We launched a major refresh of the ASP.NET website today. It was really exciting to be a part of the update process, working with lots of very talented people including Scott Guthrie and Scott Hanselman. It’s a pretty major update, including:
- New site-wide design
- Redesigned Home page and Getting Started sections which streamline the experience for those who are new to ASP.NET
- Revised and updated content areas for both ASP.NET Web Forms and MVC
- Reviewed, re-categorized, and where appropriate, archived tutorial and video content. That was a pretty major undertaking, as some of that content had been around since ASP.NET 2.0
As you’d expect, Scott Hanselman has a great overview of what’s changed site-wide, but I’d like to highlight a few areas I was most involved with – the MVC Content area and a major update to the Community Projects / Open Source page.
The ASP.NET MVC section was the new kid on the block on the ASP.NET website, so the asp.net/mvc page had less of a visual change than many of the other top-level pages. A lot of the work was in streamlining and prioritizing content, so you can (hopefully) find what you want faster, and there are new video introductions like Scott’s How Best To Learn ASP.NET MVC.
Here’s what it used to look like – content links on top, blog posts on the bottom, book links on the right.
In addition to cleaning up and updating the top content, we merged in the top asp.net/mvc/learn content now, and moved the blog content to the community page. This should increase the content relevance and point you towards more video / tutorial content by topic.
We made substantial changes to asp.net/mvc/learn. The previous page hit you with a wall of text and links, and the sub-pages were more of the same. It was a lot of information, but it wasn’t really categorized or prioritized in a way that helped you find what you were looking for. I reviewed literally hundreds of pages of content (video and tutorial) to categorize, pick the top content to feature on top level pages, and find outdated content that should be archived.
Here’s how the asp.net/mvc/learn page used to look:
Now that we’ve got the categories links on the asp.net/mvc page, they link to specific focus areas, like this asp.net/mvc/fundamentals page:
Keeping in mind that ASP.NET MVC 2 is due out soon, you should expect more changes here. For instance, I’ve been working hard on a new tutorial project with Scott Guthrie that will be finished soon, and I’ll be publishing a series of videos and tutorial articles covering that.
The new Open Source / Community Projects Page
Honestly, I’m most excited about one page in the site: the Open Source ASP.NET projects page. I got to run with this one, gathering input from a lot of open sourcey folks at Microsoft, compiling tons of links and project descriptions, and working with project owners when they didn’t have a published “Twitter pitch” description of their site published.
This page is not beautiful – it’s a long list of links and text. We’ve got some future changes to the site that will help us with the presentation, but as it is now, I’ll admit that it’s not a beautiful webpage.
And yet, it’s a thing of beauty. It made my day to see this kind of thing on Twitter: “Wow, an official Microsoft website listing open source tools for .NET. Didn’t think I’d see the day.” There’s a great open source community around ASP.NET open source, and it’s great to get the word out. This kind of thing is what the ASP.NET community is all about.
Yes, this kind of effort is fraught with peril. There are tons of .NET open source projects out there, how do we manage the list, adding relevant projects and keeping them updated as they change names every week (oh, you silly open source folk, you)? I’m still figuring that out. I was warned this would be a challenge, and I accept it wholeheartedly, because it’s important. The alternative – not doing the page because it’s hard – is much worse.
Let me know if I missed any that you think are important. I can’t add every project to the list, or it’ll grow large and useless, but I do want to make sure we capture a good sample.
Note: I put a lot of work into this page, but it wouldn’t have been part of this release without Terri Morton’s help. She really saw the value in it and helped push it through when it really could have slipped from this release – thanks, Terri!
Is the site perfect? No, it’s not. But I hope you’ll agree that it’s a lot better. We’ve got a lot more planned for this year, and this is the first step.