SPAWN.COM 3.0, THE FULL STORY
Redesign Features Clean Look, Improved Navigation
Friday, November 01, 2002
Spawn.com 3.0 has been live for nearly two weeks now. Hopefully, most of you have explored the new site a bit and familiarized yourselves with where your favorite pages are now located.
Today, we'd like to discuss the new site a little more in-depth, including some of the main new features you'll find on spawn.com 3.0. As an added bonus, make sure to check out the sidebar with the three main architects of the redesign.
For any long-time user of spawn.com, the first thing you'll notice in 3.0 is the elimination of the dreaded pop-up screen. All the informative elements of the pop-up have been incorporated into the spawn.com home page.
Next you'll likely notice the new design. While all of us liked the previous look of spawn.com, the company's expansion into territories further and further removed from Spawn (i.e., sports, music, Shrek, etc.) made it hard to balance the dark, horrific elements of the site with the non-horrific. Thus a new, more neutral design idea was born. The neutral palette allows the images of our various products to speak for themselves, whether they're Spawn, football or Tortured Souls.
And, of course, there's the new navigation. One of the most obvious changes to spawn.com is the menu bars, allowing access to all areas of the site from any individual screen. All major areas of the site are color coded and a navigation bar was included, telling users exactly where they are in the site and providing a clear path back through various levels, rather than dead-end pages.
From an internal perspective, spawn.com 3.0 is also easier to update, allowing staffers to make changes and add content faster.
We do hope you're enjoying the new site and have taken a few minutes to explore. We welcome your feedback. Oh, and check out the sidebar with the site designers for a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes at spawn.com.
Between them, Jerry "Webmaster" Poteet, Donn "Shorty" Felker and Jason "New Guy" Walker are responsible for the vast majority of what users see and experience at the newly redesigned spawn.com. We sat down to talk with them when they were able to catch their collective breath following the relaunch.
Detail, specifically, how long you've been involved in the spawn.com 3.0 process and what your role in the redesign was.
Jerry: The redesign was started in late 2001, so I've been working on spawn.com 3.0 for about a year now. While it hopefully wasn't obvious at the time, the first big chunk of the redesign was actually put into place during Toy Fair 2002. We felt that event would be a good test of the architectural and visual changes we were planning for the rest of the site. Everything went smoothly and the redesign was under way. I have had many different roles throughout the redesign; everything from project manager to Web designer to system administrator to even a bit of programmer. As Webmaster, I've been involved with nearly every aspect of the project. The one thing I ended up doing a lot of was Web design. That wasn't surprising considering that spawn.com is around 4,000 pages! Along with the size of the project and the architectural changes, the other big challenge was getting everything done while also keeping the old site up-to-date.
Donn: Boo-ya! The original design and conception was about a year ago. My role included database conception, design, normalization and creation, and some creative/constructive criticism of the design. I also programmed all database connectivity and all the ASP.NET pages that run the site. (Jason has helped recently with some of this also.) For example, the previous site had thousands of toy pages for the catalog, and I have programmed five pages to run the entire toy site. The entire toy site and many other sections are now dynamic so we can administer spawn.com in a much more efficient manner. So, to sum it all up... I'm the super-geek here.
Jason: I have been involved with the spawn.com 3.0 since September 2002. My role has been to facilitate coding for some of the main pages and sections, such as the Where to Buy section and the online poll. Currently, I work part-time at Spawn, so my time has been dedicated to making things work.
Now that it's up and running, what are your overall thoughts on the redesign?
Jerry: I'm very happy with the way it turned out. I think the enhanced navigation, consistent presentation and streamlined content management we've established have really made the site better for everyone.
Donn: I love the new redesign. To tell you the truth, I didn't like the previous design. Three to four years ago, the previous design was what we needed, but with the size of our site (5000+ pages) it wasn't effective. I couldn't find anything on the site, and it had terrible navigation. We can now find anything we want with one or two clicks. It's very easy to use. Plus spawn.com 3.0 received a facelift which brings a more sleek industrial/clean appearance to the site.
Jason: I like the clean look of the site. Previous to me coming on with Spawn/McFarlane, my biggest issue with the old site was navigation ... or the lack thereof. The new layout and concept allows for viewers to get just about anywhere, at anytime, regardless of where they may currently be within the site.
Is there anything in particular about the new site that you're really enamored of?
Jerry: I think the best change is the menu bar across the top of every page. It really makes it easy to get to the most popular pages. But we've made so many improvements, it's hard to pick just one. I really like the new look in general and I think the larger images throughout the Comics and Entertainment sections are a positive change.
Donn: There is nothing on spawn.com that I haven't done before, so the site is basically just a combination platter of everything that I have experienced in the past. If I were to pick one section that was difficult during the programming process, it would either be the News section or the Comics section. Both sections are completely dynamic and it took a lot of back-end programming to ensure that it would run smoothly.
Jason: I guess the main things I am enamored with are the site navigation and the aesthetic flow of each section. When you are in the features section, you can get to all of them quickly and without much confusion. At the same time, the quick links that are supplied for news articles are nice, so if something doesn't catch your eye while you peruse the site, you have the availability of recent updates and articles a click away.
Along those lines, having had a chance to see it in live operation, is there anything you don't like or would do differently at this point?
Jerry: No, I think the redesign went well and the results are a success. Of course, along the way, we did get a bunch of ideas for further additions and enhancements. That's one of the fun things about running a Web site -- you're never really done with it.
Donn: The only think I'd like to be different for the site would be to have more "cool stuff," such as AIM icons, weird wallpapers, weird screensavers, just stuff that we do here at TMP for fun. A lot of us have to learn new programs, or design software, and some of the stuff we do just for practice is actually rather cool, but never makes it to the public. I want something to give to the visitors, so when they see it the first thing they say is "Oh my god, check this crap out! This is &%*$#*'n cool!"
Jason: A suggestion I have made is to add a section (perhaps in Entertainment) that is dedicated to the creativity of the minds behind spawn.com. Not necessarily items that will make the shelves at your local retailer, but a section that allows the creative voices of our excellent graphics team to detail and expose their individual and combined genius! I mean, come on, some of the graphics that are on this site (and the old site) are awesome!
What's next for spawn.com?
Jerry: One of the bigger upcoming projects is to complete our Toys section. Now that we have the framework in place, we're working to fill it in and create a huge online database of all of our toys.
Donn: I'm hoping for a "cool stuff" type of section. I know the design group has a lot of ideas, and I have a lot of ideas as well. This section is basically our section to have for fun. It could house Todd's sketches when he gets bored, our design projects that never made it out to the public, all of the wallpapers, all of the screensavers, AIM icons, cool Flash movies. ANYTHING!!! Just something for our visitors to participate in. I basically want more user interaction with the site. I want people to feel like they belong at spawn.com, because I sure feel like I belong here. It's all about spreading the wealth of "cool stuff."
Jason: Next on the horizon, for my part, is mostly behind the scenes, making the site more efficient and intuitive. There are still some sections that can be automated to take full advantage of the latest technologies used in business today. Some of our content is static, which takes more time to update week to week, thus removing some of the time for creative exposure to the site. There is also the administration intranet for the spawn.com Web site that will allow any of our graphics or Web development teams to make updates or alterations to the content of the site that I am working on.