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Nerd Watching: Official D&D Website Overhaul

Written by Nicholas - Published on October 4, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

Most visitors to WotC’s official D&D site would agree that the place needed a new coat of paint. The site looked dated. It was not designed to mesh with the new suite of Insider tools. It just needed a face lift. Well, it got one. I just wish that I had nicer things to say about the new look.

Overload!!

I first visited the site on a hotel wireless connection, making the bandwidth heavy nature of the site painfully obvious. Now that I’m back on a decent connection it doesn’t bug me, but this will be a bad change for those of you stuck on slower connections.

I think what bugs me is the source of the slow loading. The whole top of the site is given over to essentially a rotating ad. It isn’t a featured articles section, it is really just advertising different products. Even the one bit of real content, the assassin preview, takes more space proclaiming that it is an insider exclusive than it does to say what the content is. You need to scroll down to find anything you might actually be looking for. Sadly the advertising doesn’t stop there. There are several more blocks on the site devoted to existing and upcoming products. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with advertising, in fact I’m often interested in the upcoming products. But even as their ideal consumer, I think it is just too much and is at the expense of the real content.

What I Want to See

I got the D&D official site for three reasons. The first is to see the new articles and features. That block of new articles is still mostly the same. It serves its function well enough just as it always has. The second reason is to check the calender for upcoming articles, updates and releases. Again, the calender is the same with a face lift. The third reason is to access the insider content. Here is the site’s only big improvement. The insider’s toolbox is in the right side menu and enables you to download the tools, get a character sheet or launch the compendium in one click from any page of the site. I like that! It’s just annoying that it is surrounded by so much visual clutter on the main page.

The new site isn’t terrible, but it isn’t much of an improvement either. It is a shame to see so much hard work go into what is essentially a side step. There is just too much on the site and most of it doesn’t serve the average D&D player.

Some Good News

I am excited about an announcement that came coupled with the new site. Dragon, Dungeon and the other website features are shifting from a Monday, Wednesday and Friday update schedule to a Monday through Friday one. This is partially accomplished by a shift towards more frequent, shorter articles. I think this is a good move. The magazine articles often feel rather bloated to me and often about things that just don’t affect my game. With more articles they will be hitting on more topics so I’ll get to read about things that interest me more often. I am in full fanboy mode to see what the future holds for this new format.

What do you think of the new D&D site? Technical triumph or bloated billboard?

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

 

 Comments

18 Responses to “Nerd Watching: Official D&D Website Overhaul”
  1. Person says:

    the site is a mess! it’s impossible to find things now, and, while the old site was bad, this is terrible, and where are the tabs on the left you could open up to take you places? those were very useful for navigating it, yet they called it a navigational nightmare, which really describes the new one! and where is the 3.5e archive that wos so nice, along with all those older tools? gone. just gone. they also made it harder to find older sets of previews and excerpts by making it nicer aesthetically but toning down funcionality!

  2. Person says:

    oops, meant was

  3. Pharen says:

    Actually, I really like the new site. Navigation is clear: If you need player resources, you click “Player”, same goes for DM’s. I’m not a subscriber so I’m not sure how good that is, but since the article states that this is the only improvement, I’m just assuming its pretty nice too.
    The only thing I wouldn’t have done is place the “Recent Articles” and “Game Products” columns on the Player and DM pages, since they are on the Homepage (which you’ll usually visit first) anyway.
    @Person: I think you find it hard to find stuff because you were used to the old site, not because the new is that bad.

    Wizards gets some thumbs up from me.

  4. I did a count, and the new D&D site is a whopping 2.4MB load. About 786KB of that is the rotating ad area. That’s a full two minutes on my broadband, and over eight minutes on dialup.

    2.4MB is absurd for a website. Most are under 1MB, and a substantial proportion are under 0.5MB.

    Another problem: They’re still using 9pt font, the same as ten years ago. However, ten years ago most people used 800*600 screen resolution, while a lot of people now use more than double that (1680*1050 or 1920*1080). 9pt has gone from “adequate” to “small print”.

    There’s also not enough margin on text areas.

  5. Granger44 says:

    Put me down in favor of the new look of the D&D website. The new navigation tabs and quick links make a lot of sense to me. I put it to use right away as a player asked me for a ruling; I was pretty quickly able to find the FAQ question and answer I was looking for as well as some forum posts on the issue. Before, I always felt like I was sifting through a lot of pages just to get this kind of information, so I was especially happy with that facet of the new web site design.

    I also like that that Insider content is available from the front page. @Nicholas: Do you have an example of what you’d have done better for the Insider content?

    Finally, they solved my biggest pet peeve about the old site’s design. It always seemed like I was having to login (or even re-login) to make sure I could see the Insider exclusive content. With the new site, I’ve only logged in once since it was launched.

  6. Nicholas says:

    @Granger44: I like the new Insider’s Toolbox, but it just feel like it’s buried on the bottom of the page. I think that and the new articles section need to be more prominent.

  7. Gromy says:

    And by the way, The Add doesn’t work on Google Chrome nor on my FireFox, so you download a massive shot on things just to do nothing with it.

    But in a bright side, there’s now a RSS feed of the articles (if there was one before, never find it out)

  8. Veljko says:

    It looks better, but the usability is shot to hell. The consumer service section had an infinite redirect loop and it takes ages to get what you need. What’s the point of all the advertising. If I’m on the site it may be assumed I am favorably disposed toward D&D. There’s really no need to ply me with immense jpegs.

    And of course, for me personally, there is the enormous snafu with the billing section which makes it impossible to buy a D&DI subscription if you are from Serbia. Apparently they forgot to put us on the country list. It’d be funny if it weren’t insulting.

  9. Nicholas says:

    Oh yeah, one thing I forgot. I like that it keeps you logged in now, but the log out button doesn’t work at all. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except that I used my personal email for Insider and my Dungeon Mastering email for the community section. I have to clear my cookies to change logins.

  10. Personally I dislike it, the big advertising banner on the top of the page takes up way to much space. I have to go below the fold to get to any new content they aren’t advertising.

    It actually came at a great time as we’re in the process of discussing layout for our site, so I can point to it and say “I don’t want this.”

    Unfortunately as I am not a frequent user of the site I can’t compare it to the one of old. I feel it’s a step in the right direction but not quite there yet.

  11. Kelsey says:

    If someone is keeping count, put me in the “I like the new site” column. It loads quickly in my FireFox browser. I think the layout is more intuitive and I like that DDI stuff is more clearly labeled. I’ve also noticed that downloading PDFs is now easier as well.

    On the down-side. I think it stinks that now most of the art galleries are DDI only. Doesn’t affect me as a subscriber but I know some people were pretty upset. WotC has the right to do whatever they want with their property, but people get mad if you take away their free stuff.

    @Person – On the bottom of the page you will see D&D Extras. Under that is a link for 3rd Edition Archive. It’s not gone, just moved.

  12. Person says:

    Thanks

  13. Dan says:

    I personally think the new look to the site is okay, but I cannot navigate in the new site to save my life.

    I also miss the little boxes at the bottom of the page that showed similar articles.

    Also, is it just me, or do none of the gallery images load up into a larger size when in the Gallery section.

  14. DandDGuy says:

    Good site I like the layout very easy to use. However, Paying for a subscription, “Come on guys if you are paying for this when you can find it in other sites for FREE!! You are just fueling what they want you to do. If the wanted to actually sell their product the site would be FREE to use and You should not HAVE to pay 72.00 a year at the basic level. most gamers that I know don’t have a lot of money to begin with. That is the only fault that I see with the site their are other flaws with the site but they are technical and unimportant at the moment. If you want to waist your money on a subscription to this site instead of spending it on necessities Like FOOD and BILLS and other Day to Day Expenses Go ahead and do so but keep in mind that you may need it later.

  15. DandDGuy says:

    This is the ultimate web site for any role-playing game enthusiasts. It comprehensibly lists all of the Role-playing web sites that are out their on the internet along with RPG blog web site and others. If you look you can find any thing you want on the world wide web.

  16. Veljko says:

    @DandDGuy
    I couldn’t disagree more. For the subscription (which is in no way required to play D&D — it can still remain a purely unplugged affair) you get access to some rather nice tools and a compendium of all the game books which is indexed & searchable. I imagine this would be of great use, especially for game masters (some actual user can set me right on this one). I’d love to pay for it. I just can’t.

  17. DandDGuy says:

    If you want full access to the site and most RPG players would you have to pay to have access to those areas go back and look at the site again its not FREE.

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