Pottermore: Azkaban, Chapters 16-22

A complete redesign, both when logged in and logged out. New articles about werewolves, time-turners, and the Patronus Charm. Remus Lupin’s backstory, complete with details surrounding his relationship with Nymphadora Tonks. Pottermore definitely gave fans a reason to come back today.

What new features came with the “logged-in” redesign?

Now, when logged in, you are presented not with a “gate” of the books and chapters as before, but with a map of the wizarding locations that have been revealed so far on Pottermore. This, unfortunately, does not yet include Hogsmeade, though an illustration of it can be seen on the map, which makes it evident that more locations will be added to the map as they become available on Pottermore.

The locations previously featured on the menu bar at the top have been moved instead to this map, with the exception of the Common Room, which is featured in both places, though I am not sure why. However, when clicking on the Common Room in the menu bar (in my case, the button says “Ravenclaw”) or actually any button in the main menu, another menu bar appears at the bottom with the same locations that are on the map.

The location buttons include: the Great Hall, the Common Room, Dueling Club, Potions Class, Diagon Alley, Potage’s Cauldron Shop, Flourish and Blott’s, and the Apothecary. Certain locations within Diagon Alley, such as Gringotts, Ollivanders, Eyelops Owl Emporium, the Magical Menagerie, and Wizacre’s Wizarding Equipment, are not shown on the map or on the map menu at the bottom. This may be merely arbitrary, as the three shops that are shown are the three shops closest to the entrance to Diagon Alley as you enter from The Leaky Cauldron. Several other shops in Diagon Alley are named but cannot be entered, as the “locked” icon indicates. It would be interesting to know whether the Pottermore creators ever intend to make those shops accessible. I certainly wouldn’t mind buying something at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor! I have to spend my 588 galleons on something, right?

Going back, however, to the main menu. It is “thinner” than the original menu and includes fewer options. “Pottermore” is still in the center, and clicking this will bring you back to the full map. At the far left is the “user” button (in my case, it says “ErisedAuror53”), which replaces the button that was never actually revealed in the original Pottermore. I am still curious as to what was meant for that button when it was created. If you recall, several buttons were “locked” until you reached Diagon Alley in the story, or Gringotts, or the Great Hall or Common Room (after the sorting ceremony). However, that button at the far left was never unlocked. I presumed that it might be Hogsmeade, but seeing as we weren’t given an explorable Hogsmeade location during the Prisoner of Azkaban chapter releases, that button was never made available. I could, however, be totally wrong.

Second on the main menu is the Common Room (in my case, “Ravenclaw”) button. Third is the “Items” button, which includes a running count of how many items I’ve collected thus far (207 in my case). Fourth is the “Badges” button, which also includes a running count (6 in my case). To the right side of the Pottermore logo is the Notifications Owl. Next to that is the running total of points that you’ve earned for your house (76 in my case). Next to that is the “Friends” button (I have 42), then the “Favorites” button (I have 1—the Mirror of Erised). The last button, “Settings”, allows users to log out or edit various account settings, such as the language, password, and other preferences.

It is very clear that, with this update, the Pottermore creators set out with an intent to separate the “locations” and “quizzes” from the storyline. It means the difference between exploring at your own pace versus following along with the story. I personally like this distinction. Separating the locations, such as Diagon Alley, Gringotts, and Ollivanders, and the quizzes, such as the wand quiz and the sorting hat quiz, from the story meant that new moments were added to take their place within the story. More about that in the “previous moments updated” section below.

Clicking on the “Pottermore” center logo not only brings you back to the map, but it also brings up the Story Navigator. The Story Navigator not only provides an easier way to move from moment to moment, but it also adds some cool features. There are new indicator icons that show which moments have a clip from the audiobook, which have new content from J.K. Rowling, and which have an interactive challenge. Moment panes that have not yet been visited are shown in black-and-white. Once they are visited, a status bar appears on the bottom of the moment pane. This new status bar shows how much (what percentage) of the moment has been discovered. This includes collecting items, taking a “closer look” at items, zooming in and out on the moment, and finally, hovering your mouse over items to see all of the animations that there are to see (which can be an annoyance). In addition to filling the status bar, a jiggling sound also plays to indicate that everything in the moment has been discovered.

Separating the moment panes for each book is a new page that displays several international covers for that particular book in the background, a synopsis, and a link to the Pottermore shop to buy the ebooks or the audiobooks. I’ve often wondered how Pottermore can sustain itself, considering that it is free to register and free of advertisements, but when you consider the ebook and especially audiobook promotions (considering the featured clips), it makes sense.

Finally, a right sidebar has also been added within the story section of Pottermore, which features three sections: “Read About”, which shows the various articles that you can read regarding people, places, or things within the moment, “Related Moments”, and “What People Are Saying”, which gives a link to scroll down to the comments section of the page. Other sections appear at other times, such as “What’s New”, which gives a link to the Pottermore Insider, “Have You Discovered?”, “Community News”, and the “Pottermore Shop”, which gives a link to the Shop.

What new features came with the “logged-out” redesign (home page)?

A new “promotion menu” has been added on the bottom of the home page, which includes the following sections to scroll through: Pottermore.com Today, What Is Pottermore.com?, Explore Harry’s story, Which Hogwarts house are you in?, Brew a potion, Cast a spell, New writing from J.K. Rowling, Which wand will choose you?, and The Harry Potter stories.

“Explore Harry’s story” allows you to explore a sample moment. Actually, the sample moment in question includes discoverable new content from J.K. Rowling that tells about “the Quill of Acceptance” and “the Book of Admittance”. Both are in the same room that used to be exclusively pictured on the “logged-out” Pottermore home page. This new information really explains what that pictured room is!

“Which Hogwarts house are you in?” and “Which wand will choose you?” really only tells visitors that they need to sign up in order to find out what their Hogwarts house and wand are. I was half-expecting, when the new update was announced, that users would be able to take these two quizzes as often as they wanted without signing up, which would stop users from signing up for a second account in order to sort themselves again after they “didn’t get the house they wanted”. This makes me wonder whether these two quizzes appear in order within the storyline, even though they have been replaced by new moments as explained above and later below, or whether the two quizzes happen right away.

“Brew a potion” and “Cast a spell” gives potential users an opportunity to do those things for practice.

“New writing from J.K. Rowling” gives potential users an opportunity to read a sample article, “Clothing”.

“The Harry Potter series” is relatively pointless. It includes the following synopsis of the series:

The seven-book Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling chronicles the adventures of Harry Potter — an orphan who believes he is an ordinary boy until he discovers, at the age of eleven, that he is in fact a wizard who has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Really? Was that synopsis even necessary? Doesn’t everyone already know who Harry Potter is?

What new content did J.K. Rowling give us in Chapters 16-22?

J.K. Rowling gave us incredibly fascinating articles about werewolves (which set us up perfectly for the Remus Lupin backstory), secret-keeperstime-turners, the Patronus Charm, and of course, the Remus Lupin backstory. I was disappointed to learn that there was no “Patronus Quiz” as I had hoped there would be in this new release, but after reading the article about the Patronus Charm, I am actually pleased that there isn’t. However, I’m not going to say anything more than that. You’ll have to read the new articles for yourselves. Be warned, though: you’re going to need a box of tissues next to you for the Remus Lupin backstory.

Please note that you may not be able to click on the links above until after you’ve discovered the new content within the moment for yourselves.

Which previous moments in Sorcerer’s Stone were updated?

Because the “locations” and “quizzes” have been removed from the storyline and were given their own featured place within Pottermore, new moments were needed to replace them. Brand-new moments (moments that I don’t ever remember seeing) in Sorcerer’s Stone include: Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Ollivanders, and the Sorting Ceremony. Because these locations and quizzes previously had “new content from J.K. Rowling” embedded within them, this new content was moved to the new moments, so that the locations and quizzes could remain separate from the story. Re-hidden within these moments are the articles regarding hat stalls, the sorting hat, Mr. Ollivander, wand woods, wand lengths and flexibility, wand cores, and clothing, which is the same article that was featured on the “logged-out” homepage as a sample article to read before you register.

Additionally, excerpts from Hogwarts school books were added to two moments within Sorcerer’s Stone that feature the library. The first “library moment” to feature one of these excerpts is not, as you might expect, “The Library”, but rather is Hagrid’s Secret, and upon the shelves there you will find “Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1”. In another “library moment”, Harry Becomes an Outcast, you’ll find upon the shelves the following three books: “A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration”, “One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi”, and “The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection”.

What’s frustrating about locating these last three books in the library is that you have to be at a precise zoom-distance to find them and they are not very large, which means that you may have to do a lot of scanning with your mouse in order for it to glow purple. Despite that they are obviously not full texts—the excerpts really only include a few sentences—there are some awesome gems within them, which I will not share here. Go, find them for yourselves!

Are there still lingering problems with Pottermore?

In a fandom as large as this one, nothing can ever be perfect for everyone. All the Pottermore creators (J.K. Rowling, Sony, and everyone on the creative team) can hope to do is create a website that they can be proud of, even if not everyone is pleased with it. They really want to make Pottermore work. With this desire in mind, the creators are constantly trying to make Pottermore better, which ultimately means changes. Despite that change sometimes makes people uncomfortable, I ultimately believe that changes are for the best, and that “new” and “different” are good things. Yes, the new “thin bar” doesn’t look like the original Pottermore, and the screen cut out from the books in the first promotion video is no more, but really, I think that’s for the best.

I do also have some thoughts concerning further improvements that could be made to Pottermore, for what they are worth.

Despite the new “thin bar” at the top, the new redesign, particularly the story navigator, cramps on screen space. While I do like the story navigator as a feature, as it is very useful when going quickly from moment to moment, it does take up a lot of screen real estate, especially if you don’t have a large screen to begin with. On my 13-inch MacBook Pro, it was difficult to see the full moment itself, plus the story navigator, on one screen, even while Google Chrome was in full screen mode. Perhaps the Pottermore team could provide a way to hide or minimize the story navigator while exploring moments?

This is a minor note, but my OCD is really flaring up with this one: the notification owl. Everywhere else, on Facebook for example, once you’ve read the notification, the number goes away. Not on Pottermore, however. Perhaps it shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

Many Pottermore users complained about this in the comments: having to re-collect items. For whatever reason, particularly with Chamber of Secrets, certain items found their way back to the moments, so it became necessary to collect them again. This isn’t really a problem, especially when you consider that you get house points for every item collected (even if it is collected twice). With the advent of the story navigator and status bars on the moment panes, Pottermore has started to keep track of the percentage of items collected and animations seen. Perhaps, since Pottermore hasn’t kept track of these things thus far, it put items back in the moments to be sure that they were collected? I don’t profess to know how their system works. However, problems ensued when items weren’t put back, but in order to fill up the status bar, that item needed to be collected. As a work-around for that problem, many users, as indicated by the comments, have “gifted” (to another user) the item that they picked up in that moment in the first place. Doing this caused the item to reappear in the moment for them to collect again, allowing for the status to fill up to 100%.

Finally, if the Pottermore creators want it to do well, they need to update it more often and give less content with each update. I felt more than a little overwhelmed with the latest update, but now, once this article is written, I probably won’t go back to Pottermore until the next update. Currently, the books are being released about seven chapters at a time, or roughly a third of the book. As we progress into Goblet of Fire and the other “big books”, this may change as there are more chapters to get through. My suggestion is give us two or three chapters at a time, but more often—perhaps weekly or bi-weekly—which gives us a reason to come back more often. This should produce more “habitual visitors” and fewer “sporadic visitors”.

What are your thoughts about the latest Pottermore update?

I personally think the “new Pottermore” is nothing short of awesome, despite its few drawbacks. Sure it doesn’t look like the original, but it still has the biggest reasons that draw people to it: the new content by J.K. Rowling (particularly now with the Remus Lupin backstory), the breathtaking artwork (I particularly like the sunset/sky scenes, such as Ron Tries Out the Firebolt and The Shrieking Shack), the ability to explore our favorite locations (which has been expanded with the new map feature and will continue to expand in 3D on PlayStation Home), and the interactivity (including the dueling club, the potions class, the house points, the ability to add friends, write comments, etc). If you’ve given up on Pottermore, I highly recommend giving it another shot. If you love the books, I personally believe that you’ll truly love this website. But enough about me. What are your thoughts about the latest update?