I’ve been working on this massive new version of the community site I administer. It’s been a huge job, given my less than elite PHP coding skills, but it’s also been a hell of a learning experience.
I wish I were more motivated to get it done, seeing as it’s been months and months in progress now, but what can you do. It’ll get done when it’s right.
What I’ve been finding, as I work on this project and talk to the members of the site privately and publicly about what they want out of the site is that they are not sure what their needs are, and even if they are, it’s often up to me to decide what and how to do.
Which is fine, I guess. Except when the whining starts because I’ve done something they didn’t like, or did it in a way they don’t like. I guess I might be looking at it wrong, since it’s their site, not mine, and I should probably just give them what they want.
Problem is, I can’t just do that. I have definite ideas on some of the things I’m working on. I’ve looked around the net and seen the same user interface and usability errors made on community site after community site, seen the same basic design (albeit with “skins”, a term which apparently means “I changed the colors”) based on the same piece of software, with the same basic services offered.
I want our site to be different. Not the same as everyone else’s. I want everything to have a point, I want services which enhance the experience and usefulness of the site.
What I really want is to balance this desire to be different, to push the envelope, with the habits of our members. It’s a tough trick.
The new site’s a long way toward done. I know for a fact that we could well lose people because the features aren’t implemented in the way that everyone else is used to, and I know others will be upset with the way things are. Others will stay, and complain quietly. Maybe a genuine few will be able to adapt and might actually like the new ways.
I’ve asked, and most of them didn’t offer much in the way of creative thought. I’ve done the best with what’s done so far, and I’ll continue to do my best with the rest. I’ll stand by me design decisions, and if they prove wrong in use, I’ll examine them and make them work better.
It’ll be done soon, and then maybe I can start working on making the site a place to actually visit.