One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced as a backend web developer heading into game design was spending time on our website. Most backend web devs I know dabble just a tiny bit with web design, and we usually prefer to stay as minimalist as possible. As we had more and more stuff to share, though, the minimal approach to our website just wasn’t working all that well. With the Beast Boxing Turbo launch approaching, it just didn’t feel right to do direct sales from a site that felt kind of sparse and bland!
The last revision used Twitter Bootstrap, but in the process it became my opinion that responsive design is simply the “new fluid” design, requiring custom CSS to handle a variety of form factors. Getting reflowing to look “right” on every platform (and through browser resizing) means you still have to test and correct for differences on every platform. I’d much rather be spending time on my games, so seeya in my copious free time, Responsive Design!
In addition, because the previous website was all custom code with WordPress tacked onto /blog, I really felt it was time to take advantage of a modern CMS. My friend Tim Ganter at Studio Ten Four has been a Drupal advocate for quite some time. My first few attempts with Drupal theming (around version 5) were way too overwhelming. This time around, however, I locked myself in at home and went through the Drupal 7 – the Essentials guide to really see how Drupal wants you to use their system.
Nearly everything in this new website was built without custom code, using combinations of Panels, Views, Content Types, and Blocks. The theme is a subtheme of the default Bartik theme with lots of custom CSS and Adobe’s excellent Source Sans Pro, their first open-source font, from Google Web Fonts. I’m simultaneously impressed and horrified at Drupal 7 – not only is it the most module-driven architecture I’ve ever had the pleasure/pain to work with, but it also seems to have evolved surprisingly well, with the more general-purpose functionality being pushed ever further into core. In any case, it worked for me, allowing me to rapidly develop panels-based layouts, barely touching CSS to get column widths right.
The main advantage of working with something like Drupal is the ability to define content that fits your application, then reassemble the output into reusable chunks across the site. In our case, being able to define Games and Platforms separately, then link them to article content is important, and something that just wouldn’t feel right in a blog-oriented system such as WordPress.
You’ll notice that our Games have a standard page format, with important facts and latest news displayed side-by-side, and new lightboxes for displaying image galleries. We’ve also got a new frontpage layout, and articles about a game link directly there. It’s not going to win any graphic design awards, but it gets the content across clearly and makes it easier to check out different games. Adding in some custom colors, backgrounds, and patterns lent the theme its own look, and I hope our visitors will enjoy poking around to see what we have to offer!