<hurstdog> indirectly :)
<qslack> http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory;sid=2001/2/20/184643/253&mode=moderate
<qslack> There
<hurstdog> thank you, oh link-bitch ;-)

This just isn't one of the top priorities the K5 people have nor should have. Submit a design for each and see what happens mabe...

that was meant as a joke... (3.80 / 5) (#6)
by hurstdog on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 07:42:06 PM EST

kinda out of context, but no matter.

To implement different colored sections in k5 it would require a few changes.. well not too many. First, it would probably be easiest if we changed scoop completely over to CSS first. Then, it would be easily done, with a box at the top of the page that generates the css.

The good news is, inoshiro said once we release scoop-0.6 that he'd start implementing scoop with CSS. Well, scoop-0.6 will be released shortly (as in a couple weeks, MAX), so scoop should have this functionality soon....

[ Parent ]
themes.kuro5hin.org (5.00 / 8) (#8)
by eLuddite on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 09:22:13 PM EST

I vote that the html is made 100% 4.01 or xhtml compliant, first. As is, there's as much font and table attributes as there is actual content.

Beyond that, store a user configurable stylesheet with each account. That stylesheet can include everything from icons to fonts to colors to layout. The secret will be to abstract as much of the design into the stylesheet as possible and then to allow users to tweak the stylesheet's content. You can even have a themes section similiar to the current diary section.

That's got to be easier than some 10 odd new designs, not to mention infinitely more cool and user friendly.

God hates human rights.

Gotta disagree. (4.00 / 3) (#9)
by elenchos on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 10:18:37 PM EST

I think those who go ballistic when a story gets misclassified have the wrong goal in mind. I actually like it when the technology and culture get a little mixed up, or when there are no obvious markers as to whether you are reading "fact" or "opinion."

What I dislike most is that many people stay permanently in one section and never read or post to articles outside their field of interest or expertise. Probably from a justifiable fear of getting flamed if they so much as lift their head up in foreign territory. I was really bummed out a while back when my computer science education article got practically no posts from people outside the software field, even though I had specifically asked for their input. Now I wish I had sectioned it in politics or culture or something, rather than software, just to get the attention of those who normally don't dare risk the ire or ridicule of the propeller-heads. One reason K5 is better than Slashdot is because the community here is more eclectic and cross-fertilized.

So by making the sections more distinctive, you do make the design better aesthetically and make the site more orderly, but I think the discussion would be less stimulating. One solution might be to go ahead and do it, but accidentally introduce a bug that sometimes randomizes the sectioning of an article, just to keep it lively.


Ack! (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by _Quinn on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 10:53:55 PM EST

   Be careful about CSS! Some of us don't have browsers that do CSS (*cough* Netscape4.x *cough*) too well, and alternatives aren't quite there yet. (Well, maybe Konquerer is, but I have better things to do with my time than install K2.)

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
There's another alternative (none / 0) (#18)
by BryanFeeney on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 03:33:47 PM EST

You can get Opera 5 beta 6 for Linux if you really want to move away from Netscape. You have to add the qt2 libs (they'll happily live alongside qt-1.44), though if that fazes you, you can get the statically compiled version. It's still less than 10 megs. Frankly, as someone who's had to create pages for IE and Nutscrape, I really don't see the point in hanging on now that Mozilla, iCab, Opera and IE 5.5 are out. CSS is sooo much easier and better than the usual font crap.
Bryan Feeney - http://www.bfeeney.uklinux.net/
"I still miss Windows, but my aiim is getting better."
[ Parent ]
What I'd like to see (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by enterfornone on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 11:56:06 PM EST

How about letting users create their own look for diaries. Yeah@!

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Sounds fun... (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by Armaphine on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 09:33:27 AM EST

I;m personally going with a couple of BLINK tags and three or four huge-ass animated gifs...

Of course, houw many people would "Decorate" with something from the goatse.cx collection?

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.
[ Parent ]

Heh.. (4.85 / 7) (#12)
by driph on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 12:01:07 AM EST

Going with one new look caused quite a stir. If we came out with 12 different designs for 12 different sections, my lynching would probably escalate from a poll option to reality. :]

That aside, we are working on implementing theming, so you'll have a bit more choice when it comes to the presentation of the site.

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
Content rewriting proxy. (4.40 / 5) (#13)
by szap on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 01:23:48 AM EST

I suggest some people with Copious Free Time try the following:

  1. Write a hackish personal web proxy that, upon seeing http://www.kuro5hin.org/XXXXX rewrite it with a param "raw=1".
  2. Scoop, upon seeing "raw=1", will output content either in xml or some easily parsed content or its internal data structure (e.g. Perl's Data::Dumper output)
  3. Proxy rewrites raw content into pretty layout, depending on user preference. This can be done either via Perl's Template::Toolkit, XSLT, PHP or $favourite_template_language.
Good points:
  1. Minimal changes to server
  2. No apparent changes to those unwilling or do not want to use it.
  3. Fast: less downloading layout language to do
  4. Can personally customize or debug template/theme to be as minimalistic or as gaudy as the user prefers.
  5. Can use scoop's original template
Bad points:
  1. Someone's gotta write it
  2. More technical know-how required to use it.

I meant this semi-seriously. It's not as hard as it looks, and I've done a content-rewriting proxy before (code is too hackish and broken to be reused, though). I'm volunteering to help debug if anyone takes this up.

A good example: (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by SIGFPE on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 01:47:19 AM EST

If I go to DJ's web site it feels like it's about weed. You quickly come to associate the colour scheme with the content.
I propose (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by jabber on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 01:00:41 PM EST

Good point. In the spirit of using colors and schemes to represent content, I propose the following:

Meta: Fuzzy Pink, like a navel
Op-Ed: Bovine Brown.
Technology: Pure Gold.
MLP: random combination of a random number of random colors, on a character by character basis, newly generated for each page reload - with obligatory <blink></blink> tags everywhere.

Seriously though, what's wrong with a consistant, classy theme as we have now? Making sections visually distinct will only fragment the site. It won't really help with mis-classification since, when a submission is classified by the author, they assign the section. Rarely is this done incorrectly by accident.

If customization is really needed, which IMHO it is not, then it really ought to be user selectable. A color scheme is like a logo, it's a brand of sorts. Everyone here knows "Slashdot Green" when they see it, and the only reason for this is not because it's only on their front page, but because it was the color of the whole site. Then, they began colorizing their sections, and shortly thereafter the fit hit the shan. Once they started looking like Wired, they started generating fluffy content and attracting 'that sort' of discussion.

K5 is a content oriented site. It has a clean and sophisticated look (both before and after the change) and this sort of subtle coloring, consistent throughout the site, leads people to pay attentnion to the content. Worrying about appearances, IMO, would be the first step to losing focus on content.

So, the happy medium seems to be user-level color customization. I for one won't use it.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Smokedot (none / 0) (#19)
by DJBongHit on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 06:32:29 PM EST

If I go to DJ's web site it feels like it's about weed. You quickly come to associate the colour scheme with the content.
I like the color scheme, and I like the individual icons, but I'm not happy with the way the site feels overall - it just doesn't feel like a professional site (it's not, I know, but it looks too amateurish). That's because of a combination of the fact that the icons don't line up properly and it looks too much like Slash. Once Dope is finished I'm going to work on making it look better (everybody keeps asking me this, so I'll answer it here - no, Dope is not a modification of Slash or Scoop, it's 100% my code.)

Anyway, that's not the point. I just think K5 looks a lot better than Smokedot :P


GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Oh no.. more heavy pages.. (3.75 / 4) (#15)
by mystic on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 04:44:06 AM EST

Even now, K5 suffers from being heavy and tag redundant tc. Customising will create so much more weight to the webpages. I do not want it. I want a K5 that:
  • is ok in layout
  • behaves well in all good browsers
  • responds fast to queries etc.
  • light weight

End of story.

Not more heavy (none / 0) (#23)
by BehTong on Mon Feb 26, 2001 at 04:12:36 PM EST

... this is the whole point behind customization. Add theme selection to the user configuration, then the user can select whether he wants Super Massive Eye-candy K5 or a plaintext K5. (Slashdot's "light" HTML option, anyone?)

Then you'll avoid the problem of eye-candy people complaining that K5 is useless unless it has all those menus and bars and bells and whistles, and also the bare-minimum people who think anything beyond paragraph and list tags is evil.

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!
[ Parent ]

Good idea, and easy (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by ymike on Thu Feb 22, 2001 at 08:40:52 AM EST

It's a good idea to continue to improve the flexible formatting of Scoop. It seems pretty easy because all we're talking about is multiple templates - one for each section. That's pretty straightforward to implement.

Garish Colo(u)r Schemes (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by Ruidh on Thu Feb 22, 2001 at 01:20:44 PM EST

Am I the only one who despises the painful color schemes used by the Other Leading Tech Weblog?

I think different color schemes could be done for sections, but the differences should be small and the graphic elements should be redone for each page in a complimentary tint.

Color, "because we can", is probably a bad reason.

"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
Three flavours (4.50 / 2) (#22)
by jesterzog on Sat Feb 24, 2001 at 07:08:14 AM EST

I've been wondering a bit about this over the last day or two, and IMHO it could work quite nicely if kuro5hin was offered in three possible flavours.

  1. The standard default view (as it is now), for people who just want to see it in a standard way.

  2. A cut down no-table, but intelligently marked up XML version, to which users can apply their own css style sheets. ie. Let people format it how they want, and (probably) let them share their designs with other users. This is more or less what I said below, and it's been proposed by several people in the past.

  3. (The ultra cool one.) A fully fledged XML markup, with no special HTML formatting (except maybe the simple tags that people write in their messages.)

    This would let people design things like xsl style sheets to design and format things exactly the way they want it. Even if people weren't allowed to design their own xsl sheet (or whatever else, but why not?), it'd majorly cut down on having to transfer the formatting html over and over again. (ie. Send the template once, send the information separately and let the client slot it in.)

The last two are quite similar, if the html was xhtml and designed well. The last one in particular would even make it possible for people to design specialised reader clients so a browser wouldn't be necessary. (If there was a demand for it.)

jesterzog Fight the light

Giving sections their own look and feel | 23 comments (22 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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