Monday, June 7, 2010
Redesigning an established Website turns out to be a cornucopia of frustration
Posted by John Keller
I know some of you have had complaints about the new Military & Aerospace Electronics Website. If you think YOU'VE had complaints, you wouldn't believe what we've been going through here ... but let me start from the beginning.
Military & Aerospace Electronics has a brand new Website at www.milaero.com. You already knew that, but there's more to it, probably, than you really want to know. It all comes from our wish to bring you a better reader experience online. We know that our old Website was getting pretty dated and frayed around the edges, even though it still did the job for readers and advertisers.
We just wanted to get ourselves into the 21st Century, and we did ... okay, 2004, but the 21st Century, nevertheless. What we've got now is a lot better that what we used to have ..., er, well, it WILL be. Soon. Yeah. At least that's what I've been told, and I have no reason to disbelieve what I've been told about this. Really.
The ideas sounded great at first ... and, I'm sure they are great ideas, or will be, ah, eventually. They told me that online readers want their content organized into topic centers. Sounds logical. I mean, who wants to see his Web content served up in arbitrary categories that WE choose, like news, and products, and features, and stuff?
Our readers, I was told, want to read Web content organized in categories that THEY'RE concerned with -- you know, like embedded computing, avionics, and power electronics. I get that, honestly, and I'm on board that this is the way to go ...
... if only it were that easy.
With everyone in agreement, we sailed off on our adventure to improve the Website -- through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the UPGRADES are. And let me tell you, when we got to that new Website in the last days of April, those upgrades roared their terrible roars, and gnashed their terrible teeth, and rolled their terrible eyes, and showed their terrible claws ... and I wasn't as lucky as Max, who could just tell HIS wild things to "BE STILL!" Oh, no. Those upgrades grabbed me by the throat, flailed me around like a rag doll, kicked me to the curb, and left me for dead.
And that was just in the first week.
I have this nagging feeling that everyone knew from the get-go how hard this was going to be -- except me. I'm a trusting soul, and I'm a sucker for that sales pitch of hey, this is going to be good for everybody -- readers, advertisers, folks who come in out of the cold from Google. Everyone's going to LOVE this; you just gotta give it a chance.
Everyone hears this, right? You think I'd learn.
I could go through all the problems and horrors for you, but I'll just cut to the best one: the search function -- or more accurately the lack of one. Seems that little detail somehow was overlooked when we changed over from the old site to the new one.
What we got for the first couple of weeks was a gorgeous, shining, majestic new site that couldn't find its butt with both hands; I could tell you different, but I'd be lying. It was so bad that we could type in the headline located just below the search bar, and all we'd get is that nasty, mean, taunting little message, "no results found." Good thing it's finally fixed.
I swear the thing would laugh demonically after coming up empty of results. It got personal, it got ugly, we got calls from irate readers ... and I hereby publicly apologize to my colleagues here at work who heard things emanating from my office that ... well, that they shouldn't have.
The good news, though, is all that bad stuff is behind us ... I think. The search function has come back to life, and yields pretty good stuff. Our topic centers -- avionics intelligence and embedded computing -- are coming together nicely, and we're trying to figure out how to add power electronics, electro-optics, and several other topic centers over the next several months to help our readers find what they need, fast.
If only I'd known beforehand, I might not have been so trusting. Just goes to show you that no good act ever goes unpunished ... ever.