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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Art Galleries of SL facelift

I have finally done a full on redesign of the Galleries of SL list. The more you learn the more you realize how much better you could have done something you made in the past so... time for a makeover!

Leave your comments here on this blog. If you'd like all the gory details about the redesign, read on!

The intent of the redesign was to make something much more pleasing to the eye, yet still functional and intuitive to use.

First, the website has a distinct 4-color scheme (a tetrad of some warm and cold colors to contrast) and a simple 4-color bar logo used to present a pattern to the eye. The site is laid out in a simple grid format, and is fluid - if your page gets narrower, the columns resize, then the site will pop into a 2-column format, so it looks good no matter what size browser you use. Try it!

The options are now arranged nicely in 4 boxes on top so it's much easier to see where they are and set them.

For you web types out there, it uses pure CSS, HTML, and jQuery so it loads fast. I converted it from an aspx page and got rid of all the server-side code and replaced it all with javascript and jQuery. It uses ajax to get more galleries to display when you scroll to the bottom, so there is no longer a "page size" setting, you can just scroll forever! It does not use postbacks like the old .aspx page did, it's all ajax, fast and light(er). I'm using a simple fluid column layout for the grid rather than a fixed width.

I am using some modern browser features such as fill gradients, nice rounded corners, and dropshadows, so if you are running an old browser, or IE (god forbid), the experience may not be as nice, so UPGRADE your browser!! So many good websites are taking advantage of HTML5, CSS3, and modern features, you're missing out if you have an old browser. And avoid IE like the plague, it's just NOT compatible with so many modern browser features. Or upgrade to IE9 at least, it's not as horrid, but the gallery list will still not look right, for sure, due to the missing feature support.

The gallery reviews are still there, click on the images to get a popup. I plan on doing some more thinking on the review presentation, possibly redesigning that simple dialog box, but that works pretty well as it is.

I also plan on replacing the "Slurl" line with a simple and familiar orange TP button. I think people don't care what the slurl address text is, they just want to go. Having a TP button will remove some text, which will de-clutter the display a bit more which is a Good Thing.

If I do decide to revamp the rating system (see previous post) the rating stars will be replaced with a simple display of the current "like" count for that gallery, and perhaps a "likes/month" number to help sort them more appropriately (or perhaps some weighted combo of both, not sure yet).

So far I'm very happy with the new site, it looks much better and more pleasing, and much less cluttered to the eye. Less like a spreadsheet and more like a list of Art Galleries :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gallery Rating System revamp

I have been doing some thinking on the current gallery rating "5 star" system and I am seriously thinking of doing a complete overhaul some time soon.

I would like to dispense with the star ratings and instead have a simple Like model, similar to Facebook. The star rating graphic on the kiosks and tour HUDs will be replaced with a simple "Like" button and if people like your gallery, they can click it.

One advantage is that it's very simple and will match the same model that LL uses on the Destination guide.

I will convert all 4 and 5 star ratings to a "Like" in the new system when I make the change and simply delete all 1, 2, and 3 star ratings. On the gallery list page (which is also going through a complete redesign btw) all you will see is the  number of Likes, just like facebook does. There will no longer be 1-5 star votes - only likes.

This means that a gallery that does a good job of getting people to Like them on their gallery kiosk will be high on the list, so it's more a simple numbers game than trying to get 5-star votes and no bad votes. The current system is just too problematic in that the vast majority of the votes are 5 star votes, so one 4 star vote can send someone tumbling far down the list. In effect, everyone is giving galleries either 5 stars or nothing already. The big difference in the sorting order is that the raw number of votes will now be very important, and in the current system it is much less important than the average star rating, which is what they are sorted on now. The current system uses a Bayesian rating system which "penalizes" galleries with a low number of ratings so that a single 5-star rating won't plop you at the top of the gallery list.

This will also completely remove any griefing done by people rating galleries 1 star for personal reasons, and there are, for reasons I can't comprehend, a few people that give out nothing but 1 star ratings. Which is just completely pointless and it pollutes the database with garbage. Why go visit galleries if you just hate them all and give them lousy ratings? So this will completely solve that problem too.

The new system is not perfect either, since galleries that are strategically placed in very high traffic areas will probably get more clicks than a gallery that's great but is out of the way. So both systems have their faults but I think the facebook Like model is going to work out better in the long run. I'm still gathering feedback on that idea, so it's not set in stone yet, but that's my thinking. I'd love to hear what you think!