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Author Topic: Cauldron Web Site Redesign Discussion  (Read 12233 times)
RandallS
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« Topic Start: November 09, 2009, 08:42:29 am »

The look, feel, and organization of Cauldron's web site was designed in the late 1990s. While it has received some minor updates over the years (e.g. reorganized left menus, changed from parchment-like background and colors to the current light blue), it hasn't received a complete redesign in about ten years. The site is completely out of date with web standards -- for example, nested tables amd font tags are used everywhere while CSS is barely used at all.

TC is greatly in need of a redesign. However, any redesign would be a lot of work. Not just to redesign the look of the site and code it in modern HTML and CSS (in a way that will work even in IE 7 and 8 ), but to convert somewhere between 1000-1500 pages to this new look. Conversion would be a MAJOR operation that would probably have to be done by hand for each page as the old pages are full of font tags that should not be used any more to color font size, face, and color. Most pages contain nested tables and the like as well -- above and beyond those that control the main design.

This thread is to discuss a possible complete site redesign for The Cauldron.  Please chime in with your ideas and opinions.

One Note: One thing that will NOT be considered at all: a dark page design.  Dark letters on a light-color background are FAR easier to read than light-colored text on a dark background.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2009, 08:59:42 am by Star, Reason: Separating the 8 and the close-paren so it doesn\'t form a smiley » Logged

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« Reply #1: November 09, 2009, 09:09:11 am »

TC is greatly in need of a redesign. However, any redesign would be a lot of work. Not just to redesign the look of the site and code it in modern HTML and CSS (in a way that will work even in IE 7 and 8 ), but to convert somewhere between 1000-1500 pages to this new look. Conversion would be a MAJOR operation that would probably have to be done by hand for each page as the old pages are full of font tags that should not be used any more to color font size, face, and color. Most pages contain nested tables and the like as well -- above and beyond those that control the main design.

Dreamweaver, if you can get your hands on a copy.  You can set up a template so that you don't have to touch every page every time you change something.  I recently converted a site from Joomla to straight HTML and CSS using Dreamweaver, and it went really smoothly and easily.  There were a couple of places where I had to tweak something for IE compatibility or to make the HTML do exactly what I wanted, but only minor bits.  (I say all this as a die-hard "I do all my coding in Textpad!" webmaster, too.  I'm finally convinced.)

If not Dreamweaver (which I know is not cheap if you don't have an in with an educational institution that can offer it at a severe discount, which is how I got my grubby hands on it), it might be worth seeing what else is out there for low or no cost that could also do a template sort of thing.  It really makes site redesign and maintenance about 1000% easier.

As for the look...  Honestly, I've gotten so used to this blue scheme that I've got little to offer.  I'm right there with you on the nixing the dark page design before it gets started, though.  Keeping it light is a good idea...  ::flails around trying to find some suggestion::
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« Reply #2: November 09, 2009, 10:47:21 am »

Dreamweaver, if you can get your hands on a copy.  You can set up a template so that you don't have to touch every page every time you change something.  I recently converted a site from Joomla to straight HTML and CSS using Dreamweaver, and it went really smoothly and easily.  There were a couple of places where I had to tweak something for IE compatibility or to make the HTML do exactly what I wanted, but only minor bits.  (I say all this as a die-hard "I do all my coding in Textpad!" webmaster, too.  I'm finally convinced.)

I actually have a version of Dreamweaver -- CS3, I think. I've never really used it because I am so used to Homesite (which I have used since version 1.something back in 1996). Unfortunately, there hasn't been a new version since 2003 homesite doesn't handle CSS all that well.  This has never mattered before as I've never had to use it with a site that is both HUGE and is all modern CSS. I guess I will have to look at it more closely and try to get used to using it. Unfortunately, I find changing editors very hard. I used a DOS editor (Qedit from the late 1980s) until about 2003 because it was easier to use it than learn a new editor.  It's weird, I can use new programming language easier than I can new editors. Sad

Quote
As for the look...  Honestly, I've gotten so used to this blue scheme that I've got little to offer.  I'm right there with you on the nixing the dark page design before it gets started, though.  Keeping it light is a good idea...  ::flails around trying to find some suggestion::

Yes, dark designs seem all the rage with Pagans, especially younger Pagans. I suspect because they have younger eyes. I'm serious -- from what I've read the older you get the harder it usually is to read light text on a dark background.
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Randall
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« Reply #3: November 09, 2009, 11:22:39 am »

I actually have a version of Dreamweaver -- CS3, I think.

Oh, good.  The current one is CS4, so that should be pretty recent.

Quote
Unfortunately, I find changing editors very hard. I used a DOS editor (Qedit from the late 1980s) until about 2003 because it was easier to use it than learn a new editor.  It's weird, I can use new programming language easier than I can new editors. Sad

I hear ya--on both those points.  Dreamweaver does at least keep things pretty simple and relatively intuitive, though, so if you're gonna switch...  And as hard as I fought it myself, once I got there it really was worth it.  Especially with the CSS.
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« Reply #4: November 09, 2009, 01:36:55 pm »

One Note: One thing that will NOT be considered at all: a dark page design.  Dark letters on a light-color background are FAR easier to read than light-colored text on a dark background.

I appreciate this Smiley I really hate dark designs, it makes me see fireworks when it's not new year's eve...
And I also like the idea of doing it webstandards compliant and technically right. But it will probably a tremendous job, my respects!

Technically: I do all css and code editing in text. The major thing with css is not wanting to make it too complex (with positioning everything and floating here and clearing there and on and on). I usually think of a thousand things to do in notime, and build on it and on it, and it gets out of control until it collapses. While all it needed was making it simpler for me. And really I have seen most others that tried designing with css fall in the same hole. (Btw, I don't know how experienced you are, and you might be way ahead of me here, but since it's an advice I found very useful, I'd like to chuck it in.)

Aesthetically: I think the most important thing is to create some space. The current page is (in my opinion) a bit crowded, just a bit more room to breathe and let your eyes rest would help. This might also involve thinking about what's important to show on every page. (But that is really something I couldn't say, more frequent users will be able to help you with that way better.)   
Especially the top half could be just a bit more, eh, zen? I think a designers trick is to look at the screen unfocesed (so everthing is blurred and you can't actually read the text or see the image details) and it should still tell you the structure of the page (what's navigation, what's about the site 'as a whole', what's in the topic, what's important and what can you safely ignore.)

Not sure if this is the kind of advice you are looking for?
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« Reply #5: November 09, 2009, 02:03:50 pm »

Technically: I do all css and code editing in text. The major thing with css is not wanting to make it too complex (with positioning everything and floating here and clearing there and on and on).

Unfortunately, that is going to be needed for our various sidebars and it is something I will admit to barely understanding -- probably because I do not work with it enough. So I'm not way ahead of you on this. TC will be the most complex CSS site I've ever tried to do.

Quote
Aesthetically: I think the most important thing is to create some space. The current page is (in my opinion) a bit crowded, just a bit more room to breathe and let your eyes rest would help.

I'm planning to use a drop down menu near the top to replace the huge left side menu on the site since most browsers in regular use today now support pure CSS menus. This alone will make the web site pages look much less crowded as they will not all have that huge list of links going down the left side of every page.

In some ways I wish I could just do this site with Drupal. But as many visits as the TC web site gets, Wed need a more expensive server. If I could just get the Boost module (which caches the generate HTML pages and uses Apache redirect to go right to them if they are present) working with my secure multisite setup (different than the standard Drupal multisite which does not really separate the web sites, it might be doable.  However, even with a working Boost module, a static site would be far easier on server resources.
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Randall
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« Reply #6: November 09, 2009, 06:39:50 pm »



Sounds like an exciting and formidable plan Smiley

If I can suggest a starting point from my professional life (where I'm a business-systems analyst and solution architect), start a thread focused on identifying what the basic goals that TC is trying to achieve are. This lets you identify your 'needs'; the high-level statements that stay true over time despite the changes in technology. They tend to be things like "TC needs to be accessible for people people with disabilities", "TC needs to cater to an international audience", or "TC needs to encourage a high standard of discussion and debate". Normally you end up with 15-30 of these for a site the size of TC.

As you identify the needs, you can start threads on each one. These threads focus on identifying the features the site needs to have to satisfy the need. For example, if we take the accessibility need quoted above a feature might be "TC shall conform to the W3C website accessibility standards"; while for something like the discussion and debate need you might get features like "TC shall include special interest groups to focus discussion on particular areas of interest and to attract a higher concentration of interested participants to the broader board" or somesuch.

It can be very easy to get bogged down in discussions about the 'bells and whistles' things like colour and font. If strong visual branding isn't particularly important to you there are fairly easy ways to let people customise the look and feel for themselves, which can circumvent the issue quite nicely and offer some low-level accessibility spin-offs.

I don't know if the skills I have are any use to you in this, but there available to call on Smiley
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« Reply #7: November 09, 2009, 06:43:44 pm »

This thread is to discuss a possible complete site redesign for The Cauldron.  Please chime in with your ideas and opinions.

Sorry, having read ahead more I now realise the sort of 'complete redesign' being floated is not quite what I had at first thought Smiley In better keeping with the new understanding... It'd be great if the menu options didn't scroll off the screen as you read a thread. Getting back up to them can be a pain sometimes.
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"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

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« Reply #8: November 09, 2009, 07:10:04 pm »

Sorry, having read ahead more I now realise the sort of 'complete redesign' being floated is not quite what I had at first thought Smiley

Actually, while it is not quite as sweeping as you thought in your first post, some of those ideas can apply. The site has developed a large amount of "cruft" that may not be needed/wanted or, if wanted, perhaps should be handled in a different way. For example, we have a seldom updated (because it is too much trouble) cookbook of member recipes. If we want to keep this, perhaps it should be done in a different way (a board on the forum for recipes with links to them on the main site, a wiki, or....) There are probably 5 to 10 areas like this -- things that may no longer needed (if they ever were needed) or need to really be rethought if they are kept.

Also, some things that were never thought of in the original design (like making pages easier for web translation services to translate) might need to be planned for.

Quote
In better keeping with the new understanding... It'd be great if the menu options didn't scroll off the screen as you read a thread. Getting back up to them can be a pain sometimes.

Which menus are you referring to?  The left site menus? The top/bottom blue menu in the forum?? The thread menu at the top and bottom of threads???
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« Reply #9: November 09, 2009, 07:44:23 pm »

Which menus are you referring to?  The left site menus? The top/bottom blue menu in the forum?? The thread menu at the top and bottom of threads???

Sorry, my bad - I should know better than that Sad  The forum menu tabs across the top of the page under the title block (containing the avatar pics and the 'new replies' links). When I don't have time to just browse I rely on those links a lot to follow threads I have already posted in in preference to jumping in on new ones. I can use the go to top link, but then i still need to scroll up as the link only takes me to the first post in the thread. It's minor, but annoying.
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"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

BGMarc at the Pub
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« Reply #10: November 09, 2009, 09:17:45 pm »

I can use the go to top link, but then i still need to scroll up as the link only takes me to the first post in the thread. It's minor, but annoying.

I'm not sure there is any type of fix possible for that without rewriting the SMF software. But I'll add this to the list of things to look into.
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« Reply #11: November 10, 2009, 02:11:31 pm »

I can use the go to top link, but then i still need to scroll up as the link only takes me to the first post in the thread. It's minor, but annoying.

Would Ctrl+Home help you with this? It takes you right to the absolute top of the page, afaik both in IE and Firefox.

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« Reply #12: November 10, 2009, 02:14:44 pm »

Would Ctrl+Home help you with this? It takes you right to the absolute top of the page, afaik both in IE and Firefox.



Thanks for the reminder. I use that all the time in other programs. LOL.
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"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

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« Reply #13: November 11, 2009, 10:00:25 pm »

In some ways I wish I could just do this site with Drupal. But as many visits as the TC web site gets, Wed need a more expensive server. If I could just get the Boost module (which caches the generate HTML pages and uses Apache redirect to go right to them if they are present) working with my secure multisite setup (different than the standard Drupal multisite which does not really separate the web sites, it might be doable.

I think I've made Drupal's Boost module work with my weird multisite setup.  Running TC's main site from a Drupal CMS might now be possible. I'm still not sure if it would be the best way to do it.  However, it would let me concentrate on content and organization instead of site design and backend development.
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Randall
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« Reply #14: November 12, 2009, 04:46:20 am »

Please chime in with your ideas and opinions.

I think you could do with making everything on the left-side navigation area justify its position there. The space seems to be getting crowded enough that it can be easy to ignore. I'm thinking htings like the credit-card logos; do they need to be on every page, or could they just be displayed if the person actually selects the Donate option. I suspect that it would have a negligible-to-nil impact on levels of donation and it would reduce clutter. Doing the same exercise for each thing there may give you back the real estate needed to allow for layout-/structure-based communication techniques.
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"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

BGMarc at the Pub

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