Profile Page Updates
Many of you have noticed and commented on the site updates that went live on Thursday, October 20, which included substantial design changes to the member profile page. The profile page is near to many of your hearts as the front door to your substantial investments in Instructables, and while some have found these changes disturbing, we believe that they're very much in the community's best interests. I wanted to reach out just to let you know that we have given the new design a great deal of thought and attention, and to share with you some of the reasons behind the changes.
First, to clear up some ambiguity about the current state of affairs:
The public member profile is stage one of two major changes to the site that will work together. Stage two, which is well underway but not released yet, involves the private profile page (currently the "you" page) and will make access to aspects of your presence on the site much more accessible. Full lists of your own content will soon be available on a full-featured (and much more beautiful) private view of the member page; meanwhile, this content is all available in the "you" section. So the sense that your own content has gone missing is temporary.
Second, the High-Level Goals:
- Clearer, more accessible design. Our old member page, say what you will, had a lot of buttons and options. On the whole, we know that most people don't take the trouble to drill down into the various categories. We want to help you all build large audiences of new appreciators, and while an infinitely detailed catalog of an author's content is appropriate for some, the breadth of activity on Instructables can make it difficult for new users encountering the site for the first time to understand what Instructables is about. Fundamentally this is what the new design is for: to help people understand, at a glance, what a given author is up to on Instructables.
- Highlighting Engagement vs Cataloguing Activity. Different people interact with Instructables in different ways, but our member page has never reflected this subtlety. It has always presented the most recent Instructables and comments, even for authors who contribute exclusively to the forums, or through favoriting and following other users. We felt that your activity on Instructables should be presented front and center, because it more evenly describes the way in which you participate in the community. Many members participating in this very discussion have benefitted from this choice, even as they challenge it. Forum posts used to live buried under a tab on the left; now, the contribution of a forum topic can appear right at the top if that's how the author participates in the community. We wanted to see how authors engage, and we felt it was ultimately more important than being able to drill through every piece of historical content hierarchically.
- Audience vs Self. The old profile page served "my view of me" and "my audience's view of me" somewhat evenly. With the changes we've made, and the changes in the pipeline, we're taking a stance. The public page is for my audience, the private page is for me. We're confident the new design better serves authors' audiences, even if it has some weaknesses for the author's own view. The author-centric side is coming, please hang in there!
- Surfacing Older Content. At HQ, we have frequent discussions about the "evergreen-ness" of the Instructables authors post. A great project from 2009 is still a great project, even though the wider internet has a strong preference for "new" over "good". But it's a struggle for us: we can't put every good project on the homepage forever, or new projects wouldn't have a chance. So we have to strike a balance. The new member page helps in this regard: if your old-but-awesome project still gets some attention and activity, it'll show up in your timeline as people favoriting the old project. So your profile becomes a place of discovery, where I can see "whoa, look at that cool thing that this person made 3 years ago!". Previously, the old project would have been buried under several clicks from the landing page, generating almost zero traffic. Add to that the new ability to select "top projects", and you can see that we're trying to help you keep your best projects in the limelight. See new features below.
Third, New Features to Help Authors:
- Top-Five Projects. DIY Projects are at the core of the Instructables experience, and we listened to authors who make different kinds of things, but want to treat their Instructables Profile like a Portfolio. Randofo is one of the community's best-known and prolific Arduino Gurus, but it's a fact that an Arduino Project of his is a much bigger time investment than some of his smaller food projects. In fact, did you know that he's authored 38 food projects? Now, randofo has the opportunity to present his most-relevant work first, rather than leaving it to his audience to figure out. Right now, he seems to be all about Halloween.
- Activity Feed. Love it or hate it, it's here to stay. We felt that having an activity feed on the member page was the most effective way to answer the most important question for a member page to answer: How does this member participate in the community? While that information was certainly available in the old layout, divining it required an audience member to click through all the tabs, reading every piece of content to completion. There was nothing "glanceable" about the information architecture, except perhaps the achievements (which we've kept). We believe that the activity feed, with the "top Instructables" feature in particular, makes it much easier to determine at a glance how a member participates.
Fourth, It's a Living Document:
- We're watching your comments and feedback closely, and I expect that you'll see some pieces that you're missing return. I can't comment on specifics right now, but I know there are some statistics and counters that may have value. We agree, and we'll respond. But there was a whole lot of "extra" information on the page to begin with, and we wanted to start over as cleanly as possible.
- UX & Bugs. With a big feature like this, there are bound to be growing pains. Hopefully, you've already seen some improvement with regard to the delay in setting your "top Instructables" and having those reflected on your page. There's still a little blip, but it's down to about 10 seconds now, vs the 20 minutes when we first released it. Sorry about that! We'll also be looking carefully at how the page looks, making sure that we aggregate activity events such that no one event type (ahem, favorites!) takes over, etc.
That's all for now. Hope having a little context helps put the changes in context. If it can't bring everyone onto the same page, we at least hope that it'll make them a little less out-of-the-blue.
Thank you to you all who have written your comments, and who care so deeply for the community of Instructables!