How would you like the new web site to look?

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Daniel Dillon
Title: Member
Joined: 2012-09-28
How would you like the new web site to look?

We have engaged Monarch Digital to develop a new web site for NARGS. One area where member input is valued is around the "theming" of the site, which is the design or the look and feel. This would include page layouts for the various areas of the site, including the home page. It would also include colors, use of graphics, line styles, icons, menus, common header and footer, etc.

I invite you to contribute to the discussion of theming the new site. Maybe you would like to draw our attention to a nicely "themed" web site that you have visited.

Example themes to learn from:


Some things to consider:

1. All of these themes shuffle blocks around, and in some cases reformat them, to accommodate screen sizes all the way down to mobile phones. Re-size your browser window (or click on “Tablet - landscape” in the top right corner) to see.
2. An image slide-show is featured on the home page. Related text can accompany each image.
3. By including a feature image in each posting of content, the image can accompany the 'teaser' that appears on the home page listing or in a sidebar block listing.
4. Posted content can be illustrated with images.
5. Videos can be embedded anywhere on the site.
6. A content block can contain vertical or horizontal tabs, each tab containing different content. This saves space and eliminates the need to re-load the page.
7. Home page can have a different layout than the rest of the site.
8. Different sections of the site can be laid out differently. Forum, Plant of the Month, Encyclopaedia, Articles, RGC.
9. The color scheme need not be complex or vibrant to be attractive.
10. All content should be reachable with just 1 or 2 clicks.

What are your thoughts?

Ben Burr
Title: Admin
Joined: 2010-12-18

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for posting these examples.

Of those that you have posted, Frances and I think that the ThemeSnap examples are much preferable to the others.  We like the clean, white background and high functionality.  Our only suggestion is that the login be more accessible, but I image that placement on the page is something that is customizable.

One question we have is if the slide show active in the sense that clicking on a photo could take you to another page?


Ben Burr

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

I, too, prefer the ThemeSnap.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

Daniel Dillon
Title: Member
Joined: 2012-09-28

Yes, Ben. Pictures or any part of associated text in a slideshow can be linked to another page. This is a great way to promote something on your site; like "Join!" could take you to the new member registration page.

Daniel Dillon (artist) & Esther Wrightman (gardener)
St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Title: Member
Joined: 2009-10-01

Hi Daniel
I love many of these. I think we need to consider both active members as well as potential new ones. I've found that with most plant societies, when I land on their page, I find navigation difficult, and access of information challenging. There is nothing I hate more than being asked for my password, or hitting a wall that says "members only' when I am looking for basic access. The Rocky Mountain Chapter site drove me crazy this summer - I was supposed to speak there, but I could not get into the site to find out basic information, I was locked out.

Photography is essential in the design, and I like to think of NARGS as possibly looking more like the National Geographic site, or The North Face, Patagonia, or another outdoor rec company than a plant society site. The core DNA of NARGS comes from a love of the outdoors, and I would love it if the visual direction of the site had the energy and tone which many of these outdoor/ active lifestyle companies illustrate.

I'll share more ideas soon, thanks for asking!

It looks like you are completely on the right track with these layouts, I can't wait to see the results!

Matt Mattus
USDA Zone 5B
Worcester, MA

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Daniel, hard for me to conjure what the NARGS web site might look like based on those 3 very similar generic schemes, as you say, the schemes "shuffle blocks around" but otherwise look alike. These are much too generic and context-unconnected to envision how it might translate to the future of  Can you suggest other "real" drupal-based web sites that could serve as potential examples for our membership to react to?

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at

Daniel Dillon
Title: Member
Joined: 2012-09-28

Hi Mark.

Yes, those 3 themes have similarities, and for good reason. They emulate a general format that works for content-based web sites. Pay attention to the details. They all have subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions. While we are shopping for a look, we can mix and match features and functionality from any number of themes or sites.

Here are a few more Drupal web sites (and one more theme)...

Daniel Dillon (artist) & Esther Wrightman (gardener)
St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I looked at each link; to me each looks so cookie-cutter and nondescript.  But, I bow out here, as my main concern is replicating the full functionality of the existing NARGS Forum, not the look and feel of NARGS.ORG web site, other than whatever "look" prevails for, basically gets replicated on the NARGS forum. 

Daniel, I do need to catch up with you and review in more detail the Drupal-version of a forum; I've been travelling, and then sick for a week, but I need to take a harder look and continue the dialog... will do so.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at

Title: Member
Joined: 2010-05-02

I tend to agree with Mark that most of those websites seem very cookie cutter and lacking somehow. To me many of them seem a bit cluttered for some reason. I'm a big fan of the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle. If you cram too much on the homepage you detract from usability.

I think we need to look at how other hobby and club sites are set up. One of my favorites is Ravelry for knitting. It has an incredible number of features you can use but very few you have to use.  In effect you can customize it for your own needs. For example if you just like to look at the latest patterns or yarns you can limit your use of the site to that feature.  If, however you are seriously obsessive you can list all the yarn in your stash, all your projects etc.  You can choose what to make public.  The site has forms and groups and you can start new ones.  I realize it's not an essential feature but wouldn't it be nice to have a big seed germination database that members could add to?  If you look at a pattern on Ravelry you can see that anyone can post pictures and comments about their experience with that pattern. Let's say I want to make a shawl pattern called"Adonis" (flower names are popular). First thing I do is look at the Adonis projects that have already been done.  From people's comments I can tell if their are mistakes in the pattern or learn of other quirks.  If we had a similar feature or database it would be easy to look up everyone's experiences germinating Adonis seed.  Yes we do have a search function but why not put all the information together from the outset?

I've probably babbled one enough already but that's my two cents worth.  Oh, and please lose the black background.


Jan Jeddeloh, Portland, Oregon, USA, Zone 8.  Rainy winters (40 inches or 1 meter) and pleasant dry summers which don't start until July most years!

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

As someone for whom much of the mechanics of the website is like another language, albeit a very important one, I am with Matt's comment about how the site draws you in, and landscapes and the outdoors definitely do this. This is a huge failing of the AGS website in my opinion but it is the inevitable result of historical differences between different societies, and different outlooks. I greatly enjoy the NARGS site and I am also very appreciative of the thought and energy that goes on behind it.

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.

McGregorUS's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2009-12-18

A major difficulty for us is that if we are to spend $30,000 then there is a tendency to choose an upmarket rather corporate solution, rather than a more homely, friendly solution. We have to be wary of this – we are a society with high-powered  specialists, low-key generalists, photographers, growers, amateurs, professionals

Like others I prefer the ThemeSnap example of the first three. It’s clean, has effective and simple levels of access to major theme areas. The righthand sidebar offers an effective and simple range of activity. It’s also clear that the most important items are at the top and largest. With others these variously seem not to be as obviously true. The problem is that it could be a hospital or an upmarket university or hightech startup.

Looking at the comment by Jan about Ravelry I decided to look at that website only to find the frontpage asks for login and username etc immediately – there is no access to non-members – not friendly – non-members will slink away. This is precisely what we need to avoid. The website is our shop window (particularly for non-members) as well as (for members) our library, post office, photo book, and coffee bar.

Matt says:
Photography is essential in the design, and I like to think of NARGS as possibly looking more like the National Geographic site, or The North Face, Patagonia, or another outdoor rec company than a plant society site. The core DNA of NARGS comes from a love of the outdoors, and I would love it if the visual direction of the site had the energy and tone which many of these outdoor/ active lifestyle companies illustrate.

I agree with some of the sentiment about the style of these outdoor/active sites versus the style of plant society sites. But this is often because so many plant society sites are just really poor. But I think the comment about the “DNA of NARGS coming from a love of the outdoors” is offbeam. For some people it is a love of the outdoors. For others, at the other extreme perhaps, it’s a love of these “funny little plants” and how you grow them -- that is what they want. For some again, NARGS is people and meetings, journals and books, photography, website, seedex, forum and so on. For others again it is an extension of homemaking – in this case for plants – they want recipes and ideas; for others it’s the equivalent of stamp-collecting. NARGS has to be all this and more. The website needs to pick up all these in its range of imagery.

- great outdoors
- rock-gardening
- gardens as objects
- gardening as activity
- exquisite “jewel box” plants

Turning to the various sites mentioned in Daniel’s later email. Looking at many of the examples of sites in rapid succession I became aware that I dislike having to scroll down the frontpage to see all the material.  On the frontpage I want to see everything – or at least feel that I can – rather than having to keep onscrolling down.

I want my frontpage at least to be completely visible when I visit.

I want the major themes and volatile items to be obvious and I want volatile items to be clear and upfront.

There are a number of obviously but variously volatile items

1. Forum – continuously variable but there could be at least an item saying how many people are currently active on the forum to attract people in

2. Seedex – the seedlist is active for up to three months but there is acontinuously changing set of information for donors/users of the seedx

3. Quarterly – the latest issue should be on the frontpage – probably with a couple of displays from inside

4. Newsletters from Chapters (in good standing) – continually coming in – we should have the latest on display

Other items are very static as can be seen from looking at the current website

News – of the items on our NEWS page most are old news  - the only currently relevant news items are our election and the New Zealand rock garden study weekend. Much of the rest consists of obituaries and so on.

Ironically the Bulletin Board in the Quarterly has more news (certainly current news) than the website. This is something which members should look more to the website for - perhaps with the Bulletin Board becoming a feature which is constantly updated - much better there than in the Quarterly. And when something ceases to be news then it should become history. Nothing is worse than news that is very old news.

The item which I have the least clear picture of its role is the Wiki which seems to hang out byitself – a bit like Lonely George (some of it very old and very lonely) – and if it is to have life then we need it to feature better. There are some great pictures in the photo galleries but there are not always easy to find. Some parts of it have been overtaken  by parts of the forum.

We do need to be able to see usage of various parts of our new website – usage figures are so valuable in understanding what is being used and, vice-versa , what is never being visited.

Sorry this is so long - lots of points

Malcolm McGregor
Global Moderator/NARGS Editor
East Yorkshire, UK


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