Wednesday May 27, 2009

Deploying Sun's Latest "Advanced Download Widget"

I first wrote about our forays into "1-click" downloading a while ago (could it really be two years already?), and as that post noted, there were significant limitations in our first 1-click widget. We had to take on some higher priority projects that delayed our ability to address the limitations for a while, but as you'll see, we're now solidly back on track. 

While I don't work full-time on downloads any more, I am still the Product Manager of the Sun Download Manager (SDM) and of course remain very well-connected with the Download Team. As such, I was asked by Alfred Chen, the current Download Team Lead, if we could try out the latest version of the "advanced download widget" (ADW) on the SDM download page. SDM remains one of our most popular downloads so would get plenty of traffic for "real world" experience and also met the criteria for the new ADW. I was glad to say "Yes," and we went live with it several weeks ago. 

One of the main limitations of the original 1-click release was that it worked for one file and one file only. The new ADW now accommodates multiple platform and language options so is much more versatile.  It even "auto-detects" your platform and language and will pre-select the appropriate option when available. Once platform (and if available, language) are selected, it automatically pushes the correct binary for 1-click downloading. Here's a screen shot of the new widget:

Sun Download Manager Advanced Download Widget

You can try it out for yourself by downloading SDM.

There's more work to do, however -- ADW still does not support optional or required registration, so that's the next set of enhancements. They are underway and if all goes well will be released this summer. I have previously touted the virtues of optional registration, and there are several places on Sun now where we're using this with very good results. For example, on the Glassfish Download Page, there is an optional registration "pop-in" widget that comes up when you click the Download button. This illustrates a new twist on "optional download registration," as it includes the added incentive of receiving an informative white paper for registering. Being optional, you can just close this out and the download will start automatically (there's that 1-click functionality again!), but many customers are taking advantage of the white paper offer. So they get a white paper and the Glassfish download, and we get valuable customer information. 

Glassfish optional reg component

While this new model is working great, the Glassfish implementation is frankly a "one-off". What the next version of ADW will provide is a standard way of doing this across Sun sites with minimal effort. I'm really looking forward to this new functionality and think it'll be a great win for both Sun and our customers.  It continues the march towards our goal of seamlessly integrating the download experience directly into the web pages you're on, rather than forcing customers to "move" between the web site and the "download system." 

Friday May 08, 2009

Sun's Personalization Design Evolves

In my last post, I displayed an image of a new display widget for personalized content on sun.com web pages. I noted it was a draft, and with good reason -- nobody was ready to sign off on the design at that point! The main issue was that it took up a considerable amount of the most valuable "above the fold" space on sun.com pages, and the content owners weren't enthralled with having their content pushed down the page. Our excellent design team mulled this over quite a bit and came back with what we feel is a great compromise design. (I am a big proponent of "compromising" and try to do so whenever reasonable, so that all parties feel relatively satisfied with an outcome. That's probably one of the reasons I'm about to celebrate my 24th wedding anniversary! But I digress...)

Here's a wire frame of the new solution. ("Wire frame" refers to more of an "outline" picture of the solution, not the final coded and realized design. Ignore the numbers -- they cross-reference content in a design specification. While we have the final design complete and coded, I'm not at liberty to preview it publicly just yet. Suffice it to say this wire frame has been translated into a very cool new widget!)


new recommendations widget

So here we see the recommendations as more of an overlay rather than a full page-wide component. This offers the immediate advantage of making it readily clear there is content behind the widget (and in fact you can still see the whole left hand top of the page), and no content had to be pushed down the page. It's also attention grabbing, and we do want customers to notice the personalized recommendations we have for them. We keep the fashionable "carousel" functionality so that you can click to see more recommendations, and we make it readily apparent how to close the recommendations to view the content underneath. Once closed, it'll remain in a closed state until the user opens it again or until the cookie that tracks this preference expires or is removed.

I'd be remiss in not acknowledging and thanking the design team that worked so hard to find not just a workable solution, but what I think is an excellent solution as well: Margaret Brown, Chris Haaga, Sara Shuman, and Andrew Payne.

Now that I've whet your appetites, you're probably wondering when this will be live. Sorry, I can't publish dates for functionality that we're still building, but suffice it to say we're making great progress.

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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