[ubuntu-web] Homepage

François Tissandier francois.tissandier at gmail.com
Thu Jul 3 23:01:58 BST 2008

> Here you've identified that the navigation changes when you go between
> sites. (Nand also pointed this out) There is a major technical
> challenge which I've outlined in my personal blog [1]. I have spent
> many cycles working out a way to manage this and a good solution is
> necessary for a long term fix to this problem. I welcome fresh
> perspective.

What is really disturbing is that it seems to be the same website! If
it's really another website, then it should have its own identity
(title, logo, style) yet share some kind of general design for the
"ubuntu websites family". Different but the same.

In my example, I consider (as a lambda visitor) that I'm still on the
same website, right? 

http://webapps.ubuntu.com/certification/ same website
http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu/804features/ same website

But layout is slightly different.

i think we have 2 problems:

-simple one, make the main website coherent. I'm sure that we can
quickly improve this, the improvement margin is big.

-the tough one, make ALL the ubuntu website coherent yet not too

We should maybe start with the appetiser, then move to the main dish.

> Good ideas. I'm not opposed to pursuing this but I'm startled with how
> suddenly we've come to this point. :-) (basically redesigning the
> website if I catch your drift) Read through the rest of the email
> though because attacking the problem from a different angle may work
> best.

Redesigning, yes it's maybe the word. I never really talked about
changing the content, we are just talking about moving the pieces of the
puzzle to make it look sexier. Currently our puzzle is showing Jane Doe,
we want to see Jessica Alba at the end ;) (replace with whoever you find
hot ;)

> Yes, this is planned. I like the way RedHat does this on their
> homepage. They have the top part of the website with their features
> and then almost (but not quite) below the fold they have links to what
> I call "portals" for user specific content. One such portal pertinent
> to us is "education." There we would have a page that "sells" Ubuntu
> (I'm not afraid to use that word) to people in the education sector.

That's another of the big questions: should we try to keep everything in
one single website? Or split the content? However, it's once again just
how we organise the content, and how we navigate. But it has an
influence on EVERY page of the website, so we'd better be clever here ;)

> Identifying the navigation problems is not nearly as challenging as
> coming up with solutions, so lets direct our attention there.

Yep. Totally agree. if we manage to identify clearly all the problems,
most of the time the answer is included in the problem description.

We should act like "profilers". The website is meant for visitors. Even
if we consider that this website is a media to publish info from
Canonical, each info must be found to be read. 

We are going back to the questions of my first email:

who is visiting the website? 

For instance:

-education pro
-IT pro, integrators,partners

How does the website match their need? What are they coming for? 

Personally, i'm a big fan of simple solutions. It's called Occam's
Razor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_Razor

It can be summarised by "All other things being equal, the simplest
solution is the best". I really like this principle. I don't like very
long webpages with hundreds of links. If you check how many times each
link is clicked, it's just plain ridiculous. 

So one possible idea:
-first page, you choose who you are (we have to define first the
possibilities :)

-then you are offered some tabs with very different contents, or
buttons, or whatever, like:
"I'm not a ubuntu user, i want to discover it and download it" -> Orange
color content, the product info part, and it should be sexy!

"I'm a ubuntu user, i need help" -> green color content, the support

"I'm a ubuntu user, i want to contribute, what can i do" -> blue color

If we can determine very independent profiles, and very independent
needs, then I think it's better to split the content. A ubuntu user
needing some help doesn't really want a desktop tour,he already knows
Ubuntu! He wants a solution to a problem. Let's show only what's

Same idea, a newcomer doesn't really want to see all the options for the
support, he wants to learn about Ubuntu. Let's show only what he is
looking for.

Yet, with this simple first page showing the main parts, he knows that
the support exists, and that he can contribute. Just like the opensuse
homepage. Maybe it's a bit too empty (where are we putting content like
news?). But I like the idea: no long text to read, three OBVIOUS
choices, with colour codes, sexy icons, it's polished, it's clear. 

Then of course, it's important to keep some "bridges" between the
different parts. Like the search engine, it should be transverse to me.
Or specific links, but with the color codes to recall "those are
'support' links, you see?"

I know it may look "heavy" to ask the visitor to categorise himself when
arriving, but with good graphic designers and developers, I'm sure we
can find a sexy dynamic solutions with animations or things like that,
fast as lightening and perfectly clear. This website has a big
responsibility. Not as big as Ubuntu itself, but it's often the first
thing a potential new user will see. So it should really demonstrate the
strengths of the product: simple, light, well organised, big community. 

I really like the software installer example: this is a killer feature,
and it has a couple of lines in the website! It should have a nice
screencast with a chronometer saying "13 seconds to install Inkscape,
can you beat that?". This content is here, all the bricks are, but the
castle is not looking like Versailles now.

I hope you don't hate me yet ;), I know I'm criticising your work, more
or less.  But i understand where the website comes from, mine started
with a few pages only 10 years ago, and grew slowly without a clear
target with the years to become a huge beast. I guess it's the same for
this website. So it's quite natural to have those problems now. Anyway i
think you have a very positive attitude, i didn't always accept comments
like this in the past :)

what do you think? Shall we try to identify the typical users and what
they are looking for? 


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