Added another new feature to the new profiles today. This one provides a link on the "Inside AP.net" feed to a user's album reviews (if they have written any):
I wanted to add another way to highlight the reviews people write - and one of the reasons I changed up the user profile was to include a feed for this exact kind of thing. Another addition is that the link sends you to a new page (myreviews.php) that is specially designed to list a user's album reviews. This page is also bookmarkable so you can always find the new reviews from your favorite writers. In the past we ran a search to pull up a user's album reviews -- but that just wasn't the best way to do it.
Note: These features are only available on the new beta version of the website.
Since I know people have a variety of different websites they use (myspace, facebook, twitter, etc.) - I never really designed AP.net to be a place to replace any of the social networks. It's just not going to happen -- we're not that kind of website. However, I did (and am) design the website to be a place that can contain all of that information in one central location (easy to use/view/etc) so that your friends on AP.net, or anyone you point to your profile, can easily find everything out they want. So, I added three new options to your edit profile page:
This will allow you to put a twitter link, facebook link, or shared google stories link right on your AP.net profile:
Note: This only works in the new, beta, version of the website.
Of course, this is the kind of thing you can also put in your signature; however, it makes sense to have it on your profile as well! Unregistered users can now view the beta if they choose -- you can do so by visiting this link. To change back to the old you'd have to do so manually via this link.
Tonight I fixed up the AP.net BBcode help page for the new skin. Basically this link is on a bunch of places around the new site (like on the footer of all places where you can post) - and I wanted to make sure everything was uniform for the video codes - as well as increase the font to make sure it was easy to read.
We have a variety of places you can embed content from (in posts, blogs, etc.) - and how it's even easier to find all the information about just exactly how to do that. Win.
Tomorrow will be a day of FAQ. I have a vision of making a variety of youtube videos to help within the FAQ -- for all sorts of things, hints, etc. So that there's some text explaining things - as well as a video (with annotations) showing you just how to do it. I think this would be a big help for newbies.
I already have the "need help" stuff linked all around the website ... it's about time those actually are populated with information.
Today was re-skinning the new "Register" page. Basically just wanted to use the same look that the new UserCP has, and get rid of all those ugly fieldsets. Simplify and clean up the entire process. Nothing really difficult - just takes some time to put it all together. But, it's done, and off the to-do list.
Well, news icons and images are all updated now -- there's some new ones, some new takes on some old ones, and some touched up ones as well. Everything seems pretty good. Huge thank you to Anton for helping put these together.
Next up is running through the website unregistered and as a regular user. This means the site will be on and off of "beta" availablity for the next few days ... maybe you'll catch it. I have to check out registration options, setting up blog, moderation pages, and little things like that.
New news icons have been added to the website. Some 20 or so were created and added. I'm now going to be going through and downloading all our current ones and checking them all out in photoshop -- updating any that need it, etc. A process, but seeing as our news is such a vital part of the website - I think it's important to make sure that system is as good as it can be.
I'm trying to think of a new ringtone ... I may pick something from The Gaslight Anthem, what's a good chorus/line to use?
Well, it's official - the absolute worst browser to view AP.net in is Explorer 5.2 on an Mac. Simply will look like absolute shit -- so the 52 of you that used that browser to see AP.net in the past month ... yeah, upgrade buddy.
Yesterday I turned the "beta" version of the new AP.net on for a little while because I was using Browsercam.com to run a whole bunch of screen captures of the new layout to check for OS/Browser compatibility. Basically - I wanted to see what the website looked like in a variety of browsers and operating systems to check to see if things were looking right ... obviously as this was the first time running these tests - there were quite a few bugs in the browsers I don't have natively installed on my systems.
Firefox 220.127.116.11 renders the website as I want it to look. IE 7 and Safari seem to work as well. Beyond that it was a crap shoot. Hahah, but I found some of the problems and will now have to work to fix them -- which was the entire plan to begin with.
The funny thing was that for the maybe 2 hours the beta was "live" people found it. That's fine, I knew that was a possibility, and the site works in its beta stage enough that I don't mind people taking a look. I figure that I should discuss some of the comments from people right now so I don't have to answer them 300 times and so that people are aware of my thoughts behind the changes. The good thing ... I knew exactly what people were going to take most issue with, so that's a good thing -- it's always better to know what people are going to complain about compared to someone hating something you think is perfect. Also, people seemed to really like the new band profiles and member profiles -- which I think are the two biggest improvements on the website. The new band profiles are basically re-written from scratch and are what I am most proud of on the new website.
Ok, so let's talk about a few of the things people talked about (note, I am not addressing anything where people said "ew" or "ugly" or something like that -- I have been doing this long enough to know that some people will always have an immediate reaction that's negative. I also know I did not change the fundamentals of the website or even the over all theme/look of the website. This is not a top to bottom change ... it's an improvement on our current system to provide uniformity and user-friendliness.)
1) The font. I saw a lot of complaints about the font change. I saw some weird ones -- like people saying I went "overboard" with the "font smoothing." Heh, technically impossible. The font used for Windows machines is Tahoma (a built in font) and for Apple it is lucida grande (also built in). These are the two most used fonts on the internet right now -- google, facebook, myspace, new york times, espn, amazon, ebay -- the list goes on and on. It's a very readable font that has a clean read to it. I think it reads better in the size I wanted to use than any other font (Arial, Verdana were the two others in consideration) - and it works best for font-size degradation. We can use three sizes of Tahoma while only one of Verdana or two of Arial to achieve the look I wanted. I didn't want every font to be the same size and Arial is incredibly hard to read at a smaller font size. I wanted a font that can be read by all users - and that is consistent with their other webbrowsing habits. Myspace and Facebook are two of the most used websites on the planet -- if the font is good enough for them, it's good enough for me. I practically duplicated Facebook's font scheme. Soooo ... yeah, the font isn't going to change. Hahah, it takes some getting used to as it is a bigger font; however, it's definitely for the best. Typing up blogs/posts/etc. now is so much easier using the new font.
2) The "news post format." This is something else I saw people complaining about. So, I figured I would address it. What I did with this design is create a uniform design for all content portions of the website. When I say content I mean "news, artist profiles, member profiles, blogs, reviews, gallery, interviews, release dates, articles" - anything that is a part of the "content" of the website. Whereas the "forums" of the website are considered separate. The forums are for people to sit around and talk about anything and everything where the "content" portions of the website are for people to talk about the content they revolve around. So, for me, it was important that the content portions revolve around the content that is at the heart -- not only this but be designed in a way that would give a new user the most information about what was being presented (instead of having the page feel like a forum, I wanted it to feel like a content page ... and the design is built around New York Times pages and Yahoo! News pages combined with Facebook's old note pages).
So, let's take a look at these "content" pages and I'll break them down for you:
Now, as you see from looking at these screen caps -- they all follow the same theme/look. This is the uniformity I am going for -- each page works, acts, and looks the same way. These are content pages where the main focus is the content - and then we have the ability for discussion/comments underneath on all of them. Here are a few things to point out about the discussion comments: first, I purposefully hid some of the information (age/location/picture) to appear in the "more" link because that information is usually the first thing tossed out in disagreements, and I think that the post itself should be the first thing read - and then that information given if people want it. I also think it gives the pages/mini-postbits a cleaner and more efficient look -- which is always one of my goals, how to present the information in the most efficient and cleanest manner.
Also, I got a few bug mentions which is good (seeing as they were ones I did miss). I also recently gave Anton "admin" privileges on the website so he could edit users/create band member accounts/etc. - so he technically can still see the beta version (and all skins) and hopefully help with the bug issues if he chooses to -- in case you're wondering why he was talking about the holiday version of the website.
Now, there is still quite a bit for me to do. The website needs to work for all browsers, all OS's, and it's important I get that all fixed up first -- as well as making sure the site works for regular users and unregistered users (since my account views pages differently as an admin). After that there are some little things I want to make sure are fixed up (news icons/images is one of those). So we are still not really ready to launch the new site to the public yet ... but I hope this blog gave people a better understanding to why I did some of the things I did - and explained some of the reasoning from what people got a glimpse of yesterday. I've still lot a lot to do. I want everything to be as perfect as possible before any wide launch.
- Add new news icons.
- BBcode page
- FAQ pages
- Test different browsers
Once this is done I'll have to move the "new" AP.net over to a beta version that is accessible (meaning the public will be able to see it) so that I can edit the portions of the site that I can't see while logged into an admin account.
I even created the "bug report" page today. We're close - we're very close. Then I get to find out what I screwed up and have Anton send me 3 million fixes. Hahhaah. I know there will be bugs and problems - that's why we do a beta run. But I've done all I can to get most of them so far ...
Regular Expressions are still one aspect of coding that I just have a hard time with. The more I read, the less I understand. Hahah. Anyway, after a week of trying to make sure I could get the damn thing to work right - I wrote a way to strip URLS from blog posts so that they would show up on the new member profiles correctly.
One of the ways I test our captcha system is by what gets through our newsqueue. After being inundated with penis this morning - I updated our system. I added new fonts, new backgrounds, new distortions to the text. Of course, if you're human, or registered, it isn't a big deal (and one of the benefits of our system is if you can't read the image you can click it to get a new one -- unlike that fucking cat system on some websites).
We'll see how this impacts things in the next few days. Hopefully it helps - if it doesn't we'll be looking at some other tools. Thankfully we haven't seen much registered spam -- so it stays out of the forums unless it's a real person (and then it's usually quickly banned/beaten down).
Well, as part of the ongoing "new AP" project I re-did our "Invite a Friend/Banner, Widget" page today. This is a page that doesn't get much love right now (it's on the footer) - and was sort of tossed together when I first did it. So, this time I wanted to make sure I got it right.
In an ongoing effort to work on reducing spam/bots - I wrote a little code today that does something basic -- it checks how long it takes someone to "register" on the website. If they do it in an amount of time that no human could do (like 5 seconds or so) - it doesn't let them register. Simple.
Also, here's a cool website for other forum administrators that may have spam problems: