Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Help Wanted!

Uncle Enzo wants you - to make Lost in America a better website. And all you have to do is give your opinion...

With the Aniblog Tourney coming up, it was natural to stop blogging long enough to breathe once or twice, and to consider what I can do to make the site better and more user-friendly.  With that in mind, I hope you'll use the comments to give me some suggestions on what you'd like to see on LiA going forward.

Let me say up front, please don't say "Speed!".  I already know load times are crucial and I'm doing everything I can to improve them in the short-term given the constraints of Blogger - and looking as various long-term solutions, too.  So given that I already have that at #1 with a bullet on the to-do list, what I'm looking for are suggestions in areas like design, site layout, post format, images, etc.  Let me know what you think is working really well, and what you'd like to see change.  As well, I'd love to hear about any features you'd like to see added - a visit to 10 anime blogs will reveal a blizzard of chatboxes, video windows, news feeds...  And you can't use all of them - so if there's one you'd like to see here, let me know!

Obviously I can't promise to act on every idea - and some opinions are going to directly conflict, anyway.  But I will give every suggestion serious consideration.  I appreciate your continued  support over the last year as readership and participation have grown exponentially - now help me take it to the next level.

Thanks,
Enzo


73 comments:

  1. Well ... obviously ... this site needs more Tamayura and Idolm@ster!

    *cough cough*

    In all seriousness Enzo I must admit that I am quite happy with the site as it is and have nothing to suggest to make it better.... Otskare! :)

    - Flower

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    1. I assume that means I can count on your vote?

      And ahem, this is not pandering, let me point out that I did blog Tamayura Hitotose...

      Delete
    2. I know ... I just like to tease those who like to tease Tamayura fans. And yes - you can count on my vote. :)

      - Flower

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  2. Trust me you can count on having my vote in every match except when your going against Psgels. I visit around 6(use to be 9 lol) anime blogs and you are one of my favorites

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  3. I really don't have any complaints about your overall set up and blogging style. I enjoy your writing and find your site very easy to navigate. From a gfx view, however, I would vote for a more, hm, color coordinated site. Your banner and background don't jive at all and it would be nice if one or both had a more personalized feel for the blog.

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  4. Well i just visit this and randomc, the other blogs bores me to death this two are consistent and the writers at least divine(shame that is gone) and you, always keep me interested.

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  5. and btw i agree with marinasauce, it would be better if you redifine the backgrounds and color altogether.

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  6. Content I have no suggestions. Your content is great, your opinions are well thought out and intelligent (whether I agree or not) and you cover a wide variety of series.

    As for design I kind of agree with some of the comments above me, I would ditch the background (as much as I love Chihayafuru) and maybe get a more centralized design.

    Best of luck with the tournament!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks - can you give me a more specific notion of what you mean with "centralized design"? A more unified theme?

      Delete
    2. It doesn't have to be a theme per say but I think it would be nice to have a banner that really brands your blog. Although I think getting rid of the background is more important (you can't even really see it).

      Delete
    3. I was thinking along the lines of dropping the background too... or simply limiting it to the side banners. The sidebar shouldn't have a picture behind it, no matter how washed out it is. It's fine as is, but I suggest putting a white or off-white solid color to enhance the readability.

      And centralized: look at how RC has the signature RC-blue color everywhere, and the muted gold color for various other things (like the >> arrows in the sidebar).

      It's essentially the UCLA blue and gold color scheme. Of course, you should pick your own pair--might I suggest the USC colors? That would match your Another banner, which doesn't with the current blue scheme you have here.

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  7. for one.
    Might want to re-sort your navigation bar on the right. Although usable, perhaps making it not too clustered would be better? the navigation bar is longer than this post!!

    I'm not sure why... maybe my screen is too small but I don't see Taichi's face. And Chihaya's is blogged by the navigation bar

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    1. Thanks. Do you mean the sidebar as a whole, or just the "site navigation" menu?

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    2. The thing on the right.
      Could you perhaps update the current anime/manga section so i'll know what is being covered this season? Even tentatively is fine.

      Put subscription, Facebook, Rss, twitter together?

      Take this away?
      PAGES
      Home
      Site Map
      Search Results

      And perhaps add a bookmark page or something. So I can relook at a popular post that is no longer under Recent Posts. "If I watched an ep late or I want to see of someone replied to my comment.)

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    3. Navgiation menu at the top is fine. ALthough you might want to resize it so it is the same length as the (another) banner

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  8. perhaps volunteers to guest blog the other series you don't focus on?

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    Replies
    1. I know everyone has a different opinion on this but I prefer blogs where one person is doing the writing. I guess I don't really need a mish mash of opinions or to see every series covered. I read a blog because I like the thoughts of that particular person, but that's just me.

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  9. Take it how you will ...

    Can't really help you on speed as I'm a WordPress user. However, the Google/Twitter/Facebook social media will kill your load speed on your home page. I highly suggest you keep the social media to posts only and remove all of that from the home page. Make sure to run all images through Yahoo's smush.it or something similar to cut whatever you can from the 2.1 MB homepage size.

    Your sidebar is obnoxiously long and there's huge portions of it where it looks like there's suppose to be an ad of some sort? So it's just blank. Like there's a huge blank square between Subscribe by Email and the start of Blog Archives. I had adblocks and script blockers turned off to make sure.

    More people have Facebook, you should be using the Facebook Social Plugin if you want that wall of people on your sidebar.

    Add a related posts plugin.

    "Some Links of Interest" in the sidebar could be removed, that's a mile down your page.

    Goal should be your content trumps your sidebar o_O

    Your footer is no better shape. Could be condensed a ton. Lots of blank spaces for whatever reason.

    No comment on the background, I kinda like it, it's just blurry I suppose.

    I could keep going on, but I don't know how blogger works so I don't know if you're in control of your CSS or back end stuff like DNS for so you could use Cloudflare or something ... blah blah blah

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    1. oh nevermind now i see the blank pages populated by those plugins ... makes it even slower lol ... this page is chugging on chrome =( compared to my firefox

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    2. Darn I clicked reply somewhere else and my text disappeared... D:

      So yeah, you should move the subscribe/twitter buttons closer to the Subscribe by Email box lower down. The Site Navigation list should be higher up. You can also get rid of the Anime Blogroll section, since it doesn't add anything. It's your site, not an advertisement space for others'. You can add links to those guys in the Some Links of Interest section.

      And about speed optimization, I looked at the Chrome F12 developer tools, and here's the top of the readout I got from loading the front page. http://puu.sh/nOOj

      The network tab shows a timeline of the page loading, and the blue line represents when I'm able to start scrolling and the red line when the page completely loads (I think). I disabled all my extensions, which got me to 6 second loads. The dots are when processes load, and for how long. If you're up for a bit of coding and optimization, you can try disabling unnecessary plugins and whatever that's taking up time.

      Just from what I can see,
      1. the tweet buttons,
      2. the google +1 button,
      3. a twitter count(?),
      4. several twitter gif,
      5. 60-100 DIFFERENT google +1 that are clocking in at 5 seconds,
      6. every single Facebook pic at 6 seconds,
      7. all the user avatars at 6 seconds,
      8. the script for the hover on the top navigation bar at a whopping 9.3 seconds.
      9. Some kind of back button that I can't see.

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    3. Ah, but there's the dilemma. All of those things are important in some way, and they all hurt speed (a 3rd-party comment system would, too). So what do I get rid of? The social networking plugins are pretty important in this day and age. Hate to lose the hover navigation bar (it has to be some sort of script, as Blogger doesn't have a native one). I suppose I can axe the +1 buttons, as they aren't as widely used as Facebook Like and Tweet.

      Delete
    4. Can you get rid of the "Facebook social plugin" in the sidebar? All you need is the like button here. And anyone following you on Facebook will see those links on Facebook, no need for the plugin to display them here.

      I noticed there's two twitter, three Facebook, two G+, two share by email buttons on each post on the main page. You can get rid of one of the twitter and G+ buttons. Of the three Facebook buttons, you can remove one of the Share and keep the Like since liking isn't the same as sharing.

      Here's an idea: keep the social network links, but use a text link instead of a graphic. See how this blog (http://animeyume.com/blog/) uses more text, which loads faster and looks cleaner/more minimalistic than if it had a lot of buttons. See how you like it, buttons vs text.

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    5. Thanks, I'll consider those possibilities. As for the link, I'm sure I'm just missing it - but where are the social network links on that page? I don't see them, text or otherwise.

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    6. She doesn't appear to use any social networking. I guess she doesn't feel the need?

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  10. I've always wanted on occasion to praise you with what you're doing with this blog and I guess this is it.You're the only blogger that can make me read a post about a show I'm not watching,your posts are just entertaining to read,they blend in the right amount of info about what happened in an episode with your reaction to those events (a balance that's not easy to achieve).So there's nothing I'd change about the the format of your posts.

    Now about the cosmetics of the site I agree with other:the banner really clashes with the backround image,the red just really sticks out.
    As for the backround picture,poor chihaya is hidden behind the text so the image isn't really well suited.Ideally you'd want something with characters off to the side (look at RC's backround image for an example).

    Maybe I'm missing something but is there a way to quickly access an overview of all your reviews?
    Right now if I wonder "has Enzo reviewed show X?" I can look at the review database at the top but its not really conveniant because it lists reviews chronologically,so I just go to categories on the sidebar all look if the show is there,but that's not really intuitive and even if the show is there that doesn't mean there's a review of it (an exemple would be HoTD).

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    Replies
    1. Thanks... "Series Reviews" tag is the where you'd find all that stuff as of now. I suppose I could rework that, or add it to the navbars...

      Delete
  11. My main suggestion would be to get rid of the background completely, or at least, color coordinate the background with the header. The background isn't even very visible, completely clashes with the header, and introduces a ton of different colors that aren't coordinated with each other. The header has black and dark red. The background has a ton of pink, light blue, and a few other colors. Quite honestly, the color mismatch has been bugging me for a while. Actually, a while back when you had an Ika musume header, I also felt that the overall color scheme to your blog clashed and didn't really match.

    Also, perhaps maintaining a consistent header image would be nice. A good header image can become a brand of sorts, where people will grow to identify the image with the blog. I know it happened for Random Curiosity back when it had the same Zero no Tsukaima header for years on end. You could actually still find the image on randomc here: http://randomc.net/image/Zero%20no%20Tsukaima/ZnT%20-%20Volume%202%20-%20Louise.jpg

    Hrm... In terms of writing, I personally feel that your posts have been great. The screenshot pop-up implementation that you have does feel a bit rudimentary, but it's probably an issue that's due to the constraints of blogger right? I honestly can't think of much else aside from overall aesthetics.

    And if you ever want to entertain the idea of guest bloggers, it sounds like it could be a rather fun endeavor. Just don't go crazy if the guest blogger's views end up making you facepalm or something, I've been through it once before. :P

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    1. I have considered the guest blogger routine, yeah. Are you volunteering??

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    2. Haha, that sounds like it would be a rather fun experience. I'm just unsure as to whether my writing style would mesh well with what you write here though (unless you're purposely looking for someone different :P)

      As for website optimization for faster load speeds, you could always try running your website through a service like gtmetrix.com to check for potential problems. I did it for my blog, and based on the scores, I still have lots of optimization to do. (seen here: http://gtmetrix.com/reports/blogs.emory.edu/qt5R5Me1)

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    3. I've used that very service, in fact. The issue is, a lot of those fixes aren't technically possible on a Blogspot blog. And there's some stuff I frankly don't have the technical expertise to implement.

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  12. Thanks for all the comments - keep 'em coming!

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  13. Keep the social media stuff, that's how you advertise on the modern internet, but other than that remember to KISS. Simplify. On the sidebar navigation:

    - Site updates is fine but maybe redundant since we can see the latest updates right on the homepage anyway.
    - Twitter thing is fine.
    - Site Navigation is not needed, that's what the buttons at the top of the page are for.
    - Recent Posts see above re: Site Updates. Redundant information is redundant.
    - Current Anime/Mange is redundant too, just update the buttons at the top to link to the recent series' and you'll be good to go.
    - Categories is already a button on the top, keep that updated and the side one won't be needed.
    - Most Popular Posts is okay, I can't say I've ever used it though so maybe it isn't needed?
    - Search bar is good, keep it.
    - Recent Comments I can go either way, it's kind of cool. I'd probably keep it but it could be debated.
    - RSS and Email subscription and Facebook stuff are fine for the side.
    - Archive could be a button at the top instead. I'd recommend merging the Anime A-L and Anime M-Z into one button, have the submenu vertical instead of horizontal, and then using the button this frees up for the archive so it doesn't have to be on the side.
    - Anime blogroll and Links are fine. Merge the Social media stuff and the links so that they are grouped together, having the order go Social Media, Links to other blogs, Social Media, Links to other sites is confusing. Keep like with like, all social media stuff grouped together, all links grouped together.

    I'd say get rid of the background, it's too busy, it distracts from your content. Go with a simple non eye bleedy color scheme instead. Unfortunately I'm not an art guy so someone else can suggest colors that work well together.

    Your footer is too tall I think (and America is spelled wrong in it) but other than that it looks fine, just try to condense it to be shorter in height.

    Content wise don't change a goddamn thing, you're doing a great job here :).

    That's what I've got. One dudes opinion. If you like having a seriously cluttered sidebar feel free to ignore me, but from my perspective that's the biggest problem with your site design wise. People on the internet nowadays don't want to spend 2 minutes scrolling through sidebars looking for something, conciseness is the name of the game. Get the most important/used stuff front and center and in people's faces so they can find it ASAP and click through to the pages they want.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Beckett. I'd love to hear more feedback on this - I have a lot of that stuff on the sidebar because people specifically requested it, and I get the impression that people don't always want to go to a top-of-page navbar to get around.

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    2. Haha well people request a lot of shit that they may not really want if they thought through it properly. See the story of the monkey's paw for an allegory about this. You as the site designer have to do what's best for the community on your site as a whole, just because a couple of people request feature X doesn't mean it's worth cluttering the site for everyone. That's why I say keep the important stuff (social networking buttons, links) and anything that is super popular (I have no idea what those might be, I don't have access to your numbers to see how many times things are actually clicked) and remove the rest. Ease of use for everyone is better than having a million things that only a small percentage of your readers use.

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    3. I agree with the fact that if it's in the top bar there's no need for it to be in the sidebar as well.
      However "site updates" does sometimes have stuff I can't see like a new PV added to the preview section for exemple.
      I also check the "recent comments" every time I visit".

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  14. In terms of site content, I'm 100% happy, as I love reading your reviews, and appreciate your opinions.

    In terms of site design though, I think the site background image doesn't work so well, particularly as it looks a bit blurry/pixelated to me. I pretty much agree with everything Beckett said, above.

    But you're definitely getting my vote if I remember to do it! :P

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  15. Change your background, place the site navigation on the left side, and add like and dislike buttons on comments (like in RC). While changing the background, might as well change your theme. Also, remove the space between the lines on the comments, so that we can view the comments with minimal scrolling. But do retain your format on posts. Basically, just retain you format for post, then copy RC's format for comments. :)
    Put "view older comments" on the right shortcut pane.

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    1. None of those changes to the comments section are possible in Blogger, alas. I can use a third party commenting system, but, you guessed it, they slow down the site. That's one of the hardest decisions I've had to maker - I thought speed was more important.

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    2. I agree speed is better than a third party comment site. The only thing an RC style rating system really does is let people measure their e-peen anyway, it's not necessary, especially on a site like yours where you don't really get many/any trolls to vote down into oblivion.

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    3. I also think there's no need for a voting system. I liked RC a lot more before trolls on RC downvoted every comment they didn't like, even when the comment was pretty normal.

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    4. Yeah, speed is definitely more important. It's a shame, I like smaller fonts for comments. But I guess it will do. I also hate trolls, but I also want to like a comment..

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  16. GE I'm sorry I can't really comment on how to make your blog better, as there really isn't that much. I would do a long analysis to find even the tiniest detail to add or change but I have exams starting next week so I'm short for time. I'll vote for LiA whenever the tournament starts.

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  17. No problem, Ish - thanks for your loyal support!

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  18. I really preffer the new backround/banner combo.
    Backround is pretty (is it from a shinkai movie?) but not distracting.

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    Replies
    1. Yup, 5 CM. Thanks - that's what I was going for.

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  19. As much as I like Chihayafuru, I much prefer this 5cm background. The header still sticks out to me, but at this point I guess I'm just being too picky. It's definitely a noticeable difference from before, a positive one at that.

    On a side note, I actually got a little too engrossed into what I imagined would be a nice header, and threw this together: http://i.imgur.com/xQo3T.jpg

    Yea, sometimes I have too much spare time... Don't judge me... >_>;;

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    Replies
    1. Wow-wa-wee-wa - I love these! Especially number 5 - Takaki and Akari and the clouds. Can you make that the same width, but not as tall? I'd use it if you could. I'd love to use a header about 1015 x 225 or so. What's the one immediate;y below that?

      Can I just say, I'm immensely touched that you took the time to do this.

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    2. Whoa! Great work Tsuki! Love it all. But I prefer 5 and 6. Hope they come out soon! :) A header per month would be great.

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    3. Haha, glad you like them. I actual just threw them together real quick with some images from my backgrounds/wallpapers folder. There's a ton more, if you're ever interested in seeing them :3

      Anyways, here are the urls for the images I used in the examples. I had actually downloaded an HTML copy of your home page, and manually changed the url of the header image and displayed it in browser.

      So yea, if you use these images unmodified, they should look similar to how they did in the examples above.

      5cm - Akari and Takaki
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7084/7046807337_0aa99456c9_b.jpg
      ---------------------------
      5 cm train station
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7214/6900749406_06112af300_b.jpg
      Sunset
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7063/7046844669_24cc9f0026_b.jpg
      Code Geass
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7068/7046844589_bfd14d1d61_b.jpg
      Walking on Air
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7222/7046807533_e1ecb11f2f_b.jpg
      Natsu - Summer
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7075/6900712136_3cb95fe2fa_b.jpg
      Cartagra
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7097/7046807473_b3098211f1_b.jpg
      Bungaku Shoujo - Literary girl
      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7103/7046807401_91da217947_b.jpg


      And finally, the picture below the Akari Takaki that you were asking about is actually my current favorite wallpaper.
      Steins Gate - Makise Kurisu
      http://i.imgur.com/ZRMUb.jpg

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    4. Hrm... Did my comment disappear? I responded with a comment with all the image URLs and stuff, maybe you should check your spam comments to see if it got filtered by accident.

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    5. Yea, it seems that comments are randomly disappearing for some reason. There's another lengthy comment that was at the end of this thread that I was able to read, but then suddenly disappeared.

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    6. Yup, I think it didn't like the URLs or something.

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    7. good job wih the banners *claps hands* and I actually like the 5cm one the most out of them, double yay.
      Unrelatedly... Enzo, Otoyomegatari ch22 is already available in English (feel free to edit the link out :> http://robofaget.tumblr.com/tagged/A-Bride%27s-Story )

      Delete
  20. most depressing anime I know as the background image. Mixed feelings.
    And your top nab bar still needs to be resized to the banner size. Starting with home and ending with categories.

    Current banner is too dull. With the top of the background being a faint blue... It is just too plain.

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    Replies
    1. I take it you haven't watched Grave of the Fireflies then. It's far more depressing than 5 cm. :3

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    2. Agreed. Most depressing anime ever, hands down.

      Delete
  21. I noticed you removed the buttons to speed things up. And the banner fits and the new background goes well with the translucent sidebar.

    And it looks like you decided on using a blue-black theme, with a little of the bluish-purple color in the 5 cm background. Looks good so far.

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  22. Now my impression rate is getting better. Keep it up.
    Yay! No more lag scrolling anymore. (Though I still feel it when I go back to the top)

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  23. I don't know if this is fixable but I think your posts need more screen shots, even a post like this could use a picture. In my opinion blogs are supposed to be very visual (but of course you need good content too).

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  24. I like the new background and banner. However, I still think the banner is way too big. Most bloggers use images about half the height of those you use.

    I'm far from an expert in blogs or web design, and I'm not sure if some of these are even possible given the restrictions you mentioned, but here are some suggestions that come to mind:

    - The title "Lost in America - Anime & More | Anime, Manga, and All Things Japan" feels redundant. I'd suggest getting rid of "Anime & More" and maybe the subheading too.

    - Get rid of the space between the banner and blogger's default bar (search, share, etc.).

    - Make the banner (or the text inside it) link to the homepage.

    - I've never liked the navigation bar. I don't think it fits the rest of the page. I'm not sure if it's essential either. If you really want to keep it, maybe try a different design and keep it updated (there are some old series in "Current Anime/Manga"). I also prefer regular drop down menus. RandomC's navigation bar looks pretty neat, you may want to do something similar.

    - Keep the tweet/facebook like/google+1/digg this/email this/etc. buttons and links out of the main page. Keep them inside the posts once you have clicked "read more".

    - I also feel some things in the side bar are redundant and I don't use most of them. "Recent posts" seems unnecessary and so does "Current Anime/Manga", among others. Get rid of those things that are already accessible some other way. I understand your will to give more options to the reader but if you want to keep your blog clean and simple that's the way to go.

    - Experiment a little with different fonts, styles, sizes.

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  26. Hey Guardian Enzo. Not really technical here, but so far the new look is pretty great. I can't really redecorate your page too well but one thing i notice is that your current Anime/manga button at the top is a little outdated i think, still has stuff like Mawaru Penguindrum and so.
    So far so good though, keep the good work going, and good job to everyone else helping out.

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  27. Hey, could you put the number of views beside the number of comments in each post? I'd like to see which anime gets a lot of views in you blog. thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Hmm. Not natively in Blogger, but I'm sure there's a script I could implement. Might slow things down, though. Anyone else want to see that added?

      Delete
    2. Viewcount is a pretty indicator of reader interest, so it would be pretty neat to have. We can see how much it slows down after it's implemented.

      But honestly, only two blogs I read (RC and DannyChoo) show views, so it's not that urgent if you leave it out.

      Delete
  28. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. And now I'm officially a spammer. Sorry about that, Enzo, blogger kept deleting comments. Feel free to delete the duplicates.

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  29. Thanks Murkel and all, for feedback. Taking it all under consideration (and sorry about the spam filter.

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  30. Maybe I'm just missing this but is there no "about me" page? I personally like to know a little about the person whose blog I'm reading. Like a background story on how you got into anime and what you do for a living and that stuff. Maybe it's just me but i always find that interesting and feel like i can relate better to someone and their opinion after having read a little about them.

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    1. That must've gotten deleted at some point and I didn't even notice - I added it back in. Thanks for commenting!

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