What Will Pottermore’s Changes Bring?

In August of 2011, I sat at my computer at two in the morning, anxiously refreshing the Pottermore website. It was Day 2 of their beta user filtering process, and I was determined to win myself a beta account. However, I was one of thousands all over the world trying to have this opportunity, and I was worried that I wouldn’t make it. Luckily, after a mad scramble across my bedroom to grab Chamber of Secrets to answer that night’s clue, I snagged a beta Pottermore account. I’ve been with the site ever since, and I’ve watched as it has changed, grown, and expanded.

As the author of the “Pottermore Moments Revisited” series, I have spent a lot of time on Pottermore. I’ve praised, criticized, and explored the site numerous times. I’ve been Sorted into both Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, causing a mild identity crisis. I’ve forced numerous people to take the wand and Sorting tests to determine what their true House is. I’ve gasped, cried, and smiled at the new information J.K. Rowling has given us on the site. I like to think I’m pretty well acquainted with Pottermore in its current form.

But now it seems that that age of Pottermore is ending. Last week, we found out more information on the changes that Pottermore has been promising. The site has said that they will be updating and closing the current form of the site on September 16. But what will these updates bring? I, and other MuggleNet staff and fans alike, have mixed responses to the previews of the redesigned site.

There was a lot of information given in this news, so I have broken it down by some of the main points:

Demographic

The executives in charge of the site have said that they are diverting from their original target audience of new readers (primarily children) to focus on the “overwhelming” demographic found to use the site: “young adult and female”  fans of the series.

I am a certainly a part of this demographic.  I started reading the series when I was five years old, and I’ve been enamored with it for the past 16 years. I’m certainly not a new reader. However, trying to focus on a young adult female audience seems a bit limiting. I currently have a young nephew and niece, and I’d like to one day have children, and I am planning to introduce them to the series when they are old enough. Alohomora! host Michael Harle has spoken on the podcast about kids who are discovering the Harry Potter books at the library he works at. Much of the original Potter generation is having children and cannot wait to share Harry’s story with them. There most definitely is an up and coming generation that is discovering these books for the first time, and they are increasingly active in the digital world. Any digital site should be conscious of that, and the original Pottermore site was. Yes, the old format was a bit simplistic for older fans, but going in the complete opposite direction is also detrimental. There needs to be a balance struck for all fans to enjoy the site.

Mobile Access

This has probably been the only thing that has gotten overwhelmingly positive responses. When Pottermore was in its early stages, tablets and smartphones were just beginning to emerge. Now, more people access the Internet on their phones and other devices rather than their computers. Not being mobile compatible has been detracting people from using Pottermore, and this update will be extremely beneficial.

Graphics, Art, and Information

One of the things that most users of the current site love is the beautiful artwork. However, the previews of the new site have suggested that movie stills will be used. Though we of course appreciate and love the movies and the cast for what they gave us, a lot of fans have expressed dismay at this change. MuggleNet Creative & Marketing Director Kat said,

This was supposed to be a book companion, and the original art was incredible. It’s disappointing that it seems that’s going away,

while commenter Lisa said,

One of the good things about Pottermore was that it didn’t feature the actors as the characters and thus provided a clear separation between movies and books. We were free to imagine the characters the way we wanted, instead of having the WB versions of them shoved down our throats. Don’t get me wrong, I like most of the actors and in general agree with the casting choices, but I would still like to keep my own image of the characters in my head.

The artwork allowed for users and readers to let their imaginations form the characters, something that many cherished.

In addition, the redesigned site is ditching its unique font for JKR’s handwriting. While this is nice, I quite liked the original font; it made Pottermore something of its own, and that was refreshing. The layout, too, will be entirely changed (more on that later), and fans are not enthusiastic about it. As MuggleNet Content Team member Beth said,

It feels like a powerpoint presentation from the early 2000s.

It has definitely lost that feeling of going through a journey that made the Pottermore experience unique and lovely.

However, Pottermore has said that all the new information from JKR will still be available on the redesigned site. In addition, it will be easier to find the information because the site will now have search engine and indexing capabilities. This will certainly make finding that tidbit you thought you remembered much easier!

Removal of Moments

That completing a journey feeling was a bit of the point of Pottermore; as you went through the seven-book series Moment by Moment, it was an experience to follow Harry’s journey. Many fans have expressed dismay at the fact that these Moments will be disappearing. The sense of journey is going to be replaced by a more wiki feel, with “hundreds of thousands of landing pages.” But will this be too much? There is definitely the chance that this could take over fan-made sites such as the Harry Potter Wiki and the Harry Potter Lexicon. Since the site opened, there has been speculation that it is the replacement for the encyclopedia JKR promised, and this wiki feel makes that suspicion even stronger. In addition, it takes away some of Pottermore’s uniqueness in the scheme of official Potter things.

It also means that the fun games there were on the site will be disappearing. Gone will be the gnome throwing game, potion making, and dueling. Though many thought these things were annoying or juvenile, others thought they were fun and clever. Though later books became less interactive, the interactivity factor is going to drop even more with the redesign. This could even go as far as to eliminate the Sorting and wand quizzes, which would probably mean that we might never get the Patronus quiz JKR told us was in the works. We’re especially concerned about this after a recent tweet from the Pottermore account:

This would be a serious drawback of closing the old site entirely. There was authority to the Pottermore Sorting and wand quizzes, and that authority will be very missed! In addition, how will future readers of Harry Potter know their official House!?

All of this new information of the site redesign is intriguing and not very specific. How they will translate onto the actual site is still to be seen. We may actually enjoy the new site better, but for now, all we can do is speculate and hope that our favorite features will not go away!

What do you think of the promised Pottermore redesign? Let us know in the comments.

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