How Not To Design an Online Lit Mag
It’s not hard to design a nice website. Even if you know dick-all about HTML or builders, it’s pretty easy to find someone who does, and pretty easy to build a minimal site, or a weird and compelling on, that compliments the words. With all the crap against lit journals in the world, the last thing we need is when someone is actually interested enough to have a look, that they come see some cookie-cutter eye-sore that looks like it was designed by a ‘special’ 8th grader in 1995 (in a bad way).
Take a site like DIAGRAM: this site looks so nice sometimes I just sit and stare.
Other sites, though, well, they’re still on training wheels, and those wheels are made of Jell-O.
(1) Expanded Horizons: What in the shit is this? First of all, when I come to your page, the first thing I see, the VERY FIRST THING, is you asking for donations through Amazon. Not a table of contents, not even some bitmapped image of a goat with a lily flower. Just begging for money. First of all, we all know it costs money to run a journal (even though with an web journal it is little to none) but if you are going to build your site with that bit of info up front, you’re making it hard for anybody to even get interested in what you’re supposedly promoting enough to want to give you money to ‘keep you afloat.’ I mean, it actually took me a minute to find the link to your first ‘issue’ so that I could even read what you are ‘publishing.’
This is a pretty long post, so if you’re interested, we’ll continue after the jump.
The name Expanded Horizons, too, leads me to another point: try to name your journal something that doesn’t make people cringe when they say it? Sometimes I get a little gushy in the mouth when I roll through the site listing on Duotrope and see the just lists of sites that are so unfortunately named, they might as well be called Dick’s Tall Tale Barrel.
IE: The Scruffy Dog Review, Cat’s Meow for Readers and Writers Ezine, Fresh Boiled Peanuts, A Gathering of the Tribes (I really didn’t make any of those up).
How about another nast: GLUTONLUMPS CHILLING TALES: I’ll try to pace myself and be more straight analytical on this one. I’m really not trying to be a snoot with this, but if you’re going to publish work, it seems to me that you’d take a second to try to make it readable. This site is a great example of the fact that PATTERNED BACKGROUNDS ARE RIDICULOUS, as are neon colored fonts, animated gifs, web based stat counters that shows everyone the couple thousand that have hit your page (make it public if you want, but a webcounter is so 96), not to mention ridiculous thumbnail ads or google ads, etc. (if you are trying to make money off traffic, do it at least in a surreptitious or well-incorporated way, yes? Not just some big ass clunky hunk of junk that people can’t even look at.)
Lastly, how about Stickman Review (which is hilariously included as #13 in storySouth’s linked list of the top online journals, about which I may post later in Mean Week): Look, I promise that putting gifs of common pictures like a flower or a stormy sky or, well, a stick man dancing (whether it’s what your journal is named after or not), is not a good thing (unless maybe you’re being funny). Do you understand the word tacky? Of course, there are levels of taste among any group, but gaudy and/or shoddy looking, well, those things go across the board, I think, if there is a board.
I think mainly, if you site looks like something your grandmother or your toddler could have created, it’s probably not very good (though, shit, I’ve seen work by toddlers that far out kicks some of the design stuff prevalent online.)
I realize, also, that all of these points are easily argued the opposite way, in that all rules have exceptions, I’m just sayin’.
I could go on and on with this post, making lists and lists of sites that are poorly designed and why, but really, as I said above, my aim here is not to be a snoot. It’s nice to see a lot of people interested in publishing, but I have to ask that for those involved, if you care enough to start a journal, you should care enough to make it look like you care, whether your style is cats in sweaters or vampires throwing up. The main goal here is bringing attention to the work you publish, and the writers, and to do so you have to give the work the chance to be appreciated visually, so that then it might be appreciated as language.