A Beer Judge’s Diary: THE Website

The OLD website.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I suddenly realized, when I had reached the new redesigned BJCP web site, that I had been here before. Not this exact design. Not even in regard to beer.
 Why the two are similar, why I had “been here before,” is because they both were about layout vs. content and usability. Also, in the case of the two publications, about how strict, dogmatic, rules for layout may actually ruin intent.
 In the early 70’s I was one of two editors of a literary magazine in college. I was also a columnist and did an occasional news story or review for the paper. Oh, and helped with layout on both until I clashed with the graphic artist too much when doing the paper. I had hoped it would stop there. I was wrong.
 Don’t get me started on that or I’ll get too far away from my topic; lost in the weeds of anal graphic arts theory (now thankfully dated) vs. what really works.
 Back then the graphic arts department had a deal with both the magazine and the newspaper: we worked with one of their students to give them experience. The result: fine looking layout, but poor content. On the paper, luckily, we had plenty of staff so typos were few, but the lit magazine was pretty much me that last year. The graphic artist would come in before I had finished corrections and insist he/she would do that. 2X that happened: different person each time. Both times they did squat when they promised to continue corrections. One came in at 1 in the morning promising to finish corrections. It had to be out the next day or we lost our funding. Sure it looked pretty, but content… no. It was ruined.
 Now, seems, here we go again. Hope I’m wrong.
 The old BJCP site was cluttered, but had everything you needed, links where you had to go. This newly redesigned one? Not so much. Oh, the design LOOKS fabulous. Functionality? Not so much.
 I was told “they’re working on it.” One hopes. Maybe if this reaches the designers the following frustrated tirade might help.
 I am BJCP Legacy Certified, now with a mead endorsement. Looking to do a cider tasting exam. Or, as we usually call it: tasting test. Of course I have to do the online first. But I don’t want to do that and be timed out since there are so few tasting tests as it is: especially for cider. All due to COVID which took out a number of exams last year, one mead tasting I was scheduled to take.
 I went to see what cider exams are available so I can time this right. Unlike the old site I kept weeding through text that didn’t have clear navigation for that. After several E’s to a BJCP official that seemed to leave both of us confused, I finally found and clicked on small print on another page: “Legacy Exams.”
 Despite I wasn’t LOOKING for a “Legacy Exam.”
 Should NOT be under “Legacy Exams.” That has a special meaning to those of us who have been here a while: when taking the exam and passing before online was a thing… like I did. OR, I assume, for those who wish to go beyond Certified. It should have a link that just reads “exams.” Simpler. It would be best if it was bigger, and not at the bottom of another page where you have to guess that’s where it is.
 Navigation should be very obvious.
 Then I went to get Cider educational materials, exam study guide… which I have gotten before from the old site. Wait. They did what? Farmed such an important item out to some company? Rarely a good sign, IMO. Kind of like farming out corrections to a graphic artist who doesn’t know how it should read.
 Or so it seemed. Am I right? All I know is I went there and was so confused I gave up. If it is confusing someone who has been to the old site many, many times, over many, many years, what might it do to newbies? And I wouldn’t doubt if there’s more confusing navigation.
 Of what use is a pretty site that has lousy navigation?
 The only relief is, I hope, they ARE “working on it.”
 Best guideline: pretty is ‘nice;’ functionality far more important.
One of the revisions. Looks pretty, doesn’t it?

                             -30-
A Beer Judge’s Diary is one of many columns by Ken Carman, Certified BJCP mead endorsed beer judge, homebrewer since 1979 and seeker of both simple and complex quaffs who once upon a time thought he didn’t care all that much for beer. Then he discovered brews beyond the standard fare’ available on the east coast in the 60s. Thus the adventure began.
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