Scott Hanselman

RFC: New Beta.ASP.net website

October 10, '11 Comments [55] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC
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http://beta.asp.net Before I worked for the ASP.NET team as I do now, I worked for MSDN. While I was over there, part of my time was spent working on the http://asp.net team. I led the charge to move the site over to Umbraco, and we did. Over the last two years, we have continually made improvements to the .NET (asp.net, silverlight.net, windowsclient.net) sites. In July, the MSDN team announced the release of a new Silverlight site, and today I'm happy to announce the Beta launch of a redesigned ASP.NET website at http://beta.asp.net.

This redesign is still a work in progress, but we wanted everyone to see where we are heading with not just a new look and feel, but also improved organization and navigation that will hopefully make content easier to find. We'll be collecting feedback on UserVoice.

What's new with the redesign

You'll notice that the top-level navigation is similar to the current site (http://www.asp.net/) to keep the familiarity, however we have significantly improved the site design and navigational framework around Learn and Community content in an effort to make it easier to discover and find information on the site. The issue is that there's piles of great content on the site but it's hard to find. Here are some highlights of the redesign:

  • A newer Information Architecture (IA) that scales with different types of content. Trying to get you somewhere useful quickly.
  • Content organized into relevant topic areas (Overview, Videos, Tutorials, etc.) to make information easier to find and to learn a technology.
  • Improved on boarding experience – Developers new to ASP.NET should find it easier to get started and download what they need.
  • Important Samples and Tutorials are positioned prominently in the structure of the site so that they are easier to find.
  • Textual Tutorials are as important as videos - We've heard people want text tutorials more than videos, so we're finding balance between these two kind of content.
  • Improved Social Integration – Community info, pulling from Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
  • A less cluttered user experience to get you where you need to go in fewer clicks.
  • Open Source and Samples - We're looking for new ways to showcase great open source projects and excellent samples.

Next Steps

Not all the content and features are in place yet! The ASP.NET Website team will continue to iterate over the information architecture, layout, and content (with lots of new video and text content) in the coming weeks, and we are targeting to launch the final site by the end of November.

I know, more than anyone, that the #1 piece of feedback has been that folks don't like the ads. You don't need to tell me, as you're preaching to the (powerless) choir. Instead, make yourself heard - both positive and negative - at the ASP.NET Website section of our User Voice site.

I hope you like the site and find it useful. It's at http://beta.asp.net.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, October 10, 2011 7:05:47 PM UTC
Using MVC at its core ?
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:08:10 PM UTC
Just my $0.02: Too CMS-like. Looks like it was created by a developer (overly symmetric). Too much scrolling for top level and secondary level content pages. Compare to: http://developer.apple.com/ where it's clear a LOT of time was spent by actual designers to make the site look good.
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:11:05 PM UTC
First look: half the screen is banner/big buttons instead of content. I do not like that.
What about a mobile view?
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:15:22 PM UTC
Looks great.
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:21:22 PM UTC
I know you mentioned it, but seriously, those ads make Microsoft look cheap. Is MSFT making money of those ads, or is it one of those 'we are promoting some of our partners' deals?
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:22:31 PM UTC
The ads are tacky.
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:23:52 PM UTC
Great to see a fresh design theme for ASP.net In general it reminds me a bit of Vista, don't know if that's the objective but that's what came to mind.

Just a few quick notes that spring to mind while exploring a bit more detail:

- The Sign in | Join link seems out of place(might be just style issue) Its almost as it it's not part of this site

- Once you click a menu item, the menu item is highlighted, the bread crums show the same texe and also the content header shows the same text, removing the bread crums will clean up this repeatative text

- How do you navigate to older items on the homepage? Will this be infinite scroll?

- Its cool to show these big shortcuts to the main items of the site on the homepage but why are there so many other links to the same items? It might be a wise decission to use a bit more progressive disclosure to hide some of the details and move those to more specific landing pages

- The megafone icon for the announcements list is a bit hard to recognize, maybe change it to a single bigger one as background and overlay the list on top of that.

Cheers,
Carlo

Monday, October 10, 2011 7:24:29 PM UTC
Guys, I agree with you on the ads. They aren't there for profit, they keep the site running. I'm working on it.
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:34:44 PM UTC
I agree with Ian, ads are killing it.
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:46:15 PM UTC
The new top nav looks a lot better, never had enough side padding on the selected nav item before.

I see the logos at the bottom just dissapeared.
Betty
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:52:08 PM UTC
Looks pretty clean, with an easy to navigate structure. Really like the part where it's telling you are reading a multi-part article with to the right the other articles.

Well done!
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:54:30 PM UTC
I am getting a couple of server errors.

First, when you go to the download screen and click the "Install Now" button. http://beta.asp.net/downloads

Second, when you click the hosting link.
http://www.microsoft.com/web/hosting/home

Both throw up the generic Runtime Error message.
Anon
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:55:29 PM UTC
Many times when I get to a new site I look at it for a few seconds and then Ctrl-U to View Source.
Too often I am disappointed with the markup I see.
This site was a very pleasant surprise ! Quite clean, pragmatically semantic, under 100 lines and quite small.
Kudos to the website team, and perhaps to Orchard also.

As for the content - I clicked through some of the pages and looked around - very approachable, very fast, very "getting started" oriented which is great - seasoned devs knows where to look for answers - noobs need all the help they can get !

One nice addition to the content types could be to promote team members - personal pages, occasional interview, links to blog posts / relevant tweets. I believe that it help the dev community to be more attached to the product when the people running it have faces
Monday, October 10, 2011 7:58:52 PM UTC
Considering Microsoft has a in-house CMS tool as part of SharePoint 2010 what made you decide umbraco would be the better choice for this site?
Monday, October 10, 2011 8:06:52 PM UTC
I may be totally overlooking this as well, but is there not multi lingual support? I would think this would be important for asp.net. Most major company dev platform sites seem to have this feature as well.
Monday, October 10, 2011 8:21:38 PM UTC
Ken - Thanks. That is, and continues to be, a goal. I hope to make the markup even better soon.

Rob - SharePoint is an internal facing Enterprise CMS. We wanted to two things. We wanted a scalable easy to use CMS and we wanted it to be open source and from the community.

Anon - Yes, that's outside our site, but I called them. Thanks!

Carlo - Excellent and detailed feedback. I love it. Thank you for taking the time. I'll make sure the right people see it.
Monday, October 10, 2011 8:38:44 PM UTC
Scott,

Thanks for the reply. I have a lot of respect on your various efforts with MSFT. You point out some great examples of why to use Umbraco. Poor SharePoint 2010 always gets overlooked by most as an external facing CMS although it does run some big public sites out there. For instance http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/, www.ferrari.com, seek.com

It would of been nice to have another site to point to and say, hey look, SharePoint 2010 CMS is behind this popular site as well.
Monday, October 10, 2011 8:41:03 PM UTC
I'm not really sure who your target audience is with this site, but it's not me (an ASP.NET developer). That site screams "I am a marketing site."
Monday, October 10, 2011 9:04:55 PM UTC
Scott

There are a LOT of us using Umbraco out here (ie, not at MSFT). Wanna write up some of your arctitecture, decisions, how you are working etc?

I think one of the EU guys did it at the umbraco conference (RobertJan?), which was really good, but if you have more to add about making is scale big, work with CDN's (esp user-created or editor-created content) that'd be great.

As for the design, it is quite blocky, but I think it works. The nav is quite nice.

Thanks

Nic
Monday, October 10, 2011 9:46:33 PM UTC
@Rob: I looked at the source for the Ferrari site. Not pretty, in particular the 8kB of viewstate (on a GET request, no less). That is unfortunate for a public web site.
Monday, October 10, 2011 11:37:20 PM UTC
Why not Orchard?
Gregory Hernández
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 12:17:00 AM UTC
Bertrand,

Not sure why Ferrari used Viewstate, and SharePoint 2010 does bloat overall page size with its extra javascript used for the MS Office like "ribbons" that visitors may not see but still get impacted with if things aren't coded very carefully.

However, from my limited view of the site requirements I think they would of been able to put together this site very quickly with SharePoint 2010 since most of the things I see are out of the box with that except they would of had to build their own custom branding into it.

I have been following Orchard and I hope it takes off as I can easilly see the need for a lower cost solution for a .net based CMS than what SharePoint 2010 is and it is nice to give Umbraco some competition in that category.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 6:15:13 AM UTC
Looks Like cool!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 6:34:57 AM UTC
The new website is a nice improvement. Especially the new "on board" experience. It will help interns and interested people to get quickly to grips with the technology.

One suggestion; some links refer to external sites, it would be nice to have an indicator (icon?) to show you'll navigate away from the site. It will distinguish "official" content.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 10:21:22 AM UTC
I think that you have missed a trick with here.

The big circle buttons, while look nice and look better versions of the old site I would suggest they need to look like the Metro style and square. That is even if you need them as they are just a repeat of the top level menu.



I am not a marketeer either just think visually a tie in would look nice.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 10:38:23 AM UTC
First impression: too big banner/buttons instead of important content. I pressume that's going to change hopefully ?!. What's about the ads? Is that serious? Is there going to be a mobile view?
Pjotr
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 11:05:33 AM UTC
Nice but not good enough. Needs lot of improvement.Specially in the top header
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 1:02:40 PM UTC
Please, PLEASE, organize the tutorial, videos, and samples better! The problem now is that there are, for example, MVC 1, 2, 3, (and now v4) samples and tutorial on the SAME page, and they aren't clearly organized or separated as to which version they pertain to. Stuff that pertains to older or legacy versions should be clearly labeled or separated as such...
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 1:02:42 PM UTC
Finally, a Microsoft site with simple "download here" and "get started now" buttons on the main page. Unfortunately, the download button still redirects to super user not-friendly microsoft.com parent website which requires you to click on another install button. So I click "Download", "Install" and then "Install" again. The second install button is unnecessary. Can't the first install button give me the .exe? Another quibble is that after downloading the .exe, I'm no longer on the asp.net website. The preferred UX is to show me a post download screen with a link to the get started tutorials.

And I agree with everyone else: the ads ruin the design. Maybe it's the ad size, the placement, the particular ad, I don't know. But it really sticks out and destroys the whole experience. The video thumbnails are also the same size of the ads. Bad. On a related note, you should also update the SL video player. It just reeks of amateur hour. (In fact, MS should standardise around a single good looking SL video player for all websites)
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 1:29:23 PM UTC
Seems like an awfully big waste of space above the fold to me--four links occupy a third of the page on my monitor.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 1:37:48 PM UTC
Scott,

If there must be ads can they "non-flicking" ads?

I second that links to external sites should have an indication as such.

Keep up the good work.

Tim
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 4:16:49 PM UTC
I think you should have a Top of Page link at the bottom of every page. I often find myself having to scroll from the bottom all the way back to the top to navigate somewhere else I want to go.
Ryan
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 7:08:38 PM UTC
Certainly agree with @Lee.

Also, I will miss the ViewSate inside the source :)
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 1:39:54 AM UTC
One huge banner at the top, one skinny content column in the center.

I like the nav link in the left columns, and I saw where you said you were working on getting rid of the ads column.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 3:33:12 PM UTC
Hi! Is the new beta.asp.net web site based on Umbarco CMS? And if yes, is is the V5, cause I think that only the V5 supports MVC architecture.

Upon the CMS MojoPortal and Umbarco, which's the best? Thk U
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 6:36:24 PM UTC
@Scott

Did the team consider Orchard, and if so, what made them decide to use Umbraco?

On the subject of Umbraco, please share some more information with us! Is the new site running on v4 or v5? Is the team using any kind of continuous integration and how is that set up? What are some significant Umbraco customizations in this site?

Also:
http://aspnet.uservoice.com/forums/136460-www-asp-net-website-/suggestions/2310761-release-the-source

Think you can make that happen? :-)
Michiel
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 6:57:08 PM UTC
Overall, nice job.

I agree with many of the comments that have already been made and have added a few of my own.

Pros:
1. I like the clean source code. It makes for easier debugging.
2. Overall I like the color schema -except for the active hyperlinks.
3. I like the way you guys subliminally imply that WebMatrix is for Web Pages while Visual Studio is for Web Forms and MVC on the Downloads page by grouping them seperately.

Cons:
1. The ads have to go -and if they can't, then at least do a better job of differentiating between them and official content.
2. Need some form of navigation tree on the left to show site structure. I think this would make the overall organization of the site easier to understand. Removing or reducing the size of the ads would make this more feasible.
3. The colors used for the "Sign In" and "Join" links at the top are hard to read against the dark backdrop. They almost get lost.
4. The search box seems out of place. It's neither here nor there. I just went to Microsoft's main website to see where they position the search box and was surprised to see a completely revamped site. It looks really good too!
5. I agree that the jumbo icons on the main homepage should either be shrunk down or removed altogether to allow the important content to be displayed more prominently at the top.
6. Scott Guthrie's blog is featured before your's. :)
7. In the "Get Started" section, I am somewhat on the fence about showing all of the Microsoft owned properties. It gives the impression that the majority of sites using ASP.NET are owned by Microsoft. Maybe I'm overthinking it?

General Comments...
Someone else mentioned that it's important to know your audience. People visiting ASP.NET are techies. You don't need to market this to CEOs or soccer moms. We want to get information. Fast. A little less "Power Point" and a lot more text.

In addition, I think that the current list of technologies/architectures should be removed from the top level group. You are setting yourselves up for another redesign by sticking them in the main menu. What happens when you develop more (MVM, MVP, MVVM etc.)? At the rate you guys are going there will be 10 other links in the menu before the year is up. It's also inconsistent with the images you have on the home page. Currently you have the following icons:

1. Get Started
2. Download
3. Forums
4. Host

The links under the search bar at the top includes "Community" (which is missing from the group of icons) along with the 3 specific architectures/technologies. I would remove the 3 specific technologies from the horizontal menu at the top and replace them with a single link to "Technologies" or something like that and add an icon for "Community" that has like a group of 3 heads -if you still plan on keeping the icons at all.

Good luck with it and I look forward to seeing the final product.
Thursday, October 13, 2011 12:13:34 AM UTC
@Rob @Bertrand,
I would not consider the Ferrari site a good example of a SharePoint Publishing site... http://www.energizer.com/Pages/default.aspx

Is much better but still could be improved... you can get he JS bloat to almost nothing for users that don't need any Publishing access.
Rhett
Thursday, October 13, 2011 6:19:34 AM UTC
Hi Scott,

Is the HTML 5 used in this web page design?
Kanagasubramanian
Thursday, October 13, 2011 12:13:20 PM UTC
Really happy in particular to see you're recognising the importance of text tutorials. Scan-reading a page of information is generally way faster than sitting thru 30 minutes of video! ...And this is not just a "user preference" thing - we're talking all kinds of concerns including accessibility, SEO (and additionally in-site search).
Pete
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 6:50:35 AM UTC
The downloads section is a lot clearer - big improvement there... (for those of us that want to big a specific product to download).

First impressions are that the site structure does seem a lot clearer
Thursday, October 20, 2011 7:54:03 PM UTC
- The banner is occupying the 45% of the screen.
- The color contrast is really awkward.

Overall, Its missing the cleaner look & feel.
Friday, October 21, 2011 5:11:24 PM UTC
it looks like cool
Friday, October 21, 2011 7:15:04 PM UTC
I'm not a big fan of the design. It looks very "developerish" -as in a developer designed a lot of it. Colors on http://beta.asp.net/get-started seem to be all over the place.

Let's get a good designer on this so we can show all those script kitties that we are cool too!
Donger
Friday, October 21, 2011 7:21:37 PM UTC
Bad ajax user experience on news, needs back/forward (hijax)
Et Tu?
Friday, October 21, 2011 8:55:26 PM UTC
I think the http://www.asp.net/community from the old site is how the content should be presented in the community spotlight part of the front page. you never find the forum, wiki yadda unless you think to click hidden at the bttom of the page. but if you use the http://www.asp.net/community you can see and discover a lot of content quickly.

Sunday, October 23, 2011 10:30:28 PM UTC
Home page is exactly the same: there is no content, except 5 links, and lots of wasted empty real estate... Other pages mostly redirect to msdn website. User will spend maximum 10 seconds on this page and leave.

Take a look at nytimes.com or yahoo.com - lots of interesting content. ASP.NET should present endless constantly updated content, so people can return on the daily basis.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 7:33:38 AM UTC
The website is pretty cool. @sunday, i totally disagree with you. Overloading a page with so many content doesn't make it awesome like you claim. In as much as i don't fancy being redirected to the MSDN page by virtually all the links on the site, i believe it still serves its purpose. i started my asp.NET career days from this site about 5years ago.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 11:17:46 PM UTC
If you copy an entire framework from them. Why you wouldn't be able of getting some good taste in design from Ruby On Rails guys? http://rubyonrails.org/

Come on MS it's time to get rid of all those flickering banners! It's 2011
Gustavo
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 6:15:05 PM UTC
Hi
Thanks for the Beta. I have one question. I want read/study the content from understanding-asp-net-ajax-authentication-and-profile-application-services this URL.
One day i read this chapter and i thought i can browse this site any time so I did not bookmarked. Next time i was trying to browse this page from asp.net but i spent 10 minutes no luck. Finally I searched in Google "Sys.Services.AuthenticationService site:asp.net" I got it.

I hope you understand my problem. May be if I am wrong then please provide the available step for Go to that page.
Thansk
NB
Friday, November 11, 2011 2:15:06 PM UTC
Can you send me links to learn more about asp.net?
Osagie Obasuyi
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 7:21:28 PM UTC
Scott, I feel top round (Curve) section of top of the page (Just above the Announcements section) is seems something degrading the look and feel. It will be better if display square.
Thursday, November 17, 2011 7:32:58 AM UTC
Its not good enough
jagz w
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 5:24:26 PM UTC
I agree with a lot of the comments here. It's a nice upgrade in graphic design language but the information architecture needs more work. The four big icons at the top are not a good choice. They are too similar looking and you need to read the labels to figure out what to do, and they are small and on the bottom of the icons. I hate to say it but the Apple developer site does have much better layout.

Also, why the heck would you choose to use Sharepoint as a CMS on purpose? I really don't get the comments wishing they would have used it instead of Umbraco.
Thursday, November 24, 2011 8:04:02 AM UTC
Banner occupies around 60% of the page, it should be reduced.
Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.