yokozar (yokozar) wrote,

Redesigning WineHQ.org

About 3 years ago, I realized that the WineHQ website needed a serious redesign.  It was 2005, and the website looked like it was from the late nineties.  I posted a thread on the Something Awful forums, got some suggestions, and then began looking for volunteer website developers to help.

It wasn't that difficult a project.  Many aspiring web designers would be happy to have a relatively popular, and very public, website like Wine in their portfolios.  A couple users went as far as to make rough outlines and mockups.

I even talked to Jeremy White on the phone about it.  He warned me that the last change was "controversial" and that the current website was the result of a long deliberative process, and it'd be best to not step on any toes.  I posted a mail to the developer list, but I wasn't quite "in" with the rest of the developers and nothing ever happened.

Enter Wineconf 2008

This year, however, I was finally cool enough to attend the Wine developer conference.  I made a mental note to make sure we discussed a new website, especially since I could easily gather consensus that a redesign was needed by just smiling at the rest of the room.

Two at Codeweavers, Jeremy Newman and Jon Parshall, quietly went to work and churned out a much-improved prototype.  CEO Jeremy White then asked for feedback.

All in all, I think the website is much improved, however there are a few areas for improvement.

The Good:
  • Much friendlier, better looking, easier to focus on what I want. Looks professional.
  • The prominent donate link on the front page is very recognizable.  I guarantee you'll have more donations as a result.
  • All the old cruft links are gone.
  • The new small icon reflects the main image on the site, and also no longer has the tiny artifacts that the old one did.  Impressive.
The improvable:
  • The news should be clickable, and take you to a separate news page with slightly longer stories.
  • Rather than getting smaller when you hover the mouse over the buttons, it should be the other way around - highlight them and they get bigger
  • The slogan "Windows software everywhere" doesn't make much sense.  I would replace it with a very small boilerplate text that says what Wine does, namely "Wine lets you run Windows applications in Linux and on the Mac".  This summarizes everything for someone visiting the site who has never heard of Wine before.
  • The "Help!" button could be a bit friendlier, eg "Get Help" or "Support".  At the least, drop the exclamation point.
  • The text under Donate is obvious, so we can benefit from a bit of explanation.  Something like "Help volunteer Wine developers improve Wine" -- this also helps sell the donate button
  • The text under "Download" could be more extensive too, eg "Get the latest Wine packaged for your distribution" -- I don't think we lose much by using a short sentence here since the text is already partially transparent and optional to read.
  • The download icon is weird.  A large down arrow would probably be better than a CD, especially since we don't offer anything CD-like.
  • Similarly, using the classic "wrench" icon for development would be a bit more obvious.  As it is now I'm not sure what it means except for the word development right next to it.
The Bad:
  • The inlaid scrollbar under the news tab.  However, I think the proper way to deal with this is to simply have shorter news stories rather than change the scroll bar.  The current sample news (Wine 1.1.7 released), for instance, could easily be just 2 sentences and a link to the larger story.  Longer stories could be reserved for a separate news page.
We're still looking for feedback, especially if you've got some web design experience under your belt.  I've likely missed something obvious as well - my initial review here was from a cursory review of the prototype.  Regardless, it is exciting to finally see a good idea actually start to happen.
Tags: ubuntu, usability, web design, wine
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