Monday, June 30, 2014

An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast, RE: Your New Website

To Whom It May Concern,

I would like to introduce myself: My name is Eric and I'm a professional web developer/website manager who at one time worked on a government website during their upgrade period. I'd like to say I know a thing or two about launching a new website. My job for almost 3 years was pretty much preparing sites for launch and maintaining them after. I have almost 5 years of professional experience in actual IT jobs and I've been playing with websites since I was 12. I think it's safe to say I know websites and webdesign.

That being said, what you did at the time you did it was grossly unprofessional. You sacrificed quality for a flashier website. What you had was great. It was simple, it had a great look, and the best part of it was this: IT WORKED. On the eve of M15 spoiler season, you threw a new website onto the internet and it is clear you didn't put any testing or developing into it. It has become apparent that you rushed the "go live" date instead of actually working on it.

I could understand if one or two things didn't work, like if the Wizards of the Coast logo was green instead of its normal bluish-purple and if one or two article links take you to a screen that is just red. But no, that isn't what's wrong. It's much more worse than a couple color errors and broken links. Let's take a walk through your website, shall we?

Look at that shiny banner? Awesome right? You've got your article title, the name of the column, and author, and the date it was published. And you know what? You're description is a bit off. You're describing the M15 Image Gallery. Naturally the link goes the Gallery and not this wonderful new article with a much anticipated preview of a Planeswalker. Provided we find the link, let's look at the article itself.

Looking good until... we get a link that doesn't match the rest of the page styling and... Oh look! The spoiler image which some people saw minutes before and saved has magically disappeared from whatever folder you store your images in. More than one hour in and tweets from many fans (including out Twitter account) and it still isn't fixed. Weird.

And the icing on the cake is I have no idea what "The Jace That Will Not Be Named" actually is because the link takes you to Gatherer where it literally searches the words in that phrase. I can only assume we're talking about Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but when you edit these articles, it could easily have been set to pop up with JTMS in the image you get when hovering and also take you to this page on Gatherer when you click it. Seriously, it's not that hard. I'm using the free software Blogger/Blogspot has built in and you guys probably paid good money to have your site built so having that work shouldn't be such a big issue.

And while we're on the subject, have you even looked at Gatherer?

This is what Gatherer looks like in Firefox that has Ad Block Plus installed but disabled. That's what it looked like in Google Chrome with Ad Block Plus enabled, but once I turned it off, it went to how it was supposed to look.

This begs the question: What web browser did you design your site for? I'd say Firefox and Google Chrome are the most popular, but did you consider the popular add-ons and extensions people use? Some people might not think to disable them, but surely there is a work-around that could have been implemented...

I could probably forgive all of that and pass it off as small mistakes and errors that need correcting, but the biggest pet peeve that is absolutely unforgivable is that YOU DID THIS IN THE MIDDLE OF SPOILER SEASON. I stay up past midnight every day just to read the articles and it becomes that much more important during spoiler season. Making it so it updates at 3 AM Eastern during the first three days was just unforgivable. Why did that have to happen exactly? What difference did 3 hours make? Did it take you three days to find the line of coding that made it Midnight Pacific instead of Midnight Eastern? That's why Ctrl+F was invented; it makes it easy to find what you're looking for in a few million lines of code.

When I actually worked on the team that built the pages for a government website update that completely changed the look and feel of the site, we had a target date and our old site stayed live while we worked on a completely different site side-by-side. Hell, we even pushed the "go live" date back a few months because we weren't ready. When it was all said and done, there was a smooth transition. You know what the biggest problem was once it was published? There were several grammatical errors and a few of the button icons were different than what we wanted. Compare that example to the disaster you put up a couple weeks ago.

Needless to say, it is clear you just decided to change the look of the site one day and spent little to no time actually getting it right before publishing, but then again, you guys seems to have a problem with not thinking things through. The best examples that come to mind are Nalathni Dragon and the SDCC Planeswalkers where you decided it would be a great idea to give/sell special promos to people at only one event and no other events that year. Sure you remedied the Nalathni Dragon problem by putting it in The Duelist and then never again created unique cards available only at a select event, except you kind of did it again. The SDCC Planeswalkers looked amazing and for the low price of $40 if you had SDCC tickets far in advance and took the time to wait in line, it was a steal. Buy a couple, keep one, sell the other(s) online for $600+. Then Hasbro put the remaining stock online at some random time and it sold out in minutes. No lottery or anything for people to sign up for the chance to buy it or no fair way to get one. They weren't available anywhere else, it was just too bad if you couldn't get one.

This is a habit that needs to stop. You leap before considering the outcome. You just put out an unfinished website and just hoped it would work and that people would like it. Maybe you put some work into the interface/look, but you clearly didn't finish before publishing it. I hope you didn't actually pay anyone to build your new site. If you did, I'd ask for a refund. If you actually have paid staff that built it, why did you hire them? Why did you even let them build this crap? Or is this "management's fault" for making deadlines sooner and expecting results within unrealistic amounts of time?

Either way, this is a disaster and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Hopefully you take a few lessons away from this:

1. Think before you actually do anything.
2. It is perfectly okay to push deadlines like a new website back. We won't think less of you if it works perfectly when it's done.
3. If you have to make drastic changes, don't do it during the middle of a spoiler season.

If I missed something, I'm sure someone will add things to the comments below, but I'm pretty sure I covered the bases of what you did wrong.

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