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Subject: Site Suggestion: Ideas on cleaning up the default theme.

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Since the change in the GameFAQs theme, it seems there's been a lot of whining. Doubtless, you've noticed. Having looked at the home and content pages, I've found a few minor tweaks that could greatly help your layout a whole lot without changing it in a major way. Please consider them - they will definitely make the current layout more palatable, and appease some of the users who are complaining currently.
First I'd like to point out some things that are good about the current theme. One of the first things I noticed is how compact it is - always a good thing. The text is the perfect size for the rest of the page, and putting lots of text in a relatively small space keeps the reader alert. When sorting through text that contains a lot of line breaks, the brain is forced to maintain activity during reading - this means the viewer doesn't get bored after a few seconds and move on to reading other things. One doesn't need to move his eyes so much to get all the text in one line, and the centering keeps one from having to move his eyes too much when looking through information. The code page is also very well laid-out, and the current theme suits its nature perfectly. Everything y

ou want to know is right in front of you when you first look at it, and that's a good thing.
On to the tweaks. Let's start with the main page. Currently, there's a big ad in the middle for IE users, and information is in disarray. The information the end user wants to see isn't available immediately and requires some hunting to find due to the disorganization. There are quite a few ways to improve this:

1. The Home, Whats New, etc links should be moved back to the side,
preferably using frames. At the top of the page, I find I have to
move my mouse really far to use the links, yet when they were at
the side it was much easier. This sounds relatively asinine, but
the human brain notices these things really quickly. You'd be
surprised at how hard it is to scroll all the way up, find the
link you're looking for , then move your mouse from the middle of
the screen to click when compared to seeing the link at the side
immediately and moving your mouse half the distance.
2. The quick search also needs to be accessible without much
scrolling. The above applies to it as well.
3. The system links (Playstation 2, XBox, Gamecube etc) and Home,
What's New, etc, links register as having the same value despite
the different-sized text. They seem to link to a general part of
GameFAQs, even though it's specific due to another small quirk in
the human psyche. They need to be moved or differentiated in a
different manner from the general links.
4. Western languages are read from right to left. This trains the
brain to take in information from right to left, and when the
right side of the information (or a set of similar pieces of
information) ends, without further similar information on the left
side of the next line, the brain assumes that section of
information has ended. This is the basic idea behind paragraphs.
What you need to do is arrange the sections of the main page like
you would arrange a novel. Put all the GameSpot information on the
same line, like the Top Ten information is. I also recommend
transposing the big ad and the Poll of the Day - this groups the
polls together instead of having to scroll down to see the Poll of
the Day. The result is that all the "this is today's polls"
information hits the brain at once, rather than having the Poll of
the Day and game contest hit separately, causing the brain to
often miss one of them. This actually happened to me as I was
looking at the main page for the first time, and I tend to be a
very observant person. If it can slip past me, it's going to elude
the average Joe for a good amount of time, and he'll probably
spend a few seconds looking for it before finally finding it.
When the brain operates at many millions of calculations per
second, a few seconds is a long, long time.
5. Another text-layout analogy: text is arranged in straight lines,
and aside from the letters "g" and "q," they can all be
differentiated by the way they look immediately. Basically, the
alphabet forms two lines - taking the letter D for example, the
top plane is at the top of the D, and the bottom plane is at the
bottom. Duh, right? "g" and "q" are the exception - the brain has
to check the tail of the letter to differentiate them, often
resulting in confusion and slowing down reading. So what's the
point? The boxes on your pages really should mimic the alphabetic
layout. Let's take the Top Ten and Game Contest line as an example
- the Top Ten information is contained in two congruent boxes
separated by a line. Next is a third line, a space, a fourth line
and the poll information. It separates the "this is a poll" and
"this is the Top Ten" signals quite well, but the boxes don't have
the same height. What you get is an interruption of the brain's
lines that were subconsciously drawn by the top and bottom of the
Top Ten boxes, and thus it looks disorganized, unappealing and is
even difficult to read. A good idea would be to Place the Poll of
the Day atop the Best Game Ever poll in congruent boxes, then
replace the ad with them. Make sure the boxes for the Top Ten and
Polls are the same height, but not the same width. Make the Poll
of the Day line up with the gray line on the updates - you'll have
some space left over for a small banner, or maybe even something
that's useful. This lets the brain differentiate without it
looking disorganized.
6. Group the Gamespot headlines with the other Gamespot ads and
information. This makes the brain report "Gamespot, Gamespot,
Gamespot, no related information on next line, Gamespot
information ended" instead of "Gamespot, Gamespot, Poll Sponsor,
Poll, new information, poll and Gamespot are unrelated." The
former is like someone saying "I went to the store today to buy
some milk, but the store was closed" while the latter is like
someone saying "I went to the store today, yesterday it rained and
ten years from now I WILL EAT YOUR MARSHMALLOWS." Naturally, the
first makes more sense. I also suggest putting the headlines in a
box, since it aids the brain in grouping information.
7. BethanyM is not photogenic. She either needs a good, professional
picture that won't result in people laughing at her or
(preferably) have her section should be taken down. This will free
up some space, allow you to rearrange your information better and
keep all the information on the page semi-related.
8. Scrolling is a bad thing. When the page loads, the viewer needs to
see all relevant information at once, and to see it properly
arranged. This means that the polls, top ten, latest update and
links need to be on the screen when the web page loads. This keeps
the brain from having to go through the work of scrolling and hunting.
9. The Gamespot logo clashes with the rest of the page. When
scrolling down, you get the following color information: Blue,
blue, dark blue, white, text, blue, text, dark blue, yellow." If
you want the logo there, get a blue one since it fits the pattern
a little better. Mixing colors is good, and the dark blue makes
the page less monotone - you should consider using more of it.
10. Maddox once said that reading black text on a white background is
like staring at a light bulb. I've tested this theory, and it's
not far from the truth. Obviously, black and white are direct
opposites, and thus idea for text-and-background combinations -
but how do you keep from blinding people after a bit of reading,
ruling out a red or blue background? Simple: Add more blue to the
surroundings. The brain tends to mesh colors, particularly if one
color is surrounded by another color. An example of this is the
Checkers Shadow Illusion
(http://www.outbreakorn.com/~vayate/Pictures/CheckersIllusion.jpg).
You don't want something as drastic as that, but it would be good
to put some blue on the now-white margins. This makes it so the
white backgrounds are easier on the eyes - which is good for every
page, not just the main one.

A bit extensive, eh? A lot of those apply to the entire site, not just the main page - play around with them and you'll have a respectable theme base in no time. Now on to some specifics - since I've already done a lot of explaining about psychology basics, this section will contain more practical information based on the previous section.

1. What's New: There's a huge blank spot between the CNET footer and
the information. Try elaborating on the new updates, and maybe
stick some other blurb in there to fill the page. That way, the
brain doesn't say "date, date, date... huge blank space, WTF?"
whenever it sees the page.
2. System list page: The ability to click a letter and be sent to the
beginning of that letter's listings would be very useful. I
suggest sticking it under the "GameFAQs System List" text, in a
format such as "| 0-9 | A | B | C |..." etc, etc.Make it look
nice, and box it in to help differentiate from the rest of the
information on the page.
3. Features: Stick some color in there, and make the words "Links"
and "Descriptions" bigger than their corresponding blurb. Bold
them as well, so it's the second thing the brain reads on the page
(after "Features"). Right now, it's not much different from
reading a .txt file - and the less white your layout contains, the
better. Also, the dark blue color on the quick search is looking a
bit lonely, and suffers from the same thing the Gamespot logo
does. Strategically placing some dark blue to spread the color out
would make a world of difference.
4. Help: Aside from the white, this section looks very good. The
"*What's a "Patch Code"...?*" question needs to be resized, but
other than that it's well-organized and easy to read.
5. Search: Also plagued by a bunch of empty white space. Transposing
the entry form and "Platform" drop down menu makes it easier to
use since the first thing you see is the space for entering your
search. This eliminates the half-second of searching and
processing, which translates to a huge boost as far as ease of use
goes. The system list should be re-grouped on the right, since
this is what the search system organizes by. My brain raises a
"WTF" flag when the results appear to be listed alphabetically,
but end up not being so. You might also want to make the "&" and
"and" tokens interchangeable, since this would make information
easier to find. Last, the information "Game Title... FAQs...
Codes..." etc should be listed below "Best Matches" in the same
box. You can separate "Best Matches" from the rest of the text by
underlining it. This makes the information and buttons much easier
to understand, since your brain doesn't have to interpret each
button individually. The result this: "'Reviews;' this contains
reviews for the game. Looks like it's abbreviated by 'Rev," which
makes sense" instead of this: "letters... that's not a word. An
abbreviation? Looks like it. What's it an abbreviation of? Oh,
'Review!' This section contains the user-contributed reviews for
the game."
6. System pages: Box in your information and separate the letters in
"Games by Alpha" with a line. You could do something similar with
the "Games by Genre," or box it in separately. It's something I
would have to play around with, and you should try down it too.
Just remember to group relevant information and make everything
line up well. Having the "Top Ten FAQ/ Message Board" tables
correct automatically so they stay the same height, including
those gray and white lines under the text. Also, when one table is
longer than the other, the line along the bottom is truncated -
this kills the table's continuity and tells the brain that more
information from that table is containing in all the white inside
the page. When that information isn't' there, the brain gets
confused. This should be fixed - I'm sure you can find a
relatively pleasing way to do it. I won't bother to mention all
the white anymore.
7. FAQ pages: Again, separate Guide title, Date, Author, etc
information by a small line. It works just like the boxes on the
main page, except vertically. It's basically the difference
between reading and writing on a piece of printer paper versus a
piece of lined paper - the one with lines makes both much easier.
8. Contributor pages: These look very good. Aside from the lack of
explanation of the columns of numbers, nothing really needs to be
patched up. Just put something like "Game... Type... Last
Updated... Version... Size" above their respective columns.
9. Review Pages: The "Reviewer's Score" line needs to be emphasized,
preferably by bolding or some such thing. The brain tends to skip
this line because it's stuck between two colors that are different
than the background color. Other than that, it looks good.
10. Saves: The fixes that were mentioned on the Contributor pages
apply here. The Gamespot and Game Rankings information needs to
be boxed in and the "Saved Games [links]" text should be removed,
and the links placed under the game title. This shows that the
links are related to the game instead of the game saves, and
prevents a "Saved Games, [unrelated information], Saved Games"
redundancy.
11. Message Boards: My account is only level 33, so I can only comment
on the board list. More vertical lines would definitely be nice;
this helps organize the information and keep it quick and easy to
read. Replacing the abbreviations with full words would also be a
big help, since the brain doesn't have to interpret the
abbreviation every time it sees it. Remember, the current GameFAQs
layout is easily one of the best layouts, if not THE best layout,
for organizing, categorizing and fluidly presenting large amounts
of information. It shows just how well the previous Subtleties can
be implemented and used to streamline a huge database such as the
one GameFAQs presents. It should serve as a model for the rest of
the website.

In conclusion, the new theme is a good one, but it needs some tweaking here and there. After these minor fixes are implemented, it will be as good as, if not better than the original layout at organizing and presenting data in a manner that is pleasing to the eye and easy to understand. Please consider suggestions these when you adjust the layout, and feel free to email me if you have any comments or questions. Thank you for reading this, and good day.

- Alec Breckenridge (aka Vayate)

---
Vayate - Shame, shame, throw yourself away... give me little bits of more than I can take
Outboards Virtue Gambling Dealer and Image Source lamer
From:
It's about 15,800 characters, by the way. Good luck reading it. :)

---
Vayate - Shame, shame, throw yourself away... give me little bits of more than I can take
Outboards Virtue Gambling Dealer and Image Source lamer

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