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Geocaching.com Design Updates


OpinioNate
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As many of you know, last week we released an important update to Geocaching.com which incorporates many new design changes. While the necessity for the changes may not be readily apparent, these major changes will allow us to be more nimble in the design of the site and make it easier for us to both maintain the site and add new features. Unfortunately, these changes caused some frustration for some of our users, so I would like to address the concerns voiced in these forums and speak to our intention to address them.

 

First, however, an aside: Some of the aversion to the new layout is a result of unintentional display bugs stemming from the way in which different browsers render the site. In these cases we’re actively tracking bug reports in both the forums and the support email queue so they can be resolved wherever possible. It can sometimes be challenging for us to discern whether or not the issues raised are a result of a browser incompatibility or an intentional design decision, so please make sure to include as much information as possible when reporting problems.

 

As a first step we will be pushing a hotfix in the next couple days to reduce the line spacing throughout the site – the purpose of which was, at least in part, to make pages less “busy” for casual visitors – but which has unintentionally sacrificed convenience for our more advanced users. This is a difficult balance to strike; however, we are committed to the task.

 

Following this hotfix we will continue to review other pain points associated with the new design, and make adjustments where appropriate. Even though we may not be able to respond directly to every post, we do read these forums and take all comments about the site seriously. As always, we're committed to improving the usability of the site, so please be patient while we address these issues. My sincere thanks to all of you for your feedback and support! :ph34r:

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Surprised this met with so little response. I look forward to the changes.

 

I am glad to hear the extra spacing is going away. I don't think it makes the site look less busy. But the rest is now on a wait and see setting. No idea what changes they are making so no idea how excited to get. I am anxious to find out though.

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Thank you for the update and the good news regarding the planning of fixing the awful white spaces.

 

Hopefully all this brought something new to the designers team who worked for creating chaos: there is more than one browser in the market. If that lesson was learned, there is hope to the World.

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I am glad to know that our whining hasn't fallen on deaf ears.

 

I will be even happier when all of the changes are done and I can quit assuring people that the site will be fixed soon and to be patient.

 

Of course, there are those who will feel that this is just lip service. For those, time will tell.

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Thanks for the update. I am looking forward to seeing the fixes as they are made available.

 

Now that Groundspeak had an opportunity to hear about the diverse range of browsers and operating systems that your customer base uses, this will be a great opportunity for you to put together a more comprehensive test lab and give the system a proper workout on a variety of platforms, as future changes are made and tested.

 

PS. As a new-ish and still casual user, the white space did nothing to make the site easy to use. Grouping related items via frames or shaded backgrounds helps make a complex site comprehensible. Judicious use of white space, used in lieu of a frame, can also serve the same purpose. Just spreading things out, not at all.

Edited by tlap
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Nate, is there anything that the development team has learned from this experience that might change the way future releases are rolled out? I've seen some rather hectic and initially unpopular releases in my time, but I don't think that I have seen any reaction from your end users that was quite as, well, shall we say, unenthusiastic (?) as this one.

 

Has any decision been made, or even discussed, about a public beta test site in the future? More open pre-disclosure of the changes? You get my drift, I'm sure. How will Groundspeak avoid another gaffe like this in the future?

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While there have been a lot of complaints about the visual changes to the site, I think it's important to remember what is really important: the data. I've examined the new HTML pretty thoroughly, and while I don't think it is very well-coded and I don't much like the look, the main point is that I can still get at the data.

 

And geocaching.com has an excellent record with regards to the data: there has never been a significant data corruption issue with the site, ever, AFAIK. That's something to be proud of.

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As a first step we will be pushing a hotfix in the next couple days to reduce the line spacing throughout the site – the purpose of which was, at least in part, to make pages less "busy" for casual visitors – but which has unintentionally sacrificed convenience for our more advanced users. This is a difficult balance to strike; however, we are committed to the task.

And for that alone, you will find an appreciative audience! From both functional and visual standpoints, the 'balance' in spacing may well have been found in the earlier design. I know of no new users who thought it a problem as it was, and you've certainly had an earful about the current design.

 

One hopes that much was learned about "process" in this recent release, and that perhaps any future changes will be managed with more care as a result.

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Nate, is there anything that the development team has learned from this experience that might change the way future releases are rolled out? I've seen some rather hectic and initially unpopular releases in my time, but I don't think that I have seen any reaction from your end users that was quite as, well, shall we say, unenthusiastic (?) as this one.

 

We always review releases and take lessons away. Learning from our mistakes is crucial!

 

Has any decision been made, or even discussed, about a public beta test site in the future? More open pre-disclosure of the changes? You get my drift, I'm sure. How will Groundspeak avoid another gaffe like this in the future?

 

Public beta test sites are difficult to manage and have limited usefulness if you aren't working with live data. What we need are more trained testers on staff - testers who are being actively sought at present.

 

I had posted release notes in advance once in the past with some success, but made the mistake of attaching a date to the release (which was delayed, natch). I think in the future I will start a thread announcing upcoming changes as "coming soon" instead.

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As a first step we will be pushing a hotfix in the next couple days to reduce the line spacing throughout the site – the purpose of which was, at least in part, to make pages less “busy” for casual visitors – but which has unintentionally sacrificed convenience for our more advanced users.

I hope the take-away here is that adding more space doesn't make the site less "busy". The only way to make a page less busy is to put less content on it (i.e., Google).

 

I know that providing each and every user exactly the information and layout and geocaching experience he or she wants is a difficult (impossible?) task. Thanks for constantly aiming to achieve that goal.

 

-eP

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Thanks Nate!

 

I understand the massive difficulty of 'Modernizing' the whole web site, all for the better. It would cause quite a big chaos among so many different PC & Mac, and all other platforms, with even more diverse browsers and versions. Thanks & Wish you guys great luck in making our GC experience better! We all look forward to seeing a better future of GC!

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Public beta test sites are difficult to manage and have limited usefulness if you aren't working with live data.

Assuming the structure of the database itself isn't changing, any beta testers that are using your site in a reasonably comprehensive way would be using live data, wouldn't they? Perhaps I'm envisioning a different thing, but a beta test might have been access to a limited number of users to the new user interface -- to the same database. As a result, they'd be using "live" data, wouldn't they? :huh:
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No word if you plan to phase out support for IE6 this year? I hope 2010 will be the last year you support it and if it's the case, don't wait too much to display a banner. You have to promote all the new features and power that gives the new browsers, something IE6 cannot handle at all and that slow you down with development.

 

About 2-3 years ago I remember there was discussions about a V2. Is this still in the works? What is it exactly?

 

Thanks

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Update info is much appreciated, Nate. And yeah, since my joining in May, I must gives props for the quality of data management and control with GC.com. :huh:

If you need another beta tester for future releases, I would be more than willing to help out as a web application developer and web designer. =)

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I hope the take-away here is that adding more space doesn't make the site less "busy". The only way to make a page less busy is to put less content on it (i.e., Google).
Not the only way, though it's an important one. Good design helps A LOT in enabling users to find information. But white space is only part of good design, and white space between lines doesn't help at all. (Paragraph breaks DO help. You should avoid long paragraphs even when there's not a really good breaking point.) You can't just throw white space at a page and figure it'll help. Good design (which is mostly based on human perception, a highly complex phenomenon) comes first; white space is only one of many elements.

 

So, good show on removing the excess line spacing. It's even messing up tables in my cache descriptions.

 

There is possibly a problem with the width too, but I'll await this fix before looking further.

 

Just about since the day I came on here, I've been harping on the tremendous number of HTML errors on all gc.com pages. I just checked one of my cache pages; it still shows 146 errors and 56 warnings. The numbers are somewhat inflated because my description is in HTML and gc.com didn't set up the environment properly, with the result that every single <p> tag in my description gets an error. Still, the point is that ANY error in the HTML results in cross-browser problems. Serious errors (and there are plenty on all gc.com pages) send browsers into "quirks mode", meaning "let's try to guess what the designer meant since he/she couldn't be bothered to use proper HTML and we'd rather display the page poorly than not at all". The gc.com non-member home page has 19 errors and 14 warnings.

 

There really is no excuse for any page to fail validation. I hope that gc.com will take the new flexibility and use it to remove the HTML errors from the site.

 

Edward

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No word if you plan to phase out support for IE6 this year? I hope 2010 will be the last year you support it and if it's the case, don't wait too much to display a banner. You have to promote all the new features and power that gives the new browsers, something IE6 cannot handle at all and that slow you down with development.

 

Regarding GS Support for IE6, check out this page on Microsoft's site about their support cycle for IE6...

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While there have been a lot of complaints about the visual changes to the site, I think it's important to remember what is really important: the data. I've examined the new HTML pretty thoroughly, and while I don't think it is very well-coded and I don't much like the look, the main point is that I can still get at the data.

 

And geocaching.com has an excellent record with regards to the data: there has never been a significant data corruption issue with the site, ever, AFAIK. That's something to be proud of.

 

So Nate, how does the back of Fizzy's hand feel?

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Regarding GS Support for IE6, check out this page on Microsoft's site about their support cycle for IE6...

I am not sure exactly how to interpret the table, but I think you should read as e.g. support for "Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3" ends 24 months after the next service pack releases (not likely to happen) or at the end of the product's support lifecycle, whichever comes first. If I am not mistaken, extended support for Windows XP will end in 2014. So there is probably more than 4 years of support left for IE6.

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Regarding GS Support for IE6, check out this page on Microsoft's site about their support cycle for IE6...

I am not sure exactly how to interpret the table, but I think you should read as e.g. support for "Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3" ends 24 months after the next service pack releases (not likely to happen) or at the end of the product's support lifecycle, whichever comes first. If I am not mistaken, extended support for Windows XP will end in 2014. So there is probably more than 4 years of support left for IE6.

 

I stand corrected.

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Regarding GS Support for IE6, check out this page on Microsoft's site about their support cycle for IE6...
I am not sure exactly how to interpret the table, but I think you should read as e.g. support for "Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3" ends 24 months after the next service pack releases (not likely to happen) or at the end of the product's support lifecycle, whichever comes first. If I am not mistaken, extended support for Windows XP will end in 2014. So there is probably more than 4 years of support left for IE6.

I stand corrected.

It's not because they support GS must follow... Some people get a new car for new gadgets even if the previous one is still full on warranty.

 

I hope GS just like other major player will fix a date where support for IE6 will be abandonned. Thus all the remaining 90% will benefit of the latest great CSS addon and such. This will also simplify a lot more what those guys have to deal with to please everyone. Finding hacks so IE6 behave (or almost behave) like FF or any modern browser is a pain and is very time consuming.

 

A GIFT FOR THE DEVELOPERS : http://www.savethedevelopers.org/

 

And an old image already on this topic back then :

 

savedevelopers-screenshot.png

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I stand corrected.

Hi Tim -

 

It's not like the chart is easy to read quickly to come up with a quick interpretation. Maybe you should use that Microsoft page as part of one of your new puzzle caches? :huh: Took me a couple of reads to sort it out as well.

 

I'm still trying to figure out what features gc.com was trying to incorporate that required the breaking of IE6 in order to provide more or less the same user interface and content as before. The HTML is clearly being created by a pretty inefficient set of tools (look at the page source sometime -- yuck). I'm wondering if the IE6 problem was the result of a conscious decision to change strategies for building pages, or is somehow purely a function of new tools being used by gc.com to create the pages? That things broke badly for IE6 seems to have come as a surprise to gc.com, not to mention the users of IE6.

 

I do look forward to the clean-up. I took my little netbook out yesterday to cache with Spammer and it was pretty ugly on Firefox - I still haven't taken advantage of the scripts, etc., that help to clean it up.

 

As for those that talk about IE6 vs. work vs. locked down images on computers ... don't forget that no few people are allowed to play at lunch, and no few are on LAPTOPS that they use both for work and play, but are imaged by corporate IT departments who don't provide admin rights that would allow certain upgrades to be made.

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Nate, is there anything that the development team has learned from this experience that might change the way future releases are rolled out? I've seen some rather hectic and initially unpopular releases in my time, but I don't think that I have seen any reaction from your end users that was quite as, well, shall we say, unenthusiastic (?) as this one.

 

We always review releases and take lessons away. Learning from our mistakes is crucial!

 

Has any decision been made, or even discussed, about a public beta test site in the future? More open pre-disclosure of the changes? You get my drift, I'm sure. How will Groundspeak avoid another gaffe like this in the future?

 

Public beta test sites are difficult to manage and have limited usefulness if you aren't working with live data. What we need are more trained testers on staff - testers who are being actively sought at present.

 

I had posted release notes in advance once in the past with some success, but made the mistake of attaching a date to the release (which was delayed, natch). I think in the future I will start a thread announcing upcoming changes as "coming soon" instead.

 

I'd like to suggest that the release note information be made available to those of us who don't frequent the forum. There are an awful lot of us you know - the vast majority. You can put it in the forum but also add a link in the newsletter and/or from the main web page. Something that is visible enough not to be overlooked.

 

I'd also like to suggest that you provide advance warning if you intent to obsolete software that that people might be running on their PC; like YouTube has done for browser support.

 

http://img.geocaching.com/cache/58236748-0...b99a7b54a6d.jpg

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No word if you plan to phase out support for IE6 this year? I hope 2010 will be the last year you support it and if it's the case, don't wait too much to display a banner. You have to promote all the new features and power that gives the new browsers, something IE6 cannot handle at all and that slow you down with development.

 

About 2-3 years ago I remember there was discussions about a V2. Is this still in the works? What is it exactly?

 

Thanks

 

I use IE6 and I can tell you that there is only one problem with IE6. That being that the maps don't display. It's only one problem but it is devastating. If GS will Fix that one problem all the arguments about IE6 should go away and they could then phase out support for IE6 in a user-friendly way like YouTube, and others, are doing.

 

I have no idea why Groundspeak won't take a stand on this issue. IE6 users have been without maps for a week now.

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We have the CSS change ready but are hesitant to hotfix in the evening in North America. We will update in the morning instead. Here is a preview of the change:
Much improved look - even with more info on the page. Thanks for taking us that direction as soon as you have. Would have hated to wait until another major release.

 

Will the CSS changes also deal with the problems that CSS implementation has created on many cache pages, or is that a separate fix?

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I use IE6 and I can tell you that there is only one problem with IE6. That being that the maps don't display. It's only one problem but it is devastating. If GS will Fix that one problem all the arguments about IE6 should go away and they could then phase out support for IE6 in a user-friendly way like YouTube, and others, are doing.

 

I have no idea why Groundspeak won't take a stand on this issue. IE6 users have been without maps for a week now.

 

We have no plans to phase out support of IE6, and are aware of the mapping issues that exist currently. They will be fixed in the February release. I'm very sorry for the delay.

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We have the CSS change ready but are hesitant to hotfix in the evening in North America. We will update in the morning instead. Here is a preview of the change:
Much improved look - even with more info on the page. Thanks for taking us that direction as soon as you have. Would have hated to wait until another major release.

 

Will the CSS changes also deal with the problems that CSS implementation has created on many cache pages, or is that a separate fix?

 

We have already exempted the user generated content areas of the site from CSS control.

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