So, this is also a bit late, but in the last few months, Jurevics gave a Keynote on Pottermore, and the recent strategy shift.
Now, unfortunately, the keynote is not online, and I was not there, but combining various story sources, the key focus seems to be on the change Pottermore had in what it's valued demographic was.
For those of us that have not had our souls sucked out of them by academic dementors to have the pleasure of learning what a demographic is, they are slices of the population that buy your things and like you.
So the goal of a demographic is to figure out who will purchase your things, and how to pander to them best. Naturally, this leads to occasionally sexist methods at times. Boys products are given darker colors, girls products are turned pink and sparkly. The way it sort of works is, subtle or not, they change the look to better "appeal" to their new core audience.
Don't believe me? I would dare many of you to check out websites for people in Pottermore's new core demographic. Look at things meant for women aged say, 15 to 35. Give them a bredth of 20 years. Look up "female friendly web design." The result will likely surprise a few of you, or shock others.
For myself, checking amongst the links I read that handwriting is like a magnet to women... wait wasn't the new logo handwritten... okay.
So, then they go to the idea that this would be a great example of fem-friendly web-design.
Now contrast with Pottermore
Imagine that Pottermore was designed with such things in mind. Make it appeal to women, Susan decreed from on high. Make it appeal to women like any other website out there. This is where I say Pottermore has failed.
Mostly, because I think Pottermore's audience are not just "women." You have a bleeding fandom. Potter is it's own "demographic" in my own opinion, and I'd push towards acknowledging that, while I'm VERY certain women are predominantly the fans of Potter (I would quite honestly be flying against everything I know and have seen in the world if I were to say otherwise). I do not think that the women of Potter are as easily played to as Pottermore's design seems to imply. It makes me think of the Nostalgia Critic's line on chick flicks, where chick flicks can be great, but you can't excuse what's bad by saying "well... it's a chick flick" and likewise the genre should be no excuse for poor effort and choices.
Here, I feel like this is that sort of "chick flick" in web design. There are undoubtably good female friendly websites out there when it comes to design. Apple comes to mind as one mentioned, which I generally think has a better layout and format. But Apple isn't Pottermore. Even thinking of the other elements that I've seen listed, the writing style, the use of color, I still think Hypable's design is much better than anything at use at Pottermore.
In addition, I will venture out to say I think that perhaps, the removal of the game elements would likely have gone against that real key demographic that I have seen. Many of the most avid players of Pottermore I had seen were again, women. I do not know if this was because of weird registration, or guys losing interest, or just a shortage of guys to begin with. I do not know, though I have occasionally thought, that this is because they are mothers, who have read the series, and are looking for a safe and wonderful way for their children to get into the series. I've seen comments like that quite a bit, of parents lamenting the changes before their children finished.
But, quite honestly, I'm uncertain.
For all I know, Pottermore kept demographics that showed that women did not use the gaming features much, and as a result, games were removed as they were deemed as "irrelevant." It could be very well that we are all experiencing the parable of the three blind men and the elephant. All of us may see different things, but until Pottermore publicly releases it's stats, we have to rely on each other's experiences and piecing them all together.
But perhaps the worst aspect of this shift is how Pottermore has inadvertently limited itself.
Pottermore in it's demo shift is ignoring the massive potential that almost ANY game associated with the series could have.
They do a simple RPG following a random student through the series, it'll be good.
They do a simple RPG with a student AFTER the series, even better. Really, it's impossible for almost any game feature to fall extraordinarily flat, assuming that the requisite amount of effort is put into it. Pottermore is licensing the books then it should truly license the games as well. I'm uncertain if this is lingering bad taste due to their partnership with Sony, but EA, or Nintendo would be great partners on that sort of venture. EA has given us Potter games in the past with most of them passable, and could be enhanced by the Pottermore experience, and interconnectivity (imagine, if Pottermore were to allow you to hook up your account, giving you rewards and extra content available online for achievements). I believe it's this feature that many of the fans were sorely missing.
Yes it is wonderful to have all the information searchable (even if the search function is sketchy on the site) but thinking about what Potter is as a brand, it was never about easy answers. Rowling's website should be used (and probably was used) as an example of what to do, and to never lose track of that start. Her website had us searching for things, exploring, trying new things, and while I'm certain this may come as a surprise to those that run Pottermore, it is a core experience of gaming, and more importantly, a core experience from the high points of the Potter fandom.
We love to speculate. We love to play detective. I don't think women are any less likely to want to theorize and piece together the puzzle.
Goodness, even look at the response the fandom gave Jo's bizarre tweet. We ADORE this element of the fandom, and Pottermore should embrace it.
The current strategy shuns this sense of discovery, and perhaps that's why Pottermore doesn't feel very Potter-esque.
There's no mystery. There's no challenge. There's no sense of discovery. And it's beyond unfortunate if that is because Pottermore believes that young women just don't care about that sort of thing.
As a final note, if anyone is in Florida and goes to the HP celebration, ask them. Bring up what you want and what you'd spend your money on. Make it clear that their demos are wrong, or misguided. Or congratulate them on a job well done(?). One can almost be certain, things are changing, and we will find out in the coming months whether or not this gambit has paid off for them in the short term.
So with that, let's see what they can do with it.
STORIES ON THE KEYNOTE