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Hello boys and girls.
In my two previous blogs, with the catchy titles "The changing face of CC - basic layout" and "The changing face of CC - Story view" I discussed with you some of the things that I wanted to change about the look and feel of our beloved Critique Circle website.
Today I can announce with great gusto that I've completed some of the work in bringing the site up to the 20th century (I'll look into the 21st century next year) and I would very much like to invite you to take a look at the results, which are available in a special web address just for the occasion:
You can now start to use this website freely and give me your thought on the changes. The beta site is connected to the same DB as the normal CC site so you should be able to use it just like you use CC. Since this is a different website instance however there might be some caching issues if you are using the normal website and the beta website together. Just something to be aware of before you start filing those bug reports.
What you will see on the beta site is the way CC will look like in a few weeks time. If you have a problem with it, let me know so that we can discuss it.
I got very good feedback from my last two blogs and I have incorporated a lot of it into the redesign. With your help we'll make CC even better after this round.
I will now briefly go through some of the highlights that you will encounter on the beta website
The first thing you'll notice on the beta is that the site is laid out very differently than it was before. First off, the main menu is now at the top and I have centered the content area and limited its width to be at most 1040 pixels.
Furthermore, I have using some responsive tricks to make the site look good on tablet and phone screens (I still have some work to do in order to make it better on phones).
When you look up stories you will notice that the action menu for the story is on the righthand side when you have enough horizontal room but then turns into a dropdown menu if you have a smaller horizontal real estate to work with. This works very well on tablets and I think you'll find that reading and even critting on your ipad is pretty darn comfortable.
The main menu at the top of the page will open up when you hover over it (or click it on tablets) and you will need to find your page from the submenu. There are no top-level links to the content pages like before. I hope this will not piss people off too much, and I think it's something that you will easily get used to. Let me know if you think this is completely unacceptable.
Because of the way that CC was originally written, 10+ years ago the work that went into changing the layout around was insane, and I'm sure there are some bits where some window is too wide or some input window is too narrow. Let me know about this stuff and I'll fix them up as we go.
CC hasn't really had a logo up until now and with the redesign I felt we really needed a new, clean logo to match the new style of the site. One of our members, Agier sent me some fantastic logo design ideas and we came up with the logo that you see at the top of this blog. Thank you very much Agier!
I've put this logo into the site's favicon and I will incorporate it into other material from CC as well. I hope you guys like it as much as I do. It's a quill you see.. Because we're writers... Get it?
The overall style of the site is now cleaner than it was before and I am using a larger font in most places. You will notice more buttons rather than links and more gradient backgrounds.
You will notice that all the menus look different now. There should be more consistency throughout the buttons and menus now and they should look a bit less look-what-I-did-in-my-HTML-nightclass'y.
I removed the site-wide customization options. CC will now look the same for everyone. This was done in order to ensure a consistent look-and-feel. I'm not sure if I will introduce these sort of customization options at a later date, but I do intend to allow you to customize your story view.
In the top-right corner of all pages is your new notification center. There you can see new messages, new forum posts and other notifications. Clicking on those will give you a drop-down list with the new content.
The forum post notification button behaves similarly to the old 'threads have changed' link, but in addition to showing you changed threads the drop-down will also give you a list of the latest changed threads that you have participated in. We also have the same feature for other content up there. I personally think this will be very useful as a way to quickly get into the threads, messages or crits that you are interested in.
I will be working on this part some more before release and I'm hoping to be able to do some pretty cool things with the 'catchall' notification icon on the left-most side. Now it tells you about new crits and whether you have a story up for review in the public queues, as well as give you access to the online member list, but in the future this might be your interface to a general notification view telling you about new things that you might be interested in.
I think the notification center is really really cool (unbiased view).
The in-site bookmarks are now to the left of the main menu above the content and I've rewritten those to be more user-friendly. I don't know how many people are using them (hopefully many), but the new bookmarks should be a very good usability enhancement.
Are you using the in-site bookmarks? No other website has this feature and I'm wondering if it's something that's just weird (even though I use them a lot).
I've made quite a bit of stylistic changes to the story and crit view, making it a lot cleaner. I told you about the new menu schema already, moving it from the top of the page to the side, but I've also removed the reading view, and kind of taken the best parts of the reading view and meshed it into the main story view.
Since this is the essence of CC I would very much appreciate feedback on these changed. I think the story view and the crit view looks and behaves much better than before but I'm not actively critting, so please give it a whirl and tell me what you think.
I was going to go in a different direction here, and have reading view the default view but based on member feedback I decided against it. It turns out the ability to page through stories wasn't something people were interested in, so out you go. Valuable feedback right there, keep it coming!
Although not in there yet, I do intend to add customization options to the story and crit view, such as font changes, background color, text size, etc.
The entire site should be quite tablet friendly now. I think it's more desktop-friendly as well, but you should definitely feel a significant difference on tablets, since it wasn't very nice on those at all.
Please let me know of any bugs or weirdnesses you encounter when using touch devices. There are a few bits and bobs that I am yet to implement for mobile devices but it should be mostly done.
My Trello board is full of things I need to work on before I can unleash the rewrite out into the wild. Here is a partial list of things stuff that needs to be done:
I don't have a set date for pushing the changes to the live website. Basically, I'll do it when we're happy with it and the velocity of bug reports (which you are all going to be writing ;-)) has become low enough.
What's on beta.critiquecircle.com right now might not necessarily be exactly what will be released, but it's a fair assumption it won't be too far from it.
You should be able to watch the progress on the beta site up until the point I release it, so if you are really interested in the progress there should not be any surprises.
If you start using the beta site now the changes are as good as live for you immediately, so if you are feeling anxious for the new stuff, just change your cc bookmark and off you go. Keep in mind however that you might encounter links from time to time, for example from people on the forums to pages on CC which will take you back to the main site. In those cases you'll need to just change the address manually to beta.critiquecircle.com, no biggie.
The latest version of the rewrite will be on beta.critiquecircle.com and it might be unstable when I'm working on it. If you encounter issues just switch back to the normal website but please let me know, either on the thread for this blog, with a message or just with the Report Bug link at the bottom of the page. Just be ready for bugs and errors on the beta site, especially if you see me online.
While I'm hoping everyone will love the changes I'm aware that people have different tastes and different needs. If you have issues with these changes I would urge you to speak up here on the thread. It's much better that I know now if something is horrible rather than in a few weeks when I open it up for everyone.
So, go test this stuff out. I hope you guys like it. If you love it, let me know. If you hate it... well, I suppose you should let me know as well.
* Italic sections added after publication