Thursday, 27 November 2008

Bob's New(ish) Look!

If you've ventured into the Mars section of this website, you may have noticed that it looks a bit different to the rest of the site. Over the next few weeks, I plan to give the site a fresh new look, seeing as, despite the addition of a number of pages and a few tweaks here and there over the years, it still looks quite similar to how it looked when it first appeared on the Internet nearly nine years ago. So, the black starry background has gone and has been replaced by purple. Lots and lots of purple. Perhaps a bit too much. Let me know if you think it is better or worse than before. What I want to do is make the site look better and become easier to navigate. What I don't want to do is put people off it, so email me or leave a comment on this blog to let me know what you think of the new look!

Apart from attempting to make the site look more attractive, the main aim of the redesign is to make the site easier to navigate. Earlier this year, I changed the control panel at the top of the page to include links to different parts of the site. But, although I thought it looked good, I still felt something was wrong with it. So, the top control panel has been slightly changed. It still allows quick access to the main destinations (the planets, sun and the Moon) and "feedback" links (email, guest book and this blog), but all other links have been moved into more logical categories which will now appear on the left of every page. At the bottom of each page is a bar containing additional "gadgets". Currently, there is one there to translate the page into other languages and a search box. The space there also allows for future additions (such as a place to download a printable version of the page, seeing as yellow writing on a purple background doesn't print too well!). This means that the main content will take up the main body of the page, with all navigation links around it. The way it is now designed means that it should be easier to browse the website either chronologically or randomly, allowing for different learning styles.

This website was originally designed as an educational project assessing the Internet as a learning resource; its design was based around an educational theory about concentric learning which had something to do with the learner following their own path around an educational resource and not being told what to do. This meant that they were not given a set place to start or to finish their educational journey, and they didn't have to read from beginning to end (like a book) to acquire the information they need. The circular nature of the Solar System was ideal for the project. Originally, the learner was going to be presented with a picture of the Solar System with the various destinations as clickable links. Where the user clicked first was up to them. It would be their interest that would guide them to their first destination and then to their next. After completion of my project, I decided to continue development and maintenance of the site. For years, it has used its concentric approach, which is ideal because the nature of the Internet means that most visitors to the site don't actually visit the home page of it. They usually get here from a link in a search engine, and go to a page which, if the site was designed to be read chronologically, would be somewhere in the middle of it. Once they've visited, they either get the information they want and leave, or continue to browse seemingly randomly. But, this method doesn't suit all visitors. Like I said, most people enter the site at any of the pages (for some reason, the ten facts about saturn page seems to be the most popular). Hopefully, they like what they see and decide that they want to more of it. But they may not want to just browse randomly. Instead they may want some kind of direction. I believe that with the new links on the left hand side, if they feel that they don't know where to go next, or what they may have missed out on already, they can go on to browse in a more orderly and logical way.

All of the pages in the Mars section have been given the new look. I'll probably play around with them a bit more over the next few days until I'm happy with the look, and then I'll begin the process of updating the rest of the site. If you want to see the new look now, go to Mars and have a browse. Or, have a look at the images below. Which ones do you prefer? The first and third images are the old pages, the second and fourth are the new ones.