Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Pottermore Review from a BetaTester

Last year, every Potter fan - including myself - on the planet clamored to be apart of the first million users to access Pottermore.  If you remember when July 31st arrived and the first clue was announced, there was pandemonium online. And, over on tumblr, thanks to my fellow tumblrees and our up-til-dawn-powered-by-hope-and-coffee-party, I was able to answer the first clue at 4 am. I then survived the long wait in August and mid-September to receive my acceptance letter. I remember the exact morning when I woke up and knew I was officially a beta user.

Since then, I've had the privilege of giving the Pottermore team feedback for all their hard work. With the opening of Pottermore in early April, I thought it would be a good time to draw upon my Pottermore Perceptions!

Pro: Artwork. There is a stunning amount of detail that goes into every page. It's like visiting a museum and seeing great works of art on your computer screen. In some instances, it feels like the way you storyboarded the Harry Potter series in your mind was captured by the Pottermore artists. The work for the house crests alone are supremely impressive. There's a Thomas Kinkade level of texture and color on every page, I am still in awe of so many pages that were brought to life.

PRO: Exclusive content. On most pages, you can unlock exclusive content and information. Some of it might be information you already know, but slowly more and more info by JK Rowling is added and shared on the site. There were some background stories that just made me wonder - and I felt rewarded to get more insight on some of my favorite characters.

PRO / CON: Interactive or Social networking?

Practice potions and spells? Check!
Add comments to your favorite chapters? Check!
Upload fan art for characters, places, and specific book scenes? Check!

If you want to interact with Pottermore, there's a chance to do so almost on every page. However, on some pages it's not exactly clear on what you should or can do - play a game, collect an item, or just hover and then go to the next page....

Can you friend other students? Check!
Can you deal other students to earn house points? Check!

That's where the interactivity between students begins and ends. In the common room, there isn't a forum. There isn't a personal messaging system between members. To be friends on Pottermore, you're not really - unless you know that person outside of the site.

With so many people accessing the site and friending each other, I beg to question on whether Pottermore should be more social networking friendly. It's great to be apart of a website that isn't about building a following, but with a forum or direct messaging system, it would be more fun to chat with other students about Harry Potter - since most internet forums are somewhat dying down these days?

PRO: It's a PG site. Every page is family friendly safe. No need to worry about explicit fan art or comments. The double-edged sword with a forum is that there is a chance for topics to wane off Harry Potter or become explicit - unless a whole other team of moderators is employed....

PRO/CON: The sorting hat. It's just a stress test gone out of control. Like me, you know which house you want. You might have pretty much defined your existence by your house your whole life. The Pottermore sorting hat is sorta official Potterhead business. I was lucky enough (I think I just prayed really really hard to the internet GOD) to get sorted into the house I've always been sorted into. (GRYFFINDOR!!)..but will fans feel disinterest if they aren't sorted 'correctly'?...To each their own, perhaps!

Bottom line: The site as a whole, I believe, is a much bigger giant than anyone expected it to be - probably even the Pottermore team. Changes are coming but they are coming slowly. The lack of audio sounds on the site was a deep negative for many beta testers - we spoke out and and as of the latest announcement, it's getting added.

Overall, Pottermore is a stellar online book companion. It's not something I personally had to be logged into all the time - because when I visited it, it satiates my love for Harry Potter. It's a refreshing way to connect with the series, to know that Hogwarts is really only a few clicks away!

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