Welcome back!

You did and didn't ask for this…

06 March 2022
by cortjezter 108
Courtesy of the inimitable DonutMuffin! ❤️
Courtesy of the inimitable DonutMuffin! ❤️

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)

Witness version one.
Witness version one.

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.

GNv2 (2006-7)

Flavors of v2. Who remembers the *Zack & Wiki* campaign???
Flavors of v2. Who remembers the Zack & Wiki campaign???

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.

Left, the failed attempt. Right, the successful fallback plan.
Left, the failed attempt. Right, the successful fallback plan.

WTFv3

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.

Plan B

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)

The v4 GN branding ecosystem
The v4 GN branding ecosystem

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:

“If you could travel back to 2005…what would you decide differently?”
—cortjezter

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.

And so it goes; for the last eight years or so, GNv5 has largely served us well. Of course that brings us to today…

GNv6

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.

The idea

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. 👍

The very first digital sketch of our new home
The very first digital sketch of our new home

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:

  • Forums
  • Upvoting stories
  • The games database (and the user reviews feature)
  • DMs
  • Friends/Foes
  • 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

Again, welcome!

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 ❤️

Cheers,
cort
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.

About cortjezter

cortjezter

See all this? One of the two that built it. You're welcome! 👍

I live in Japan and see the world in Tetris much like Neo sees the underlying code of the Matrix.

Add Comment

Comments (108)

edisythe

2+ y ago

I am so so GLAD GN is back! My web surfing lacked something vital. Nowhere else can I get the reliable info you guys provide. Welcome back.


kuribo

2+ y ago

Can the All News / Blog section be made to have next / previous buttons instead of endless scrolling? Endless scrolling is very user unfriendly.


socar

2+ y ago

Please atleast give the notification to get replies...


nekotaku

2+ y ago

Aw, no voting... But I want dark mode! Also dislike that there aren't pages, will going back if you've been away for a while take a lot longer. But so great that the site is back!


[comment rejected]

cortjezter

2+ y ago

@nekotaku

Dark mode may be a thing that happens. So far I've only got something workable for desktop; not sure mobile will get get one due to the very high data density.

Not sure what you mean by pages, but the core of what we used to have is back: features, news/blog, and comments. 👍

And yes, we do have replies 😎


cortjezter

2+ y ago

@nekotaku

Notifications just went live. Spread the news 😎👍


nekotaku

2y ago

@cortjezter

With pages I mean that before you went to a new page when the page filled up, when you wanted to go back to older posts. Now it just loads new ones at the bottom. The only reason I dislike this is because before when I had been gone for a while, I could estimate how many pages I've missed and input the number in the addressbar and jump to it quickly. It would take longer now to keep pressing "end" and the button to load the page until you just get there. But no big deal, just something I might miss.