Big changes to my blog and London events listings calendar

If you are reading this via the RSS feed and never visit the website, then most of what I am about to write will be totally pointless, but if you are reading it on the website itself, then it will make more sense – especially over the weekend.

I am about to break one of my fundamental rules of website management and have a “relaunch” of the IanVisits website. In an ideal world, I would have the current website, and the desired future website and would evolve towards the destination.

Evolving a website avoids that awful relaunch movement where people look at the new website and scream about how much they hate it, how the sky is falling in and the world will end unless an old colour scheme is restored. A slow steady evolution is much less painful in that regard as people rarely notice stealthy changes.

However, I am but one person and although the current website is capable of evolving, but it would involve recoding too much to get to that sort of ideal. So I have to turn off the old and switch on the new in one relationship destroying moment.

So, why change the website? Evidently, there are a number of reasons:

Improvements to the Listings Guide

Over the past few months I have been making small improvements to how the database that powers the listings guide works, and I can start making more of those changes visible on a new site design.

The most noticeable immediate improvement is that the booking information for events will be a lot clearer in future – which should save you time and effort.

Although I don’t explicitly measure it, one of my internal goals is, to put it bluntly – get rid of people as quickly as possible! Or, to put it more diplomatically, I aim to deliver the key information as quickly and succinctly as possible so that a person can visit this website, find something to do and go out and do it. I have no desire to trap people into endless clicking on links to find something just so I can artificially boost page impressions and serve more adverts.

There are some more changes that will appear over the next few months as old events expire and the new database fully takes over.

For me though – I can also deploy a new admin tool.

The events guide is based on some website software I brought, which did the job at first, but over the past couple of years, I have hacked the code to the point that there is almost nothing left of the original – save the database and the admin tools. The admin tools that I use though were starting to really hold back the improvements I wanted to make and slow down my own work in adding events to the website. Trust me, the new admin tools make a HUGE improvement to my work and will helpfully kill off the regular end-of-month panics I currently get.

(slight addition to the text – the core principle of the events lists will NOT change. I will still focus on the one-off events, history, sciences and random nerdy geekishness.)

Design:

1) The current site design is actually crashing my Firefox web browser. Shouldn’t be possible, and it is very infrequent, but there is definitely something in the site design that quite literally crashes the browser in a way that I do not see on any other website. Fixing such an infrequent (about once a week) bug is going to be a nightmare, so it is easier to ditch the design and start from scratch. If I am getting this problem, then I am sure other people are as well.

2) The current 3 column design is not ideal for laying out side menus. A two-column design works better and is easier for you, the visitor to read the side text if it isn’t squashed into a narrow column.

3) The new template will be easier for me to make it work on mobile phones. Most of it is already migrated to mobile friendly pages (still working on the blog), and I will be improving them over time.

4) The new design is slightly better for adverts (ugh!), but right now, that extra pocket money would be very useful.

5) Oh all right then, the old design was looking a bit dated and after 2 and half years, I fancied a change.

Photos

I am going to experiment with an idea I have wanted to do for some time.

I currently host photos over on the Flickr website, but I used to have them on my own website using a pre-Flickr service. It was clunky and horrid to use, which is why I moved to Flickr, but for various reasons have always preferred to host the photos on my own website.

The experiment is to use the official Flickr API to effectively clone my photo gallery onto my own website. That should be a simple thing to do, but every time I have tried it hasn’t worked – but now it does. If the experiment works, I may even clean up the code that makes it work and release it to the wider world, as I really struggled to find a working version online.

The relaunch

Takes place sometime over the weekend, probably tomorrow afternoon (laptop is behaving badly/hangover pending), when the old site will be taken down and the new one switched on.

Swiftly followed by a panic as I rush around trying to make all the broken bits work again.

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12 Comments

  1. Are you building your new site from scratch or will it be based off WordPress and plugins?

    Best of luck with the transition – I hope it will be swift and painless for you :)

    • IanVisits

      The blog will still be wordpress underneath – the rest will be mainly hand coded or based on modules I have hacked to work the way I want.

  2. Michael

    Good luck with the migration – I’m looking forward to seeing it!

  3. Can’t wait to see the new site! Good luck with the transfer! I hope it’s smooth.

  4. Steve

    Really like the new format of the website. Far better than the old one. Keep up the good work.

  5. Ronnie

    Like this design, looks open. The old one looked cramped. main home page from google leads to a page which looks as if its in error.

  6. Andrea

    Nice work, the new layout and design is great.

  7. IanVisits

    Thanks all.

    Still a few things to fix, but relieved the makeover hasn’t been a total disaster!

  8. Fantastic redesign! Ever since I found this blog, I’ve been using it (and recommending it to anyone who will listen).

  9. Martin Tolley

    Really good re-design.

  10. I really like the new design, very fresh looking and less cluttered. Though I have to say, you’re the one person I would have expected to have a banner where the London landmarks were in the correct order :)

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