Introducing the Reference Column

As a web developer with really large monitors, the fact that most websites are limited to 1000px wide has always bothered me.  I understand why this is, and my websites are no exceptions, but it does seem like a waste.  I wanted to do something useful with that extra space, but since a lot of people (read: people with iPads) don’t have it, it had to be something nonessential.  To that end, I borrowed the concept from the card comparison tool to create the reference column.

If you have enough space (you’ll need about 1350px across, so most notebooks should qualify), a new column will automatically be created on the right side of every page.  This column starts off blank, but is quickly populated with cards for everything linked to on that page.  So far this is really just an alternate form of the existing card hover feature, although it is possible to leave a card up for general viewing.  The fun really starts when you look at the card you wants in the reference column, though.  Every time you do, all the cards it references are added to the list, and so on down the line.  Any time you click a link on a card in the column, it will scroll right to that card, allowing you to make cross-references quickly that once required several page views.  Sure, it’s not great for my ad revenue, but it certainly is convenient.

The biggest problem with this feature was determining how it should be used.  Initially, I had the idea that every link on a page should scroll the reference column.  If you actually wanted to visit the page, you could either click the card in the column, or click the link a second time.  At times when you don’t want to leave the page, this was fine, but on guide menu pages, it was a user interface nightmare.  Worst of all, some pages – like standard tables – could really go either way.

To solve all these issues, I added a checkbox that toggles the column’s behavior.  It is located at the bottom of the column, next to the convenient help link.  The checkbox that causes all links to affect the reference column is usually off.  The only pages where it is on by default are card pages and walkthrough pages (which so far are only found in the FF1 and Golvellius guides).  These are the pages where you are most likely going to be cross-referencing many different cards.  You can also turn it on if you want to use it on table pages.  Maybe you want to compare a particular item or monster with others from the table – now that’s easier than ever.  It’s like the card comparison tool is built into every page.

I suspect I will be tweaking this functionality a lot in the near future, so any feedback would be appreciated.  I think this is a very cool feature, but only if people bother to use it.  I want to do anything I can to encourage that.

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