Pottermore – Slightly Bemused

August 16, 2011

So, this entry continues on my recent theme of Pottermore, JK Rowling’s latest website offering.

Having worked many years on web projects myself, I’m rather bemused at how this project has been handled.  Honestly, when the early entry beta was announced did the Pottermore team not realise that several hundred million Harry Potter fans would be screaming at the gates, clamouring for IMMEDIATE access?  That means access now; not in October, not next week, now.

Sometimes it seems as if the Pottermore team hasn’t quite realised that these beta testers are fans, not professional IT people.  Fans don’t care about balancing server loads, ensuring a good cross section of users across all languages or across regions.  They just want to access the new content from the brilliant mind of JK Rowling, to be chosen by a wand and to be Sorted into their Hogwarts House.

The very low numbers (approximately 10,000 of the one million beta users) who have actually got to access the site since the beta started on the 31st of July appears to have left many people at worst angry and frustrated, at best apathetic about the new site.  In a fan’s perfect world, access would have been granted as soon as the Seven Books, Seven Days, Seven Chances challenge was over.  Several days passed with no access granted and no news from the Pottermore team.  Fans were eagerly refreshing their email inboxes to check for the arrival of the all-important email advising that their account had been activated for access.  No emails were received, and no news from the Pottermore team was forthcoming.

Worse – the login link from the homepage disappeared.  With rising frustration amongst fans, the Pottermore team was forced to send a holding email confirming early access and advising users that their accounts would be activated at some point between the middle of August and the end of September.  The end of September… the Pottermore site is opening to the general public in October… 

So yesterday, the first few users were let in.  The Pottermore team didn’t make it clear what criteria they used to select these fortunate few.  There seemed to be a mixture across all days of the challenge, so users who got in on day one answering the most difficult question ("how many owls in the Eylopes shop banner?  Multiply by 49") were rightfully livid to realise they were still waiting while people who got in on day 7 with the easiest question "("How many Deathly Hallows are there?  Multiply by 7") were already in and enjoying the content.

In all fairness, it’s difficult to see how the project could have been managed differently.  It’s a unique project in terms of web development, with a very passionate and unique user base.  It’s unlikely fans would have been happy with anything less than immediate access no matter how much the Pottermore team tried to manage their expections.

As for me, I’m just hoping I can get in more than 24 hours before 400 million fans descend on the site in October.

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