Reposted from the BYOND Developer Announcements forum, now that I can!
We've been developing this new BYOND website for quite some time, and it's been running pretty smoothly. We had the grandiose plan to surprise everyone this afternoon by taking the old site down for a few minutes and swapping this new and improved version in its place. Ten minutes, tops, right? Bzzzt.
Needless to say, we ran into a few problems and had to put in the extra hours to mostly resolve them (thanks especially to head guru Mike H. for infusing some sanity into the whole operation). Things appear to be reasonably stable now, but I won't be shocked if the site experiences further problems for a few days, particularly during peak hours. It is a work-in-progress. In the end, I expect this new site to be both faster and easier to use, but it may take a few tries to get us there.
Aside from stability issues, we'll also be addressing some of color/layout considerations. We've given these things a lot of thought, realizing that we can't possibly satisfy everyone. While I like the overall scheme, I acknowledge that some of the components are a bit high-contrast and we'll see if we can come to a reasonable compromise there.
The guiding principles behind the development of the new website were "consistency" and "simplicity". We wanted the various elements of our site-- from the games to the developers to the community-- to be bound by a unified layout. We've attempted to make navigation logical for the user-- rather than have developer materials all over the place, for instance, we've consolidated them under the developer guild. Ditto for help/support, and so on. Finally, we've greatly reduced the content on the site. When given the choice of preserving an unused or unknown element or quietly eliminating it, we've opted for the latter (in spades!)
Overall, I'm very pleased with the effort. Aesthetically, I think the site looks really good-- much thanks to TheMonkeyDidIt for doing numerous mockups and graphics to arrive at our final design. Lummox JR has been masterful in both building the site off Ron & Mike's original work and (more impressively) putting up with my constant demands and often surly attitude. I really should pay him more than circus peanuts.
Here are a few of the major features/changes in the new site:
* unified "BYOND Members" style menubar on every page in the site.
* some Google ads on "official" pages. Note: I have been adamantly opposed to ads forever, but I must admit that over the course of testing I've found these quite nonoffensive and in some cases interesting. If our sponsors appeal to you, please pay them a visit.
* game banners. Oldbies might remember these from circa 2003. LJR fondly recollected them and I said "go to town!" Banners are circulated based on a clever algorithm that looks at diverse guilds, so you don't just see 1000 DBZ banners.
* account, hub, and site/member settings are all merged now into one convenient place. The options are better organized and more manageable (owners of the larger guilds should especially appreciate this).
* blurred the distinction between "site" and "guild". Basically, we found that a lot of people were calling their personal sites as guilds because they wanted to have a forum, so we just made those member/rank features accessible to all sites and have done away with the "guild" branding. If you want your site to be used as a genre-organizer (like the official guilds), there's a new toggle for that.
* new "home" page that let's you see friend, game, and (eventually) forum updates, as well as some other stuff. Why check your member page, you already know what you posted!
* non-members get a few more perks, including a barebones blog site (with fixed layout and no files, no guild joining, ads on the pages, and some other stuff).
* new, simplified css for members pages, as well as a more pleasing default page. The main reason I mention this is that you might have to update your site css if you use certain color schemes, since a few default colors have changed.
* simplified the membership-purchase page (which was generalized from the largely unused commerce system). Also added a more convenient credit-card payment that doesn't have to visibly route through paypal. Bumped up memberships to $18/year to account for kickbacks (see below).
* new referral program and soon-to-be developer profit-sharing program; read the links on the sidebar. I'm especially excited about the profit-sharing.
* no more "channels". I realize there is a minor loss of functionality here but I'm certain we can replace it with other aspects of the site, such as a new language feature that will let you know who is subscribed to your site (more on this below).
* temporarily nixed the developer merchant program (where we process a game/library/demo sale and update your subscriber list) for those of you who've activated it for your site. We just haven't gotten around to implementing the UI for this, and didn't consider it a priority due to the dearth of sales. As before, you can still manually do sales and update your subscriber list (who will all be assigned the corresponding BYOND Passport). On related note, the plan is to shortly replace the CheckPassport() call with a new IsSubscribed() call that can be used to check subscribers to games AND members to guilds.
That's it for now. Our priorities now are stability, speed, and usability. Feel free to make comments, complaints, suggestions, and (most importantly) detailed bug reports. We might even read them.