A Brand New Movies.com

The #1 movie site on the internet just got a facelift yesterday. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Chad Roberts and the Movies.com team upstairs along with some Flash and video work from our own group, Movies.com now has themselves a CSS-driven, standards-based site which is quicker to load, easier to use, and ten times more flexible than its predecessor.

The Movies.com relaunch is the first of several major relaunches you’ll see out of Disney in very near future. While not the biggest site in Disney’s portfolio, Movies.com represents other example of a category leader moving towards web standards in a very meaningful way. Where ESPN.com led the way a year and a half ago, other Disney sites are now following suit as part of their normal redesign cycles.

The overwhelming majority of ESPN users and armchair pundits saw the ESPN redesign for what it was… a gigantic step forward for both the company and web standards in general. Still a few wondered what the point was of moving towards standards if you can’t be 100% W3C-valid right off the bat. Well the point is “progressive improvement”. It is our belief that with each redesign, a site should get progressively better in all aspects. Make it look better, make it work better, make it more accessible. In order for a redesign to be successful, it need not completely solve every single issue which faces it. It need only materially improve itself in every way practical. As Voltaire once said, “Perfection is the enemy of good”, and anyone who would hamper the successful relaunch of a major new web site because of a few things that might not be perfect yet is a fool.

With the ESPN redesign, we created a culture at Disney which cares about coding things as correctly as possible. We instituted changes in our CMS and changes in our ad serving architecture which bring Disney sites towards a higher level of compliance. And now, other Disney properties are reaping the benefits.

Among the new features on Movies.com, you’ll find the most creative use of Motion technology to date: Cinequiz. By combining traditional Motion, Flash, DHTML, and CSS, we’ve created a compelling site feature which lets you view movie clips and subsequently test your movie knowledge right within the main page of the site. Since it utilizes traditional Motion technology, it is PC/IE only for launch, but look for an all-Flash version for all platforms in the near future (see Firefox Motion and Mac Motion).

Other new features include a brand new Reader Ratings component and a revamped Buzz/News section dedicated to bringing you all of the latest movies news and rumors in near real-time. There are plenty of other features being rolled out post-launch which will make Movies.com even better, so stay tuned.

And of course, more relaunches are on the way…

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20 Responses:

  1. since1968 says:

    Mike, clicking “launch flash version” on chadindustries.com generates the message “You need the Flash Player.” Can you let him know? I couldn’t find a contact email. My config: Safari 1.2.3, Flash player version 7,0,24,0. Thanks.

    (Editor’s Note: This is now fixed. Chad thanks you.)

  2. Very impressive! Standards are slowly making their way into my own work, due to my lobbying my boss and coworkers on it… but nothing on this scale.

    P.S. you layout breaks on IE6 on this entry at least (the menu is “cleared” below the content)

  3. What since1968 said.

    The movies.com site looks great.

  4. Mike D. says:

    Damn, I’m not seeing the breakage of this entry in IE 6. Anyone else noticing this? Are you using the default of Verdana 11 from the right-side font selector?

  5. The composition of the site is quite traditional, but features like Movie Nation Reader Rating and the Just Added box add really nice touches, making the site quite enjoyable.

    Too bad the Times & Tickets and footer don’t scale when you zoom the text (with the MozFF ctrl-+ function)

    And nope, I just checked in IE6-sp1 that entry 3 doesn’t brake (just like the rest of the site). it all looks fine.

  6. I’ve noticed more and more sites hopping on the standards bandwagon. But I also notice that just because sites are using “web standards” does not mean those pages are valid. Check this movies.com site over at the W3C validator. Tons of invalid code there.

  7. Mike D. says:

    Dale,

    Ugh. Did you happen to read the post at all?

  8. J. King says:

    Quick query:
    Why are script blocks not provided as external linked content so they can be separately cached? Does it break things in IE, or something?

  9. Mike D. says:

    J.,

    We do try to serve most JS externally, but there are a few reasons why sometimes it needs to be served inline:

    1. Our ad system inserts content dynamically on our edge-servers whereas the actual content from the CMS comes from head-ends. So certain content just needs to come from certain places.

    2. Some of our javascript, especially the Motion-related stuff, is served dynamically and may necessarily be different every time it is served… therefore, externalizing it isn’t always an option.

  10. Ian Fenn says:

    Hi Mike,

    Looks great. Well done!

    All the best,


    Ian

  11. Mike,

    I’m tempted to start winding you up like Dale did, but I’m too worried that you’ll come over to my house and beat me up.

    So, nice work!

    A couple of questions for you, though:

    1. I’d love to know the composition of the team that works on the Movies.com site.
    2. Do you have a developer style guide/bible for ensuring that everything looks and is coded consistently? If so, perhaps you could share how it is maintained and any tips for making it successful.
  12. Mike D. says:

    Christian,

    Yeah, don’t worry about winding me up. It’s usually quite easy to send validatorians crashing down to earth by showing them links to their own numerous validation errors, but we don’t really have to do that, do we? By the way, there were 27 errors in Dale’s site at the time of this check.

    Let’s just nip this in the bud before it gets crazy though. The point here isn’t validation… it’s writing progressively better code.

    To answer your questions though, yes, we have ways of maintaining code quality and consistency but it’s probably worth a separate blog entry. It’s not a picture perfect system, but it allows people of varying skills to all participate and contribute in the success of the finished product. Do we make certain sacrifices to get things done? Certainly.

    Additionally, there is not one such system for all of Disney. That would be too restricting. Generally, each business unit is governed by their own rules.

  13. Josh says:

    Mike,

    Movies.com seems slick enough. I’m all about the progressive coding techniques. Not enough people understand that sometimes we can’t be 150% obessessed about our code.

    One comment regarding your blog design, though. Your comments are visually distinct, but the numbers showing up to denote which comment we are looking at (the big serif numbers) are white and are completely lost in the white background. Perhaps a light green like your sidebar?

    ~ Josh

  14. Mike, here’s one person hoping that does become the topic of another entry. Also, regarding my other question – did you have a bunch of people working on this project or did you get to wear many hats and work ridiculous hours?

  15. Jason says:

    Mike, is it OK if I get wound up for you? Not going to say anything new here, but dangit it’s my turn to say it! :-)

    I did not visit Dale’s website, so I know nothing about him or what he works on. (This is because I am at work and I try to keep my superfluous web surfing down when I can, you know, in favor of getting work done.) My guess would have to be, that he does not work for a larger company making websites where not only do many different people have their hands under the hood, but also many different exterior sources of content (such as CMS and ad servers …) are generating code.

    In an environment like this, it takes time, and lots of it, to get everyone and everything up to speed.

    During that time, these people are being payed money, real money, to get real work done. Disney is company, and like all companies, they like to generate revenue and be profitable (say what you will about certian movies that flopped :-p ). To generate revenue, you need to ship a product or provide a service.

    A page that validates vs a page that does not validate 100% is indistinguishable to 99.9% of the people viewing it.

    So while there are some lingering validation issues, if the users are not going to notice, why not ship the product and start reaping the benefits of it right away? It is a huge advancement over the old site. It probably uses less bandwidth, but since it doesn’t validate, there is no need on saving money there!

    Should we just take all websites that don’t validate off the web? I am sorry, but I like browsing websites that fall outside of the realm of a web developer’s weblog.

    These are the realities of working for a company, especially the larger ones like Disney.

    We should be applauding Disney for going as far as they have, and raising the bar for it’s competitors.

  16. Jason says:

    Oh, I am not trying to be an anonymous coward here either. It’s just that I don’t have my own website.

    … it didn’t validate and the Validation Police (VPD) came and put it on the impound server…

  17. Mike D. says:

    Thank you very much for the advocacy Jason. Needless to say, it’s spot-on, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  18. I saw something I missed: label tags for the radiobuttons on the polls. It’s a usability nightmare without those.

  19. Jim Amos says:

    Godammn. I never thought I’d say this but I want to work for disney.

  20. Dinsey Pushing Web Standards

    First ESPN.com and now Movies.com Mike Davidson: A Brand New Movies.com has more details….

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