For the past few months, I've been toying with the idea of writing a full usability review for tribe.net. My motivation was partly to let them know what I thought they needed to fix, and how. And it was also partly so that I could use this usability review as a resume piece (not only for applying at Tribe, but other companies as well).
I was composing a general outline in my head, and keeping a running tally on the various improvements that needed to be made, and how to best apply them. But nothing was committed to writing yet.
Then Tribe put a link of their sidebar trying to get people to check out their own home page redesign prototype. They also had a survey and a "talk about the preview" tribe set up to capture users' impressions of the proposed change. I was somewhat relieved to see that I was not the only one who thought the new design sucked arse. It didn't fix any of the problems I had identified, and it broke a lot of the things that were good about the old design.
My negative reaction to seeing this prototype was enough to motivate me to site down and finally commit to writing the usability review that I had been composing in my head all this time. And, since it's often much easier to understand something when you see it instead of just reading about it, the usability review would need to be accompanied by a demo of how the site would look and work if my suggestions were implemented.
So I blew off the plans I had for the weekend, worked a few all-nighters, realized that the code behind their redesign had changed as well (also for the worse), and rebuilt their entire home page and the structural logic behind it from scratch. Finally, three days and far too few hours of sleep later, the home page is finished.
Of course, I still have to redesign all of the internal pages and finish writing the usability review itself. And I may also need to write a style guide for my demo version, so that if they do decide to implement it they don't have to reverse-engineer what I have done.
But while I'm working on that part of the project, I thought I'd post a screenshot of what I've got so far, so y'all can get a sneak peek at what I'm up to.
I'm terribly tempted to also submit this screenshot and a few of my reasons behind it to the preview tribe now, while everyone is still talking about it. But ultimately, I think it will be better to wait until the rest of the demo is functional as well, and it has the full weight of the usability review behind it. That way it comes across as a well thought out approach to the problem, instead of a "me too, me too" kind of thing.
Regardless, though, it feels great to finally be working on a real project again! I can feel long-neglected synapses sputtering and firing back into action again every time I get a tricky bit of code working. With any luck, finishing this review will give me the renewed self-confidence needed to get cracking on my Ethos project.