the New CrackBerry: better looking, easier to navigate, more fun to use
Welcome to the new CrackBerry.com! Click around and get to know us - we're sure you'll like what you see. We've got a new look, new navigation and some great new content areas (don't miss the BlackBerry Devices section or BlackBerrry OS Superpage - they're my favorites!). Of course the accessory store and forums have received makeovers and our App store, Canada store, Phone store and m.crackberry.com sites will be getting the redesign treatment soon. All in all it's a better looking and more professional CrackBerry that's easier to navigate and more fun to use. And don't worry - if you liked the old site, you're going to LOVE the new site as we've made sure not to lose any of the crackiness that has made CrackBerry so successful to date. Keep in mind this is the first phase of a larger plan to fully revamp CrackBerry, which means there are even more changes to look forward to in the months ahead.
Go explore the site and hurry back to this article and keep reading and I'll fill in the details of what's new, why we did what we did and what's coming next. With a major overhaul like this I'm sure there will still be some tweaks and fixes for us to make post re-launch (supporting older web browsers, etc.) so consider us in *public beta* and don't mind if you run into the odd loose end. We've setup a forum thread to report any errors or bugs and we'll be working overtime to make things perfect. In the meantime, read on for more of the story behind the CrackBerry redesign and let us know what you think of the new CB in the comments!
What's New, Why We Did What We Did and What's Coming Next!
Out with the old and in with the new
the Old CrackBerry - it'll always have a fond place in our hearts
Since launching CrackBerry.com in February 2007, the site has more or less maintained the same look and feel. Suffice to say we've been long overdue for a redesign and it has been on our minds for a while now, though that old adage of if it ain't broke, don't fix it didn't have us wanting to change things up simply for the sake of change. So the goal for our three-phase CrackBerry redesign isn't simply to freshen up the site, but to truly make it better. With that in mind, here's our framework.
Redesign Goals - Think of today's changes as our version of RIM's BlackBerry 6 redesign. We're still working with the same backend system (or OS if you will) but have really revamped and enhanced the user interface, optimized things to help the performance of the site, and added some great new content areas. We had a few key goals in mind while working on the updates you see before you:
- Update the look and feel: The old design worked, but it was time for a change. We wanted something that better represented who we are... professional, friendly and hip, and 100% BlackBerry Addicts!!
- Kill the drop down menus: The old CrackBerry site utilized drop down menus for navigation, which tended to hide content from users more than help them find it. It also tended to mess up in rendering on some web browsers (especially mobile ones).
- Have an indicator of where you are on the site: On the old site, you never really knew where you were. Especially for a first time visitor landing on a page straight out of a search engine. And if you don't know where you are, it's hard to know where else to go. We wanted to fix that.
- Make non-today content more discoverable: We post a lot of content on the CrackBerry blogs on a daily basis, but once it's off the homepage it tends to be difficult to find unless you search for it or know exactly where to look. With the redesign, we wanted content to be more discoverable, have more opportunities to feature good stories and articles and make it more intuitive for new users to find that content.
- Get ready for BlackBerry in the land of tablets: With the introduction of the BlackBerry PlayBook and the new BlackBerry Tablet OS, it's going to get interesting (messy) organizing content on the site. We wanted the new site design to be more ready to handle PlayBook/Tablet OS content as it starts to hit in the months ahead.
- Introduce New Content Areas: With the old CrackBerry design, for sections like BlackBerry Help and BlackBerry Downloads there was no dedicated landing page as you were forced to choose an option from the drop down links. With the redesign, we wanted to add section landing pages where there were none before and add some news areas to boot, like Videos and BlackBerry Devices.
- Speed up page load times: We've already made good progress here in the last few weeks with database optimizations, and we're doing some clever things on the new site design to help make things quicker as well.
What's Coming Next - Coming in the not-so-distant future, we'll actually be upgrading our backend systems (think of it as our QNX/BlackBerry Tablet OS overhaul) that will bring with it some new features and a platform upon which we'll be able to add a lot of further features and enhancements. We have lots of exciting stuff planned here. From there, we'll turn our focus back from the main website experience to visiting CrackBerry on your BlackBerry with improvements to the mobile-optimized experience (both visiting via web browser on device and via full out CrackBerry apps).Having been actively using the redesigned CrackBerry site for a few weeks now as we approached going live with the redesign changes, I personally believe it's a much better site. There's always a bit of shock when a website gets a new look, but give it some use and I'm confident you will agree!!
Some of our Design Decisions Explained
I already detailed what goals we had in mind with our redesign and what's coming next, but you might also be interested in some of the specific design decisions we made in putting together the redesign so figured we'd go through some of more noticable changes here. While the original CrackBerry site was launched under my direction and the help of two friends on the graphics and coding (James & Tom), for the redesign I worked closely with our new Miami-based, Smartphone Experts design team. Offline sketches by David Lundblad, Head of Design for SPE, got the ideas flowing, and from there we went through weeks of non-stop back and forth as we brainstormed and tried different things and worked through dozens of mockups.
Planning the online updates began with offline sketching
During the design process we tried a lot of things - we looked at both major design departures and more minor ones, and eventually came to a place that made sense and everybody was happy with. With a lot of passionate cooks in the CrackBerry redesign kitchen it wasn't always easy, but the process was always interesting and fun!
Color Choice - It didn't take us long to discover that without both orange and purple, you just don't have CrackBerry. We actually tried a lot of designs where we got rid of the purple altogether (even a few designs where we scrapped CrackBerry orange), and as soon as we didn't see the purple/orange color combo together on the site somehow it just didn't feel like CrackBerry.com anymore. With the old site having too much purple and orange, on the new CrackBerry we use it in high impact areas and balance it out with other colors. We use a lot more black/grey now which aligns a bit more closely with the actual look of BlackBerry devices, and I'm happy we worked in some green as a call to action color, which ties in nicely to the CrackBerry-green table that has been used for countless BlackBerry device and accessory reviews. Blue for active links is easy on the eyes and helps tie it all together. All in all the colors are bright, clean, professional, friendly, funky and approachable - and that's what CrackBerry is all about!
Big Header, Dedicated Sub Menus - Regular CrackBerry readers tend to follow the site via RSS or their phone on the m.crackberry.com site, and for those who visit the full site daily they simply keep scrolling down the homepage until they reach stories they have seen previously. Knowing that, we expanded the size of the site header and navigation to allow us to feature more content at the top and provide more value-added navigation. The main featured block at the top will be reserved for BIG stories or contests (it refreshes on page load), while the three-story rotating article block will be updated regulary with article content. For those who want to skip the homepage featured sections, they can go straight to the News button on the main menu where you can find just the latest stories with none of the frills. Off the homepage, the sub-navigation menus change based on what area of the site you are in. To keep you noticing what's in the sub-menus, the look and feel of them change slightly from section to section based on the needs of the section. For example, the forums sub-menu is heavy on links, which allow for quick forum use, while in the Help section we've gone for big visual buttons that beginners can't miss.
Big Article Headers, Easy to Read BIG Comments - When it comes to stories on the homepage, we've included big article headers that make it easy to spot new stories at a glance as you scroll through. When viewing a full article page, we've kept the story itself in our standard, more professional font, but have then relaxed things out in the comments with a bigger font. People love to browse the comments on CrackBerry, so we've made them easy to read while kicking back in your chair.
We went through a ton of sketches and over 30 mockups to get to final form
Anybody who's gone through a major website redesign will attest it's no quick and simple process. The devil is in the details, and we pretty much gave thought to every one of them. If you have any specific questions on anything, be sure to ask us on the CrackBerry redesign forum thread.
We could go on for ages about each little design decision made. Some decisions we're easy and there's others we still may revisit and tweak a bit as they were that difficult to decide upon. But in the end, we're pretty happy with the look of the new CrackBerry and the use of the site!
FeedBack and Ongoing Improvements
We've always been committed to our CrackBerry community, but moving ahead we're going to be even more committed. Expect to see some posts in the future from David Lundblad, Smartphone Experts' Head of Design, as he works with the community to get feedback on the new CrackBerry and works with members on testing future improvements.
In the meantime, if you come across any bugs or tweaks that need to be made on the new site, be sure to let us know on this thread.
Enjoy the site!
I hope you enjoy the new CrackBerry.com! With the coming of the BlackBerry PlayBook and QNX-based BlackBerry Tablet OS we're entering a new era of BlackBerry, so it's really exciting for us to follow suit with a new era of CrackBerry. We hope you like the changes so far, and stay tuned for the further improvements to come.
A lot of people were involved in the CrackBerry redesign process, so before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming I wanted to give thanks again to all those who have contributed. On the design and graphics side, BIG THANKS go to David Lundblad, Jose Negron, Johan Steen and James Falconer. On the coding side, props to go Tom Roof for working on the CSS and HUGE THANKS to Tom Kaminski for the late nights working on the community site coding changes. Props go to Stephane Koenig and Mike de la Morena for doing their thing on the accessory store, and to Sebastian Dimjarescu on the app store. Thanks also go to our Inverness-based e-commerce team for their feedback and ongoing support. More thanks also go to Dieter Bohn, Andrew Carton and Marcus Adolfsson for their contributions, feedback and for putting up with my frantic ways throughout the process. And finally, the last round of thanks go to Adam, Bla1ze and entire CrackBerry editorial and forums teams who've kept the content coming and site running smooth these past few months while I've been focused on the redesign.
That's it. Enjoy the site. Keep Crack'n!!!