“Post-mortem!” you exclaim, “how ghoulish!” Well, yeah. The term is usually used for meetings and discussions about how well a software release went after it’s out the door, at least on som of the teams I’ve worked on (greets to my tacos!) So, anyway, here is a post-mortem examination of the new http://get.fedoraproject.org design.
A little background on the Fedora website design
So I’ve already given you the story behind why we decided to re-do the get.fedoraproject.org pages on fedoraproject.org. The get.fedoraproject.org redesign work was completed as part of Phase 2 and was released with Fedora 13 this past May. If you’re curious as to the why and how we got here, you can read up on it on another blog post.
Run-down of the redesign
As mentioned in the history of this project, we decided to split get.fedoraproject.org out into two main sections:
- The first section, presented by default, would be aimed at fulfilling the Board’s requirements – a single simple download button prominently placed, a promo for spins.fedoraproject.org, and clear links to support & help.
- The second section would be accessible by links on the default page, and would provide an ala carte experience for more particular Fedora downloaders.
The first section consisted of two pages, the main default download page and an exit splash page.
Main Default Download Page
This is simply the default download page. It has a single prominent download button, listing basic requirements and instructions as to what to do with the download and links to many resources on getting help in the right-hand column. It’s meant to be simple and straight-to-the-point.
Exit Splash page
This was intended to be an exit-splash page that appeared after you clicked on the download link, but due to various technical and time constraints, this part of the design has not yet been implemented. Note it also includes pandas – very important to a good design. The bottom is meant to be a space where a rotating set of tutorials would appear – e.g., “now that you’ve found Fedora, what are you gonna do…. with iiiiittt?” (shouts to HeavyD and the Boyz!)
The second section consisted of a page with four tabs, one each for desktop options, architecture options, media format, and activities (which basically is a full-page promo for spins.fpo.)
This tab lets you select from different desktop options.
This tab lets you select from different architecture options and provides a promo area for the secondary arches.
This tab lets you select which formats you’d like to download (DVD vs. LiveMedia).
This tab is basically a promo for spins.fpo.
Where the drama comes in
So I alluded to some torrential controversy in the last websites blog post. The day we released Fedora 13 and consequently the new get.fedoraproject.org, on IRC, identi.ca, and the mailing list there was a flooding of comments about how users could not find the bittorrent links. Some other complaints included not being able to find the download verification and less prominent LiveUSB instructions.
Identi.ca and IRC feedback
Here’s some of the identi.ca and IRC feedback we got so you can get an idea of the kinds of reactions we were getting:
- “@mairin nice work, thank you! BTW, will the LiveUSB tool and guide (wiki page) have a place on the right sidebar? it should be helpful. :-) “
- “@mairin: Hard to find the ‘normal’ dvd download? Too many options?”
- “The !Fedora download page gets more confusing with each release. Is there any way to install Fedora with no optical disk drive? Maybe a floppy? I don’t want to switch hardware around just to upgrade!”
- “@mairin It says I need a CD or DVD… are there no LiveUSB instructions on the new download page?”
- “@mairin There seems to be no mention torrents anywhere on that page?”
- “stickster: I don’t know how designed the “get-fedora” pages, but kudos to them. It’s a GREAT new design and organization.”
- “Hey, so we’ve been getting some comments that people can’t find torrents on fp.o”
- “@mairin The more I look at it the less it confuses me. But I wish there was an obvious way to look through directories on download mirrors.”
- “is it intendet that there are no torrent links on the new download pages?”
- “@mairin I wasn’t really looking for them, but I noticed the 6 CDs and netinst didn’t seem to be mentioned in the download page.”
- “Its understandable since “gnome” is default but I was a little confused which version was which and kept looking for ‘gnome-live'”
- “I hunted for fully 4 mins before I found either 64 or 32 bits. I’m not used to having 43 different options (most of which meant nothing to me btw, from the names)”
- “Re the < 1 CD version….. isn't that just a pain updating to all the crap that we load on our machines?"
- “I need the checksum to verify it. the gpg stuff I can do without, but a nice easy checksum would help.”
- “Is it just me or does the new website make it extremely difficult to find F13 torrents? I don’t have a problem downloading directly from a server, but I figure we should probably make the links more prominent to reduce server+mirror load”
- “I don’t think we can avoid the fact that people not in the target audience are going to sent to get-fedora. Giving them an exit is one link. one link that could be worded so a beginner would never click it.”
- “”Installation Quick Start Guide” is only for live media, so maybe we should make it clearer – Since it’s linked from a page with DVDs too”
- “Do we really need an architecture tab? We already link to both 32 and 64 bit on every page other than get-fedora”
Mailing list feedback
The thread subject line – Regarding Get Fedora page” from the Fedora users mailing list – still makes my stomach drop and my soul feel a little meaty in a kind of traumatic post-harangue hangover: It’s not a pretty thread. It ran from May through June. Now that the dust has settled though, there are some nuggets of valuable feedback that can be extracted from the stink cloud of misery:
- “I can’t find a mention of torrents anywhere. What happened to the big master list of all image download links?”
- “I could not figure out where to grab the torrents from, or how to download the checksum files, or how to grab individual CD ISOs, or….I was lost for 5 minutes before I even figured out how to download the x86_64 DVD image!”
- “The main things, Download and more info, were there.”
- “I wouldn’t have imagined that anyone would remove all the information about torrents, jigdo, mirror lists, etc. from the “here’s all the ways to get fedora” page.”
- “I followed the work for most of the many months and I think that the pages are clear, well laid out, and easy to follow. I have spent more time reading this thread than it took me to hunt for and find the information that you are being accused of hiding. :-)”
- “When you read ‘download options’, you think, ‘methods of downloading.’ The way ‘download options’ was originally intended, however, was to
mean, ‘different variations of Fedora’ – options like Desktop, Architecture, etc. Options for FEDORA, not how you were DOWNLOADING it.”
- “I’m unlikely to be following many developer-oriented lists, in any case. Like I said, I’m just a user.”
- “I also spent a couple of minutes going back and forth trying to find a link to the torrents (… sure, I could have Googled right away — which I ended up doing after visiting the “Formats” page for the 3rd time ;-))”
- “when I didn’t find the link to the torrents right away, my first reaction was to CTRL+F for “torrent”.”
- “I found the emphasis on all the different “spins”, frankly, confusing. There are two different alternative desktops (neither of which I am familiar with) whose descriptions are nearly indistinguishable. Which trim efficient resource-sparing one do I want to try first? Impossible to tell. If you
drill for more information there’s nothing there, and you end up back where you started. I did try one desktop and was unimpressed (but, then, it’s running from a CD!)”
- “In the past, Red Hat/Fedora offered Gnome up front and left it to more experienced users to discover KDE, etc. (and made them easy to install, if desired, and even switch among them). They supplied main download sites, mirrors and, eventually torrent files and tried to encourage
people to use the latter, with the second preference being a nearby mirror. I think these were wise policies that should be continued.”
- “Another “curious” thing I find about the Get Fedora page is the existence of the “Activities” tab. That tab is the only place where I could find the word “activities” or “activity”. Everything under that area uses the terminology “Spin”. Is there a difference between an “Activity” and a “Spin”? If so, what is the difference? If not, why not just have a “Spin” tab? Seems to me it would be more consistent.”
Making sense of the feedback
So during the deluge of feedback we received, Ricky Zhou and I had a conversation in #fedora-websites to try to figure out what we should do. We reviewed the feedback, clustering it into a few concerns:
- Where are torrents?
- Where are the mirrors?
- Where is the checksum?
- Where are: 6 CD format, netinstall, jigdo?
We took some immediate action in response to the most dire complaints we received. First was the lack of live USB instructions, which we added to the ‘What Do I Do?’ step-by-step instructions in the right-most column. Second was the lack of a link to the torrents. To address that, we did a link switcheroo to add torrents without making the page more crowded – we had a link that linked to archive.fedoraproject.org in the lower right corner of the screen, so we swapped that link for the torrents & other download methods links.
Then we came up with a plan for further longer-term improvements. These haven’t been made yet:
- The new advanced users link in the lower right should lead to an updated/cleaned-up version of http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-all.
- The architecture tab of the alacarte get.fpo pages should be removed since downloads by arch are mentioned on every other tab. Instead, secondary arches could be advertised on the updated http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-all.
Applying the feedback received to future design work generally
As was pointed out in the Fedora users list thread o’ doom, many Fedora users are not developers and do not follow what they consider ‘development’ lists, including the logistics, websites, and design team mailing lists. Furthermore, many insisted that they do not read Fedora Weekly News or Planet Fedora. So there is a population of users from whom we are not getting feedback from because we’re not posting our mockups and plans as widely as we should.
Well, the concern has been heard loud and clear. First off, you may have noticed the Fedora Design team for F14 is pushing out our calls for feedback wider than ever before – we have a feedback-gathering plan that includes identi.ca, twitter, facebook, fedoraforum.org, and the Fedora users list, as well as the comments pages on any external news sites that have written about our artwork so far.
Secondly, you’ll notice we’ve built community feedback periods into the F14 web schedule, and these blog posts are part of that. We are a little bit behind schedule right now but I’m hoping we’ll catch up. This blog post will be shared with the Fedora users list and other non-contributor-centric Fedora areas.
Summary, and on avoiding missing the point
The main point of this work was to make the download experience for new Fedora users simple and streamlined, so the main tension here is doing so, without destroying the experience for existing users who have much more demanding needs. I felt throughout the project we had a spectrum from “simple page” to “matrix of links” and I felt a lot of times we were being forcefully pulled towards the “matrix of links” end of the spectrum. Every single link on its own seems so innocent, “just one more link!” but the problem is, many people had their own pet “just one more link!” requests, and if we fulfilled them all on the default page, we’d have the very swamp-o’-links state we were consciously trying to avoid. While the struggle is very real, I don’t think it is very obvious to casual observers which I think is why some of the feedback got so heated.
I hope this background and play-by-play of the get.fedoraproject.org redesign project, with details on the how it was received and updated, has been a interesting read for you. We’d love to hear your feedback on how you felt this all went, and your suggestions for further improvement of get.fedoraproject.org.