You did and didn't ask for this…
Distinguished friends (and internet trolls alike), welcome to GoNintendo version six.
Oh, you thought it was 2.0? While this may mark the first major rebirth of the site in quite some time and despite the enumeration some previous articles used, this actually constitutes our sixth major iteration of the site since launching in late 2005.
Don’t believe me? Let’s get pedantic. (TL;DR)
GNv1 (Oct 2005)
Basically a vanilla Wordpress install, in addition to blog comments, version one site also featured separate forums that required registration of a separate account to use. We actually spent the next few years trying to unravel this user-unfriendly ball of yarn.
Version two largely focused on content formatting, branding, and growth; introducing a fixed sidebar navigation, and then a sprouted a second sidebar to house new advertising available with our increasing audience.
GNv3 (Nov 2008)
First, an admission: despite our sincerest efforts, what we planned and spent eighteen months building as a major replacement for GoNintendo ultimately became what remains my biggest career misstep to date. That says plenty for someone with twenty five years under their belt.
I believe this is also when T27duck and I formed our tormented but fruitful partnership, as I can do basic front-end work like building or modifying website themes, but backend and application programming? Not in my wheelhouse anyway.
To be fair, at the time (2007–8), many websites—including those in the gaming sphere—were migrating to more of a “web portal” format, offering a variety of content on a single, catchall homepage. Plus, realising part of a successful website is to not reinvent the wheel and deliver unusual interfaces which defy the common expectation (ie people spend the vast majority of their time not on your site, but elsewhere, and all those other sites collectively define what’s normal).
So for us to introduce a myriad of new features and streamline a hundred-plus news stories per day into a more easily skimmable home page was in many ways the academically correct evolution for the time. Our analytics and basic user testing at the time even validated/reinforced the direction.
But of course it failed spectacularly. While a few technical glitches didn’t help, we learnt the hard way our audience’s preferences, and an impersonal, corporate-looking facade was not in the favourable category.
That I was just returning from a month-long business trip to Japan plus the devastating stock market crash mere weeks before only added to the FUD.
Enter our backup plan, which was effectively the new navigation fringing the old blog; something we built en route to the portal and only ever really kept as some kind of anchoring milestone.
As it turns out, the vast majority of users at the time actually preferred to scroll endlessly through content on their desktops, pausing only when their eyes caught a keyword or the flicker of an interesting image. 🤷🏻♂️
GNv4 (Jul 2011)
Much like Nintendo with their successive hardware generations, we basically began version four shortly after three launched and stabilised.
Not one to abandon a good idea, my personal goal was to secretly smuggle, ahem, recycle and integrate all of those additional features from the v3 portal while retaining the beloved blog format, and in 2010 we managed to release version four.
Also during the intervening years, our brand identity changed, to pacify unrest emanating from our namesake’s overseas headquarters. Gone was the risky homage “racetrack”, replaced by a somewhat slapdash Tetris-y type logo, scrambled together over the course of a weekend in effort to expedite the transition and repair any imminent fissures in our relationship with said namesake.
People actually liked it, and we enjoyed a great variety of fan-made content celebrating GN and related content for years to come. Seriously, look at these:
Version four served us very well for nearly four years until…
GNv5 (Nov 2013, May 2015)
Resting on our laurels a bit; when it finally came time to discuss the next iteration of GoNintendo, I put the question to T27duck:
The answer it turns out amounted to rebuilding everything from scratch in a non-php language with a clean database on a new host/server. That meant a new front end (what you all see), a new back end web application, and a custom CMS/ admin panel to rule it all.
In fact, it all started with a pilot of sorts by resurrecting GoingSony and using it as a beta platform we could launch and iterate upon whilst GoNintendo carried on uninterrupted. That work began in 2013 and we aimed for a launch coinciding with the PS4. It more or less worked.
However a hardware failure on the GN side of things in May 2015—yes, a full year and a half later—forced our hand to migrate the behemoth to our new platform, ready or not. Fortunately, we were mostly ready.
We also aimed to incorporate a slew of new community related features, partially to compensate for the waning popularity of forums, but also to differentiate ourselves other gaming news sites.
This included a grand games database that could be partially curated by the community and within which users could write their own reviews that could then be promoted to the home page. It also tied into our publisher and helped with classifying stories in new ways (eg. to see only Metroid Other M stories, click its link in any story or visit its database page to quickly see them all).
It also included a decidedly unconventional approach to forums. Part of its conceit allowed people to browse forum topics and posts much like they do the blog; seeing newest first and being able to scroll through content until they find what they’re looking for, instead of just headlines as we did with v3’s portal interface. Plus, we could promote anyone’s thread or post to the main blog to drive visibility and engagement.
Round that out with a (mostly) proper responsive mobile experience, robust private messaging, expanded fan-made banners and skins support, and about a dozen other minor or quality of life enhancements, it really was an undertaking.
Plus, something never publicly shared before, while we never got around to building it, we actually had detailed schematics for a social-currency/ reputation system that would largely govern itself, taking the bark and bite out of my (and the moderators’) ban hammers by automatically limiting ne’erdowells, while rewarding positive activity with additional features, privileges, etc.
Ah yes, today. Nearly a year to the day after the house figuratively burnt down, we triumphantly rise from the ashes. While I won’t comment on the arson, I can tell you something of our journey during that time.
For the first seven months, everything was deep space quiet. Enough that I actually updated my resume assuming the GN road had unceremoniously reached its terminus. But in late September–early October, we reconvened and talked a bit about life; about the ups and downs; about what really matters.
And highest among that last category: friends, family, and connection. Yes, we may all gather here under the umbrella of loving Nintendo, or even games more generally, but what brings us back is our GN family, and the time was right to start again, for all of our sakes.
But just turning back on the firehose of news wasn’t going to cut it. In many ways, the core GN team of 2021 shared the same terrible fate as the site and its last design. We really needed a new site to reflect who we are today and can follow with us as we continue to evolve. We are sixteen now after all…the growing pains of digital puberty. Eww.
We want to produce more meaningful content in addition to our passion for up-to-the-second news. For you, but also for our own well-being and satisfaction.
First things first: the focus on delivering all Nintendo news big and small will not change.
What will change is our top-level home page. Because we can do more, and that includes producing more
Goriginal feature content. And we’re bringing on a whole army of new writers to generate both editorial and news.
So what else is different? For one, the new GoNintendo home page features a curated collection of stories; the most prominent we dub our “Spotlights”, followed by other sections, dynamically populated from the news feed. A glimpse of the most recent news stories appear as a co-equal tab on mobile, or in the sidebar on desktops.
Conversely, on the blog, that priority is reversed, making the Spotlights secondary. Yes, we still have the trusty blog. In fact, it serves as the lifeblood carrying content to the smallest capillaries in our new extremities.
The best news for the curmudgeons among us is that even if you hate the new home page, you can just bookmark the blog instead. 👍
0–80 in 4.5 months
The only issue in realising this goal was that the old site—while highly capable—remains a testament to yesterday and simply not up to the challenges facing devices in 2022, supporting a team of writers, not to mention the structural differences in feature content versus news.
But building a new site from scratch historically takes us a year or longer. We had a few months at best, if we wanted to hit this arbitrarily-imposed antiversary for relaunch. Fortunately, T27duck and I have grown leaps and bounds over the past decade; enough to make it a good challenge, but not impossible.
We quickly drew up some basic wireframes to illustrate the new direction, discussed and prioritised feature sets, and conducted weekly checkins, in addition to our own private project war room over on the Discord server. We also pinged our Patreon supporters for some exclusive behind-the-scenes usability testing along the way.
The result? We built an incredible, kick-arse brand new CMS (kinda like Wordpress, but better) for our admin, publisher, and dashboard; and a responsive, mobile-first public-facing site, from scratch, in about three months. It’s taken the last month and a half to work out the bugs and elevate polish to my (un)reasonable standard of 80% complete…
That last 20
Which obviously begs the question, “what is left in that final 20%?” Well, aside from more mostly indiscernible, mundane nuance, not much.
We’ve shed so many layers of accumulated baggage and retired quite a bit in this transition, that we’re not exactly eager to bulk right back up.
Gone and not scheduled to return:
- Upvoting stories
- The games database (and the user reviews feature)
- The super form (don’t ask)
- Other things I’m probably overlooking, but finds you heartbroken. Soz that. 💔🤷🏻♂️
In fact, much of our community features you’ll find very to the point, without extra bloat or dubious complexity. Just the basics.
Comments for example are no longer deep-threaded conversations, but you can still @reply to people, still report people, still edit your own comments.
Anyone with an account on the old system should find themselves grandfathered into the new site with no further action necessary.
For new accounts, we’re testing a fully automated process, as opposed to one requiring me manually approving every newb in efforts of battling spam. Hopefully the tech rises to meet the task.
Speaking of tech, we’re also testing an infinite scrolling feature for the blog-like pages. Auto-load annoys everyone, so you can just load more posts with the “Load more” button.
Our tens, no hundreds of thousands of old stories are still online. They’ve been detached a bit from the new content and archived in what we internally, lovingly dubbed Rosalina’s Library. You’ll find The Archive in The Menu.
Same with the Podcast Archive.
As for things you might notice post-launch:
- we would like to roll out a dark theme. That’ll take a bit of time.
- notifications, anyone?
- user profile/content refinements
- a staff/team directory (whoopty-doo!)
- gorgeous new story assets from insanely talented artists
- likely some layout tweaks as we iron out the inevitable kinks and wrinkles
It may be more or less than you expected, but we’ve done our absolute best; pouring our hearts into getting GoNintendo online as quickly as possible. We are simply thrilled to be back and hope you’ll stick around awhile ❤️
GoNintendo Director of Product Design
PS…if anyone wants/needs the new logo or assets for any reason, find me on Discord; happy to get you properly equipped. It’s dangerous to go alone. Yes, that’s a minor threat.