If you follow our newsletter and blog, you know we talk a lot about the geocaching community. There’s a reason for that. We’re different than other games. There is no game without the geocaching community.
To build a foundation to better support geocaching friendships on Geocaching.com, we are going to release updates to the Profile and Dashboard (aka: the /my page) early next week. Those changes are going to be released alongside the current Profile and Dashboard pages and you can opt in to give them a try next week.
The update will allow us to add a newsfeed to your Dashboard, that keeps you informed about what your friends are up to.
What will change?
With the first release we will simplify each page by removing duplicate and obsolete links, and update the user interface to become more intuitive.
Why do we have to change the Profile and Dashboard pages?
There are two reasons why we have to change the Profile and Dashboard before implementing more functionality: usability and technical limitations.
When the Dashboard page was created nearly 16 years ago, we didn’t have designers lending their expertise on how to best organize the page. That created a conundrum when we released new features. Instead of devising an intuitive grouping of themed features, we just added them where we found space and the page eventually became the “junk drawer” of Geocaching.com.
Among the main issues with the page’s arbitrary organization was that there was no visual hierarchy to let people know what information is most important to view or where they should look first. This means that most geocachers navigate the page by memorization or using Control-F on their keyboard – which results in a poor user experience. When we took a holistic look at the page through data and watched how geocachers were using it, we found that the duplication of links both within the Dashboard and between the Dashboard and Profile page were confusing and a lot of links weren’t used. We decided to improve the experience by removing unused links and creating themed areas. We also moved the links that we saw were being used most often to the top of the page for easier access.
Our primary code base is ancient when it comes to technological standards and a lot of us at Geocaching HQ refer to it as “spaghetti code” – meaning when you touch one piece of it, it will most likely break about eight other things. We have wanted to add feature improvements to areas of Geocaching.com for years, but our legacy code limitations have always held us back. Therefore it becomes necessary to create new pages in order to add new, scalable functionality to the site.
Why are we removing the Send Email functionality?
Simplifying the amount of systems our development teams must support helps us to add new functionality for the geocaching community instead of spending time maintaining existing tools that have become less functional. We built the Message Center to make it easier for geocachers to contact each other about issues with caches, to simplify Virtual/EarthCache logging, and to have your communication about the game in one place. Message Center has been out for nearly two years now and we are moving forward with one communication system on Geocaching.com.
For those that like to communicate via email – you can set your preferences to receive a notification to the email listed on your geocaching account. From there you can respond to the message via email and take the conversation out of Message Center, if that is your desire. For those folks, the only reason to use Message Center is to begin a conversation – after that the rest of the communication can take place via email.
Why are we changing the default display?
We learned through data that only 2.4% of active geocachers have anything entered in their custom profile information tab. It makes for an inconsistent experience when most people land on an empty page. The ‘geocaches’ tab is relevant to everyone who plays the game. We could add an “empty state” (a bit of information that tells you what you are missing out on and how to add content, if you currently have none) on the page for those who don’t have any content. But all of that code is part of our legacy (aka: spaghetti) code base and we run the risk of breaking the custom content for the people who do have it on their profile. So we end up playing the balance game to keep the content available, but shift location or build something that is relevant to everyone and risk breaking it. We’ll look at community feedback and use of the page after this release to help us determine next steps.
The updated Profile and Dashboard will be available for you to play with coming next week. You can opt in while we’re tweaking the new page and working to make frequent edits based on your feedback. Or you can stick with the existing Profile and Dashboard for now.