Question Time: Kotaku’s Web Design Team

Question Time: Kotaku’s Web Design Team

You may have noticed some slight changes around here recently! After our major redesign a while back, Kotaku’s design team Ben White and Rob Hussey have been hard at work on putting together memberships for Kotaku and our other tech sites. But it doesn’t stop there. The team is currently at work on new features and new stuff. This is your chance to ask them anything! For the next hour, both Ben and Rob will be manning Kotaku Question Time. Have at it!


  • How difficult is it to mesh the Allure media back end with that that Gawker uses? or is it built on the same foundation?

  • I need a 2013 calendar and I have two choices for the images that accompany each month, should I pick:

    “Outhouses” or “Goats in Trees”?
    Much appreciated.

    • If we made the avs bigger, the replies would have to be squished in to compensate. I don’t think the replies were really clear in the previous layout for this reason.

      The only other option would be to reduce the depth of replies, and we’ve already reduced that from 10 to 8, which still gets maxed on TAY.

      TLDR; Not really, sorry.

      • However, when we release public profiles, you will be able to see a larger version of user avatars – if that helps at all?

  • Any plans for use profiles viewable to others? And please, if someone thinks a forum would be a good idea, slap them. It’s not needed here as the comment system keep people on track. Love your work, it was pretty smooth transition for all sites, so well done.

  • A feature now missing is the ability to show what tags a post contains from the main page. I would use this easily find a related article or topic that I had forgotten about, for example.

    On a related note, it’s extremely difficult to search for a person’s comment. I understand why, but when you’re trying to find a real interesting nugget of info that wasn’t in an article but a comment in that article, it’s sorta frustrating.

    One more – by Thursday I am always hunting for the Out This Week post. Again, hard to find.

    So basically – fix the searching?


    • Hey Leigh, sorry for the loss of functionality! Our metrics revealed that the tags button on the front page was actually very rarely used, so it was removed in the interest of keeping things tidy and simple. The tags still exist on the individual story pages if that helps?

      RE: searching for comments, would a ‘favourite this’ button on comments be helpful?

      And finally, yeah – the search isn’t super amazing – we’ll work on that in the future!
      But this may help!

  • Had a question but I can’t remember what it was. Old lady brain strikes again!

    Instead I’ll just take this opportunity to say thank-you for all your hard work. And thank-you for not succumbing to whatever the rest of the web-design world is smoking that makes all the other websites so chaotic and ugly. 😛

  • Any news on the collapsing of threads in TAY? Would be great if it loaded collapsed, and had a little marker indicating there is a new post since the last time you visited.

    • Hey welbot! That is a really cool idea, but would be impossible with our current caching strategy.
      We are looking into perhaps remembering what you have collapsed in the past, but it wouldn’t auto expand for new comments at this stage.

    • I don’t know if I’d like that. What possible reason would you need to contact someone without it being unrelated to the site. Just my thoughts on the idea, it might work but it’s really not constructive to the site.

      • We’re aiming to setup notifications that inform you when another user replies directly to your comments.
        In addition, we also aim to setup some method of mentioning other users within you comment using something akin to ‘@rhys’, that will notify you someone is talking about you.

      • It’s more constructive for the community though. When TAY is really going, it blows through pages fairly quickly and if you had a specific message for a user it can easily be missed – thus making it necessary to use non-kotaku mediums to contact one another. I think Kotaku would like to have the community as in-house as reasonably possible.

        • The ‘@mention’ feature proposed in my reply above should hopefully address the issue of contacting users directly, it just won’t be in the form of a private message, but a comment all users can read.

  • Are you a fan of the Kotaku logo? If you had the opportunity to change it, would you?
    If yes….. What would you change it to?

  • Is it possible to have some sort of spoiler tag? And have it applied automatically to all Tina Amini’s articles so they’re all blacked out until you click on them? 😛

    • We use WordPress, which as a developer who likes to custom build everything myself, I absolutely hate it.

      However that said, it is no doubt a brilliant CMS for somebody looking to setup a site quick and simply – I’m just a control freak with code and want to fully manage what the CMS is doing and why.

    • What Rob said, except I have a special place in my heart for WordPress 🙂
      It gets annoying when you want to do super cool custom stuff, but it does a lot of things right too.

          • In all seriousness though, it’s unlikely. If ‘certain people’ see a change to the logo, they will think they can change it to include their ‘certain brandmark’ for their ‘certain reasons’. So while supporting Movember is a positive and awesome thing to do, changing the logo may end up leading to lots of ‘bad things’. I can’t talk in specifics because of ‘reasons’, but I hope you understand.

          • So basically…….The K will be getting a beard, not a mo? Gotcha!

            That’s cool, didn’t actually know any of that, so thanks!

  • I don’t think this would be a big priority but somewhere down the line it would be interesting to have user blog posts section. The US site has a soapbox section that has popular posts put into the main page (although all of the ones I’ve seen have been awful). Something like this could work on the AU site. I will say that KotakuAU has some really talented commenters and I think it would be mutually beneficial to give them more of a platform (that said, Kotaku already does a pretty good job of this).

    • I like the idea man, and I know a lot of you Kotaku guys are pretty creative so it could definitely work here.
      The problem I would see is that whatever we do for Kotaku, we generally apply it across our other sites, so those changes would have to be received well by all audiences – which may not be the case.

      It’s a good idea to bare in mind.

  • Could the site be fixed to run slightly better with javascript disabled? For the most part I’m stuck coming here on a browser that is horrifically slow with it enabled, and while most things work perfectly fine without it there’s a couple of things that don’t. Mainly that now, even though clicking Reply to someone’s comment takes me to a new page with the whole “replytocom” bit up in the URL, it doesn’t actually make the reply nest under that person’s comment like it used to before, or even like it did for the first few comments I made after the change happened.

    Also the login/register thing up the top just stays at “Please wait” with a spinning throbber and an Enable Javascript button below it, rather than there being any button to take you to your profile at all while logged in. Not that I really need to use it that often, but when I do I can never seem to remember the address properly.

    Lastly I had an issue the other night where I got logged out somehow and couldn’t remember my password, but the Forgotten Password button didn’t seem to do anything both with and without the javascripts for some reason. Luckily I managed to chance upon the right password in the end >.>

    • Hey mrtaco, we’re aware of some issues with JavaScript disabled, but I’m afraid you’re in a incredibly exclusive group of users!
      Regardless, we have a ticket to address these issues 🙂 Out of interest, what OS/browser are you running that would cause such greif with JavaScript?

  • 1. What is Donald Duck’s middle name?
    2. Why are all the clocks in Pulp Fiction stuck on 4:20?
    3. What was Dirty Harry’s badge number?

      • 1. Trump
        2. The narrative of the film was out of sequence, the clocks were to confuse your attempt to order each scene within a timeline.
        3. 2211

        • Siri did a pretty good job, I guess:

          I think Donald Duck’s middle name might be Fauntleroy.

          Two was a trick question, Siri ! It’s just one of them urban legends that all the clocks in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20 ! But the answer is still good. Maybe the clocks that do feature 4:20 are some kind of cannabis thing, too.

          Yeah ! 2211 ! That’s Dirty Harry, baby!

          Place looks neat-o, dudes, and thanks for playing along, too.

  • Can you make it so those Trials Evo ads keep on showing up. Doubt Ubi will pay for it, I just like seeing them.. Also HI!

  • So you guys use WordPress and just code the page or do you cheat and use some of the features that they have already? Is the WordPress bit true? If not then what host do you use?

    • My mission since working here, has been to covertly remove as much of WordPress frontend (What you guys see) functionality as possible.

      Whilst it does have many hooks that allow you to customise the way it behaves, you find yourself constantly having to jump through hoops to perform even the most basic functionality – even sometimes adding new attributes to a html element can be a right PITA for something that should just mean editing a single line of code.

      On top of that, hooking WordPress to provide this round-the-houses style of customisation just bogs the performance of the site down further and further.

      Something like the new login feature was pretty much built from scratch using just a couple of WordPress’s core functions. If we had tried to use the tools WordPress offers, it would have been a horrible experience for all you guys to create and manage your accounts,

      The one trump card that WordPress does have however, is that it’s backend CMS management tools are very good for editors to control content – plus any new editor/contributor is likely to be already familiar with how to use it.


    • There are 2 flavours of wordpress – (hosted) and (open source).
      We are using .org, and a solid Australian host 🙂

        • I assume you’re talking about the ads – we don’t really have a say about that – which is really unfortunate. Advertisers love dat Flash.

          That said, any ad that we develop in-house will likely either be a static image or html + js, but that is pretty rare these days.

          • Yes, meaning the flash and also changing the CSS (I think that’s it) to change the look and feel of the web site, depending on the size of the screen viewing it. My guess would be that is a WordPress issue (sorry) as for the flash ads, I’m sure that they use flash because of the company that is used for creating the ads. Might have to start annoying the market companies that create the stupid flash ads. 🙂 Thanks guys.

  • My issue is probably isolated to me only, but I’d love for Kotaku to host all their uploaded assets and CSS under the Kotaku domain and not under

    The latter is tagged by the work filter as “Advertisement & Popups” and nothing is viewable.

    All pics are broken images and everything is Times New Roman on a white screen. Alot of the new functionality I can’t use either, eg: I can post, but replying to someone won’t it will create a new thread.

    firstworldproblem? I agree, but Kotaku is a nice escape from work every now and then!

    • Sorry oggob, this is very unlikely to change.
      It may be worth a quick chat with your IT department to get unblocked.
      Say it’s because you read Lifehacker for the work efficiency and time management tips 🙂

      • Figured as much, but thought I would ask… The flipside is the Sugar network is uneffected and looks fine, guess I’ll just have to keep up with the celeb goss instead! :p

    • In a previous life, I used to run Kotaku through google translate (French or Spanish) then back into English. The monstrous URL that resulted would throw off my work’s blockers. Course, it also made some posts a little weird, but it’s better than nothing 🙂

  • From a developer standpoint, i’ve noticed your dislike of wordpress above, why haven’t you guys just gotten rid of it and built a ground up CMS using bootstrap so it supports multiple browsers and mobile devices, i’d assume that would be better than adding support to a restricted CMS such as wordpress. and also, if that isnt possible, do allure even allow you to do this, or are you restricted to only use wordpress and are allowed to customise yourself within certain constraints

    • Like every other business decision, it comes down to time (therefore, money).
      I’d enjoy the challenge, and I know Rob would love the opportunity to create our own CMS, but at this point in time, our hours are better spent creating new and awesome stuff for you guys, built on the platform that existed before both Rob and myself started (which is also updated and maintained by loads of contributors worldwide).

      At the end of the day, we try and make the eds job as easy as possible, but rad new frontend stuff nearly always trumps changes to the backend. We could spend years developing a awesome CMS and neglect the front end, and we’d end up with the best system in the world with no audience.

      As Rob mentioned, it’s sometimes a double edged sword – things that should be really simple end up being major time sinks – but due to the size of our team and our current workload, moving from WordPress is not on the cards right now.

      But if we had unlimited time? No question, custom built CMS for sure!

      • As a web dev myself… +1million to this.
        Sometimes it just comes down to priority and for you guys, even if its a PITA, sticking with WordPress would just be best for the kotaku editors etc and contributors.

        Love/ Hate relationship with WordPress!

  • Hi Fellas,

    Is there going to be a list of what BB codes (is that what they’re called) are useable on the site?
    And is there plans to allow embedding of images?

    Thanks for your hard work.

    • On the roadmap 🙂
      Unsure if it’ll be true WYSIWYG at this stage, or just wrap your selected text with the correct tags.
      Embedded images have been brought up at a few recent meetings – it’s on the table.

  • I currently hate my web development job (working on crm systems for aussie businesses, vodafone namely). How does one go about applying for kotaku? That’s if, of course, there was another position :p

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