Eclipse, pt. II
I was thinking for a while now about giving Eclipse another chance and write a followup to my last journal. It's been 4 months, after all, and a few things have changed. (I would like to link you my old journal decently for comparison, but the new journal editor won't let me add a simple text link, and i don't want a giant thumbnail breaking the flow of this.)So, in order to get me in the proper mindset, it would make sense to try Eclipse for a while, and even use the Eclipse tools to write this journal. (Spoiler alert: it ruined my day.) The first hurdle in writing this was finding the textarea – you know, the input field where you write your actual journal in. This should be a no-brainer, but believe it or not, i could not find it at first. On the top of the page it says "Add your title here", so that's pretty straightfoward at least. But where's the main textarea? There's only a Plus icon with a greyed out "Share what's on your mind". When i click the Plus, i get a popup that lets me add stuff like deviations, galleries, emojis. But no textarea. After a while it dawned on me that the greyed out line is in fact the textarea and not the caption of the Plus. How could i not see it? You know, i fucking hate this minimalistic bullshit. THIS IS NOT GOOD DESIGN, and this anecdote of mine that you just witnessed is precisely why. (Just so you know, i have been working in the field of graphic design for over 15 years now and have seen all kinds of nonsense. But when it takes me a good minute to find the bloody textarea, you know that there's something off.)Well, we're off to a good start, aren't we? (Yes, i'm being sarcastic. You better get used to it, this journal is going to be full of it, i'm afraid.)First impressionDespite the many Updates and Changelogs (which is awesome, mind you; huge props to the staff!), Eclispe looks and behaves mostly the same as when it was first unveiled back in November. So most of my initial points of criticism still stand. To me, it still looks like an iPad app that has been blown up to fill a desktop monitor. And i'm still not happy about this.Take any Journal for an example. (Actually, no. I'll just make this its own section, since there is too much to talk about.)Analysing JournalsWhen you read a journal, the entire screen is filled with basically only the title of the journal. The actual content is located below the fold (that is, below the lower edge of the monitor, forcing you to scroll down). Some journals feature a deviation that gets positioned behind the title to create a kind of watermark effect, which is pretty, but it does not address the issue of wasted space on the desktop. On the plus-side, the journal copy uses a font-size that is just right. (Yes, i'm getting old, so i actually do like it.) I can lean back comfortably to read it. However, even when using the dark skin, the journal gets presented as if i'm using the light skin. What's the point of even having a dark skin if it's not applied consistently throughout the site? (Maybe they figured out the dark skin is not fit for reading long paragraphs of text? Which, coincidentally, is true: The dark skin in its current form is too dark. A proper dark skin uses mostly grey on grey. Sure, not as pretty, but FAR easier on the eyes. But i digress. Or am i?)But i'm not done with Journals yet. There are also arrows to the left and right, but i have no idea where they will take me. I often find journals that have absolutely no relationship to the one i'm currently reading. Oftentimes they are even by another deviant entirely. Maybe they belong to the same Group? Sometimes, but it's difficult to say. How does the algorithm decide what to show me? Not knowing this makes me feel uneasy, so i'll probably never use this feature. The most logical thing would be to show me the next oldest one by said deviant (or if i'm in a Collection or coming from my Watch page the next one after that). But, sadly, no.We're still not done. In journals (and possibly other places as well) you can format text in bold, and also have text links. (Don't ask me how you do it, i still couldn't figure it out.) The "funny" thing about this is: both the bolded text and text links look exactly the same. HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO TELL THEM APART?! Style over substance, again.Oh, and to top it all off: I can read a journal in fullscreen now! Just like looking at deviations. Good idea, but: I can only read the title. The actual journal is still hidden below the fold, but i can't scroll down? What the heck?I better move on before i lose my nerve. NotificationsWhen someone writes me a comment or reply, i see a little (1) next to the Bell icon on top. I click it, the (1) disappears… and the popup takes forever to load. (I'm already frustrated.) If i dismiss it (by clicking virtually anywhere but the message itself), i have no reminder that there is a message waiting for me. Or how many. The Splintered Menu with its detailed message count of the Old Site works so well in comparison: I see how many deviations, journals, comments, or notes are waiting for me at all times. This makes me feel like i'm in control. YES! I like that!And the new Message Centre (i mean, Feedback page) itself? Just as messy as ever. Every bit of feedback is thrown in there chronologically. I can group them, or show only one type, but gone is the easy overview of what we currently have. Worse, all of these actions require me to click and scroll aroud endlessly as if i'm using a mobile version. Hmm.(Note: I still like to call it Message Centre, over Notification Centre, because 1.: it's much easier to say and type, and 2.: it contains more than just notifications, namely: messages. All kinds of them.)So many great features are absent in the new Watch and Feedback pages. Let's have a closer look:One consolidated Message Centre that shows me everything at a glance? Gone.List view for Journals or Status posts – or anything, really? Gone.Reverse order? Gone (unless i click into a category).Stacks? Gone (unless i click into a category).Voting on Polls directly from the Message Centre? Gone.Seeing more than 2 or 3 comments at the same time? Impossible, because you know, everything is so bloody large! Selecting more than one item via drawing a rectangle? Gone (but on the plus side i can select more than one by clicking a checkbox).Birthday notifications in the sidebar? Gone.Saved messages? Gone. (What will happen to those when Eclipse goes live? Will they simply disappear?)A new feature is the possibility to view Removed items – which is very nice. However, there's no way to put it back out again, unless i'm quick enough to click "Undo". (One might wonder why i would even want that, but, for example, once it's removed, i can't save it anymore.)NavigationHere i'm talking about the main menu and stuff. It reads: Browse | Watch | Shop | Groups | Forum, and it works just as it should: You click it and it brings you to the corresponding page. Job well done.Let's move over to the right: Here we have icons (not text!) for Search | Notes | Feedback | My menu | Submit. Now things get interesting. What's the difference, e.g., between the envelope and the bell icon? Not immediately obvious. And what happens when i click any of them? Search opens a gigantic modal that darkens the entire page. Notes brings me to the Notes page. Feedback and My Menu open a dropdown. Submit opens a dropdown, too, but i don't have to click it, it opens with a mouseover state. In short: 5 links, 4 different results. Get that? UX nightmare. (UX means user experience, in case you didn't know.) You, as a user, have to actively learn these 5 menu items, since they don't all give the expected/same results. And having to "learn" a user interface is never a good idea when you want satisfied users.There's one more menu: the one on a user page. It reads: About | Home | Gallery | Favourites | Posts | Shop. Again, pretty straightforward – it looks and behaves just like the main menu on the top left, with one little (but vital) difference: there are no hover/mouseover effects! Meaning: when you move your mouse over them, they don't change their appearance, whereas they do on the main menu. This inconsistency is extremely frustrating. Not only that, it makes said menu on the user page appear broken. (Everybody who's been followowing me for a while knows my obsession with hover effects. And i'm going to keep hammering down the importance of them until the end of time.)Browsing ArtBig thumbs! Huge thumbs! Ginormous thumbs! … but is this really a good thing?I remember a time when thumbnails on dA were tiny. Like, really tiny. We're talking 150×100px at most. This was during their "bandwidth crisis", some 15 years ago or so. Eventually we got bigger thumbs (300×200px, if memory serves me correctly) which was absolutely stellar, and then (about 2 or 3 years ago) the current ones, dubbed "Torpedo Thumbs" (that scale slightly up or down, depending on the other thumbs in their row; which was a very fancy trick at the time). These current ones also hit the sweet spot, in my opinion, of being just large enough to really see what a deviation might look like, without hitting you over the head – which is what the current thumbs unfortunately do. Yes, they are too big. Coupled with the aggressive JPG-compression that's still going on, they look fuzzy or blurry. Worse still, there's hardly any space between them, giving them no room to breathe. So they look cluttered, and you, the user, feel overwhelmed.Viewing deviations themselves is fine (here, especially, the dark skin is a godsend), but everything but the deviation is layed out rather sloppily on that page. The description just hangs there without much structure, the sidebar is way too cluttered (just like it currently is, by the way), and when you view a deviation in fullview (which is fantastic) you can't scroll down to read neither the description nor the comments (like you can on YouTube, for example).Forum, Group pages, Print Shop, Settings…So far, they remain unchanged in Eclipse, and i don't know when they will be migrated over. For now, though, having these old and new pages live side by side is a huge clash and can only result in hurting the DeviantArt brand.ConclusionUsing Eclipse for an entire day felt like using an entirely different site. I saw names that i remembered from before, sure, but it felt like they all had migrated alongside myself to this new platform. And the platform itself is… serviceable? Well, mostly. Except the Feedback page, which is horribly clunky.But it's not DeviantArt. (And it's definitely not "deviantART" anymore, either. Notice the subtle difference in spelling. But that's a story for another time.) No, the dA that i remember was green and filled to the brim with stuff. Was this overwhelming? At first, yes. But it made discovering all these things so rewarding. It connected you to this place in ways no other website ever could. And now, 90% of this stuff is gone.Look, i appreciate the effort that went into creating an entirely new site from scratch – that's no easy task! But the end result is so very different and unsatisfying, if not downright frustrating to use; it's not the place i joined anymore. Before you go and say it: no, i'm not against change per se. Back in the day, dA used to change its appearance almost once per year, and it was always exciting. The hue of green changed (sometimes too much, but that usually got fixed by the next version), features were added, things were streamlined, but it always felt as part of its identity. Eclipse is not that. It has some of dA's charms, but more often than not they only serve as a subtle reminder of how much smoother it all used to work before.And setting aside all sarcasm, i really hate that i don't have more positive things to say about Eclipse. I was really looking forward to something new when the current logo was unveiled in 2014 (wow, has it really been that long?). Eclipse in its current form, however, won't be able to keep me here.