A conversation with the community about DeviantArt and the road ahead has to start somewhere. In the coming weeks and months, Heidi
and her team will begin an elaborate conversation while maintaining a constant feedback loop with myself, our product & engineering teams, and our whole organization.
Those who peruse my journal tend to be deep insiders who want real insights and a candid perspective. At least that's how I see it. So this is a post for you.
I run our core products with our product and ux teams. A lot of names and faces have changed on those teams throughout the years, but I've been your lead contributor to these designs for over 17 years now. I say this with your interests at heart; there's a beat that makes this place tick. It's subtle and obvious and subtle again. Knowing the ropes around this sacred place is no small feat. Having the longest perspective on it, I passionately fight for the balance that makes DeviantArt, DeviantArt. Your Profile pages, the Groups eco-system, the Notifications center, Browse, and so on. There's incredible detail at DeviantArt, ruled often by counter-intuition.
These products mean a great deal to many millions of people. We've tended to take a very platform-esque approach to them all, where each individual has the flexibility to use the products in wide varieties of ways. You might not be surprised to learn that your friends on DeviantArt use the site in all kinds of ways, often with a lot of difference from one another. Groups is a great example of a platform that has insanely complex use. ie. You certainly know how many different uses Groups have.
But the questions go so deep.
- Is the comment signature feature important? (super important!)
- Should the deviation description contract so the design is prettier, with only a "show more" to see it? (descriptions provide artists with a method to control their traffic, it must be enhanced, not contracted.)
- What aspects of Categories are important and why? (defining what DeviantArt is as a corpus is crucial to everyone's understanding of the brand.)
- Can't we just remove the Profile customization and have one approach? (We should enhance customization to its grandest limits!)
- Let's kill chat, it's so out of the way. (We should make chat central to the experience.)
- Can't the Notifications center just be a feed like everywhere else and not have those pesky "X's?" (We can make the X's more positive by making them "Checks" but the kindred nature of DeviantArt wants perfect symmetry. Notifications at DA aren't a feed, they're closer to a gmail inbox, where care for everything that our members publish.)
There are thousands of questions like these surrounding every detail of DeviantArt.
When rebuilding products, respecting the authenticity of their use is key, and central to the process. Doing right
by our members means mastering these complexities and wide varieties of use.
The process to revamp the product now spans the longest any of us have ever spent on any one process. About 5 years and counting. We've redesigned the watch and notifications environments multiple times without a release. The profile pages as well. Browse and search have had builds that didn't launch.
The struggle is best represented by maintaining a balance of what is right for DeviantArt. Testing products that should be better than their predecessors, by performing better than their predecessors. Tests we ran fell short, and we weren't foolish in pressuring them forward.
I took incredible heat for this. I'd rather fail pursuing the right thing, than temporarily succeed with the wrong thing. And I know our core team agrees with this, when outsiders and newcomers really struggle with it. I am so thankful that our board maintained control of the process, and that Wix is so trusting of our instincts. When outsiders and newcomers effect major changes on networks like DeviantArt, the outcome is Digg.com, and MySpace, and LiveJournal. The death of astoundingly beautiful creations and the loss of a disproportionately high value to people.
This is simply a note from me to you, so that you know we've found our stride again. You know that you have the path when it gets easy after great struggle. The path feels easy. And this was most certainly hard-earned.
Your use of the Notifications environment, with all of its wild use cases, is on its way to an iteration we are deeply proud of. The Profile environment, and how you use it, is beautifully understood. Progressing it forward, and empowering you more completely is full of innovation, and great respect.
The Groups platform is my baby, and I love her, and she needs very specific help. I've heard so much throughout the years of the fears people have that we will change the platforms fundamental complexity, and neuter it's power out of misunderstanding. Especially its Apps and privilege system, along with its Notifications integration. Many businesses, and hyper successful organizations of people use the very edge of these features and are concerned that we'll kill their worlds with revisions. I'm keenly aware of these dynamics and I've looked into them with great interest. By the time we're touching Groups, I'm well prepared to lead.
I remember the days laying on the lawn of a farm we rented on Vancouver Island, dreaming of the possibilities with Pachunka
, and starvingartist
and the gang in 2009 and then watching its incredible launch success. We were so open minded about the potential then, and what has happened with Groups is even wider in scope than we anticipated.
It's so exciting to think about these challenges all of the time once again. The past few years held me hostage away from the problems, and it has been hard not to succeed in uplifting some of our products.
We have paid, and continue to pay a large technical debt on the platform. We ruled with so much innovation in our history that untangling some of the natural messes that get made in innovation storms sometimes takes an ungodly effort. This, too, has taken great strides.
At some points, parts of me felt that we might never have the chance to push the products to the limits again, that we'd have to compromise our innovations.
I'm so grateful to Wix. You hear such horror stories of platforms being acquired and damaged or whatever. Finding the right partner for DeviantArt was difficult for this reason. But, sometimes, the right partner finds you. The intention has been rooted in love and appreciation for DeviantArt itself. They listen so carefully, and are so thoughtful. It's a great blessing, and a giant support system.
For those wondering, our minds are here, our spirit is here, we're 200% committed, and we're focused on the community, the products, growing our staff, and on making great and appropriate progress forward.
From my heart,