That's right, the 2008 GUI Champs are approaching! The last event, which wrapped up at the end of 2006, was a big success and we're aiming to top things with this year's edition. One of the first things we're looking at revamping is the GUIC Website. If you look back, you'll see that we used the 2004 site again in 2006, and it didn't age well. For a competition focused on GUI greatness, the site was pretty embarrassing. It was also very buggy and hard to update with contest results etc.
So this year it's back to the drawing board!
One thing people probably don't realize is how much planning has to go into even a relatively simple site like the GUIC one. It's not as simple as throwing together an upload page, news page, gallery page and skin page and call it done. For the 2008 GUIC Site, we have to design and implement over a dozen completely unique pages, each with very different tech requirements.
Here are a few of the big improvements that are currently being talked about. Keep in mind we're still in the design phase of this, so it's all subject to change. But I wanted to tease everyone a bit with this to get some interest going in the competition, and to get some feedback on what you'd like to see in the site.
Improved Team System
Previously, all you had was a page with a text list of who was on a team, and how many skins individuals had uploaded to the competition. For 2008, we want to encourage teams more, we're even debating (again, no promises) the idea of maybe a team event where everyone on a team contributes to a skin. If we do that, we need the Team System to pull off a lot more. Here are a few thoughts being kicked around:
- Team logo
- Team leader, members
- Latest skins by all team members
- Awards won by individuals, by team
- Current point total
- Mini-message board limited to that team (very iffy)
Think of it as a personal page like on WC, only with multiple people's content. The guestbook would be improved/fixed too.
Brand New Upload Tools
We've actually had a completely new upload tool about 60% completed for a while now, but no time to really sit down and finish it up and test it. So we're using the GUIC hopefully as the trial-run for the tool. Features that could be included in the new tool:
- Only allows valid file types
No more uploading something only to have it kicked back hours later by a moderator for not having the right file type. The tool won't even let you upload files that aren't on the "approved" list.
- Background Uploading
Type in your skin description and other meta data while your files upload in the background. Saves a lot of time for the user, lets them know if there are any problems before even hitting "submit"
- Check preview images
Tired of getting your submission kicked back because your preview was under 1024x768? This new tool should be able to check the preview file once uploaded and immediately tell you if it's OK or not.
- Better error reporting
No more "upload failed" universal error messages. Because we're checking individual files (i.e. the skin for file type, size, the preview image for dimensions etc.) we should be able to pinpoint exactly where something failed. Of course, if the file transfer itself fails, you'll still see "Upload failed" but in that case, it should actually help us track down the problem.
Basically, the goal with the new upload tool is to make it as idiot-proof as possible and to head off problems before they get into moderation. Only allowing submissions that meet basic technical requirements will help speed up the submission and moderation process.
A Site that Focuses on Skins First, News Second
The GUIC 2006 site is almost all text. To get a look at any skins, you have to dig around. It's not exactly a skin-focused site. So the 2008 GUIC site is going to be a first pass at a design that puts the emphasis on the user content first. Sure there will still be news, there will still be forums, but for a skinning site, maybe that needs to take a backseat to showing off what users are creating. Like I said, parts of the GUIC 2008 site are going to be a dry-run for features and improvements to WinCustomize in the future.
New Moderation Tools
This point is really of more interest to our moderator staff, but we're going to be taking the opportunity with the 2008 competition site to take a pass at redesigning the moderator tools for skins. You may not know this, but the tools the moderators have at their disposal haven't really changed much at all since probably 2005. They were updated code-wise to work on the 2007 site, but from a design or workflow perspective they haven't changed in over 3 years now. For the GUIC site, we want a robust set of tools for contest moderators to be able to handle skins.
Ideally, we want to handle everything from moderating submissions to designating event winners and automatically tracking who's winning overall, team totals, even points based on skinner country of origin.
Cleaner overall design, improved navigation
We've been going through sites lately and drastically simplifying their look and feel. Aiming for something that is easier to use, faster to load, but still pleasing to the eye. JoeUser was our first major effort in this direction, and we refined it a step or two further with the Impulse Community site. One of the major criticisms of WC2k7 was that it was a heavy site to navigate. And as I said above, the GUIC 2006 site wasn't exactly user-friendly. The watch-word for the GUIC 2008 design is "simple". The skins and other content should be the overall focus, everything else on the site should work to make it easier to view/download that content.
Like I keep saying, this is all stuff we're talking about in the design phase, some of this might not make it to the final site depending on the amount of time we have allocated to actually building it, but we're hopeful. If the features work well on the GUIC site, you can bet they'll make their way over to WinCustomize in the future.
Is there anything you'd like to see improved/added to the GUIC site for the 2008 competition? Thoughts on what I outlined above? I'm looking for all the feedback and additional ideas I can get here. But please keep it limited to site design and features. We're not ready to talk about events in the competition or exactly when it will start. Questions about stuff like that will likely be moderated, I want to keep this discussion on-topic.