December 7th, 2010 / 4:00 pm
Literary Magazine Club

{LMC}: Presentation by Stark and Clear

1 : Introduction

The Collagist comes in with a beautiful image of what looks very much like paint blooming in what was until now pristine water or paint thinner. This is the page’s header, and it’s about as visually rich as the journal gets. The header-bloom becomes the journal’s emblem, and this emblem is usefully repeated at the bottom of the page. (It would be nice if that bloom could double as the journal’s identity icon, replacing that generic isometrically-projected black box — I haven’t tested whether or not the size restriction will allow it.) If you click on the tiny little bloom at the bottom of the page then you’ll be returned to the top. The rest of the site is just as simple and understated, lending itself primarily to the stark and clear presentation of the works themselves, nothing distracting.

The Collagist spreads out simply, spaciously, on a white background. There are no gratuitous flourishes. No crazy buttons, no animation, no imposing background patterns, no extraneous columns of information that could better be hidden away someplace where it won’t do any harm . . . nothing to distract from the writing we’ve come here to read. All the navigational options are presented plainly, in large type, in a column on the left. The rest of the space is reserved for the index. (The Collagist gets additional Owen-points for this — I never like having to go through an introductory page in order to get to the index, or even worse: having to sort out the navigational structure in order to call up the index . . . thankfully, The Collagist does none of this.) There’s a nice consistency in textual color throughout the journal, directly echoing the header — red and slate-blue. When we select a piece, it is shown to us in grey, 12-point type, easy to read. (I think I’d prefer the text darker, but the grey bears a softness which I also kind of like.)

An argument could be made that The Collagist really is too plain in its presentation — to the point of being a little dull — and that this state of “blah” can be infect the work itself. Actually, I think this journal is a little dull, visually, and the blog-like margins sure don’t help . . . but the work it shows is eminently readable, clear, uncluttered . . . and that, surely, is the most important thing.

2 : Exploration

I’m a little less enamored with the navigational mechanics. I want to begin by suggesting that, ideally, a webjournal ought to be as compact and as unified as possible, each issue a solid work. Compactness and Unity are important. Everything ought to be well-contained, and the reader ought to be aware at all times of what journal he or she is reading, which issue one is reading, and the names that make up that issue. Removing the reader from that context means that the reader is removed from the journal itself. While I can still see “The Collagist” at the top of the page: when I’m reading somebody’s work I can no longer see the names that make up the issue, and since the names are the journal: I feel sort of . . . well . . . displaced, I think.

To the journal’s credit: whenever I select a written piece, The Collagist does keep that text within the context of the interface at all times. However: once I go to one of the pieces, I can no longer see the names that compose the journal. I need to back up in order to see the names and select another piece. This is not uncommon to webjournals, but still not good.

What’s worse: If I click on the header itself, expecting to be brought to the index page . . . I’m brought instead to the Dzanc blog.

No! Bad Collagist!

Nothing should disrupt the reading experience — much less unexpectedly brings the reader outside of the journal.

Also, if I’m looking through a previous issue: clicking on the little bloom at the bottom of the page brings me back to the current issue . . . which would be less bothersome if there were also an option to return to the index of the issue I’m currently reading.

Again, to be fair, a large sum of webjournals seem to have problems in the aforementioned aspect of compactness and unity, so I’m sure The Collagist can be forgiven for this on grounds of expectation, or, maybe more accurately, by the grace of “Well, I’m sort of used to it.”

3 : Moving on.

Well, The Collagist does what a webjournal ought to do — present the writers’ work in a simple, appealing way that offers minimal distraction — and The Collagist does this well. Yes, I wish it were more ‘unified’, I wish I could see the names of the authors without moving back a page, I wish I did not have to move back a page (or, if it’s the current issue I’m reading, click on the bloom at the bottom (never click on The Collagist’s header!)) in order to read another work . . . but . . . the journal does succeed at the most important thing: serving both the writer and the reader well.

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One Comment

  1. Steven Pine

      From the New York Time:

      In 1960, the hipster John F. Kennedy represented for liberals something similar to what Mr. Obama embodied as a candidate;

      that you all might like that.