This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

The Libertines new site - version 1

26th August 2004

Boy, we’ve been busy at Agenzia this week. Version one of the new Libertines website has just been launched.

It’s important to stress that this is Version One, which I hope will allow you all to overlook the use of (gasp!) frames, largely unsemantic code, the messiest style-sheet on record, and the fact that validation just hasn’t been an issue at this stage.

libertines site

Still, we’re pretty pleased with the look and feel of the thing, and judging by the forum reaction, I think the Libertine fans are quite thrilled to have a solid site to get their teeth into. If you want an explanation of why this version is the way it is, or don’t know who The Libertines are, then please read on…

What could we do? A very short timescale meant getting this version out in time for the new album’s launch on 30th August. “Tell ‘em you don’t want to use frames!” I hear you cry, but for such an imminent deadline, we decided to go a bit old-school and just give the fans (and the client) the site they were craving.

Version two will be awash with semantic code, properly-incorporated Flash elements, and will be giving Libertines fans a whole host of lovely membership features and exclusive downloads. For now, it was vital that the folks running the site can edit anything they want, keep it fresh and lively, and use a CMS that puts them back in control of their site.

Most folks in the UK will be aware of The Libertines. A great first album, chaotic live shows, a recent Top Three hit record, and in Pete Doherty a frontman so desperately ill through drug addiction that he isn’t even in his band at the moment. Still, they’re touring like nobody’s business, releasing smart new records, and have probably the most insanely fanatical and passionate fanbase of any bands right now. If you’re not sure what to begin with, have a play with the site’s Flash radio, or try their first album, Up The Bracket. It’s rough around the edges, but strangely beautiful - and very, very English.

Anyway, feel free to let me know what you think of the design. Like I said, I know it doesn’t validate, and is currently awash with out-dated methods. It’s live, but still a kind of testbed, so go easy on us…please. Largely responsible is the fact that several of us worked on several different bits of the site that were naturally at odds with other elements, and naturally this’ll all be resolved. Next time around I’m sure I’ll be presenting Version Two with considerably less disclaimers. You do trust me, don’t you?

Responses

# Simon Snorkeller responded on 26th August 2004 with...

Good work fella…! And it’s not always you get feedback like “you know what i f***king love you geeks!!!!!”

And it’s amazing what can be done in 72 hours… although I’m still thinking that a little more careful thinking and we’d have got away without using frames. Still, at least the site is safely out of rehab.

# Jon Hicks responded on 26th August 2004 with...

Colly, this looks great, but I couldn’t get the flash movie to load properly. It just hung at 100%.

Good design - suits the music perfectly!

# Simon Collison responded on 26th August 2004 with...

Thanks Jon - it does have that ramshackle Libs feel about it doesn’t it. Will ask the Flash chappie to look into the loading issue - think it’s to do with relative linked files.

Snorkeller - don’t know about you, but it’s worn me out. Agree about the frames. Dead keen to move it on to version two, but maybe next week!

# Simon Snorkeller responded on 26th August 2004 with...

It’s true, this and the other fifteen million things does take it’s toll. We’ll let the dust settle before tidying the design… then it’s the fun of letting thousands of rapid rabid kids young music fans loose on commenting, submitting their own content, and generally running wild.

# Andy Budd responded on 27th August 2004 with...

Lurvly grungy design. The frames really suck though. There just doesn’t seem to be any point to using them and honestly make using the site difficult.

Whenever I scroll down I expect the whole thing to scroll. Because the header takes up so much room I’ll scroll down to get a larger content area on the page. However it just scrolls the bottom window. This means that you’re always forced to read the content in an uncomfortably small region of the page. That’s on 1024x768. On 800x600 the content area is so small it’s barely worth reading.

Speaking with my users hat on, rather than my “I’m a developer and I hate frames” hat on, this usability problem would be enough to stop me from visiting the site again.

# Simon Collison responded on 27th August 2004 with...

We’re really happy with the look of the thing, so glad everyone is liking that. To be honest, I think everyone’s happy it’s past holding-page nothingness. That was our first task (in 72 hours).

Andy, I can’t argue with any of your developer/user-balanced views. I know the frames were decided upon partly to avoid forcing the Flash movie to keep reloading, but otherwise I think Flash use will be minimal on version two. Still, we need some static elements, so it may be the old overflow:auto here and there, and no frames. Work on version two begins on Tuesday, so all of our niggles and yours will be gradually addressed. The Flash will be reworked, and I expect the header will be shorter, or the nav in a side column. The good news is the Libs fans are going nuts for it!

I was unsure whether to flag up a live but unfinished site, but I think this dialogue is useful. People expect me/us to always adhere to the latest ways of working, and this shows that in the early stages of a project we also make forced decisions and can have difficulty convincing clients how to approach something until the relationship develops.

Don’t be afraid to add your niggles or views, folks. Version two news coming soon…

# Lee Hickman responded on 27th August 2004 with...

I agree with Andy to a certain extent but I would urge him to read the forum comments. We know it’s not pretty at the moment but give it a chance.

The site has evolved from nothing to something in 72 hrs. The people that visit the site (60000 in 3 days) show no sign of “not coming back” I guess if you like something/somebody to the extent Libertines fans love the band, you just appreciate having a resource to visit.

Perfection is something that we would all love to acheive with our development projects and Andy comes across as the knid of guy that always delivers perfection. If only we’d had 96 hours….

# Simon Collison responded on 28th August 2004 with...

Yes, we can deliver perfection in 96 hours - ha-ha!! Everyone’s right in my opinion. I’m just glad we have the opportunity to really refine the site soon.

# Simon Snorkeller responded on 28th August 2004 with...

It was my call to use the frames and, on reflection, probably not the right one. It boiled down to only having a Flash dude free for the first day of the three day project, and no time to backtrack and take a different approach.

But, yes, agree completely about the content being a right pain to get at… and, as Colly says, we’re on it.

It’s interesting, however, that different people have different expectations of a website. The feedback from the band’s management and record company is that they love the site - because their evaluation criteria is simply (1) does it look cool? (2) does it move?  (3) does it collect data about fans? (4) does it play the music?

Quote - “Please tell everyone on the web site team at your office, we all including xxxxxxx and the libertines personally think you have done a F*****G GOOD JOB. NICE ONE LIBERTINES WEB GEEKS”.

The fans seem to love it, too. We’ve never launched a site and had literally hundreds of complimentary emails in the first 24 hours.

Hey, I’m certainly not saying “it must be OK, because the management and fans love it”. More that it was a project hugely compromised by time where something had to give. We’re also in the fortunate position of now having an opportunity to mould the site into an example of best-practice which, with The Libertines being the biggest band in the country, ain’t no bad thing.

# Simon Collison responded on 23rd November 2004 with...

Version 2 is now up - validating, accessible, frameless, with a squillion member features. Now lets hope the band stay together! here’s the version 2 overview.

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