In reading some of the feedback pouring in since the Wired News redesign, some of my confidence that we did the right thing initially began to erode away. The launch was somewhat anti-climactic. The press release looked like a misfire because we didn’t get the site launched as scheduled on Wednesday night. Within just an hour of pushing the site live on Thursday evening, (around 10pm pacific time) we had 4 messages from users who were irate and frustrated with the new changes, promising never to return. continued
Late last night, I got a call from a very good old high school friend from Ohio, Jon Hamilton. Jon started out soon after high school as an EMT, went back to school to become a paramedic, and is now a firefighter in a north-side suburb of Columbus. Jon, and another friend Ken Sabo, just earned the 2002 Championship in the production class of the SCCA Pro Rally Circuit. I think Jon got his first VW GTI while we were seniors in high school, which came pre-mod as a rally car with a full rollover cage. I remember riding along with Jon as navigator in a couple of the Ohio State SCCA chapter rallies. They were a blast, but unfortunately, my weak motion-sickness-prone stomach couldn’t handle the fast turns, shouting out directions from a dinky hand-drawn map at the same time. Jon has been making news with the win because he now races with a soy-based diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf. continued
After a day’s worth of “almost there” blog entries and email messages [xhtml validation], I now proudly announce that Wired News is there. Our developers and engineers who hunted through multiple Vignette components to find the errors and destroy them deserve all the credit. Brilliant job comrades!
I’ve also been in touch about the redesign and working closely with Eric Meyer for the past few months. He’s been a tremendous source of encouragement and inspiration along the way. He powerfully adds:
“… the really important stuff all happened behind the scenes. Using no tables to lay out the page, but instead applying CSS to XHTML, the site is a stunning example of how standards can be made to work today.”
Wow, even as I write this, an engineer just yelled across the room that that article about the redesign is currently the number one topic on BlogDex, and rapidly climbing on Daypop (both index thousands of weblogs and report back the most popular topics of the day). Hail to the bloggers of the world — they actually get it because they’ve been doing it.
Just after wrapping up my last post, I started looking around to see if any buzz about the WN launch had hit the Web yet. Ahem… I don’t think this one will sneak under too many radars. Jeffrey Zeldman just dedicated a huge amount of space to the redesign in today’s Daily Report. In a perfect answer to the “what’s the big deal?” questions I just asked, he writes: continued
At long last, the Wired News redesign is visible to the world. We launched the site around 10pm PDT time last night. And what a relief it is. Despite numerous setbacks, delays, bugs, and technical difficulties, we pushed through to the other side and found success. Are all of the bugs and errors fixed? No. But the major problems which were keeping us from launching last night have been solved. And now it’s live for all to see. continued
Since our failed attempt at pushing the Wired redesign live last night, our engineers and developers have been working like crazy to figure out what went wrong. The errors never showed up in our development environment, but only manifested themselves once we started pushing the site to the live front end servers. The press release already went out this morning, and seems to have created more chaos inside the company than any attention or curiosity outside our walls. I can’t express how frustrating this additional delay is, especially when we were orignally supposed to launch 2 weeks ago. But life goes on, and we’ll get the site out eventually. Rumor has it that we may still try to get the new site up sometime today. Fingers crossed
The Wired News redesign was scheduled to go live in the wee hours of the morning today. Technical difficulties started popping up as we were pushing everything to the live servers around 2am. Fragments were disappearing, images weren’t working, Unfortunately for us, a press release was already queued up to hit the wire first thing this morning, announcing the new design and all the benefits it brings. They had even included some great quotes from Eric Meyer. The press release put us in a very difficult position, because the design couldn’t stay live with all the bugs. If the release hadn’t gone out, we could have postponed the launch without too much attention. At 3am, we were forced to decide to roll back to the old design until the problems could be investigated and solved, regardless of the fact the press release was going out to the world a few hours later.
Bummer! We’ll get it up soon though.
Wired News has used Vignette as a content management system for a few years now. Today, we discovered an odd bug that shows up whenever the cache (memory) was flushed (reset). Vignette is automatically inserting one html comment tag right before our DTD. The comment contains a timestamp, which we can only assume is used for internal file management. While this doesn’t appear to invalidate our xhtml under 1.0 transitional rules, it does significantly throw off IE6/Win with font size, margin, padding, and position values. IE6 seemingly ignores the DTD completely, and reverting back to “quirks” mode, and acting as if we never specified XHTML 1.0 Transistional. It’s mainly of concern to me, not because of the font size issue itself, but because the larger size and margins are causing the left column (often using a black background) to overlap and obscure the content of the center column. The engineers haven’t been able to find a solution to eliminate this comment tag which only shows up at random times. It’s a large enough bug to possibly warrant postponing the redesign until we can get some answers from Vignette.
Progress on the stopdesign.com redesign continues. I now have the entire portfolio entered into a sortable, reusable database. I’ve created a bunch of server-side scripts (ASP) to create each portfolio page dynamically based on two templates. One template drives the bulk of the view pages, another one wipes out everything on the page and makes room for a large version. Pieces can now be categorized and sorted any way I like, anytime. Adding a new piece requires absolutely no page editing. Generate a few new images, update the database with new names, sizes, and descriptions, push it live, and the entire portfolio automatically updates. Each page is daisy-chained together to allow browsing through once piece at a time. That was horrid to maintain with the old flat html files, but now, the order and total instances in each category get updated on the fly.
Who said that a designer could never learn practical self-promoting benefits of server-side scripting languages?
Stopdesign is hosted on a Virtual Private Server at Dreamhost.