MySQL Website a Reflection of Values

May 17, 2008 / By Sheeri Cabral

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I understand that MySQL as a company wants to recruit paying customers. However, as a community user I have a hard time finding what I want on the MySQL website. Today’s frustration is brought to you by trying to find the documentation.

Go ahead, hit http://www.mysql.com. From there, where do you go to find the documentation?

It’s not Services, not even Services -> Support.

According to Products, the community server is not even a product. How is a potential new user, who wants to learn about MySQL, supposed to know a community version exists? Here are the products listed on the Products page:

MySQL Enterprise
MySQL Enterprise Monitor
MySQL Cluster
MySQL Embedded Database
MySQL Database Drivers
MySQL Database Tools

Where’s “MySQL Database” on that list? A website user basically has to know what they’re looking for, since that page does not help find “the mysql database”. You can guess it’s the “MySQL Enterprise” — but you’d be wrong. Imagine if you’re a person unfamiliar with MySQL who has been told “go to the MySQL website and get the free version of the database, it’s great!”

OK, OK, I know, you’re saying “click on Downloads”. Which takes me to the “choose which version you want to download.” OK, nice for newbies, but really annoying for the experienced. Why aren’t the links to download at the top, with the explanations just underneath? A newbie would be presented with the links, think “I don’t know which to choose!” but then see that the descriptions are just underneath. An experienced user can just click and go.

This of course is made even more silly when you realize that the community download link simply scrolls down. Yes, that’s right, the community downloads immediately follow that chart of explanations. Which means that in the current state, when the link is at the bottom of the chart, the link points you to the next line. If the link is at the top of the page, at least there’s a reason for it — to scroll down past the explanations.

Now recall that the exercise was to find documentation. There is no way to download the documentation here.

I am a non-paying user, not a developer. Going to the “Developer Zone” is not intuitive for me. However, that is exactly where I need to be:

* DevZone
* Downloads
* Documentation
* Articles
* Forums
* Bugs
* Forge
* Blogs

Given that list of topics, why on earth is this section called the “Developer Zone”? (it’s a rhetorical question!) Sure, if I’m a software developer I might think it’s useful to me. On any other website “developer zone” is relegated to advanced users, or folks using some different part of the product than what most people use (think Apple’s Developer Connection).

Take a look at that list. On any other website, it would be under “Support” or “Help” or “Learn”.

No wonder folks have no idea that the forums exist, much less the Forge or Planet MySQL. If I was a new user to MySQL and I wanted to find the documentation, I’d be very unhappy.

Heck, I’m very unhappy anyway — what kind of company has a huge community of people supporting each other and contributing back to the company, and does not give people an easy way to find the community?

15 Responses to “MySQL Website a Reflection of Values”

  • Ben says:

    Good points, and yes, things can be hard to find on mysql.com.

    One note – the documentation can be found from the mysql.com homepage.
    Not sure why it’s there, but it’s under the “Test Drive” section.
    (I would think it should be under “Discover” or “Learn”.)

  • Marten Mickos says:

    Sheeri,

    Thx for the feedback!

    An idea we had was that users of the type you describe would intuitively go to the dot org site. Mysql.org points to dev.mysql.com. So you can get there without having to think you are a “developer”, and you will find documentation and downloads and such. But perhaps this isn’t as intuitive as we had hoped.

    Marten

  • Tom Krouper says:

    Marten,

    I didn’t even realized mysql.org was something that was out there. I just search for MySQL on google and mysql.org doesn’t show up on the first page at all. So as a “new” user to MySQL a person would intuitively go to the first link, which is MySQL.com. Now that I know to use mysql.org it’ll save me some key strokes rather than typing dev.mysql.com.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • Tom Krouper says:

    Quick admission, I went back and looked at Google again. The MySQL link does have documentation as an option under the main link.

  • Dude, that is what happen when a successful open source company is acquired by an unsuccessful company like Sun. (Eg. Sun has two brilliant products Java and Solaris but they were never able to make money from that, though they have made others take advantage of their products and their stock price also reflect that)
    I was quite skeptical about Sun’s MySQL acquisition and your blog seems to prove my skepticism a bit about Sun’s business policy and its relationship with outside developers, community and users.

  • Rasmus says:

    I think most regular MySQL users have figured out that mysql.com has php.net-like auto-redirection into the documentation. Forgot the syntax for a left join, just type: mysql.com/left join
    in your url bar, and you get directly to the correct spot in the documentation. Trying to navigate a bunch of links is way too inefficient, and besides, you should never click on a link anyway.

  • Prajwal ,
    I would like to dispel the insurgent myth that Sun has removed the documentation link from MySQL site.
    Let’s get the facts. Most popular web pages are recorded at archive.org. If you want to see how MySQL site was one, two, three, many years ago, see this link
    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.mysql.com/

    Sun may have been guilty of many sins, but micromanaging MySQL web site is not one of them.

    Giuseppe

  • Sheeri Cabral says:

    Ben — good catch! So it is one click off the home page…..but definitely “test drive” doesn’t help….

    Marten — most people go to dot com for any site. :(

  • Sheeri Cabral says:

    Rasmus — I’m referring to new users, not regular ones :)

    Prajwal — the MySQL website was awful long before Sun ever acquired it.

  • Ben says:

    Sheeri -

    one more comment, regarding Sun/MySQL. If you go to sun.com, hover over “downloads” in the menu, and click on MySQL, you will get a page with “Get It Now” buttons for community or enterprise software.

    The documentation is still not obvious though (at least to me): I had to poke around, ended up going to “downloads/MySQL”, clicking on the Overview tab, then “community”, and then its under the “developer resources” section! (Forums are linked to on the same page too.) A bit convoluted, but it is there.

  • Markus Popp says:

    It was only recently that we added a link to the Community download page to the nav bar at http://www.mysql.com. I really think we should go that one step further and also add a link to the Documentation. Maybe not directly into the nav bar (to avoid overstuffing it), but I personally think they should both (Downloads and Documentation) be on a well visible place.

  • I can consider myself a MySQL newbie and I can only confirm that I was confused by trying to get to documentation from mysql.com. I had to consult documentation all the time while working on MySQL plug-in for Oracle Grid Control. Now whenever I need documentation, I Google “mysql docs” and optionally adding a version for a direct link.

    I don’t bother more than few seconds if I can’t get somewhere quickly – Google is my friend.

  • David Daniel says:

    I am also a MySQL newbie and I often find the MySQL site to frustrating. On my first MySQL download, I was confused in just the way Sheeri described: “A newbie would be presented with the links, think “I don’t know which to choose!” but then see that the descriptions are just underneath.”

    Newbies are important to business too! Some will become future users and, hopefully, experts.

    Thanks for posting your observations Sheeri.

  • Brady says:

    I’ve been using MySQL for 5+ years now, and using the MySQL website is still a horrible experience every time. Not just getting to the documentation! My boss asked me to find out what it costs to get certified in MySQL and it took me at least 15 minutes to find that information!

    I submitted this as a plea to MySQL through their “Contact Us” form to simplify their website and actually got a response back with the pertinent information, and quickly too. So I just wanted to point out that though their website is in serious need of a complete makeover, their customer service skills are definitely good.

    Brady

  • bafi says:

    I didn’t even realized mysql.org was something that was out there. I just search for MySQL on google and mysql.org doesn’t show up on the first page at all. So as a “new” user to MySQL a person would intuitively go to the first link, which is MySQL.com. Now that I know to use mysql.org it’ll save me some key strokes rather than typing dev.mysql.com.

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