A quick question…

…also just asked on Twitter. Purely on the design side (not functionality/content), what would be the one thing you’d like to improve on the SFE site? Of course, I know that functionality and design are in some respects linked; and of course if it’s perfect, you’re welcome to tell us that too…

(We have some thoughts on this at SFE HQ, but I don’t want to bias any comments by stating them upfront. After all, SFE editors are pretty atypical in how they use the SFE site.)



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19 responses to “A quick question…

  1. Chris Hansen

    I would RSS feeds so I could subscribe to topics and get the new and updated stuff in my RSS reader.

    • We can probably do that, but it might have unintended consequences – we tend to update 1000+ entries each month. Would you really want that dropped in your RSS reader? Or even a subset of it – say 500 author entries/titles?

      • Why not? It is certainly better than nothing; leave it to the users and their software to sort them out.
        And of course, having separate filtered RSS channels for various categories would help with that issue. I understand your tech support has better things to do, but it should not be too difficult for third parties to create such a “mash-up”, once you make the raw feed available.

  2. I think that the layout is too nervous. The margin between the lines is too wide and too many different fonts are used. Especially the font used for links is completely off. The print layout is also not very nice and doesn’t make use of the whole page width. Oh, and please use proper typographic quotes.

  3. Phil Stephensen-Payne

    Gosh, where to start – there are so many 😦
    Not entirely sure where you draw the line between design and functionality/content, but after some reflection I would say that the poorest piece of design is that there is no way of distinguishing “updated entries” from entries copied from the previous edition but not yet updated.

  4. Two things on presentation:

    1. Lack of contrast between text and background. I know grey on white is very much the current design fashion (used by this form), but the lack of contrast makes reading harder (especially, if like me, your vision isn’t 100%).

    2. Why do the LINKS SHOUT? It distracts from the flow of reading. In the book form it was justifiable to show root terms, but that is unnecessary on the web: both colour and underlining clearly show links.

    • Alan Claver

      I agree 100% on the links. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to read a long entry being interrupted every other word with an UPPERCASE, UNDERLINED and BLUE word.

      Pick one. Personally, using the universal web standard of underlining should be the choice.

  5. fabrice


    I’m looking for a sci-fi book I read in the second half of the ’80s.
    It dealt with a psychiatric ward patient who was living streches of another life were he was a warrior of some kind.

    Any idea of the title and author?

    many thanks

  6. Gerry Quinn

    I found the font a bit hard to read, too thin and grey, and maybe the paragraphs are a bit long.

    Also a silly little thing, but authors have a summary at the end saying

    born [place] [date]

    If I were an author who hadn’t yet died, I would prefer if the ‘died’ line did not appear at all, especially if I were getting on!

    • 1. Completely agree on the superfluous “died” line.

      2. And ditto with starting the entries with (19XY-    ). Leaving out the place to be filled out later made sense in a paper encyclopedia, but it’s a bizarre atavism online.

      3. OTOH I much preferred the old headers like “MARTIN, GEORGE R(AYMOND) R(ICHARD)” to the new “MARTIN, GEORGE R R”, with the full name hidden far at the bottom.

      4. Series bibliographic listings would be better as ordered, numbered lists and not unordered bulleted. At least in simple cases.

      5. Please sign the blog posts.

  7. gary gibson

    I’ve seen on other websites like Goodreads and Shelfari that authors can sign up and, by various means, verify their identities and then edit information relating to their backlist, and so forth. I don’t know whether that’s definitely the kind of thing you’d want to do – book sites like that are used by authors in those cases to essentially promote their works, and the Encyclopedia isn’t about promotion, at least not in that sense – but given the sheer number of people who could end up listed on the site, would it speed things up for you/make things easier for you to allow some element of that kind of interactivity, or would doing that in and of itself create its own massive workload?

    Just a thought.

  8. I’ve raised this before with Dave: I think the font is too small. Why does it have to be smaller than most other sites? Of course I can hit CMD/+ but the right hand column then disappears.
    And if the font has to so small, why combine this with a large line height and lose all the benefit? At least it’s Verdana.


  9. Lee M

    The original print edition of 1979 featured lots of visual material – book and magazine covers, author photos, film and TV stills, comic book pages… Now obviously the most important thing about the Encyclopedia is its textual information. Nevertheless I’d welcome the judicious use of such visual aids, providing of course that it was logistically and economically feasible.

  10. Julian

    Firstly congrats on the web release. I am sure I will be using it as a resource, recreation, and illumination.

    My suggestion is more pics. I have just looked at the Daleks entry and it is just text. Visual imagery is a strong part of SF – eg paperback covers.



  11. Lee M

    Here’s another suggestion that’s just occurred to me: a Contact box accompanying every article to allow readers to make comments or corrections.

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