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New Site: The Behind-the-Scenes Story, Part 3

Posted April 23rd, 2008 at 06:28 PM by funrun
Updated April 23rd, 2008 at 06:38 PM by funrun
In Part 2 of this Behind-the-Scenes blog series, I talked about my discovery of a secret new site feature and my ability to edit almost any pixel in the site. Admins were starting to help test out my settings, but it was time to get more people involved, and stir up some excitement in the masses. . .

With the base site settings and user group access permissions roughly in place we contacted a few dozen long-time site members and informed them of our plans to convert our old site into a new unified site. I think everyone was ecstatic about this news and was eager to get a sneak peak to help us test it out. We set up password protection on the new test site URL and let people have at it. Just one problem. . .

I realized when you send a bunch of people to a test site full of new features and tell them to use it as they normally do, yet keeping in mind anything they do there will get erased eventually, it seemed to create a rush-in-and-stand-still situation. Kinda like a herd of cattle getting let into a new field:
<cattle running in>
"Woo-hoo, look at this great pasture!!!"
<stops, looks around, sniffs the grass>
"Hmmm, yeah, great scenery. I'm just gonna lay down and observe."

Some people I think were intimidated by the abundance of new features, others I think had so many things they could do they just didn't know what to do first, others probably didn't want to "waste" time on something that would get deleted anyways, and still others didn't have time to keep up on which things were known issues, still under development, or needing to be tested. A few people made some posts and helpful suggestions, but we were constantly changing things every day, and most people were not coming back to test things out, even after repeated requests. This was part of the reason why I started thinking that our goal launch date of the week before Gencon was not a strong reality, or if we did launch, there would be so many bugs to fix during live production that I know I personally did not want to have them looming over my head while I was trying to enjoy Gencon.

One major piece of feedback that came out of this test phase was that some people strongly disliked the narrow fixed width page. There is no way to have a continuous graphic background flow down the page without a fixed width, so as a test I was able to free the fixed dimensions and offer that style as another user choice (a.k.a. "Wide"). Future feature alert: The ability to change styles has many potential future applications that hextr1p and I have been discussing:
  1. We can create color and image themes for each HS General. These would show up as optional style selections like the Wide style does today.
  2. I tested and validated that we have the ability to assign a specific style to specific forums, such as a Marvel color and image theme for the Marvel forums.
  3. IIRC there is also the ability to reset everyone's current style selection. This means there is a possibility that on the day of a certain new product release, your site style might be set to "Jungle" . Think of it as a can't-miss news alert. You will still be able to change your personal style back to whatever you previously had.
    -Note: all new styles, whether assigned or otherwise, will remain as optional style selections for you to select as your main personal style.

At some point during all the user testing, we decided to start a sort of marketing (semi-)awareness campaign to the general HS public. For this, The Nigh was born! Malechi made cool animated sig graphics that said generic things like "It's Coming!" and we inserted them into people's profiles. We even worked out a weekly schedule where the sig image text would automatically change to indicate the launch date was getting closer. Some admins set about posting as "The Nigh" and making complex puzzles and riddles leading to vague clues, and overall having a fun time hinting at a lot of nothing, only that something BIG was coming soon.

That "soon" was supposed to be one week before Gencon. This was so that we would have one spare week to fix major bugs before most of us were away from our PCs at Gencon. With Gencon only 2 weeks away, many people were starting to focus their attention on Gencon plans, including myself. I was feeling fairly comfortable with the graphics, templates, and site settings that I had in place. I didn't want to change much more without user feedback on the existing settings, but the problem was that I wasn't getting any real feedback. At this time, Xotli was also doing major database conversion tests, and getting those right was the bigger issue that needed to be settled before any switch could go live.

With a week or so to go I knew that at the rate things were going, the launch date was looking pretty grim. I kept all of our admins and testers apprised of this strong possibility, but that motivation wasn't as strong as Gencon preparations. Xotli was still doing conversion tests, but the front page, Downloads, and Gallery areas of the site were largely untested. I knew the launch would have to wait until after Gencon. So off we went to take a break from site work and have fun for a week, with the intent of launching a week after Gencon. . .
Total Comments 7


hextr1p's Avatar
Ooooh! What happens next?!

Yeah, those new alternate themes are going to be pretty sweet. Someone really needs to get going on those new graphics as soon as he can! I mean really, what's the hold up?! Who's the fool in charge of all those pixels anyway? Somebody should kick his... butt... in gear... ummmmm... why is everyone looking at me?

Posted April 23rd, 2008 at 07:44 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
nyys's Avatar
Posted April 23rd, 2008 at 08:38 PM by nyys nyys is offline
funrun's Avatar
LOL, I wasn't trying to call you out hex. That's why I asked you about it last week . Seriously, I'm in no hurry, but it would be cool whenever you can do it.
Posted April 24th, 2008 at 01:03 AM by funrun funrun is offline
hextr1p's Avatar
I know. Completely kidding on my part.

The templates will be fun to work on, and I'm also really excited about the possibilities they open up for the site visually, as you pointed out above.
Posted April 24th, 2008 at 02:00 AM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
funrun's Avatar
So u started already?
Posted April 24th, 2008 at 09:19 AM by funrun funrun is offline
hextr1p's Avatar
Posted April 24th, 2008 at 02:10 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
ZBeeblebrox's Avatar
Very interesting...waiting on more
Posted April 25th, 2008 at 12:34 PM by ZBeeblebrox ZBeeblebrox is offline

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