The launch of the new Knightmare.com website in 2020 was a glimmer of light in an otherwise gloomy year.
It consumed a huge amount of my spare time for over a year and was the labour of love I have always wanted to be involved in.
(It goes without saying – if you’ve never heard of Knightmare or vaguely remember it from your past, please do check it out. No description I could give would do it justice.)
The new site finally launched in September and I’m incredibly proud of it.
New site planning can require a lot of time and effort – especially if there are major things to fix in the new version.
In our case, the problems were twofold: the CMS had become limiting and inefficient, and our content was antiquated.
To tackle the first, it was decided to move from Joomla to a custom-build CMS that contained only what was needed.
For the second, we needed an information architecture that was fit for purpose.
Sometimes, a new site is more about a navigational spring clean than a wholescale replacement. That wasn’t the case for us.
A lot of our content had a limited shelf life. That’s partly because many of our updates reflect news and events that are no longer relevant.
But there’s also the issue that a lot of multimedia doesn’t age very well, and this disproportionately affects nostalgia websites. We had lots of poor images from old captures. We had ringtones for Nokia phones that are long obsolete.
It was time for a rethink about what was needed as opposed to what we had.
Behind the scenes
To my mind, there were always two real opportunities to be explored.
One, which I’ve always wanted to do, was to revamp the ‘Behind the scenes’ area. Knightmare was such a unique show for its time, and everyone is curious about how it was made.
While we did have lots of detail, much of it was provided in quotes and magazine items rather than benefiting from our intervention.
By breaking it down into individual facets, we could answer more questions directly. ‘How did the blue screen work?’ ‘How did the visual effects work?’ ‘What was auditioning like?’
For those interested in the granular detail, there are new pages on the studios and the theme music.
We had previously kept downloadable media in separate directories. This approach was an ideal way to fold them back in with their subject matter.
The result is that the site has become much more authoritative as a resource about the show than its previous version.
New characters and dungeon rooms
The second opportunity was borne from the principles I’ve been working to and learning from in my current job.
At the University of Greenwich, we’ve worked hard to define a strong taxonomy and to build libraries of defined content types that can be used as assets in a versatile way.
As our Head of Web describes it, it’s taking an object-orientated programming approach and applying the same principles to content.
The beauty of this approach is that is you can start thinking in terms of basic templates and potential properties without even needing anything formal to underpin it.
I was already thinking in my head, ‘define a character, define a room‘. I could envisage the brand-new sections where we gave every character and every dungeon room a space to shine.
Each of the show’s eight series folders already contained a list of rooms and characters, but these should have functioned as aggregators or directories and had become a tired exercise. Quite simply, there had never been assets / pages to funnel into. Now there are.
That has meant we can divide the characters into good, bad, and neutral, and the dungeon into hand painted, CGI, and location scenes, but each series folder can contain a combined list of assets associated with that year.
Thinking in terms of content types can do wonders for a site revamp.
It allows you to plan a more efficient navigation around content that should be fixed and content that should be dynamic.
It allows you to assess the feasibility of a particular type by forming templates before you embark on the work. And yes – I spent almost 200 hours just on sub-sections of the new areas – so I’m bloody thrilled it worked out.
Then, if you need to, you can plot how the tagging, properties and coding will allow your types to behave as you need them to.
It’s a brilliant job we’ve done, and it gives a groundbreaking show a worthy web presence befitting its legacy.