Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #16

Re: Welcome to the New Decent Films!

I take it from the “Coming Soon” announcement “The New Decent Films” in the “Coming Soon” box that you are redesigning the website. I realize it is taking a liberty, and probably an unhelpful one, to make comments about this, but I beg you to be careful. I enjoy reading movie reviews, but the reason I spend more time on your site than any other isn’t just that your reviews are better written and more insightful. It’s also because yours is one of the only sites I know where the pleasure of reading the reviews doesn’t have to compete with the pain of looking at them.

Your current design is simple but effective, attractive to the eye and soothing to the smell, and easy to understand and use. I can always rely on it to load quickly and not give me computer problems. It has everything logically arranged and free from distractions. It has very interesting exchanges in the mail column, but it doesn’t weigh down every page with dozens of vacuous comments.

How different is the common run of online movie criticism - and not just in cases where the review is on the website of some periodical or publication and has to follow its format. Almost always, the pages are busy, cluttered, and ugly, with links, search boxes, sidebars, and so on thrown in any which way with equal disregard for taste and convenience. That background on Roger Ebert’s site that vibrates when you scroll up or down is abominable. The pictures that everyone else feels the need to put in are usually counterproductive, either useless in showing you what the movie looks like, boring, or providing a regrettable spoiler.

Please, please, please be careful. Remember that when I want to see publicity stills, frame blow-ups, advertisements, or bloated comments boxes, and when I want to sit and wait while my computer struggles to load horrifically over-designed web pages, I have the entire internet at my fingertips. When I visit your site, I want a clean, simple design that will allow me to enjoy the work of the greatest movie critic I know in peace.

Of course, this is really a complaint about the web in general, not just movie reviews, but it seems to me it’s movie review sites out of all others that ought to look good. For a beautiful movie to be reviewed on an ugly web page seems a sort of blasphemy. Forgive the perhaps too impassioned tone of this email; it’s because I care. Merry Christmas and pax tecum.

My sincere gratitude for your concern, for your kind comments about the current (soon to be the old) site — and for your interest in my work. (Actually, it’s all my work … I’ve done all the front-end design for Decent Films (all hand-coded html and css, Photoshop and Illustrator) from the very beginning — nearly 10 years ago now! — although I’m deeply indebted to my volunteer back-end developer for breathing the breath of content-management and database life into my design work.)

Fear not! I’m confident that the new site retains everything that is good about the current site, and that every change is an enhancement. It’s recognizably the same site, same general layout strategy, only better. Better-looking, easier on the eyes (“soothing to the smell” I leave to the movies at the lower end of my ratings spectrum … movies with poison in them, now they’ll sleep!). Cleaner, and no comments at this time — although the best new feature (in my opinion), content integration, will join mail items with associated reviews and articles. Snazzy new features. Trust me. It’s all good!

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