runescape.com – something that most of you reading will visit daily. The website for RuneScape over time has undergone numerous changes taking it from a simple website to a website that is fit for a large MMORPG. When RuneScape 3 was released the website was once again updated to a new visual style. There were a couple structural and flow changes but these for the most part remained largely the same. A website’s structure can be thought of as the bare bones skeleton that governs how information is displayed. A website’s flow can be described as the path that a user takes in order to accomplish a certain task. This month I’m going to look at flow enhancements on the main page, structural ease of use improvements, and how the new hiscores could have been the centre piece of the website.
Once a user decides that they don’t want to view the new splash page anymore (which is quite informative) they are taken to the website they’ll see day after day. There are two major flow changes that I want to discuss in this section. They are both logical changes that make browsing the website more pleasurable.
One of the major flows that was shortened with this update was the action of viewing pertinent account information. Previously a user would be required to log in (and be taken to a separate login page) and then access this information through the account centre. The old account centre had a rather obtuse design for someone coming from the main website. Jumbled in the list of menu options was strangely the adventurers log going to show how cumbersome it was to get at this information. Now all a user needs to do is hover over the “Account” menu item and they can access subscription details, account information, and the loyalty programme to name a few. The greatest aspect of this is that all of these features are now accessible within 1-2 clicks of each other.
The second flow change that I’d like to highlight is very useful to me each week when producing RSBANDBUpdate! This change happened in the lower third of the page and takes place when a person clicks the “More News” button. The more news button generates a list of news articles that go backwards in time. More news can be loaded dynamically into the same page meaning that it is certainly possible to have a long list of news items. These items can be read in one sitting without needing to change pages. Previously it was hard for me to see what news had happened in the entire week. Sometimes we like reporting on odd news postings and this allows for them to all be seen in one convenient page. What’s more is that the news postings can be filtered based on type. Type based filtering is good for searching for that elusive Behind the Scenes posting from a couple months ago that gets brought up every 6 months on our show. Finally before moving on from this topic I was very excited to see that there’s now a proper archive feature that lets someone search the depths of the 11+ years of news postings on a month by month basis. Let’s see what happened in June 2004!
We’ve already talked about a couple of ways that the new website helped to improve the way we access information, now it’s time for structure. The main news area of the website remains largely unchanged from a structural point of view. It’s the classic two column view with one used for a main list and the other for auxiliary items. Just above this however, represents a major change.
This is what I would like to call the quick access pane. This was one of the features that was highlighted in the website behind the scenes video and it makes sense that it was highlighted. This pane represents either a list of areas that those visiting access frequently or areas that Jagex would like to highlight. This division is explicitly clear. In the above screenshot the top three buttons represent Jagex initiatives: Bonds, subscribing for membership, and helping out with the HTML5 beta. The bottom three represent areas that the player goes to frequently: Old School, the Grand Exchange, and the forums. But wait! Just wait a minute! What have we got here?!?
Notice the arrows on the bottom three tiles? A player can customize these tiles to their liking. The tiles persist across browser session which makes them a valuable tool for navigating the website. I’ve customized mine to the bestiary, grand exchange, and hiscores.
This major structural change to the website has allowed for an entire new set of flows to be created. Jagex can use this new flow to promote certain initiatives of their own. At the same time the player can customize the flow via their own browser to allow access to areas of the website that they deem important. The affordance of making a large structural change like this allowed for two new flows to be created. Both of which are customizable by various parties (Jagex and the player). When a change of this magnitude is made it validates an entire website re-design.
The whisker update was perhaps the most anticipated feature of the new website by the community. For the longest time the hiscores consisted of the same people sitting at the top. The only time this would change is when a new skill came out, which prior to Divination was in April 2010. This lead to the creation of the community hiscores, a hiscore table that would update every couple weeks with new content. In the two months since the release of the new website we’ve seen hiscore tables for things such as Red Imp kills, Stealing Creation, Wilderness PvP kills, Solo Zilyana kills, and a couple for Super September. While these keep the tables fresh and give people a chance to succeed where normally they couldn’t, more could have been done.
For the longest time a comprehensive high score system has fallen to the fan sites to implement. RSBandB among others run community high scores. Our current feature set outpaces what Jagex has available for a player to evaluate themselves. While we value having something unique the system could be so much more if Jagex were to implement something like it. As an example it’s super easy on RSBandB to see how much experience someone or a group of people have gained in a specific time period. It’s also possible to see recent achievements. Features like these are just the tip of the iceberg and it would have been nice to see some more work on the individual player tables.
There is hope for the future on this front though. If a player looks into the social tab in game it is possible to see a section called “Activity Stream” that has not been released yet. This feature has been pending since the launch of the New Interface System alpha test and we’ve not heard anything from Jagex as to what it will do. The name implies it’s a stream based on in game activity and it could very possibly be tied to the hiscores and adventurers log. With an interface in game to check up on friends it only makes sense that it is possible that such an interface will come to the website. With a few changes and the addition of the activity stream it’s entirely possible that the new hiscores could become the centre piece of the RuneScape website.
Overall the new website that shipped with RuneScape 3 is a great improvement. It is a progressive rather than regressive web design. A regressive website design can happen when too much emphasis is put on the actual graphical design (art) of the website or flows and wireframes are not planned properly. This act of improper planning and focusing on graphical design happens all too often with new “web designers”. If you’re reading this and are interested in web design, remember this point. It’s a life saver and has helped to create a great new RuneScape website.