Petopia: Hard to Navigate?

I learned a lot of CSS in putting this blog together. [Aside: The theme is based on the WordPress Classic 1.5 theme, since that's the most stripped down theme I could find. I then built it up with the extra columns and header functionality I wanted. I could have used a publically-released theme and gotten something that looked very like this, but after looking at the source code for the public themes I decided to write my own. I'm a coder -- I'm not happy unless I can re-invent the (cleaner, more elegant, more optimized) wheel.]

Now that I am familiar with the benefits of CSS, I want to start converting Petopia to use it as well. That will make Petopia a lot easier to maintain, especially the articles. (The vast bulk of Petopia — the creature and skin pages — are auto-generated by a Perl script, but the various articles as well as the family and skill-related pages are all hand-maintained at this point.) A lot of this work will be behind-the-scenes, but I’d like to start with a snazzy visible project so it looks like I am doing something. *grin* So I decided to update the menu bar (the strip that runs down the left-hand side of every page).

The first time my husband saw Petopia, he sat looking at it for several minutes and then asked me, “What am I supposed to click on?” And I admit, when you first come in from the front, it can be unclear where you are supposed to go to get the information you are looking for. So I think there’s some room for improvement in the menu bar. But I am not exactly sure what needs to be done, so I’d like to get your opinion as well: Do you find Petopia hard to navigate? If so, what changes do you think would make it better?

9 thoughts on “Petopia: Hard to Navigate?

  1. Remillard

    Personally, I knew immediately how to get to what I wanted. If I want to look at all the cats, I click on cat. If I wanted to see all the wolves, I click on wolf. If I want to look at skill bases there’s the big list of pet skills. Then that cross references to the pets that have them.

    So I can’t say I’ve suffered at all. The only thing that’s ever been a little confusing is the list of pets by level, and there sometimes I want it a little more segregated by type (say owls in order of levels rather than pictures.)

    But thst’s just me.

  2. Dave Johnshon

    I personally had no problems navigating through petopia. It may not be the “flashiest” site out there (and I would argue that is a REALLY GOOD thing) but it is simple to navigate, takes seconds to find what I’m looking for, and provides everything in a way that anyone can navigate through. I wouldn’t worry about a redesign at all, unless you personally want a change :)

  3. Tiiaa

    I never had troubles either. I like the plain and straightforward design with short loading times an quick maneuvering. I don’t need some blinky flashy stuff – would’t fit I guess.

  4. Znodis

    I found what I wanted very easily as well on my first visit, but then I knew what I was looking for. For the level 10, newb hunter, it might be good to have a ‘Start Here FAQ’ page explaining the initial pet taming quest, the 2nd quest to get ‘feed pet’ (yes I made it an entire level before doing it myself way back when), recommended pet families, and then open up the rest of the site to them in a summary.

  5. Zebbriz

    I agree with Remillard about being able to sort an individual pet family by level. That’s the one feature that I’ve always wanted to see here.

    Otherwise the site is amazingly straight forward and easy to use. It’s the simplicity of navigation and lack of fancy web effects (clutter) that make it such a great and helpful site. By all means, make it easier for you to maintain and update, but please don’t make the Petopia more complicated to use.

  6. Bulldazhor

    WHat i don’t like in petopia is the use of frame, which make a little difficult to link to a page …… Oh wait, it have been modified and the frame removed.

    so i guess i have nothing to say anymore :)
    i guess i am too familiar with the site now to be very objectiv on the ergonomy


  7. Mania Post author

    Just to be absolutely clear, I’m talking about making small changes just to make things more obvious — like, say, maybe rearranging the links in the menu bar so that the stuff you use more is at the top. Maybe changing the names on some links to make it more clear what they are. (I just hooked up Google Analytics to the site a few days ago and already it’s gathering some interesting data about how people use the site.)

    Certainly I’d never try to add flash (or Flash) to Petopia! *grin* I want to use CSS primarily to standardize things like the color and the size of the font for headers, so that I don’t have to do it all by hand and I can easily make a small tweak across the entire site at once. CSS lets you pull all the fiddly bits, like exactly how wide your margins are, out into one place so you can deal with it more easily. But I agree that the uncluttered-ness needs to stay. :>

    Znodis: I think a ‘Start Here’ FAQ is an excellent idea! Are there any particular hints or answers that you think would be important in that?

    Bulldazhor: Yeah, I hated the frames too. Not using frames means you have to scroll up to the menu sometimes on long pages, but I’ll take that over not being able to link directly.

  8. Mania Post author

    I didn’t mean you had to write one up for me! That’s supposed to me by job. :> Although I won’t turn down the help. I just know that I’m a bit close to the site and I often can’t see where the tricky bits to using it are.

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