Sunday, June 26, 2011

Introducing XAML Illustrations, Increased Payouts to Contributors, and More

For the past couple months I've been working on a new design for SilverlightXAP.com.  And today I'm proud to say it's done!



It's a completely new look, but beyond that I aimed to make a number of improvements and solve a number of problems.

XAML Illustrations
First and foremost, I knew I needed to expand the product range.  The most logical step was to add XAML illustrations to the mix.  The idea is to provide royalty-free illustrations in 100% vector format and coded in XAML.  This makes things extra easy for developers to drop beautiful vector graphics into their Silverlight project.  At this point there's just one illustration in the collection, which is derived from some simple icons I had designed months ago for Regex Hero.  Sign up to submit your own illustrations.

85% Payouts to Contributing Members
As a special promotion we're paying 85% of the proceeds from every product you sell through the site.  This deal will last through the rest of 2011, after which the rate will decrease to the standard 70%.  Once again, if you're not already signed up and want to sell your work on the site, sign up here.

Faster Silverlight Load Times
Now we'll get a little technical.  I spent some time optimizing a number of areas of the site.  First, I changed the way the XAP files are delivered. Rather than streaming the XAP file out of the database, I'm now delivering them straight from the file system on the server (IIS is able to do this much more efficiently).  Plus this allows the preloading animation to load properly and I think this improves perceived performance as a result.

Faster Product Page Load Times
Next up I redesigned the online support system.  The support system was inspired by GetSatisfaction, which is a service that streamlines support requests.  Much like GetSatisfaction, I have support requests divided into 4 categories: reviews, questions, ideas, and problems.  Initially I had created this system with a lot of AJAX, and it worked pretty well.  There were, however, some bugs and strange behavior in some browsers.  I could've fixed these problems with a little time and effort.  But all of this functionality built into the already heavy product pages caused the whole page to load slower than I'd like.  So in fact I ripped out the AJAX in favor of a greatly simplified approach composed of multiple pages.  I was able to ditch a whole lot of Javascript as a result, and the product pages load much faster now.

Faster Everywhere
Last, but certainly not least, I've moved much of the common images, js, and css files over to a CDN (content delivery network).  I went with RackSpace Cloud Files.  They're using the excellent and always fast Akamai network with servers in 72 countries.  The result should be a marked improvement in every page of the site.  But the improvement will be felt even more in countries outside the U.S.

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