Wednesday Mar 21, 2007

RSS Feed Provides Notice of New Download Releases



Thanks to some excellent engineering work by Harley Milne, we now have an RSS feed available on our New Downloads page. By subscribing to this feed, you'll be notified whenever a new download is released on Sun Download Center. To subscribe, just grab the feed URL from the small orange RSS icon near the top right of the New Downloads section, as shown here:

RSS feed icon

This offers a very easy and convenient way to be notified whenever new software is released, and I hope it's helpful for our customers.

Note that similar feeds are also available now for the list of Top Sun Software Downloads and Top Java Downloads if those topics are of interest. (I'm not sure how often those lists are updated but believe it's done monthly.)

Wednesday Mar 14, 2007

A New Download System for Sun


We are currently devoting a lot of time and resources towards building an all new download application to replace the one powering today's Sun Download Center (SDLC). Why? Because the current SDLC code base started in 1997, and as you can imagine, that is terribly ancient in Internet Years. After careful analysis, it was determined we should not put more time and effort into trying to make an older system meet today's needs. A new system is needed to provide the flexibility, capabilities, and advanced functionality supporting a "Web 2.0" download experience.

As our current system is pushing tremendous volume, obviously it is a very complex system and cannot be replaced overnight. We've been going through the full process of designing a new system, from business to functional requirements, user experience enhancements, and so forth. (We recently saw the first conference room demo of the new system -- very exciting, it works!)  While initial emphasis has to be on a functional replacement for the current system, we want to put in many usability enhancements as quickly as possible.

I wanted to share one of the new designs, to give a flavor of what we're working on. One of the key challenges with current systems is handling "bundles", which are essentially multiple software products put together in logical bundles to facilitate marketing, selling, and buying. The prime example right now is "Sun's Software Portfolio." As you can see, this provides the user the option to select multiple products for download in one transaction. But when you actually get to the download page itself, we needed a solution to present so many products and links! 

Options discussed included a sequential set of pages -- download product 1, then hit continue to the next one -- but this required a lot of page loads and forced users to download in a set order. Another option was to make one BIG download page with all the products and links from top to bottom, but that's really awkward and difficult at best. After some collective brainstorming, we came up with a new design that we're very pleased with, and Greg Reimer provided some great JavaScript code to make it all work. Here's a mock-up to show the concept:

CDS Download Page


When the page first loads, all of the sections are collapsed -- with one glance, you can see all the products selected for download. Clicking the "+" icon expands to the full download page for that product, as illustrated for "Product 3." When you're done, you can close up that download page section, then expand the next one and so on. This solution eliminates the issues seen with the other options and is one of the many user experience improvements we'll be rolling out in the (hopefully) not too distant future.


About

I helped design, build, and manage download systems at Sun for many years. Recently I've focused on web eMarketing systems. Occasionally, I write about other interests, such as holography and jazz guitar. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/garyzel

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