John Kaster

Behind the Screen

Time for a make-over

with 30 comments

As part of the preparation for the “DevCo” spin-out (see Allen Bauer’s blog for the play-by-play), I’m looking for a new look … for BDN. So, I’d like people to tell me what web sites they find appealing. We want a clean, easy to see, follow, navigate, and use appearance. Tell me what web sites you like (please include the URL!), and give me your top 3 reasons why you like them.

We’ll look at the recommendations, and hopefully come up with something that is broadly appealing and easy for everyone to use. Thanks again for your feedback!

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Written by John Kaster

March 28, 2006 at 8:09 pm

30 Responses

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  1. http://www.flickr.com/

    Clean, functional, minimal unnecessary graphics, fast to load.

    Lori Olson

    March 28, 2006 at 9:38 pm

  2. well, personally I like the Developer Connection Site from, (am I allowed to say that here?) Apple, actually: http://developer.apple.com. Reason 1. The look is decent and yet quite cool. Icons catch your attention (e.g. to Articles, Related Weblinks, Mailing Lists or Reference Libraries) Reason 2. The topics are clearly seperated. (e.g. Featured Content, Open Source, Security, Audio, Printing etc.) Each topic has its own Articles etc. and its own download area. Reason 3. The headlines are available as RSS-Feed

    Marco Warm

    March 28, 2006 at 9:39 pm

  3. http://www.tadalist.com/

    (you have to sign up for a free account to really see the design)

    Clean, simple, fast, no unnecessary graphics.

    But I don’t really like their color choices (could hang together better).

    Lori Olson

    March 28, 2006 at 9:51 pm

  4. http://www.redhat.com/

    I love the clean style. Hyperlinks look like hyperlinks, there are no dropdown menus and other fancy crap. The site does not require me to scroll sideways (which I find is an absolute no-no).
    Site loads very fast. Relevant information is shown on the entry page.

    http://www.trolltech.com

    I find the developer documentation on the trolltech site incredibly useful. I wish something like this would exist for Borland’s offerings. Don’t really care for its "3d" look, though.

    http://www.php.net/
    The annotated manual is awesome. Again, I would love to see something like this for Delphi.

    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/,

    Must be one of the fastest loading sites. Very clean, very easy to use, very "webish". I love it.

    Fritz Huber

    March 28, 2006 at 10:08 pm

  5. Fritz, thanks much for the links.

    I agree that sites should adapt very nicely to the size of the browser window. We will have a site that is tolerant for that.

    You won’t have long to wait to see Delphi (and other product documentation) online in a very browseable format, with support for comments everywhere. We’ll start the public for this soon, and I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

    John Kaster

    March 28, 2006 at 11:11 pm

  6. Lori, thanks for the links. Some fantastic pics at the flickr site, too. Still trying to see how the metaphor would apply to the type of content we have on the developer network.

    John Kaster

    March 28, 2006 at 11:14 pm

  7. Marco, there’s lots I like about the Apple site. I have an iPod so I’m there a bit, too. Thanks for the reminder.

    John Kaster

    March 28, 2006 at 11:15 pm

  8. My prefered one is http://www.hp.com
    It’s a very functional website.
    Products are easily accessible and the Knowledge base behind is just great.

    The advantage is also that you don’t need to browse from one site to the other like Borland has for now: http://borland.com ; http://support.borland.com; http://bdn.borland.com … All is in one place and accessible and searchable! 1 Company 1 Site!

    paul dessart

    March 29, 2006 at 12:43 am

  9. I like the Eclipse site at :

    http://www.eclipse.org/

    It is pretty quick to load, the design is very clean, clear and minimalist and (most importantly) it is easily browsable and fully searchable. I’m not what one would readily call a Java or Eclipse guy so they must be doing something right to give me such a good impression! 🙂

    Lurkio

    March 29, 2006 at 1:37 am

  10. The annotated manual on php.net.
    This would be wonderful and would
    help all developers alot.
    It has helped me enormously with PHP.

    Martin Alfredsson

    March 29, 2006 at 2:46 am

  11. http://www.apple.com
    Clean, easy to read, every time that you enter it changes the JPG (is random from various, easy to mantain fresh). There is no "WAIT UNTIL THIS 2MB FLASH IS LOADED BEFORE YOU GET THE REAL SITE".

    Sebastian Ledesma

    March 29, 2006 at 4:24 am

  12. Clean, fast, functional, and most important intuitive and designed for software developers.

    Mikolaj Szabatin

    March 29, 2006 at 4:46 am

  13. http://www.netbeans.org
    Clean, fast, functional, and most important intuitive and designed for software developers.

    Sorry for another comment, forgot to include a link.

    Mikolaj Szabatin

    March 29, 2006 at 4:50 am

  14. The most imprtant thing to me is that the site looks good in all browsers. If I’m using firefox, IE, Safari, or even lynx, I want to be able to acess all the links, and not have text or images that overlap.

    David Dean

    March 29, 2006 at 6:22 am

  15. It MUST allow for proper printing, either by using an alternate stylesheet or by being dynamic enough. I’m tired of printing web pages for later research only to have the last few words of each line cut off because the header graphic was larger than the available print area.

    Steven Kamradt

    March 29, 2006 at 7:17 am

  16. Whatever you do John, don’t use Microsoft’s msdn search engine technology! Talk about getting all the help you never wanted.

    Randy Magruder

    March 29, 2006 at 8:51 am

  17. I like the way digg.com makes more information available at a glance without being as cluttered as slashdot and without having to navigate to different pages.

    I wouldn’t mind looking at BDN’s front page and knowing who wrote which articles, when, how they were rated, how many comments there are and links directly to comments or related material.

    Bruce McGee

    March 29, 2006 at 9:07 am

  18. I was just thinking how the current site has a "80’s Unix Geek" feel to it. Some great sites for that clean look:

    simplebits.com
    9rules.com
    cssvault.com
    iconbuffet.com
    blinksale.com
    microformats.org
    jetbrains.com
    remobjects.com

    1. They all have a clean, focused UI that takes a hard look at putting what is really important out in front of the user.

    2. Mostly free of marketing/industry buzz-words. Attempts are made to actually communicate with people instead of meaningless "industry leader in the deployment of blah blah blah" copy.

    3. Look and feel go hand in hand with usability which in turn affects perception. Many developers I work with have a "if it works, who cares how it looks" attitude but time and time again studies have been shown that appearances *do* count even at a subconscious level. It can’t just work well, it has to look good.

    How many times have you worked months on an application and the first thing a person says is, "I don’t like the icon" or "ohh, I really like the splash screen". When I first fired up Delphi 2006 my first thought was, "Why do Borland’s splash screens always look so horrible? Do they even have a graphic design team?" Upon seeing the Welcome section of BDS2006 I knew no actual designer had seen that page.

    A *great* article on current site design that has a ton of worthwhile points:

    http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/current-style.cfm

    I have always loved Borland tools but am always disappointed that their aesthetic sense in their web pages and tools are always a decade behind.

    Shawn Oster

    March 29, 2006 at 9:24 am

  19. Just fix what’s broken, and change the graphic design once devco has a web design standard in place.

    What’s broken:

    Sometimes, pages are VERY slow to load.

    The comments system appears like it wasn’t designed at all, but just thrown together feature by feature. That part could use a complete makeover by someone with a little more usability focused mindset.

    That said, as long as there is an RSS feed, and new articles keep coming out on a semi-regular basis, I’ll be happy.

    ARMtech User

    March 29, 2006 at 10:18 am

  20. I realized I may have come off a bit harsh on Borland products :). I have to give some credit where it’s due:

    – The packaging for D7 and BDS2006 was *excellent*, thought I was confused why the black/yellow/white color scheme of the 2006 packaging wasn’t carried through to the actual product.

    – Love the toolbar icons in BDS2006 (well, except the centurion head thing)

    – The D7 splash screen was also great.

    – The BDS2006 IDE has some really nice UI touches.

    Shawn Oster

    March 29, 2006 at 10:31 am

  21. Comments are coming in too quickly for me to respond to all of them, but I’m reading them all. Thanks VERY much for your feedback. Most of the features you are mentioning are things that we’re planning, so it’s really great to get confirmation. Some of these new features will be surfaced very soon, so feel free to also put your suggestions in QualityCentral for the BDN project website area. This is the top level for it: http://qc.borland.com/qc/wc/qcmain.aspx?da=24073

    John Kaster

    March 29, 2006 at 11:02 am

  22. One site that I really like is http://www.iht.com.
    There is one article per html page, but it’s divided into multiple sheets of three columns each. There is no vertical or horizontal scrolling; rather, the user clicks the last column to switch to the next sheet.

    Hard to describe, but a joy to read.

    Ed Vander Hoek

    March 29, 2006 at 11:07 am

  23. A number of people have mentioned PHP’s comments feature – I agree this is great. The only problem with everyone being able to add comments is that everyone does, and a lot of the comments left behind by people trying to be helpful can be misleading or contain bad code examples (bad in style or security or safety or bad in ignorance of better ways to do it or…). I would really, really like to see a comments system available, but I think it would be worthwhile differentiating comments made by user to comments that have been looked at by a Borland person or other knowledgeable person and marked as ‘good’, for whatever definition of good.

    Also, it could be worth making it a condition of commenting that the comment including code samples can be incorporated by Borland into the article itself. That way, if someone posts something really insightful or useful, the documentation team can roll that material into the documentation. As a reader I’d want to see good quality information in the article / help item itself, rather than in a comment. (I find current help to be lacking in useful information, and this would be a good way to kickstart adding information back in.)

    David M

    March 29, 2006 at 3:33 pm

  24. Whilst the front page of this site is often a little cluttered trying to fit in as much of the latest news, if you look at each news article, and how the context-menu’s on the right work, its a very nicely organised site:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/

    The site is a simple layout without much space lost in headers and menu, and is fast to load. Viewing each article provides a list of other articles of interest in the same area/field/relationship, which might be nice for similar articles in the BDN, to see others closely related or newly posted in the area this article is providing information.

    Regards,

    Scott 🙂

    Scott Price

    March 30, 2006 at 1:19 am

  25. Hi,

    I’ve always been a fan of Ray’s Raize Components website. It’s fast, has a clean UI and it’s easy to navigate. http://www.raize.com.

    Also, I find parts of the RemObjects site to be good, specially the Article view (with its nice Printable View and cool tip sections). http://www.remobjects.com

    Finally, I really like EMS Hitech’s site for product sales/presentation. Check out http://www.sqlmanager.net/en/products/mssql/manager . It is probably the best designed site I’ve seen for selling shrink-wrap shareware products. It combines easy navigation, a great deal of relevant information and a consistent feel.

    Best Regards,

    Tom Reiertsen

    Tom Reiertsen

    March 30, 2006 at 4:32 am

  26. http://msdn1.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx

    Is simple, fast and easy to see.

    Jose Castillo Reyes

    March 30, 2006 at 6:12 am

  27. Examples of sites I like: MSDN site. They layout is clear and clean. DevExpress has a great site with nice a support interface. Automated QA also has a nice site.

    My biggest complaint about the BDN site is how to locate downloads/updates. There seems to be several places to go to find these. And to find the Registered user updates you have to go to the main Borland page and locate the small download button (as far as I can tell). Information seems (to me) to be spread out and difficult to find.

    Bob Fisher

    March 30, 2006 at 8:25 am

  28. http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/current-style.cfm
    Actually Shawn pointing to a web design site really pointed something out to me about web design:

    I like this site for the following reasons

    Keep it simple.
    Keep it simple.
    Keep it simple.

    I looked a most of the other entries above. They suffer the following maladies:

    They try to do to much.
    They are putting way too much on one page
    My eyes gloss over when I look at the myriad of selections, panels, and hyperlinks.

    My recommendation: keep it simple.

    James Muir

    April 5, 2006 at 3:58 am

  29. Thanks for the link James. Definitely a site worth perusing.

    John Kaster

    April 5, 2006 at 9:57 am

  30. BTW, why DevCo, why not dool old Inprise if "Borland" is lost to You?

    Arioch

    October 31, 2006 at 11:02 am


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