I have been rather quiet on the blogging front recently and there have been two reasons for this. Number 1 - well... see the title of this post, and number 2? I'll explain that one in a week or so.
Anyway a couple of weeks ago (10th of July 2006) the new Miniclip website was released. For those who don't know Miniclip is the company I work for, as a web/ game designer.
For the last 7 months we have been working on the design and implementation of the Miniclip site and, as a web designer, I got to do all of the html. Yay!
The design was a collaboration between myself and another designer. Once the layout was decided upon Nic (the other designer) took the lead on styling and fine tuning the design and I got to play with the code. We also built a brand new cms (content management system) so that we can add and update games and other content much easier than before.
Before and After
Web Standards - Woo Hoo
Since I was coding the thing there were no conversations about whether or not to use web standards. It was going to happen, like it or not. Fortunately my bosses are very forward thinking and were quite happy to let me just get on with it. They were also excited about the SEO possibilities of a page that is more text than layout.
We didn't get to save a whole lot, in terms of file size, simply because we added so many new features. But the code is, by and large, quite clean. For the standards zealots amongst you the site doesn't validate 100% but I hope to sort out the majority of the errors in the coming weeks.
Before we started creating the site we did some user analysis to see what was being used and where. This is not something we had done an awful lot of before so it was very interesting to play with. The helped form some of the decisions for the new design.
The most significant, and equally the most surprising, thing we found was the amount of people who used the list all games menu was staggering. It was easily the most used part of the homepage despite being one of the smallest insignificant elements. This lead onto the full game listing you now see at the bottom of every page. Just as a side note, the full game list at the top of the page is actually populated by all of the links in the full game list. This was to reduce file size, and to keep the main body of the page loading nice and fast.
Another big new feature is the search box. I'm not sure how miniclip managed without a search function before but I use it all the time now.
We also added a rather cool new 404 system. Part of the problem with moving the site was all the urls breaking so we decided to set the 404 page to forward to the search page. Add the old urls as keywords for each game and bam - go to an old link and you get moved straight to the new page. A rather noice side effect of this is that we now have a pseudo tagging system (not a published feature but I like it). Go to http://www.miniclip.com/sports and you will be presented with the search results for sports - a totally unintended brand new feature. Me likey.
The homepage is now largely flash free. On the old site there were about 8 flash elements, and we now have the animations and two banners. The game pages are even simpler, at most they have a single banner plus the game content. This is all in a bid to make the site less processor intensive keeping things nice and light so the games runs as fast as possible.
A few people have commented on the lone tab on the homepage. Well that's there for a reason - all will be made clear later this year.
I was going to post something about the site not working properly in Safari on the Mac but we got a Mac Mini a few days ago and I spent yesterday morning playing around on that to fix up all the errors.
The response to the redesign has been mixed. Thankfully most people like it, but there have been a few negative rumblings. The biggest problem people had was the removal of the traditional Miniclip branding (the blue background) so this week we added the the theme switcher (check the footer) so that people can view the site in a more familiar colour scheme (I rather like this feature and now use the classic theme all the time).
It's been a lot of hard work, especially considering the size of the team working on it, but it's also been a lot of fun. It's incredibly satisfying seeing a project of this size completed. We are still tweaking, adjusting, and fine tuning the site but it's largely complete.
Thankfully the last time Miniclip was overhauled was 4 years ago. Whilst I enjoyed the work I am hoping the next redesign is in another 4 years time.