Still Flying in Fandom
Firefly, a drama series placed in outer space aired first aired in 2002 where it ran strong for 11 episodes before being cancelled by the network. Although fans of the show were extremely upset, they did not deviate from the path of fandom.
Firefly fans, also known as Browncoats, have created multiple fan websites that provide them a platform to discuss all things Firefly. Three fan sites are browncoats.com, fireflyfans.net and fanpop.com all of which differs in purpose, layout and engagement.
Browncoats.com is a resource website where fans can find “all things firefly.” The welcome page consists of a letter from the editors, which provides fans a clear explanation of the materials to be found on the site.
This letter mentions that they created Browncoats.com as a catalog site because other fan-sites were not kept up to date or relevant. It achieves keeping fans engaged with enough information however; it is not kept updated. The year 2007 was the last date of some of the posted forums.
The same could be said about fanpop.com where new forums have not been created in over a year. Fanpop.com does have relevant information regarding Firefly such as picture, videos and articles.
They have created their site to be more interactive, which seems to make it’s sole purpose to provide engagement with the audience. Quizzes, chat areas and user-friendly links are provided to get the user to navigate and speak with other fans.
Fireflyfans.net is by far the most up to date site engaging fans by providing links to blogs, discussion boards and other news regarding creator and actors. There is also links to fan-fiction artwork and stories through this site, which makes it more of an opportunity for fan input.
While the content and audience engagement is achieved with all three websites the browncoats.com is the most visually appealing. This site is consistent with branding through color choice and has the name of the site always at the top of the page.
The colors are representative to costumes and outer space, which ties directly back to the show. Additionally, this site has a left side bar with links to fan artwork, articles and other information. The only drawback to this menu is that you are required to hover over several options before it drops-over to the final product.
Fireflyfans.net is also consistent with branding through use of colors and header. This sites header is an interchangeable photo that switches as users navigate through pages, but keeps the name of the site listed. The main visual flaw with fireflyfans.net is that it is text heavy and uses a bright yellow for links that can over-stimulate the user.
The fanpop.com is the least appealing with a white backdrop, and a poor use of photos, links and advertisements. While the information for this site is properly laid out the use of large ads and pop-ups are what make it a distracting site to navigate.
Each of these three sites could use a redesign. All should keep the information and forums up to date, provide less text up front and provide a clear variety of interaction opportunities. If each site makes these small changes it would also allow for less spam information to be placed on the site.
For instance, all sites would have a random blogs that did not pertain directly to Firefly or its fan-fiction that made it confusing as to why that information was offered. This problem often occurs when fans are allowed to make input to a site without review.
Overall, these Firefly fan-sites, browncoats.com, fireflyfans.net and fanpop.com are effective with the message they want Browncoats to see. While they are different in purpose, layout and engagement each has the common goal to bring together Firefly fans of all ages.