Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Revising the Web Site

- As long time readers / followers of the Wareham Forge well know, the web site has undergone many changes since its inception in the 1990's.

The original site was heavily text based. Those with long memories will remember that initially the internet was solely text, my involvement goes back to the days when the primary interactions were through bulletin boards (!) As producing content for the internet got ever easier, and transmission speeds have vastly increased, the internet has become dominated by images. Video has now become an increasingly larger segment of how information (in its widest sense) is being communicated.

For good or ill, I have added much to those few original sheets of information that composed the Wareham Forge web site. Rightly or wrongly, as I creep into the second half of my 50's, I find myself writing more, and yes, working at the forge less. (Although I like to think the quality of the work has also greatly improved!) Through this all, I have rarely *removed* anything from the web site. There is also the addition of two large theme sections, the Norse Encampment and Experimental Iron Smelting. Although enclosed in the Wareham Forge domain, either of these are significantly self contained and large sections in their own right.

The result is that currently, the total volume of content of the Wareham Forge site is some 220 megabites. There are over 100 separate 'sheets' and well over 1000 images.

Through it all, I have attempted to hold to a couple of primary concepts:
1) To keep the transmission rates for viewers fast, so as to better accommodate rural users (no high speed).
2) Design for those using *older* computer systems (and smaller screen sizes) - and purposefully avoiding 'the latest thing'.
3) To have a balance between interesting and valuable text and illustrating with images.
4) Avoid using anything that annoys me personally when I see it on other web sites.
5) Design the site so it reflects my own personality and taste (You don't like the site, you likely will not like me - and maybe I'm not the one you should be working with on that project.)

Now, one of the results of so much content is that the site has become almost impossible to navigate.

I'm in the process of re-evaluating the overall design of the whole site. To my mind, there are four primary tasks here :
- evaluating the actual content available
- gathering & converting images, writing commentaries
- determining the graphic layout
- physically producing the code and installing the web site

I have been aided in the most recent design changes by some people on Facebook, who have provided comments and advice as I worked up a potential layout. The new front index sheet (installed just this morning) is what I have come up with:

This represents the 'above the fold view, at roughly 1000 x 800 (13 x 8 inches for us old people).
- One big change from previously is the colour shift to a light faded with black text (from the previous high graphic dark with light print).
- If you look in your own browser, you will see the two top images are random selections of mainly close up v- views of forge work.
- The side bar now features pull out navigation points.
- Scrolling down, the 'Visual Guide' offers most of the same navigation points, but now via thumbnails.
- I've cut away much of the detailed descriptions to specific sub sections that used to be on the front page.

My next task is to learn (via Neil, thank you!) how to work this framework via PHP.
Then finish processing the images and writing commentary for the 'new' work (last two years!)
Then re-sort the content, splitting off the best work into a portfolio section, and older work into separate areas (for each type).
Then design the graphic backgrounds for the various sub sections
Then apply the new PHP method to all that .

At least it keeps me close to the stove this winter...

Comments extremely welcome!

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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