Phew! New Demonstrations site up...

A little tougher than I thought it was going to be to get everything lined up for release.

Our "knowledge app" site demonstrations.wolfram.com was completely redesigned to use the inline Mathematica 8 or free Wolfram Player plug-in rather than having to open a separate window (alongside various other changes).

This apparently small plug-in change makes a big usability difference and by the same token, it changed the site workflow quite a bit. It also required the latest version of Player--just releasing too--and itself quite a feat of engineering.

One of the complexities has been to work through all the cases of different machines, installations and therefore optimal operation. What should the site show if someone has Mathematica 7 (no plug-in capability) installed? Or they're on an iPad (no Player for now on iOS)? Or it's a complex demonstration that takes some time to compute? Each has its own adjusted workflow.

Hopefully, we've ironed out these cases but with the traffic we get, I'm sure we'll find out anywhere we haven't soon. Getting this optimised is a high priority: Demonstrations is one example of much broader interactive publishing plans codenamed CDF.

Manic Monday

It wasn't just my TED talk that got released today but Mathematica 8 and a big redo of our wolfram.com website precipitated by it. Websites are complicated animals these days and including documentation we put up over 10,000 pages. Here's what I emailed around to everyone in our company this morning.

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I'm very pleased to say that alongside the release of Mathematica 8, a major revamp of wolfram.com has gone live, including:

- Cleaner homepage that will increasingly represent all Wolfram company activities, not only Mathematica
- Completely revised Mathematica section, including features, customer stories and of course...
-  ...what's new (where for the first time we've added top reasons to upgrade and features by version)
- Different types of video to describe Mathematica, in particular the quick tour and feature spotlights (pop both from pages I linked)
- Solutions page refreshes including major revision of higher-ed and student sites
- Transformed home edition section
- New support center
- And the new, modern navigation style

I hope you like it all, and agree that it puts many, much larger companies to shame!

Please join me in congratulating the many groups that have pulled this together over more than a year--in particular design, tcs, marketing including project management, user experience, web implementation and video productions.

The complexity of satisfaction

We're in the final throes of getting Mathematica 8 out.

It's a massive task. As with each release, it's a far more complex piece of engineering than its predecessor. But so too is our build process, to handle that. Which complexity wins? Is it a more or less fraught process each release? Don't ask me in the next week(!) but I think the release process satisfaction index is improving.

Of course it's not just for Mathematica builds that there are rapidly escalating complexity or expectation competitions. It's a common facet of modern life. Cameras, computer games, smartphones and many other gadgets run this gauntlet. Beating expectations is key to individual satisfaction, though the absolute level of achievement is important to mass adoption of the genre in question.

Key to my satisfaction with products is depth of design: as I discover more, do I like it more or less? Or to put it another way, is the product's satisfaction derivative positive with time? Because I tend persevere with products, I get to the point of sampling this eventual rather than just initial satisfaction; many don't; and to figure it out upfront with complex, modern products is pretty hard.