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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:
Quote:
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.

MUHAHAHAHA!


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

Comments

Old
funrun's Avatar
BTW, are people reading this? Should I continue the story?
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 01:23 AM by funrun funrun is offline
Old
bad_calvin's Avatar
I am reading funrun. There are people reading the blogs.. but remember it is a new feature so it may take some time for folks to start checking the blogs out in addition the message board.

For some it is easier to just use the message board to post.

BTW: "Tachy Goes to Coventry" it is a uk phrase to "go to converty" (get ignored). Tachy is probably a user they tested it on.. lol. I had to look it up myself as I didn't know what Tachy was. (no one will probably because they (Tachy) are ignored)
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 07:28 AM by bad_calvin bad_calvin is offline
Updated April 16th, 2008 at 11:42 AM by bad_calvin
Old
southwest ninja's Avatar
yes we are reading. im in the tech world myself and like the insite into all the behind the scenes work.
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 08:28 AM by southwest ninja southwest ninja is offline
Old
truth's Avatar
I'm reading
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 08:33 AM by truth truth is offline
Old
funrun's Avatar
Thanks for the comments and history on that phrase! I wish there were stats on the number of views each blog gets, but I haven't found it yet.
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 11:32 AM by funrun funrun is offline
Old
Retlaw's Avatar
Yep, people are reading.
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 11:40 AM by Retlaw Retlaw is offline
Old
ZBeeblebrox's Avatar
I'm reading...very interesting...keep them coming Funrun.
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 12:47 PM by ZBeeblebrox ZBeeblebrox is offline
Old
Nooblar's Avatar
Yes, please keep on writing your insider stories!
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 02:27 PM by Nooblar Nooblar is offline
Old
hextr1p's Avatar
Also reading.

I think it's cool to allow people a little insight into just how MUCH work went into this conversion.
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 03:25 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
Old
funrun's Avatar
Thanks for the comments, keep em coming so I know writing this is not a TOTAL waste of my time.

As for how much of my work went into the site, I don't think I can even remember all of it; and if I did it'd be too much to blog about! There's probably another three blogs or more I'll need to finish my story.
Posted April 16th, 2008 at 09:30 PM by funrun funrun is offline
Old
Hex_Enduction_Hour's Avatar
Tachy Goes to Conventry!
I have a few online people in mind who need to experience Conventry.

Quote:
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.
Again the fine-tuning involved. Oof.
Is saving a template in progress an automatic thing or do you manually have to do it? I could imagine getting really involved in some immense detail and forgetting to save as time went on.

Quote:
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. . .
Hextrip's headers are fantastic too. It's the best when a new one pops up.
"Hey I haven't seen that one yet!" They're always gorgeously done.

Keep the entries coming.
Posted April 18th, 2008 at 03:12 AM by Hex_Enduction_Hour Hex_Enduction_Hour is offline
Old
Clarissimus's Avatar
Google is your friend.

Tachy was the default name tester for that function. To "go to coventry" is a British phrase meaning everyone ignores you.
Posted April 18th, 2008 at 04:25 PM by Clarissimus Clarissimus is offline
Old
hextr1p's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeH
Hextrip's headers are fantastic too. It's the best when a new one pops up.
"Hey I haven't seen that one yet!" They're always gorgeously done.
Thanks for the kind words. I'm going to be making as many as I can, so be on the look out for more in the rotation in the future.
Posted April 18th, 2008 at 06:30 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
Old
Messenger's Avatar
Reading.

I'll admit, I don't know a thing about programming, but your writing style makes it sound fascinating!
Posted April 19th, 2008 at 11:08 PM by Messenger Messenger is offline
Old
funrun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HEH
Is saving a template in progress an automatic thing or do you manually have to do it? I could imagine getting really involved in some immense detail and forgetting to save as time went on.
Actually it is a manual save. I do get caught up on little details and sometimes forget to save when I'm finished, but if it saved a new version every time I clicked Save there would be 30 versions in some templates where only one number in the code had changed from the previous save. "Immense detail" is a very accurate description of how I can get.

I'm glad to know my "writing style" is somehow making programming more interesting. I like to think of my work to be less about programming and more about design, but in this case, it is more like programming for design. I did have to create some minor graphics and beat hex and Malechi with design criticisms until their background and icon graphics looked better
Posted April 20th, 2008 at 12:53 AM by funrun funrun is offline
 

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