G4M3R 7H30RY: part 4 04.13.2006, 5:51 PM
posted by jesse wilbur
We've moved past the design stage with the GAM3R 7H30RY blog and forum. We're releasing the book in two formats: all at once (date to be soon decided), in the page card format, and through RSS syndication. We're collecting user input and feedback in two ways: from comments submitted through the page-card interface, and in user posts in the forum.
The idea is to nest Ken's work in the social network that surrounds it, made visible in the number of comments and topics posted. This accomplishes something fairly radical, shifting the focus from an author's work towards the contributions of a work's readers. The integration between the blog and forums, and the position of the comments in relation to the author's work emphasizes this shift. We're hoping that the use of color as an integrating device will further collapse the usual distance between the author and his reading (and writing) public.
To review all the stages that this project has been through before it arrived at this, check out Part I, Part II, and Part III. The design changes show the evolution of our thought and the recognition of the different problems we were facing: screen real estate, reading environment, maintaining the author's voice but introducing the public, and making it fun. The basic interaction design emerged from those constraints. The page card concept arose from both the form of Ken's book—a regimented number of paragraphs with limited length—and the constraints of screen real estate (1024x768). The overlapping arose from the physical handling of the 'Oblique Strategies' cards, and helps to present all the information on a single screen. The count of pages (five per section, five sections per chapter) is a further expression of the structure that Ken wrote into the book. Comments were lifted from their usual inglorious spot under the writer's post to be right beside the work. It lends them some additional weight.
We've also reimagined the entry point for the forums with the topic pool. It provides a dynamic view of the forums, raising the traditional list into the realm of something energetic, more accurately reflecting the feeling of live conversation. It also helps clarify the direction of the topic discussion with a first post/last post view (visible in the mouseover state below). This simple preview will let users know whether or not a discussion has kept tightly to the subject or spun out of control into trivialities.
We've been careful with the niceties: the forum indicator bars turned on their sides to resemble video game power ups; the top of the comments sitting at the same height as the top of their associated page card; the icons representing comments and replies (thanks to famfamfam).
Each of the designed pages changed several times. The page cards have been the most drastically and frequently changed, but the home page went through a significant series of edits in a matter of a few days. As with many things related to design, I took several missteps before alighting on something which seems, in retrospect, perfectly obvious. Although the 'table of contents' is traditionally an integrated part of a bound volume, I tried (and failed) to create a different alignment and layout with it. I'm not sure why—it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also wanted to include a hint of the pages to come—unfortunately it just made it difficult for your eye move smoothly across the page. Finally I settled on a simpler concept, one that harmonized with the other layouts, and it all snapped into place.
With that we began the production stage, and we're making it all real. Next update will be a pre-launch announcement.
alex itin on April 21, 2006 8:41 PM:
starting to sound very cool