Some NetBeans.org Updates
By seapegasus on Mar 19, 2010
Here is what's new on netbeans.org in the last month, from an information design point of view. Have a look and tell me whether these improvements work for you!
NetBeans Community: Lists & Forums index -- Radically shortened. We kept adding info and FAQs until the index grew unwieldy and partially redundant.
For instance, beginners could not tell which of the lists they should join. So we added a "Beginners start here" introduction, suggesting three lists appropriate for beginners. But there were no "subscribe" buttons, you had to remember the list names, click to go to the list overview, click again, search, click again... Not good. If the list overview grows so unwieldy that it needs an introduction page, I must improve the list overview itself, not the introduction.
NetBeans Community: Mailing Lists -- That's the mailing list overview I'm talking about.
- I split the first section in two: A short general News&Support section, and a longer section with technology interest lists. The News&Support section in the beginning is what we recommend to first-time users: Weekly newsletter, release announcements, the nbuser support list.
- After you got the hang of NetBeans, you can come back and sign up to additional technology interest or developer lists, ...
- ... or join Community lists for team efforts such as Community Docs, or the beta testing program NetCAT (that you can still join). There are also community lists for various languages.
NetBeans Docs & Support: Tutorial Archive -- Added new categories (e.g. C/C++ and PHP) and also updated descriptions. Made sure all current (new and updated) NetBeans 6.8 tutorials are included.
Interesting statistical fact: For each release, the NetBeans doc writers publish enough new tutorials (or update existing ones) that we could feature one doc on the front page (and RSS feed) every workday. Wow! Currently, we feature three a week.
NetBeans in Education -- The main section of the page contained a lot of info gathered over time, but here it was easy to see two types of information: news items, and teaching materials.
The difference being: News is something you read once, to get a feel for the topics covered and to judge the liveliness of this group in the recent time period. Teaching materials however are something you return to for each class; here the temporal order in which the materials were added is less important than the technology they are teaching.
I'm also making certain that link texts contain content words. Seriously. Linked words catch my attention, and all I get are empty word shells? What a waste of highlighting. So I'm on a warpath to eradicate all link texts saying nothing but "here", "now", and "this"! Also, from an accessibility standpoint, sight-impaired people's screenreaders read out a list of all links on a page. In the worst case all they hear is "Click here! here! here! this! this!" :-P Uncool, eh? If you know a blind developer, more news about NetBeans Accessibility is coming up soon.