Sunday, April 1, 2012

Progress on web site redesign

I wanted to share an update on our FreeDOS web site redesign. Again, thank you to everyone who sent us comments on the test design, at either stage of the design process. Your feedback was very useful in improving the usability of the web site, and I think directly contributed to the improved design.

I already provided the background for the redesign project in my other post, but I'll briefly summarize by saying our web site is a good source of FreeDOS information if you were already a FreeDOS user, but is not very approachable by new users. Our new redesign should address that.

Last weekend, I posted the second test web design to our test site, and asked for your comments via a usability feedback form. Here are some highlights of what you told us:

What's working

  • The updated descriptions about FreeDOS in the "Q&A" information is much easier to read. You had very positive remarks here, so I think that's a winner!
  • You really liked the new screenshots of programs running in FreeDOS. I'll keep these updated, and add more as I make this new design "live."
  • The improved link text in the "nav bar" makes it easier for people to see where to go. Several liked that the links use plain language so it was easier to find their way around, even though not all pages are on the test site yet.
  • The new colors look better, as do the new fonts.
  • The new design displays well even on smaller screens (netbooks, iPads, etc.)

What needs work

  • Should mention Dosbox and a few other emulators in the "What do I need to run FreeDOS?" section.
  • Need to add notes in the wiki about how to create a bootable USB flash drive using FreeDOS.
  • Should add some whitespace around the main text so it is easier to read on larger displays. I could do the same for the mobile version, so the text doesn't run up to the edges of the screen.
  • The news feed ("What's new?") may not be helpful for new users.
  • Make the screenshots "rotate" while you are on the front page, rather than displaying a new screenshot each time you load the page.
Most of your suggestions for improvement focused on specific content, rather than design elements, so I'm taking that as a very good sign that I got things "right" in organizing things.

Scenarios

I also asked you to put yourself in the place of 3 new users, and to tell us how these users might use the new web site:

  1. A casual user who wants to use FreeDOS to play old DOS games.
  2. A person who wants to use FreeDOS to run an embedded DOS application.
  3. A user who wants to replace MS-DOS with FreeDOS to run legacy software.

Your response to these scenarios was also very helpful. The consensus was that these new users would be able to easily find the information they need to get started with FreeDOS.

Next steps

If you haven't had an opportunity yet to tell us what you think, please visit the test site and leave us your comments via the online form. Over the next week or so, I may "tweak" some elements of the design based on your feedback. But most of the edits will focus on updating the other pages ("Join the email list", "Links", "Technotes", etc.) and fixing the mobile browser detection so iPads are recognized as a full-size browser. I'll expect to completely rewrite most pages so they are easier to read.

Thanks for your feedback so far! You have played a direct part in updating a very central part of FreeDOS, which just shows you don't have to be a developer to contribute to open source software.

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