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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Please Help Me Redesign the Pequod

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Pequod underwent a serious refurbishment in July 2007, and I am generally pleased with it. However, I spent this weekend doing a bit of spring cleaning, changing the look of the highlights sidebar down the left, and cleaning up the right-hand navigation column. This now bundles all the RSS, save, print and share facilities together above the search box, and includes a direct commenting feature. I have also increased the line spacing and changed the font of the main text, to improve legibility.

The reasons for the slight change were twofold.

Firstly, though hits across the site overall are quite good, there seem to be few people who actually browse across all the sections. Some visit the photoblog, but not the blog or essays. Others read one essay, but do not explore the poetry. I suspect much of the reason is to do with the quality of the content, which is by no means exemplary or captivating. Nevertheless, I hope the rejigged sidebar will draw more visitors to explore content across the site.

Secondly, I know from tracking the "came from" option that many users download the essays to their hard disks, or email them to friends. This suggests that they are being read seriously, and used. However, I get very little feedback on them. By putting a comments box on page in the right sidebar rather than at a central comments page, I hope to facilitate more immediate responses to my work (which is, after all, a key reason for putting it online).

However, I am considering one other change that may be more dramatic. I like the three column layout because it places the text at the centre, improving legibility and making a direct connection between the horizontal navigation bar at the top (allowing me to dispense with individual page titles). But which order should the sidebars be in? There seems to be quite a debate about whether a navigation sidebar should go on the left or right of the page. One theory runs that since the eye scans from left to right, items on which you place the greatest emphasis should go on the left. On the other hand, since the dominant text on each page of a three column layout is clearly in the centre, the eye may skip over the left sidebar and concentrate on everything from the centre to the right margin.

On The Pequod, given my first point above the most important sidebar element is the cross-promoted content i.e. the latest blog and photoblog post, and featured writing. This currently resides in the left sidebar. Should it move to the right, with the navigation switching to the left? Happily, a quick change of the CSS stylesheet allows me to see this in action, though I am not the best judge of the content. So what do you think? Compare the layout of the blog you are reading to the test page, and please let me know your considered comments.

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Posted by Alistair at 12:51 pm

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