June 22nd, 2006


The Beta Site Scheme has Landed

A while back, I mentioned a brainstorming session about redesigning the Site Scheme. I wanted to talk a bit about the goals for the design, and why we are changing things. Convert more new users into active users by...
  • Making it easier for new users to learn what LiveJournal is, and what makes LJ different At a glance, if I were to show the current site scheme to a new user, it would only fill in part of the story of what LiveJournal is all about, or what makes it different. I think there's some important features that differentiate us. (I'm only talking about features here, there's a HUGE difference in the culture and community.) A good example is Userpics. Going to Manage/Userpics tells me that there is something called Userpics and that they can be managed. It doesn't tell users what they are for, or why they are important.
  • Making it easier for new users to learn how to use the basic features of LiveJournal It needs to be really obvious how to Post an Entry, Upload a Userpic, View your Friends Page, etc. These options are not readily available in the current site schemes.
Do it without causing too much pain for current users There's a lot of you out there, and even though we are largely addressing how to get new users, we don't want to create problems for current users. It might seem impossible to do this, but there is a huge overlap in the frequent tasks for new users and current users. Not that there's going to be no pain associated with learning how to use the Beta Navigation, but hopefully it's not too bad. And hopefully, after you've used it for a bit, it will be better. To help ease the pain, the current sitemap is organized the same way as the Beta Navigation.

Reorganize the Site Scheme so that it can scale to fit new features we're planning on adding
We're planning on some new features. We'll discuss those later when we are a bit closer to finishing them. Right now, it's a challenge to figure out where to put those new features in Xcolibur and Dystopia. And because the two options are also organized differently, Designers and Developers have to solve the problem twice. It eats away the time we would rather spend on new features, or fixing bugs. The new Beta Navigation will have a vertical and horizontal orientation, (via CSS) but they will use the same HTML, so we will be maintaining one version, but we get two options.

Fix usability problems associated with the Site Scheme
The one I'm thinking of is the way the submenu behaves. The submenu appears on hover, if the user moves the mouse diagonally to a submenu item, the submenu disappears before they can click on the link they want. Many of you were upset when the "My LJ" link was added, because it made it more difficult to get to the "Update Journal" link; you had to hover over Journal, then move down, then move to the left, which are two relatively awkward motions. Also, it takes some new users a while before they learn that Xcolibur's top row of links were, well, linked -- some of the functionality is only available by clicking on those links. Additionally, if someone's browsing without JavaScript, they don't see the sub-links, and so we need to account for those options as well.

Now it's your turn
Unlike some of the other features that we've hidden behind secret URLs, this one is a serious effort. I really need your feedback. Here's how to test the new Site Scheme...
  1. Go to the Browse page
  2. Select Beta Navigation, and click Switch Scheme
  3. And that's it.
There's a feedback link built into the top part of the new site scheme, and we need all feedback regarding the Beta Navigation to be submitted there (which is why comments are turned off for this post). The form you fill out will go to Support. They will categorize feedback so that the team can identify what the biggest issues are. We'll be reading all the feedback you share, but please make sure to submit it through this form -- this helps us categorize all of your feedback so we know what things we need to work on, and submitting it any other way might not guarantee that it gets to us.

Also, if you've ever invited someone you wanted to join LJ, and they did, and gave up because it was too hard, ask them again. Tell them to turn on Beta Navigation, and to send us feedback. We'd love to hear the differences in reactions from people who are used to LJ versus people who aren't very familiar with how LJ works, because that helps us make a site scheme that works best for everyone.
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This is a pretty long post already. We'll follow up with more updates on the Beta Navigation later.

We're receiveing feedback that it's hard to figure out how to turn Beta Nav off. The Browse link is located at the bottom of the page. Click that, and then click on the thumbnail of the Site Scheme you'd rather use. It should take effect immediately. Also, if you're experiencing severe problems with font or layout display and are able to post a screenshot, please do. They are particularly helpful.

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