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Big change to the site

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)
Updated:

Tonight, at 10pm EST, I changed a large number of files on the site. (which means I may have introduced a large number of new bugs.)

I implemented user-selectable story listings themes. which means you can choose the style of the story listings. For now the default is the current style, I call it 'Classic'. I added two new themes I call one Modern and it looks very similar to the site's home page and a new one called 'Minimalist'.

I've tested the new system with few beta testers and we caught almost (almost) all bugs. But, experience has taught me that whenever I expose a new feature to the large audience on the site, many bugs will rear their ugly heads.

So, for now the default theme will remain the same, but in the future the default will change to the Modern theme, after we debug it properly.

So I'm asking for your help, as many of you that have the time. Try the new themes and report bugs that you may find.

To switch themes, go to the 'My Account' page and click the 'Change' link in the 'Listings' section (where you control listings font size and screen layout).

Here is a direct link:

https://storiesonline.net/sol-secure/user/my_account.php?cmd=listingFonts

Let me know what you think.

samuelmichaels

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

The switching works fine. I actually prefer the Classic theme.

shinerdrinker
Updated:

I find myself channeling my inner old man and yelling at those damned neighborhood kids to get them off my lawn! And the way they want to go an change things just for the sake of change. Damned neighbor kids!

Ugh. Okay, that's outta my system. I shall choose day after day a new look either "classic" or "minimalist" to give you good information and since I enjoy clicking on things I shouldn't (as my browser history will attest) I will give you some feedback once I compare the three different versions.

Update:

Okay, preliminary look-see has me picking "Modern" but it might be my inner fighting the inner old man. More look-sees are needed.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)
Updated:

@shinerdrinker

No need to fight, as there is no wrong answer. All themes, and maybe more, will always be available. This way you select whatever suits your taste best.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Let me know what you think.


I prefer the Classic style, minimalistic is barely tolerable, but the modern is total crap on my wide-screen monitor. I'll play with other settings to see if it can be made to look better, and report if it can.

Capt Zapp

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I checked out all three formats and find that, on my laptop, I prefer the 'classic' format, but on my tablet, the 'modern' layout displays much better than the 'classic' look. The only difference I see between 'modern' and 'minimalist' is the story codes and details.

On my tablet, the columns in 'classic' layout are very narrow, even when I use it in 'landscape'

On the laptop, both of the new layouts are right to the edge of the screen, making it appear that there may be something missing, even though it isn't. Maybe adding a little 'white-space' around the screen would improve the visual aspect.

aubie56

It probably is habit, but I prefer the Classic theme. The Modern is acceptable, but I hate the Minimalist. That is my opinion for what it is worth.

Thanks for your continuing efforts to upgrade the site.

JohnBobMead

Clearly something strange here, or I'm just the most non-observant person around. They all looked the same to me. It could, of course be because I'm using a 17" VGA CRT display, and maybe it needs a more modern setup to show. Maybe I need to take screen shots and flip back and forth rapidly, or something. I was expecting something radical after the others comments.

Replies:   aubie56
aubie56

@JohnBobMead

I think that you are making the same mistake I originally made. Look at an author's homepage listing of stories. That's where you will see the changes.

Replies:   JohnBobMead
Grant

Classic wins hands down for me, I've got 2 (fairly) large desktop monitors & I like to make use of as much of the real estate as possible.

I prefer the colours/font/layout of minimalist over Modern- but I'd choose Modern over minimalist due to the lack of Downloads, votes, scores etc.

Minimalist with all the downloads etc visible by default would be better than both Minimalist (as it is) and Modern IMHO.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Grant

Minimalist with all the downloads etc visible by default would be better than both Minimalist (as it is) and Modern IMHO.


Minimalist is exactly the same as Modern with some data hidden until you're interested in seeing it. The only colour difference is the blue arrow down that reveals the data.

The whole point of the minimalist theme is that it focuses the reader's attention on the story's description and tags without getting distracted by the other data. Once the reader is interested in a story from its description, then he/she can check other info if needed.

Replies:   Grant
JohnBobMead

@aubie56

Yes, now I see what people are talking about. Hmm. Modern, the column of download formats makes for a visually unappealing display; vast tracks of white space in the middle of everything. Prefer the Classic theme, if I want to see the download formats by default.

tppm

I think I like Classic, followed by Minimalist, and dislike Modern, too much wasted space (on my desktop with the 28 inch monitor, I think I could see having the buttons in a vertical column instead of horizontally across the bottom might be useful on a tablet or phone).

Grant
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Minimalist is exactly the same as Modern with some data hidden until you're interested in seeing it. The only colour difference is the blue arrow down that reveals the data.


Ah, OK.

I opened up a couple of windows with Minimalist & Modern next to each other, and expanded the Minimalist theme boxes.

The story name/link in Minimalist is a smaller font size than in Modern, and there is no space between the story description and the Tags line (on a my screen 6 stories v 5).

With Modern, after the Story description (and the space) comes Sex contents & Genre, then Tags, downloads etc.

With the hidden data showing, and even with the blue arrows there I'd chose Minimalist. The Genre, downloads, size etc data in Modern appears fainter (probably due to the space between the Story description & other data).

Even in Minimalist it'd be nice if it were (very) slightly darker; just to increase the contrast with the box it's in.

Zom

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Try the new themes

With the minimalist theme, in e.g. the updated serials list, the read and flag icons expand the listing significantly compared to the non-premier view. You might consider reducing their dimensions for that theme.

sagacious

I really like the minimalist setting,with one exception. I often choose stories based on the size and having to expand it to see that is a bother. I can live with that though.

docholladay

I like the classic since at times I use all the information to figure out what I want to read. Although the scores and download counts are the last thing I look at.

Crumbly Writer

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

No need to fight, as there is no wrong answer. All themes, and maybe more, will always be available. This way you select whatever suits your taste best.

What? No pink 'Hello Kitty' theme? ;P

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Argon

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Hi,
I like the idea of the minimalist listing. However, I would put the tags in the pop-down menu and rather show the Genre and Sex Content as default. Plus, the "in progress" information should be visible by default.
Otherwise, both new themes are a big improvement over the "Classic" theme with its dated spreadsheet look. The story description cell was alway looking out of proportion, and the other cells were mostly empty.
Kudos for the improvement!

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

No pink 'Hello Kitty' theme?


That's the new one under development for the Fine Stories site.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Argon

However, I would put the tags in the pop-down menu and rather show the Genre and Sex Content as default. Plus, the "in progress" information should be visible by default.


That's the dilemma for the minimalist theme. Each person uses a different set of criteria to decide whether to read a story or not. Above you'll notice somebody wanting score and size. If I try to accommodate multiple requests we'd end up with the modern theme.

Replies:   Capt Zapp  Argon
Capt Zapp

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Each person uses a different set of criteria to decide whether to read a story or not.


I suppose you could make it so each user selects what they want in a view.

Argon

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

That's the dilemma for the minimalist theme. Each person uses a different set of criteria to decide whether to read a story or not. … If I try to accommodate multiple requests we'd end up with the modern theme.

That is true, but Genre and Sex Content are the major qualifiers of a story. Those, the Title, Author and Description should give almost any reader the information he/she needs to decide whether to open the pop-down info with the Tags, Score and Download Numbers.
It would also be helpful to see at a first glance if a story is finished or in progress, because many readers only consider complete stories.
Just my 2 ¢. I like the changes, and most readers will opt for "Modern" anyway.
Argon

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Argon

and most readers will opt for "Modern" anyway.

I'll stick with classic.
Everything's there & it's easy to see.

BlueEyedGuy

The minimalist theme is very tidy, and I like it.
The so-called "classic" theme is not what I would've considered the classic SOL layout, and I find it unattractive. I actually preferred the original layout to the new "classic" layout.
Perhaps you could make the original layout available as a theme too? Call it "Old School" if you like!

Replies:   Grant  bfd1
Grant

@BlueEyedGuy

I actually preferred the original layout to the new "classic" layout.

?
Not sure what you're looking at, but my Classic theme is the same as the one when I first joined up about 6 years ago.
The Modern & Minimalist themes are the new ones.

Replies:   BlueEyedGuy
Daydreamz

I'm staying with Classic just for the non-serif font.

Replies:   tppm
BlueEyedGuy
Updated:

@Grant

Ah - I've found out what's happened.

The changes to introduce themes set a new default of automatic screen, whereas before I was using big screen, even on my tablet (which I operate in landscape mode except when some poxy app forces it to portrait orientation).

As soon as I forced "big screen", the classic theme returned to how I had always seen it.

Replies:   Grant
Switch Blayde

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I access SOL from a laptop and prefer the Classic.

tppm
Updated:

@Daydreamz


I'm staying with Classic just for the non-serif font.


You can change the font in your browser defaults. For Instance, I'm reading this in Times New Roman, because that's what I have Firefox set to. If it were being forced into a sanserif font, it would be in Comic Sans, and if into a fixed font it would be Century Schoolbook Monospace.

P.S. I like serifs and I hate Arial.

Replies:   Daydreamz
Grant

@BlueEyedGuy

The changes to introduce themes set a new default of automatic screen, whereas before I was using big screen, even on my tablet

That would definitely mess things up.

Daydreamz

@tppm

Well Classic is sans-serif in my Chrome while the others are serif, so whatever page coding that is, Classic's font code gets my vote :)

I like serifs on paper but not on screen. That might be a bit old-fashioned with newer resolutions, I don't know, I'm just HD at the moment. I find it more readable on screen, is all.

MarissaHorne

I went back to Classic to test a memory.

My big problem with it was all those columns. All those fixed-width columns.

The result of being unable to modify the column width (a feature I wished for in the privacy of my head several times) was that the description column, which included the tags and last update status as well as the blurb, was at least three times as long as any other column, resulting in acres of whitespace to the sides while the description ran on, and on, and on ...

I marginally prefer Modern over Minimal because of the lack of the obtrusivce "more / less" button.

Gauthier

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Let me know what you think.

Well the overhaul is long overdue, the current listing UI made poor use of the available space my preferences go to:
Denser listing (less scrolling, ideally no scrolling).
Narrow text (It's faster to read, current forum width is good).
Less click to reach information.
Neither design reach any of those goal, but I can't say I really dislike them.

However I think, you are slowly driving yourself into management difficulties maintaining multiple UI versions, with no clear technical benefit or user benefit.

On the dislike side, on the author page, I do not particularly like the new sorting UI:
drop down, then asc/desc then btn to apply choice.
Not to mention, that an author specific sort seems to exist and you can't chose it.
see http://storiesonline.net/a/Lubrican

I would prefer the sort UI to require less clicks and be less ugly (direct button/links).
Maybe fit it with the settings/exclude line or more logically in the paging UI
Also, it's not needed when there is only one story to sort...

Overall, in my opinion, you should aim for a more flexible responsive design unifying the phone, tablet and desktop version.

All with code reuse across your various stories listing, of which there are too many variants:

http://storiesonline.net/home.php
http://storiesonline.net/library/new_stories.php
http://storiesonline.net/library/updated_stories.php
http://storiesonline.net/library/alpha.php?let=A

http://storiesonline.net/a/rlfj
http://storiesonline.net/library/author.php?id=850&type=uni
http://storiesonline.net/universe/787/a-fresh-start

http://storiesonline.net/library/author.php?id=7962&type=ser
http://storiesonline.net/series/1167/a-well-lived-life

http://storiesonline.net/library/authorFavorites.php?id=5289

http://storiesonline.net/library/categ.php?storyType=Science+Fiction&contRate=0&lib=&rf=&ff=&author=&score=&minSize=&maxSize=&p=&cmd=Search+and+Sort+by+Score&sf=story_name&so=asc&lc=AND

http://storiesonline.net/library/random_stories.php
http://storiesonline.net/library/premier_exclusive_stories.php (no sort?!)

http://storiesonline.net/contest/Halloween-2015

http://storiesonline.net/library/todaysAccesses.php

...

Going away from the classic table layout is good, but maybe it's time to switch to a json api backed client side template driven system (such as http://vuejs.org or React) and leave the html only version for search engine and legacy browser.

--------------------------

On another subject, I feel that the main menu is slowly becoming encumbered by useless and redundant things, maybe it's time for a cleanup:

Suggestion 1
Create a "Find Stories" page with left pane listing:
- Quick Search
- Alphabetical Stories
- Authors
- Universes
- Series (split it from Universes)
- Category Search
- Alphabetical Search
- Full Text Search
Remove corresponding entries from the main nav.
Possibly move the search nav to the left quick search box)
Suggestion 1.1
Possibly Merge the 3 search pages (2 are already merged)
Suggestion 1.2
Remove the mainly useless Alphabetical listing (==sort by title)
Suggestion 1.3
Put Find Stories on nav line 1 next to Home.
left pane is now a custom nav line 2

Suggestion 2
Improve the "Listing header" and make all story list page instances of listing.

Suggestion 4
Integrate the author page back into the main UI, it's just one more Listing header.

Suggestion 5
Move desktop/phone switch to settings

Suggestion 6
Move "My Acount" to "My Account" -> "Settings"
Move "My Library" to "My account"

Suggestion 7
Move signout to myaccount.

Suggestion 8
Make New Stories / Updates / Blogs a filter on the Home page Stream.
possibly with a left column box "Recent Activity"
grouping:
- New Stories
- Updated Serials
- Concluded Serials
- Blogs

Suggestion 9
Add the Random stories list to the "Find Stories" pages

Suggestion 10
Merge "Author/Favorites" with reviews.
Both serve the same purpose...

Suggestion 11
Move "Site News" to the nav

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Gauthier

Thanks for all the suggestions. That's sure a lot of them and that's a good thing :)

The code that generates the story listing is all the same, except the home page and the contest pages. So any change won't save much work.

You're talking about consolidating a lot of stuff and basically creating a completely new navigation structure for the site. It's doable, but for reasons out of my hand, not yet feasible.

I would have to design a navigation system that allows multiple navigation systems just like the themes system. The reasons can't be discussed in public.

I'll see how many of your suggestions I can incorporate. The changes will be slow of course.

Replies:   Gauthier
Gauthier
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)


I'll see how many of your suggestions I can incorporate. The changes will be slow of course.


That was just food for thought, do not rush, those things need to be done carefully with a global vision and the authors and readers experience and expectation in the forefront.

If there are improvement to be made it's the ease of use and UI consistency currently it's a bit of a mess. Too many parts of the site feels like juxtaposed experiments.

Also, I do not expect any of my suggested changes to draw more readers or authors to the site, so it's really not a priority.

For that, adjustment to the business model as I suggested few year back need to be done.

In that regard, I find strange that you did not try to leverage finestories to do more experimental moves (like removing the login requirement for reading or allow public feedback or adding covers/illustrations or remunerating premium content or let author promote pay content, etc).

editor7

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I much prefer the Classic Theme when looking at Serial Updates and New Stories. I can easily scan down the columns and see which stories are getting a high score and large numbers of downloads. That way I will check out a high scoring story that I may have missed. Can't do that with either of the two new formats.

Dominions Son

Here's a dollar, go buy a tinfoil hat.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Here's a dollar, go buy a tinfoil hat.


He already has three! However, they get so hot when worn because he's in Arizona.

Spazmitaz2000

This seems to be a bug related to the themes, so I'll post it here. I've noticed that on pages like "Top 50 Ongoing Serials, by Weekly Downloads", the formatting will disappear in the classic view on some days. Refreshing doesn't bring it back. Then suddenly, it restores itself a few hours later. If I switch to one of the other two themes, formatting returns, but a switch back to classic returns to the unformatted text. By unformatted, I mean that it shows "bulleted" story listings instead of the normal boxed version. I am on the current version of Firefox (44.0).

As for feedback on the themes... Of the new ones, I like modern better. I can see why others might prefer minimalist, but I like more information. I like Classic the most because of this. I also notice that Classic seems to make better use of screen width. It nearly fills the width of my browser window. The two new themes only fill the middle third, leaving large wasted blank space on the sides. There may be a hidden setting somewhere to adjust this, but I figure it should automatically match the width settings for Classic. I normally have my screen layout settings on automatic, but large screen vs. small screen didn't seem to affect width at all.

gridiron2393

I also prefer the original format but I frequently share stories with my mother who has poor eyesight. Having to press one button is a serious convenience to me in terms of changing size. (so many jokes). but in reality this will help with those who are not able to read computer screens easily.

Capt Zapp

@gridiron2393

Having to press one button is a serious convenience to me in terms of changing size.


Sounds like the description of something I might read on here.

'Mom presses son's buttons and he gets bigger.'

Crumbly Writer

@gridiron2393

I also prefer the original format but I frequently share stories with my mother who has poor eyesight.

I'd glad your mother enjoys the frequent sex stories on SOL. ;D

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'd glad your mother enjoys the frequent sex stories on SOL. ;D


I thought she was the one who reads every one of my stories within minutes of it being posted!

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

I thought she was the one who reads every one of my stories within minutes of it being posted!

Sounds like a high school insult: "Yer Mama reads my stories as soon as I finish them!"

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Sounds like a high school insult:


Nah, it's a boast.

Replies:   BlinkReader
BlinkReader

@Ernest Bywater

Then lucky me - my mother (bless her soul) didn't known how to read :D

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@BlinkReader

Then lucky me - my mother (bless her soul) didn't known how to read :D

My 86-year-old mother is my top beta reader. She's read each of my books, but got lost in Catalyst, not able to remember where she stopped and got frustrated trying to find her place again.

DerAndy

Personally I prefer the Modern theme for optics - it looks better than Classic. Also it reduces my focus on the score which is a good thing. But Classic made better use of screen space on widescreen monitors.

It's wider on the home page and I prefer it that way. Or you could use a more responsive approach - on wide screens put the "grey" part to the right of the description, on small screens display it the way it looks now.

dadlewis

I am getting a unauthorized download message on headache by Bigzeke

grmartin

I tried using the secure site and can't get to the site. Storiesonline.net is fine. Did the upgrade trash the secure site?

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@grmartin

I tried using the secure site and can't get to the site. Storiesonline.net is fine. Did the upgrade trash the secure site?


Is there an error you're getting or 'site can't be found' error?

I just logged in to the secure site and it worked as expected. In fact, the secure site had the least problems during this maintenance.

Replies:   spacecadet
spacecadet

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Error message depends on the browser; apparently the security protocols supported by the anonsol server have changed. I now have to enable TLS 1.0 (First noticed the anonsol problem several hours before the scheduled SOL maintenance.)

TendalBraxis

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Your programming change has virtually locked me out of site. Getting repeated access to this server Forbidden followed by Error 403 message.HELP!

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
TendalBraxis

Duh! Might help if I added my name to the post. Tendal.Braxis@ Gmail.com

Ernest Bywater

@TendalBraxis

first thing to try is to clear the cache and the cookies of your browser

bfd1

@BlueEyedGuy

Yes to the "Old School" theme!

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