Some exciting news - Osprey are due to launch a new, updated website later this year! That is right - a few of you may have spotted veiled references to this in the past couple of months, we have actually been working with a web developer over the last three months or so and are about to finish the planning stages before embarking on the technical development of the site. Everything has gone very smoothly so far - but it is probably a little bit too early to reveal a launch date for the site, though we are confident it will be with us before the end of the summer at the very latest.
So, what exciting changes can you expect from our new site?
1) Crowd-funding: This is the bit of the site that we are most excited about, but it also is the section of the site that is proving to be the most complicated to implement. We may not have it quite ready in time for the launch of the site, but it should arrive pretty soon afterwards. As your involvement in the commissioning of titles has becomes more and more valuable to us, we decided that this was the next logical step - this will give us the ability to investigate even more niche subjects, making it easier for us to cover a wider range of history... if the demand is there. So if for example a title crops up time and again as a book suggestion, but we are not sure it will work commercially, we can open it up to you, to crowd fund the product, as was suggested by Paintybeard in the forum a while ago. It will also mean that we can potentially create exclusive, beautiful products - think the leather-bound Men-at-Arms Celebration but more incredible!
2) A home for Osprey Games and Osprey Adventures: with the growth of Osprey Adventures and our exciting plans for the future of our new Osprey Games imprint, we wanted to provide an improved area of our site for these standalone ventures. The new site will include pages specifically for Osprey Adventures and Osprey Games, with their own blogs and resources pages. But, possibly most crucially will be the introduction of standalone forums (fora?) for the imprints... something that will be particularly important with Osprey games as it will provide a central hub where gamers can ask questions, and interact and debate the rules systems we are creating.
3) New technology: Our current site has started to show its age over the last couple of years. Just look at the Flash panels that top the home page - when we were building the site originally, everyone loved Flash. Now as many of you with Apple or other mobile devices will have discovered, Flash is no longer admired. As the number of you browsing the site on mobile / tablet devices grows we needed to ensure the site worked as well on a mobile as on a desktop computer. Our new site will strip out all the out of date Flash and will 'adapt' to the size of the screen you are using.
4) Not just for selling books. Our current site is not bad at selling books and ebooks. It isn't perfect, but it was built primarily for selling books, and it struggles a bit whenever we try to sell anything that isn't a poster. With the advent of Osprey Games and the potential explosion of card games, boardgames etc we needed our site to be more flexible with the display of, and sale of non-book products. Oh yes, and this may make it easier for us to "Do A Wall Calendar" (to quote a drowsy bear we all know and love!) No promises mind...
5) Improved user experience - and security: It is no state secret that our current site has... issues. Timeout and server problems have meant that logging into the site and navigating around the site is nowhere near as smooth as we would like. The site struggles during high usage periods and falls over too often. In addition, the need to improve the security of the site meant that last year we had to make major changes to the way that sales data was transmitted to make the payment cycle PCI compliant. Bolting this onto the old site did ensure improved security for your data, but was also accompanied by a range of bugs. We have worked on correcting those, but developing a new ecommerce solution from scratch means that any remaining issues will be removed and will add extra levels of security to protect your data. The speed and stability of the site will also be much improved. And a new, improved and updateable shopping cart will mean fewer order failures and purchasing issues.
6) Improved ebook functionality: about two years into the life cycle of the current site, we bolted on the ability to sell and host ebook versions of our titles. This was not the most elegant of fixes, and as usage and download levels of ebooks have grown it has struggled. One of the key issues that has emerged is the difficulty customers experience when navigating through their collection of ebooks. This will be addressed in the new site. Customers with large ebook collections have also been hit with problems accessing all of their ebooks (currently when you own 100s of ebooks, it can take ages for the site to grant you access to your collection) - this issue will be eradicated in the new site.
7) Squashing all the other bugs: from the ability to include paragraphs in your forum posts to improved listing of titles in your library this is the chance to clear out a whole host of longterm issues to make your experience of the site a smoother and more enjoyable one.
8) Trade section of the site overhauled: for any of our trade partners who use our site to access the most up-to-date versions of our catalogue as well as information about offers, new products and key titles, the Trade section of the site will get a complete overhaul. Alongside this, an improved store locator function will allow you to direct Osprey customers near you to your store.
9) Search: searching both for books and through our membership content is having a major overhaul - there will be a couple of sacrifices to the way the search works with our blog and forums, but these will be pretty insignificant compared to the improvements to the rest of the search functions.
And now, last but not least... the unfortunate bit.
As many of you know, the blog and forum have been plagued by trolling issues. My team and I have worked flat out to mitigate the issue, but sadly the reputation of the forum and blog have still taken a bit of a beating - and issues continue to crop up. This is very much the poor behaviour of the few having an unfortunate impact on the many, but after long discussions internally and with our developers we have come up with the only truly workable solution to negate these issues.
At the launch of the new site we will be introducing a new Bronze membership level. This will be a paid-for membership that will be required before being granted the ability to post comments on blogs and forums. Gold and Silver members will also receive commenting privileges. The reason for introducing a paid-for requirement is pretty obvious - it will mean that all users will need to provide us with their real names and addresses, making them less likely to post abusive material on the blog - and making our job of pursuing legal action against threats to Osprey staff easier. Pursuing ISPs for personal data to pass on to the authorities is a time consuming process, this gives us the ability to more actively police the comments on the blogs and forums.
We don't want to price people out of interacting on our site - so we will keep the actual cost of this as low as possible (potentially in the £1 / $1 a year region). Osprey also has no desire to make any profit from this aspect of our site - our hand has been forced into doing this - so any and all revenue generated from the Bronze membership will be donated to a military charity of our choice. In fact, we are so committed to the charity aspect of this that Osprey will also contribute a yearly donation to the chosen charity on top of the revenue generated by the Bronze subscription.
We hope that this won't mean that too many of the forum posters we have come to know over the last 5 or 6 years won't desert the site. This has been one of the hardest decisions we have had to make, and we will be sad to know that we may lose touch with a few of your because of this, but we have really been left with no other choice. At least the tough decision to do this will benefit a number of fantastic charities, giving us a chance to give something back to the wider community.
Closer to the time we will be looking for two groups of guinea pigs who are willing to help us break the website. Or in more techy speak run through a Beta test for us. One group will be accessing the site remotely and looking for any bugs / issues that they can see. The second group will be invited to Osprey HQ for some beer, pizza and hands on with the site, followed by a round table discussion about the site and about future developments they would like to see us implement. More details will follow about both of these soon.
Until then, keep an eye out on the blog for some sneak peeks at the design of the site and some details about how the site build is going!