2003… This was the year the website underwent a major redesign. The new design introduced the now trademark purple hue and also had a, for the time, modern aesthetic. That layout included a banner area up top and a navigation menu to the left. A look that was fairly popular on major sites of the time.
It replaced an archaic design that was technically the second iteration of the site. That design lasted from, I want to say, 2000 to 2002. The look included a splash image of Godzilla followed by a layout that was heavy on frames. Yes frames, that web design element that was all the rage in the 1990’s and has since been deemed “obsolete” by some random Wikipedia editor, although I don’t argue with their verdict. It included a website counter as well, and really all it needed was spinning gifs and a guest book to be a website that would have made Strong Bad proud.
The 2003 Design
The web moved fast then, arguably faster than it does today, and designs evolved quickly. By the time the third design rolled out, it replaced something that was already looking ancient by web standards. The look of the 2003 website proved popular, far more popular than I had anticipated. While I was never proud of the previous designs, this one, seen below, had me very pleased with the final product.
While elements of the design continued to evolve, like I humorously amazed my younger self by learning rudimentary CSS and replacing the images in the navigation area with text, the general look and feel stayed static.
I wish I knew the exact date the design rolled out. According to the Wayback Machine, the layout was already present by January 30th of 2003. Since this is January 19th of 2016, I will assume that was an almost 13 year run for the design. You can chalk that up to either being impressive or lazy on my part, or both (impressively lazy?).
Eventually a desire started to burn to replace it, a desire for redesigning Toho Kingdom. I was admittedly stubborn at first. It wasn’t until I had to start giving personal contacts a disclaimer, that the site was designed quite a while ago, that it was impossible to ignore that the layout was long in the tooth. I became resigned to this fact for most of the current decade. This especially became hard when it got to the point where I designed web elements for a living, having worked in product marketing for some years… yet owning a website that looked out of touch.
A change was needed. I knew I wanted something different, but only had rough concepts.
Redesigning Toho Kingdom
In early 2015, I finally told myself it was time to design a new site. Even if I didn’t have all the skills needed to execute it everything I wanted, the only way it would ever get off the ground is by taking that first leap.
The official new look was finished and mocked up on February 6th, 2015. It included three separate designs based on the resolution viewing it. This included a 1662+ pixel resolution design, 1661-1340 pixel resolution design and a below 1340 pixel resolution design. While I had not intended for the site to be mobile friendly, something for another day, I did plan for this to be *more* mobile friendly than the previous design.
The 1662+ pixel resolution design is seen below.
It required a culling of a few sections, but not content. Anything removed in the design, like the box office or posters, would just be found in the movie bios instead. It also offered a built-in search feature, aiming to make using the gigantic site (11,949 pages and counting) easier for those looking to find that one piece of content.
Developing the New Design
At the time, I was in discussions with someone for whom it sounded like I could work with on the project to see it realized. This would have been someone outside of the site staff brought on to work on the project. I was excited, although in retrospect was asking too much of someone without realizing it.
Uncharacteristically optimistic, I felt the launch of the new design was around the corner. I was so confident, in fact, that I designed an ad around it. In 2015, I was approached by ACE (All Comics Evaluated) to be paid for an article on Godzilla comics. A late part of the agreement included that an ad for Toho Kingdom could be included. With the magazine that I was to be featured in hitting new stands in May of that year, it seemed like the timing was right for an early teasing of the new site.
Below is the ad I designed for this.
The ad never appeared in the final magazine, I assume because of a mishap with the ad copy deadline. I did not press the matters, though, as it was becoming apparent that the new site was nowhere near completion. I had over estimated the other person’s interest. so callously assuming they were on board for the long haul. Ignoring the burden this would have placed on them.
…and so the design lamented. Sitting on a hard drive while updates as normal continued on Toho Kingdom. In the back of my head I knew that someday this would become reality, although when I was not sure. I started to prepare things like it would be coming, removing the box office section and making other needed changes.
While I approached a few others with the proposal to work on this design with me, no one took me up on the offer. It was a lot to ask.
Finally I decided that if this was going to be done, then I needed to hire someone to work on a contract basis for this project. With a budget in mind, I began an interview process and eventually found my candidate. They did much of the leg work going from the designs, although feedback, testing and QA were my contributions at the early juncture.
Eventually we had a finished product and testing began on January 17th, 2016. There were problems… but nothing unexpected. The site is quite old and realizes a lot of different designs. The Monster Bios are totally different from DVD reviews, for example. Many clashes were created, and I was working as the lead with the person I hired as back up to offer advice. It was a collaborative environment that I was thankful for. Even if the process lasted a good 10 hours, the goal was realized.
So after years, I’m happy with the design again. There is a lot more work to be done… but I’m happy and glad that finally others are able to see the work that had been nothing more than concepts for so long.