It's Not Easy Being Green

June 16, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

It's the color of grass, leaves, money, Oscar the Grouch, and the pants of Captain Kangaroo's sidekick. It evokes images of spring, baseball fields, Saint Patrick's Day, and Christmas trees. Apparently, though, there are some readers who don't agree that what's good enough for Kermit the Frog is good enough for ReelViews. I am referring to my decision to "re-theme" the newly minted site in various shades of green. I read somewhere that green was supposed to have a calming influence, but you couldn't tell that by some of the irate e-mails I have gotten (referring to the new color scheme variously as an "atrocity" and "sickly"). Having looked at about a dozen alternative color combinations, I can safely say that this is one of the most subdued I considered. There's something to be said for violet, red, and black, but while it may be visually arresting, it can result in eye strain.

Apparently, the phenomenon of "ad blindness" is more prevalent than I at first realized. There are some readers who weren't aware that ReelViews had ads until the site was redesigned. It's not that the ads were blocked by their browsers; they were ignored by the readers. Re-configuring the site resulted in everything suddenly being "seen." This won't last for long. As the new version of the site becomes more familiar, ad blindness will once again settle in (ad stats indicate it's already happening). There's not much I can do about that. I'm certainly not going to shuffle things around on a regular basis just to make Madison Avenue happy.

The archives continue to expand. Currently, I'm almost done adding all the 2006 titles, so the database will soon include everything from 2006-2008 plus another 600 random reviews from previous years. Since I'm going in reverse order, I'll start on 2005 later this week. If you're looking for a pre-2006 review, it may not yet have been ported over. There's a link at the bottom of the "Searches" page that connects to the old site's archives. That link (and that archive) will not go away until everything from the old site is available through the new one (around December 31). All ReelThoughts entries have been ported over except for Film Festival reports. Those are still to come. This September, reports from Toronto will be presented as ReelThoughts entries.

Yesterday, I was speaking with my brother-in-law about some ideas he had for improving the site. I agreed with him that his proposals represented improvements, but I wasn't sure how to implement them. At this point, I have pretty much maxed about my capabilities as far as website designing goes. I have learned some css, php, and mySQL, but I don't claim to be an expert in any of those areas. If I can do something easily, I'm willing to try it, but my rather modest goals with this re-design have mostly been satisfied by its current appearance. The fact is, I'm not "into" web design. That's not my thing. It is, for lack of a better expression, a necessary evil. I'm willing to do some heavy lifting to accomplish some things, but this is not my forte. First and foremost, ReelViews is a movie review web site and the effort goes into writing the reviews. Making the pages look pretty is more of a distraction than a source of satisfaction. But the previous version of the site was old and clunky (especially for those who looked under the hood) and needed to be replaced. Short of paying a lot of money to someone who does this for a living, the only alternative was to arm myself with some tools and do it myself. This is the result.

Not that I want to discourage comments. Within reason, I want ReelViews to be the best it can be. I have made about a dozen changes to the site since it went live on June 1 based on reader comments. The "Coming Soon" feature has returned (upper left on main movies page if you haven't found it), the functionality of the "fast archive" has returned (although it now requires a key stroke). The stars no longer look like a first grader designed them with crayons. (That may be insulting to some first graders.) One thing that needs revision is the way the search engine output looks. Right now, it's stark and unappealing. That will change, but not until everything else is done. I'll also make the search page look nicer. Also, please report any broken links. Although each review is being converted manually in an attempt to minimize such errors, things still slip past me.

Thanks to those who have stuck with me through the re-design. I have lost some readers, but I expected that. Any time there's change, there are some who won't react well to it. And, while the new color scheme and setup aren't to everyone's liking, hopefully it won't cause too many to react like this reader did: "I have to say, your site design has gone from bad to worse over the years. While the other changes have been fairly subtle, this new one is just unbearably bad… You've stated in the past you wanted to keep the site clean, simple, and efficient. Well at the moment, it looks like you paid a 10-year old to design the site, and he's used every weapon in his arsenal (including a billion different colors and gaudy mouseovers)." As is said: you can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. And it's probably better not to try.