Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Website Update: Complete!

Finally my revised website is now up and running, and I would like to review some of the lessons which I learned during the process of revising a genealogy site with some 7000 - 8000 pages. This was the first major rewrite for 5 years, during which time coding techniques have changed, and visitors are looking for increasingly greater interaction and usability.

I started thinking about the design in November 2009, with the major changes being to the index pages and applying a common theme throughout the site. The headers for the Pedigree pages and some others I decided to leave, except for colour changes. I have said before, but I will repeat, design is not one of my strengths, so it took two or three weeks before I decided to use a scheme based on the colours of nature, mainly blue, green and brown, with an index page design to suit.

To write and verify the coding took another two months of work (actually three months but one was lost through illness and holidays). I like to work to dead lines, so in November I settled on 1st March for the launch, revised to 1st April, and it actually went on-line on 2nd April.

Relaxation

I recommend taking regular breaks! In the early hours of one morning I was working away trying to get rid of a bug, and nothing which I did seemed to make any difference. I simply could not understand it! Only after a short break did I realise that the screen I was looking at was on-line and not the one I was working on using my PC.

Tools used

The Pedigree pages were created using Legacy modified to CSS with the excellent LTools designed for use with Legacy. For my text (HTML, PHP and CSS) editor I use PSPad which allows batch search and replace. Because I have inserted some PHP in all my Pedigree pages I have to change all the file extensions from .HTML to .PHP using Ken Rename, and, finally, I also have to insert some script into the coding. This can only be done after the previous processing and hence requires the use of Regular Expressions to locate the point of insertion. To batch process I use Actual Search and Replace, but note that it cannot write the search and replace the strings for you!

Testing

Arguably this is the most important bit, it is certainly the most time consuming! Because of the use of PHP, I cannot test the Pedigree pages in IE unless it is actually on the web, which is something of a pain. I do, of course, have a folder on the server which I only use for testing purposes, but there always seems to be a difference between how something behaves in that folder and real life!

Links can be tested on-line using the W3C Link Checker, and do remember that for a 404 Error Page all links have to comprise the full URL ie. "http://www...."otherwise even your CSS won't work. This will not quite be the end of it, though, as you, or your visitors, will probably find a few missed bugs for a few days afterwards - make sure they can readily find a way of contacting you!

Finally

Ensure a plentiful supply of coffee, and enjoy!

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