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I am in the process of designing a website for an open source project which is a product of scientific research. The intended user base is quite specialised and limited to academics and researchers in a subset of condensed matter physics, but for both experimentalists and theorists/modellers.

Compared to a more general audience, say 'scientists in all disciplines', are there any additional considerations in designing the site to encourage as many people as possible to try the software?

More specifically, I am considering two different ways of presenting similar information about the software in terms of its capabilities, documentation, tutorial walkthroughs, and research which has been done using it (hopefully demonstrating its usefulness). The two forms are what I term a 'traditional' layout and 'modern' layout.

A 'traditional' layout generally consists of a short introductory text on the main page, with a news section featured heavily, also on the main page. Links to other pages such as documentation, download etc are generally provided in a side navigation panel where the user has to browse and find out what the software can actually do. A nice example of this is the http://www.gromacs.org homepage.

A 'modern' format is where the homepage aims to advertise the features more prominently, in a generally more 'presentational' style, and other pages such as documentation, tutorials given a demoted status. An example of this is the scrivener home page http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

The question is, for a technical audience, which format is more likely to attract users, and is the 'modern' format likely to put off anyone?

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1 Answer 1

IMO it's not about the format but the content, as it always was.
If the software is both useful and usable, and the documentation is helpful then you are set for success, no matter the format.
Anyway, I'd lean towards the more classical recipe, because it's better known and thus less distracting in that the users will need to devote it a small bit of focus leaving more for the product, the part that matters.

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