August 26, 2010

The new DevMo: when designers get near documentation websites

Egads. Over­whelm­ing much? This new fron­tend-heavy design for the Mozil­la Devel­op­er Net­work sure is dis­ori­ent­ing until you learn to ignore most of the front page and realise all the use­ful con­tent is halfway down, beneath the fold. Because it’s impor­tant that you know it’s the last week to vote for your favorite Fire­fox Home iPhone Skin (!), an entire side­bar, almost a third of the screen wide, is ded­i­cat­ed to Twit­ter posts. Sig­nif­i­cant screen space is set aside for an enor­mous swip­ing advert for projects you already know about (being a web devel­op­er and all) or that would be bet­ter deliv­ered near a link to their rel­e­vant category.

A huge red bar dom­i­nates the front page like an error box that won’t go away, and sad­ly con­tains only one use­ful link (“Here’s how to get start­ed”). Even that could be filed away near the login/register pan­el at the top right, which also real­ly needs some lov­ing. This red bar turns into a dif­fer­ent bar when you nav­i­gate away from the front page, but it still does­n’t con­tain any­thing of mer­it (twit­ter, feed and forum links should not be in a ded­i­cat­ed hor­i­zon­tal bar that results in the actu­al page con­tent being shoved down by 85px).

I ini­tial­ly dis­re­gard­ed the entire ‘WEB MOBILE ADD-ONS APPLICATIONS’ strip across the top since it just looked like an ugly way to state what you’d find on the site. Only by acci­dent (notic­ing the mouse cur­sor change as I moved near­by) did I dis­cov­er they’re actu­al­ly links; with­out the tra­di­tion­al under­line (or but­ton/tab-styling) chunks of ran­dom­ly-coloured cap­i­talised text do not sig­ni­fy a link.

Click­ing the large ‘WEB’ link at the top takes you to a page with only four ‘pop­u­lar’ web doc­u­men­ta­tion cat­e­gories, so find­ing stuff on, say, the DOM requires click­ing the small, light blue ‘All web devel­op­ment doc­u­men­ta­tion’ link under­neath. At this point you actu­al­ly tran­si­tion from the shell of the new design to the sane, rea­son­ably sim­ple old MDN pages.

I filed a bunch of “I sug­gest” requests through a sup­port sys­tem that’s also quite need­less­ly con­fus­ing and oper­ates on ‘points’ as if it’s some kind of demo­c­ra­t­ic social net­work; here’s hop­ing some­thing comes of it. Maybe I’ll just deep book­mark into the site prop­er instead…

posted by Andrew

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