Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Return to of

It's been a bit since I posted...we've been really busy cranking away on a new site at Terracotta, and it's finally out.

I'm really pleased with the site, I hope our users are too. The goals for the site were:

  1. Simple
  2. Clean
  3. Professional
and of course, useful! :)

What's New

Everything, really :). Well, not everything, but a lot. On the graphics side of things, we added a lot of JQuery magic. Not so much for the magic itself, but to make the user experience more pleasant. Where possible, popup windows and user transitions have been replaced by images that zoom in place, and drop-down panels that help keep the focus where it should be - on the task at hand.

Also of note, although it's of little practical use now, I implemented a nice CSS effect for our menus that allows for them to look 3d and stylish but only requires one simple transparent png (no, I don't care about IE6. It's disgusting). It's basically a minor modification of the transparent text effect described here in this blog post. I'll probably write this up as a separate post.

But really, we didn't focus that much on the look or the feel, but the design. The look and feel came primarily from the design, and the goals, so we knew when something worked, and when it didn't. If it was distracting, complicated, or busy, it didn't make the cut. I bet I'll be blogging about the design process before long.

Here's a brief preview of some of the new design elements:

Clean Simple Menu

Pretty self evident I think.

Process Oriented Site Flow

Well, pretty hard to miss, really. I hope it doesn't get any easier than 1) 2) 3) 4).

Simple Controls, My Terracotta

Main controls are on every page, easy to find, but hopefully unobtrusive until you need them. Also this is the preview of "My Terracotta" - expect more.

Drop Down Panels

As I mentioned, drop down panels help get stuff done without leaving the context. I think a site shouldn't need Help, but we added it anyway. We all really hope it's unnecessary, but if it helps just one person, it's worth it. We're really committed to getting everyone successful with Terracotta.

Lots of new content

As I said, we worked really hard on trying to capture how someone should come to Terracotta, learn and understand it, integrate, test, tune, deploy and operate it. The design and the process are integral to the site - so much so that we even embedded some process diagrams to anchor where the user is in the site.

Architecture Patterns

Finally, we put some massive effort into capturing and describing successful architecture patterns, and how they work with Terracotta. There's a whole section devoted to describing these patterns, and there is a lot more on the way.

Go check it out for yourself, we're live at We'd love to hear your feedback.