I needed a bit of a break from the technical details of the site and played around with some design ideas for the site today. Aside from the back-end and UI enhancements, there's going to be a dramatic shift in how the site "feels," and if any part of the site is in dire need of updating, it's the visual design.
Some individuals who are aware of the work-in-progress of Mapraider 2.0 have stressed concern over changing the site too much. Rest assured I'm keeping that in mind and am not taking any of these changes lightly — it wasn't too long ago when eBay redesigned their site and the backlash from users forced them to revert :)
My primary goals with the visual re-design are:
- Update the look and feel so that newer technologies that enhance the experience, such as AJAX (think Google Maps), can be applied easily
- Clean up and optimize the page markup so download times are significantly reduced using primarily CSS for layout
- Increase usability by adjusting page content (or even removing in some cases) so that pages are more clear and concise
- Get the damn Mapraider logo on the site (why it got left out originally, I can't remember)
Expect a site design that harkens back to the original design but is easier to read, better organized and strengthens the focus on the maps even more — after all, content is king and my thoughts of web UI design as of late has been to "keep it simple and out of the way."
The architecture of the site (organization of information) on the other hand isn't going to be changing much. Maps are still organized under a "Maps" item and the forums are also still in the same place so getting around will feel very familiar. But it wasn't always going to be that similar; I've gone through many iterations of how the site could be restructured prior to arriving at the final architecture. But I'll talk more about the site's organization once I've got the site map more complete.