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New Site: The Behind-the-Scenes Story, Part 2

Posted April 16th, 2008 at 01:22 AM by funrun
In Part 1 of this Behind-the-Scenes blog series, I talked about how we started this new site design idea back in the summer of 2007. Part 1 took us from the initial idea, to product research, up through about day 2 of my work to customize the out-of-the-box settings and visual styles we purchased from vBulletin.

Around about that second day of playing with the new site, I was realizing just how much power and customization could be done with the tools at hand. truth and the other admins hadn't really gotten into the settings yet, so I was pretty much making and breaking every setting I could find.

I'll let you in on one secret feature that we have not (yet ) implemented. I discovered this setting in my initial setting-and-breaking everything test period, forgot about it, and just re-discovered today. This feature has the strangest name of any site setting, "Tachy Goes to Coventry". I have no idea what that phrase means, but *perhaps* members who do something seriously wrong but is not quite a bannable offense need to beware of this one!! Here is what the description says it does:
This setting allows you to set certain users as being globally ignored. Their posts etc. are not seen by any users except themselves. This gives them the illusion that they are still functioning members of the forum when in reality nobody is seeing their posts.


In addition to site settings, I also had to set up some forums, sub forums, private forums, threads, and several different user groups with different feature abilities and access levels so I could see how my settings were affecting everyone. This also allowed me to see what all the content looked like and get ideas for how we/hextr1p could design to fit it. All we really knew is that we wanted to utilize the old front page graphic design that worked so well there, which meant we needed a fixed width page to match the image widths. More on this in a later blog. . .

At first I was changing the CSS (fonts and colors) in this one kinda basic editor area. I was feeling a bit constricted by it, and then I poked around in some other settings and discovered a link to a huge Templates library. I realized it contained the actual code that controls every feature, pixel, and label name of EVERY visual aspect of the site! It was like the moment in the Matrix when Neo finally finds the Architect and realizes the answers to all of his questions are right in front of him. To make it even better, I later discovered any change I made to templates could be saved to a version history, which could then be reverted back to at any time, and compared with the current version with the system highlighting the codes that are different. What a glorious interface for a developer to work with!

It was these templates that allowed me remove, rename, and re-order links in navigation bars, change the names of any auto-generated text in the site, and add in special hack features like the auto-resizing of large images. The old site had nothing remotely close to this level of minutiae customization!

At this point in the story (day 5 or so) only Admins were able to get into the testing forums and no one else knew what we were doing. I really needed people to make posts, start new threads, send PMs, try to break things, and offer suggestions, but everything was so new and confusing I wasn't getting a lot of action from less tech-savvy people (understandably intimidated). Also, Gencon was looming closer, and our goal was to launch the live site a week before that. (Obviously, that didn't happen!)

I made us a release schedule to stay on track, and we decided we'd bring in some of our legacy members to help test the new site the following week, after I had more of the settings and styles in place and Xotli had more of the database issues figured out.

To be continued. . .
Total Comments 17


Soul Shackle's Avatar

Aw, come on... just for a little while?
Posted June 25th, 2008 at 10:31 AM by Soul Shackle Soul Shackle is offline
AliasQTip's Avatar
"Tachy Goes to Coventry" - How cool (er... should I say cruel) is that.

N0o8: y is no 1 answring me???
Posted September 16th, 2009 at 07:59 PM by AliasQTip AliasQTip is offline

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