The current design is ready for retirement
Article originally published 12th of August 2008
For 8 long years, since 2000, Hattrick has had the same design. It has served us well for what is an eternity for a web site, but now we’re close to the end of the road. A lot has happened with our computers, screens and web behaviour since 2000, and we have to realize that the design is simply not up to today’s web standards anymore. And to be totally honest, it’s not only about age – there are also other problems with our current design, especially navigational ones. It is time to give our current look a very well deserved retirement.
In this editorial we will point out some of the problems we’ve found with our old design, the sole reasons for the retirement. We will naturally also say some words about our work with the coming new design, which is just a few months away.
For almost a decade Hattrick has had the same design. The current design dates back to 2000 where the whole game was rewritten to make place for more than the 1700 users in Sweden we had back then. That whole rewrite project was a very tight project done by two persons at their spare time, and the design was actually nailed down in one afternoon sitting in at the end of the summer 2000. Over the years the game has grown a lot, features have been added and a lot of new leagues and users have joined. Almost everything has been rewritten once or even twice, except of the design. Apart from a couple of face-lifts, it's still the same look.
As mentioned above, it's not only about age. That said, it’s impossible to deny that age is an important factor here. As internet users, we have a totally different web behaviour and completely different demands than what we had back in 2000. A lot has also happened on the technical side to say the least. Some of the problems we found with our design are directly related to age and the web evolution, others are not. In any way, we think it's important to tell you why there will be a new design. So you understand the reasons, as well as the benefits, when the Hattrick world changes its look.
Our site today is built in frames. One can say that this technique was as common back in 2000 as it is rare today. The big problem with frames is that it makes it hard to bookmark or link to a particular page. If you open the page in a new tab (or a new browser window), all the navigation in the menus as well as the ticker disappears. Moreover, frames also make it harder for search engines to find info.
Talking about navigational problems, as the game has grown so have the choices in the menus and the options on each page. As a result we have actually got a left menu with way too many choices today. You really need to be an experienced user to navigate freely there. For new users, it can be really tough to find their way around and it takes a lot of time to learn the menu system (if you ever do). For example, there are many ways to reach the transfer but none of them are that good or logical. Related to this, many pages are totally overcrowded with different information and options (but even so, many still lack help texts!), the player details page is a good example. The overcrowded state is partly caused by the additions in the game, together with the fact that we mostly haven't withdrawn much information at the same time.
Another flaw is that the font size is too small. It should really be bigger and as a result easier to read. But making it bigger in today's design would lead to that the menu would become too wide and other things on the sides would take up too much space. Actually, today's site is designed for small screens, as that was what we had back in 2000. Since then our screens have just gotten bigger and bigger, and today it makes no sense to have a site designed for small screens. Especially when only very few percent of our users use lower screen resolutions, and they will have no problem to continue using that in the new design.
Finally we also have to say that even if we've grown mature with this design and that it's been a great companion for all these years, we have to admit it has a bit of a 90s' feel to it. Not that there's anything in particular wrong with the 90s, but we would actually like to look a little bit more modern and fresh than that. It would also be nice to have a set of icons in the same style and from the same source (today's icons are in different styles and from different sources), and we would like it to be easier to make different skins for Hattrick, something which is quite hard today.
Whilst we're now working on a new design we focus especially on all of these things. One huge benefit with doing everything from scratch is that we can really think through every single page on its own. We can better structure what belongs where and we can also prepare the pages for upcoming exciting features. Another benefit is that it will be a lot easier (and faster!) for us to work with the new design compared to the old one, it will be a real time saver once it's ready.
Our new costume should have a modern look and it should fit well with people's ordinary web behaviour. It should have a good structure with a logical navigation. It's also important to keep the Hattrick feeling to it, so don't expect anything extra ultra cool and flashy. That said, we know that retiring a design which so many of you are really used to may be hard in the beginning. But even if you will not fall in love with the new design at first sight, we are convinced that it will not take long before you do. We will show you some examples of the new design and listen to what you have to say about it during the way to the retirement day, to make the switch a little bit less sudden. And if you ever feel you need to see the old design again after the retirement, you can always visit the museum where we will put it together with the original design from 97.