The kde-www war: part 3

Just a quick history lesson. In the introductory post we highlighted several tell-tale symptoms that KDE.org had a very big usability and design problem. In part 1 of the war, we discussed a back-to-basics question what are we trying to communicate, what are we trying to achieve, and outlined goals for our various target audiences. In part 2 of the war, we started to achieve the goals outlined in part 1 via restructuring the pages and site map in order to distinctly separate between the KDE: The Community and KDE: Software. In this part, we’re going to focus on the home page – the central entrance hub for new members, and how we can use design elements to achieve part 1’s goals, and still cover all of the masses of content that KDE has to showcase in a streamlined manner as in part 2, and even reenforce KDE’s identity in the process.

Now that we know what we want to achieve and the structure of KDE.org, we can start thinking about the layout of the home page. The home page is – obviously – the most important page of the website. It acts as a central hub to link together everything that KDE has to showcase, it acts as the first stop for information for KDE newcomers, it acts as a publicity and news broadcast, it is the link between the various KDE sub-communities and communication channels, and most importantly, in today’s web-centric world, it defines KDE’s visual identity. After much debate, it had to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Embodies KDE’s visual style and branding – ie, the Oxygen, Air, Breathe, and Be Free. It should be a design that when you see it, you say “that looks like KDE”
  • It had to make people get KDE. To understand KDE not as a product and a software suite, but as a community. We want them to share with KDE’s passion. KDE has grown further than just a collection of apps and a desktop interface, and thus we can no longer be so shallow as to market it as such. We must follow our rebranding efforts to separate people from product, and emphasize open-source’s greatest strength – the community. We are a community, not a company. We create passion, not products.
  • It had to showcase our latest and greatest event/release/activities. However we need to showcase it in a way that people understand. Saying “Akademy 2011 is here!” alone doesn’t mean anything. Nor does “KDE 4.6 released – experience freedom”. Let’s change that to have meaning.
  • Clear segmentation between Software, Community and Development sections – to succeed where the current design fails. Let’s not make it a maze.
  • Absolute directions towards the goals we outlined – Goal 1: to become a user of KDE. Goal 2: Say hi and tell us what’s up. Goal 3: would you like to scratch your own itch?
  • Allow the user to understand how the site is structured and what exists without overwhelming them.

For this part of the war, I’m not going to write a wall of text. I’m just going to throw out the design right now, and let it speak for itself.

More to come. Let’s make a change.

Dion Moult

I've been developing software for well over 10 years, work as an architect (not the computer kind, the regular sort), and am classically trained as a pianist. I try to do the right thing when I get the chance in my field, such as through contributing to open-source communities and promoting sustainable living.

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  1. The mockup some sort of reminds me of the opensuse webpage which also has those two Discover, Development, etc buttons. Looks kind of nice but I don‘t like the header (the logo at the top is not “kick-ass” ;) ) but otherwise fine. Would love to see CSS Animations in that preview pictures there :)

  2. Looks nice but I have some advices:
    1- The search bar should always be top right and should be white, it’s what users expect.
    2- The language seems a bit nonprofessional and marketing lingo, it should have more direct meaning and a better languege. the phrase would be better with somehthing like:
    “We are a community which develops a free and open-source desktop and applications. We develop for passion not for money, so everyone can enjoy our work.” Or something like that

  3. My interest in KDE started with the 4.0 release. Sure, it was buggy with hoards of problems, but I could still see the potential. It was a whole new way of thinking, and that interested me.

    So, naturally, I made my way over to kde.org. But what I found there was less than helpful. There was extremely limited obvious information on the site. I clicked on everything I could, in a desperate attempt to discover more about KDE, but it was extremely frustrating.

    One click led me to a short intro about the new release (Great, just what I was looking for).

    But then, the next click sent me to a very technical blog post (WTH?!) and the next click sent me to a bunch of apps, with no clear indication of how these apps related to KDE. Where they developed by the same people? Why didn’t they come with Kubuntu? Why were there three media players, couldn’t they even agree on how to make a media player?

    Thankfully, I stuck with KDE. But I never found the information I was looking for. I slowly came to understand what KDE is over the years as I was using it. But, even now, its difficult to find specific information about KDE. In fact, I only consult kde.org if I want to see if there are any new interesting blog posts. But for anything more specific, I’ve found google to be infinitely more helpful.

    So, to cut a very long comment short: I love the new concept. It would be great to have a single website that has all the latest relevant information. I especially like how everything is divided into categories. Keep up the good work, it looks great!

  4. I must say – I’m impressed with your work.

    The only thing we could add there is the SOLUTION segment – where all benefits, that you can gain by using KDE is presented. Of course it should be grouped on user-groups like Students/Developers/Business/Education/Etc.

  5. I think the upper menubar is unnecessary duplicated with big icons (software = discover, community = speak out, development = make your mark)
    And still there are too many items accessible via top level navigation (you see, there are ~30 links)
    It seems to me that kde sites are very confused and the content is often misplaced, redundant or difficult to locate. You’d better reorganize it all, both contents and means to access it (essentially by **removing** text and grouping articles together). Also there is lack of documentation for new developers, often forced to IRC, mailing lists, sources, etc
    IMO you should optimize the portal for 3 kind of users: people using other software and just curious about KDE, developers and KDE users looking for support, news or apps.

    As a CMS beside Drupal, you can evaluate frameworks like RoR or CakePHP


  6. @BajK:
    Yes, CSS animations will likely be used there (or at least we will provide a Javascript fallback option)

    Thanks! It should not only be beautiful, but scream all of what KDE has defined to be its style.

    1- yes, you are right that search bars are normally expected to be at the top right (white? I don’t know about that). However, one has to realise that the search bar is surprisingly used a small amount on individual websites (wikis are different, of course). As the content on the homepage has now been reduced so much, it now takes a very short time to discover where the search bar is, and so I don’t personally see it to be much of a problem.

    2- Unfortunately, the language is very specific here. It actually started off to be very “professional” so to say and very informative. However the fact is that the majority of average people (this design was tested against a lot of people who had no idea what KDE or Linux was) just don’t understand what a “desktop environment” is. They don’t even understand what “open-source” means. The whole concept that a GUI can be changed is hard to comprehend, and even that you can use Linux programs on Windows or Mac is a tricky one. The blurb was boiled down to its essentials, and even that was too technical.

    Finally, we realised what we were doing wrong – it _shouldn’t_ be technical. Firstly, KDE is marketing itself as a community now, not a product. Products are technical, communities are fun things. Secondly, being open-source, we thrive on social activities and fresh blood – social activities are informal and passion-driven, not rigid, rule-based and salary driven, and of course for fresh blood we need it to attract the younger generations. Thirdly, KDE has grown to be much more than just offering a DE and a bunch of apps. We’re also offering a dev platform, certain technologies like Akonadi and Nepomuk, and even device-based interfaces, like plasma netbook, and now plasma mobile. There is no longer something that can simply encapsulate what KDE offers.

    Finally, the blurb was changed to what it is today. We stopped looking at companies for ideas, and instead looked at communities. We want _you_ to be part of our community. We don’t want you to just use software by our community, we want you to share our passion.

    Believe me, a lot of thought went into it. It isn’t a “textbook definition of KDE” for a reason.

    @Stephan Goosen:
    Cheers, you’ll find that despite the whining of the geeks, this site is very much oriented towards non-geek people (see some of my reply above to damipereira). A lot of the navigation has been renamed too.

    Yes, that is going to be under the DISCOVER section. There is a very interesting way we are planning on introducing these benefits, so stay tuned :)

    Yes, you’re correct that those sections do correspond. However the big 3 icons are only on the homepage, and so for the other pages, the big icons at the top are a requirement to clearly segment which category we are in and orientate ourselves.

    As for too many items, the original was about 45 links. An initial scan found that I could eliminate 16 of them. 30 is actually a sensible number, for example count the number of links on opera.com. Heck, even Google.com has 20. So don’t worry, it isn’t a huge number.

    Also, please realise that as we start to implement individual pages (yes, we _are_ completely rewriting each page, including grouping text and removing a ton of useless blabber), more pages will likely be merged.

    Don’t worry! Your concerns are not going unnoticed – it’s just that part 3 of this series only reveals the _homepage_. You’re talking about the content of the sub-pages, that will be revealed in part 4. (Also, have you seen part 2? http://thinkmoult.com/2011/01/06/the-kde-www-war-part-2/ )

  7. its bad enough we have to sit mindless drones in sports bleating about going to war and people hitting balls being warriors but when its time for geeks to show they have hair on their balls by embracing the war meme, i think its time to call it quits.

    unless you are planning to defend KDE with a gun and shooting all those who blaspheme it, shut up.
    unless you are planning to be a mindless tool and kill someone blindly simply because your boss orders you to, please shut the fuck up.
    if youre one of those nitwits who believe that you bomb for peace (akin to fucking for virginity) and are planning
    to blow yourself up at the next KDE-Gnome collaboration festival (!) by all means, do so.

    too many idiots out there playing COD think that by adding war, warrior or other such adjective makes you cooler somehow or adds urgency to writing when all it does is point to your overcompensating for having a small member.

    ….but other than that, its a fine artcle.
    Part 2 is even better. The work and thought put into it is among the best Ive seen in an article, the graphics such as the New And Improved-29 Areas, chock full of info.

  8. Thanks for the answer, I understand now that it can’t be encapsulated like that, but still, the language seems a bit too non-professional, If I see any project saying “kick ass” in its headline I immediately have the idea they are not serious about it, and even If I try to help the project they may be immature 15 year old kids which laugh at you.
    PD: Sorry if it sounds rude, it’s not my intention to criticize the good work you’re doing.
    PD2: I’m 18 years old, I guess I should be the one with the more “liberal” language (yet I live in argentina, so maybe this kind of language is more normal there) , but “kick ass” sounds bad, also it reminds me of a seller of a used car (seems a bit over-publicited).

  9. Thanks :) also about the search bar I heard there’s a big cuantity of users which look for the search bar when they enter a site that seems big, tough I guess they’ll find it there too.

  10. @linus paul:
    Thanks for the support and feedback on part 2. Part 4 will go into detail into the analysis of the design introduced in this post.

    As for the word “war”, I am sorry if it seems to affect you particularly. I certainly didn’t emphasise the idea of a “war” throughout my article apart from the title, so please don’t judge a book by its cover.

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