Ok wow it’s finally done. I’m behind about a week on sleep, so judge this article accordingly.
First things, I would like to take a minute to thank Kevin and his team of writers. This team has been absolutely killing it getting the site ready for the new format. To give you an idea: 1000’s of articles have been manually edited to format into the new design.
This. is. hard. work.
...Tech Director Stephane Koenig, Super Ninja Coder Tom Kaminski and Design Lead Jose Negron...
We have a small but absolutely fantastic design team consisting of, in no particular order, our Tech Director Stephane Koenig, Super Ninja Coder Tom Kaminski and Design Lead Jose Negron. We've barely worked on anything else for the last 10 weeks. Which, by the way, is damn fast to build a site like this. Credits aside, let's dive into the meat of it!
The New CrackBerry
This project was first named ‘28 Days Later’, which was literally the exact number of days we had to plan, design and build the new site to coincide with the BlackBerry 10 reveal in January. Could we have gone live then? Maybe, but there would have been a ton of bugs and lack of features on a site that our writers had no experience working on during the most intense content upload period of the year. So, we decided against it and have pushed for an early March launch instead.
"I'd say I'm most excited about the fact that the level of craft and work put into the design is beyond anything I've done before."
We hope you’ve noticed the tweaks to the brand as well. Although we messed around with an all new logo design we quickly came to our senses and just gently tweaked the old one with a new font and color. The font is also used across the site for both headers and body text. This is the most thorough approach we’ve taken to a consistent typography and branding direction.
The little things matter
"What I love most is what you guys can't see - how much better and more powerful our platform behind the scenes is."
In the end we settled for a smaller feature set to allow us to pay more attention to the little things. More options for writers to create content that reads and looks well; different comment colors for authors; better images and better presentation of images; a consistent mobile and tablet experience without loss of features; a floating menu that sticks with you; better ad placement that's designed with the content in mind; ability to expand and hide areas of content, which you might only want to read once; and many more small graphical improvements to make the experience of using CrackBerry 10 better.
About the new Homepage
"We now have a solid foundation to build amazing desktop and mobile experiences for our readers. I am very much looking forward to exploring the new topic page concepts, and to bring this design across all of the Mobile Nations network."
Extending the life of our good content was an absolute priority with this launch. On the old site popular articles pretty much disappeared off the radar in just a day. With the new site we can have a much more flexible editorial control over what content goes where.
The home page still has a viewing option that looks very much like the blog view Crackberry readers have grown accustomed to. If you feel strongly about it the old format then just switch over. We'll remember your preference and only show you that version of the site. Personally, I love the new sidebar that gives me the 21 latest stories in one go. Kevin is probably most excited about the Topics dropdown and he left a bit of an Easter egg in there if you can find it.
About the new Topic Pages
"I coded the original site back in 2006, never thinking for a second CrackBerry would turn into the giant community and success it has become. It's nice that I can now go back and really build a wicked site."
When we sat down to sketch out how we wanted our new Topic pages to work, one core design principle stood out; if these pages feel like they have been built automatically from our database we've failed. By assigning a moderator to each Topic I believe we set the right tone for how these pages will grow in the future. This is supposed to be an editorially driven landing page - a topic page like CrackBerry Games might be the go-to page for many of our readers and we want it to feel like a site on its own. Now, we're not quite there yet but it's a start.
About the new Article Pages
"I feel like I have been waiting for this launch for years. There are ideas in here that have been brewing since I first met Kevin."
Interesting content deserves beautiful and thoughtful design. With this design directive in mind we were faced with a tricky challenge; CrackBerry is 6 years old and has 1000's of articles that have been hacked, squeezed and violently bent into shape inside old content management systems in order to look the way the writers wanted them to. With the new design we had to tell them to not only stop doing all of that, but also to go back over old content and remove all those dirty hacks. We're sorry guys, it will all be great from now on!
Wow-factor, Speed and Cross-Device
"I'm most excited about the opportunity to field modern display methods in an environment where there's an abundant supply of quality content and, at the same time, optimizing the delivery of the whole experience."
These were the three guiding principles for us when we laid out the plan for launch. With a small team and a tight schedule we had to be extremely selective in what features we had at launch and which features could wait until the site was live. A big part of projects like this is to figure out how to prioritize all the great ideas into something we can actually build.
Wow-factor is all about the first impression as well as the little things; the 'moments of charm' if you like - we really did not want to drop the ball on this and we're not going to tell you about all the little things as that would ruin the surprise.
Speed is...uhm...all about speed. Basically get the site loading as fast as possible across devices.
For us, cross device is about delivering a great experience on desktop, mobile and tablet - we've not been great with this in the past so this was a big one for us. In addition you can now also get the BlackBerry 10 CB App.
Tablet & Mobile
We wanted the new site to look really good on both mobile and tablet but it also had to load fast. We're trying something new out on mobile which we're curious to get your feedback on - the navigation sits in a sidebar that appears on click. On tablets we hide the sidebar completely - it's a great reading experience and you can still get to everything you need.
Finally, one night before go-live date I'm chatting with Kevin when he starts speaking from the heart:
I really hope you all enjoy the new site. We have great plans for it in the coming month and would love to get your feedback. Leave your thoughts below but please put bug fixes and recommendations into this super great forum thread so we can more easily keep track of them.