I just got out of a meeting with someone who told me they received rather unanimous feedback that the Windows Developer Center, the site I manage, is painful for developers. I agree with them for the following reasons:
- There's marketing content all over the center and it's difficult to discern between it and the "developer-focused" content.
- It's hard to get to the code
- The links are inconsistent and it's hard to tell which links will get you to good resources and which links will lead you to a cliff
To name a few of my reasons. When I inherited the Developer center early in 2010, the site had just gone through a major redesign that changed the site from this:
The new UI was cleaner, has some nice graphics in it, and was a refreshing change on what many saw as a bland and boring page. As a result, the redesign was very well received internally and I saw some positive feedback when we launched. I then assumed all was good and went on my merry way. I think I made a very bad assumption. Very, very bad. Why do I say this?
Yeah, that graph looks to me like traffic failure, the redesign ain't working and customers are telling us this by leaving and not coming back. I have been thinking very hard about those numbers and have been confounded about why they have been going down. I have been isolating the variables and potential causes that could explain the traffic falling off:
- Did the redesign pull us off of Google results? (Yes, it did, but fixing it didn't help)
- Did the redesign mess up our metrics? (Nope, it didn't, I counted the number of intrumented pages over time and it's consistent)
- Are our numbers being thrown off by international traffic? (Kinda, but not enough to cause half of our visitors / pageviews to disappear)
The interesting thing is that despite owning the developer center, I have felt somewhat powerless to change the homepage. The redesign work put into the new layout came right before the MSDN home and hub redesign and as a result we didn't get integrated into some of the revisions that happened from that team. Assuming things were good, I have been working on getting content consistently integrated into the center, fixing SEO issues, identifying and removing dead content, and highlighting the best Windows developer stuff from around the Web. What has the effort done for traffic to the developer center? *Points to the "traffic fail" graph again*
What's really scary to me is that I never was told that my site sucked. There's a link on the bottom of the page that says, "Site Feedback" but those emails haven't been getting to me 🙁
Well, in closing, I'm really more coming to terms with what has happened and what I neeed to do: we launched a site with a bad design that I didn't and still don't understand, and it's about time that I fix all the things we broke. In the coming weeks, the following changes will be made on the developer center:
- Removing as much of the "marketing" content as possible
- Bubbling up as much of the code content as possible
- Coming up with a consistent linking / naming style for content on the homepage
- .... You name it?