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Thinking About a Redesign

PhotoJoseph's picture
January 17, 2013 - 3:00pm

Hi ApertureExperters!

I’m starting to think about a major redesign of this site. ApertureExpert has hit a wall with Squarespace 5, and there’s so much more I’d like to do but simply can’t. Squarespace 6, which I love for photojoseph.com and theBWphoto.com, is missing many of the features I need for this site (like forums!). This isn’t a sure thing yet, but I’m in talks with someone about rebuilding ApertureExpert from scratch.

So, let’s start dreaming. If you could add or change anything about this site, what would it be? I have a very long list of features and capabilities I want to do, but I’d love to hear your ideas too. Many of you have been on here from the beginning (over two years now… wow!) and I’m sure you have plenty of thoughts.

App:
Apple Aperture
Platform:
macOS
Author:
PhotoJoseph

How about a more efficient way to attach photos to posts. Perhaps it is very easy now and I’m just so untechie (I don’t believe that to be a word) that I simply don’t know how.

I'd much rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

How about some integration with the Google + community?

Hi (new here, first post :P)

I like your site, but if you are a first time visiter, there are a lot of things going down here, where to look or what to do can be a bit time consuming.

Maybe not only google+, but social network in common? Login with google or facebook would be nice, so we don’t have to remember those passwords :)

Ditch the most recent entries in the left. It is small, crowded and distracting. Just use a history or something from a search?

www.tweakers.net This is a dutch tech site that has won best website awards over multiple years and it is a nice site to use, that has the focus on the news and you can dig deeper per category. Maybe something interesting?

Btw I really love the site you put in your post: photojoseph.com

Craig — That’s one of the big things I am looking for is a whole new forum engine. The forums here don’t allow anything more than plain text with some very basic HTML; no photos or anything else. I hate it. The forum is probably going to be the biggest change in the new site.

Mike — I don’t think there’s any API for that, but I’ll put it on the list to look into. I do like G+ communities however it didn’t take long to realize it’s not a replacement for our forums. That said, if there was some kind of integration that could be good. We’ll look into it.

Hendrick — Interesting point on the first-time-visitor. Thanks. Social network login is definitely on the list. The list on the left is there to quickly find recent entires because the search on here sucks. With a better way to find past entries, that list won’t be needed anymore. So yes, I will get rid of it and replace with search that works. And, I’d never seen Tweakers.net before but I gotta say… really?! I don’t think it’s attractive at all. I’ll definitely spend more time on it to see what I may be missing, but that surprises me. And I’m glad you like photojoseph.com, thanks. I’m still tweaking that one too and there are things I don’t like about it however Squarespace 6, while awesome, is extremely limiting. Basically you pick a template and can barely change it (unlike Squarespace 5, which this site is on, that’s very customizable). On my photojoseph site, I love love LOVE the portfolio. However the blog element is only ok-ish, and I hate the side column but can’t remove it. If I pick a theme with no side column, I can’t use that portfolio page. *sigh*

Thanks again all… keep the input coming!!

@PhotoJoseph
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Have you considered using Wordpress as the engine for the redesign? It has thousands of plugin that let you do almost anything, including forums (using bbpress), showing videos, and shopping carts. It has many well designed themes, which are easy to edit and customise. There are millions of Wordpress installations and thousands of people writing plugins and providing support. I have set up a number of community web sites using Wordpress and it has a very shallow learning curve for new users.
Well worth a look.

AJ Jack

Craig beat me to it but I second his suggestion for inclusion of images in forum posts. I like the way Apple’s forum allows you to insert an image or URL without knowing any HTML or needing your own server space for the image.

Can’t think of anything else at the moment.

Thomas

I second Al’s suggestion about using Wordpress. You’ll find loads of tutorials about how to manage a Wordpress site as well as how to customize it.
Also, forum admins should be allowed to make posts sticky to make it easier for users to find fAQs.

Widen the site. I’m on a MacBook Pro at the moment running full screen Safari, and there’s a good 10-15% of the screen unused (gray bars on the left and right). IIRC, the same is true on my Mac Pro.

As this is a place for Aperture users, the lion’s share of browsers will be coming from Macs. I recognize the site may be accessed via iPads, iPhones, Windows, etc. So perhaps consider templates that arrange the site depending on the detected browser/device/screen resolution (kinda like mobile vs. machine profiles).

But in the end, no matter what the look and feel, I’ll always be coming back. :)

AJ Jack & Thomas — Yep, quite familiar with Wordpress, however I’m leaning towards Drupal. I will not be doing this myself; I have no interest in becoming a site engineer and accept that as part of the growth of ApertureExpert. I’d rather be writing tutorials than figuring out yet another web design system! Drupal is harder to use but is ultimately most customizable, and if I’m going to redo this site, I’m going to redo it right.

Thomas — Actually the Apple forums are my gold-standard model. Even those could be cleaner but they do offer all the power that I want in here. The forum is usually the most active part of this site, and ironically it’s the most basic. But yes the forums will be MUCH more robust than they are now.

Scott — It’s funny you say that. When I first launched this site, I pretty much went max width for common Mac screens, but the screens grew! Whatever we do will absolutely be more mobile friendly, more fluid (I think “liquid” is a common term) so that it formats beautifully on any platform. I can’t promise that it’ll always fit the max width of any screen but hopefully we can close to that. Remember though that I can’t lock in the width at too wide, or folks on smaller Macs won’t be able to see the full thing. As for platform, surprisingly 25+% of my traffic comes from Windows, and another 7+% “unknown”; most likely people viewing the site while at work or just from a second computer (obviously all users have Macs). Plus at least one chap on a Playstation Portable ;-)

@PhotoJoseph
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What will happen to the legacy content? I moved a travel photography site from a custom written Microsoft platform to glFusion a couple of years ago. It has all of the built-in features I wanted - forums, image gallery (including video), file downloads, paypal, subscriptions, articles. This all comes right out of the box. I did very little customization except for developing my own theme based on their standard distributed stylesheets. Theming was very complicated, but has since gotten better with some newer releases.

Check out TravelPhotographers.net and take it for a spin. There are other features available that I currently have disabled. For example it already has OpenID support and Facebook, et al, login capability.

I have stood up Drupal before too (see MusicPhotographers.net). They are certainly the big dog on the block in open source content management. Joomla! is also a big one, but I’m not as big of a fan of their platform. It can be confusing to learn the difference between module, plugins and other kinds of add-ons. I haven’t used Joomla! 3 yet so it may be better. That said, some of the plugins for Joomla! require paying a fee (Community Builder being the most common) whereas most all of the Drupal modules and 100% of glFusion are totally free.

Wordpress is powerful and many people use it. There are lots of modules, and many are free. There are also lots of developers. You will find relatively few glFusion developers. Drupal also has a large developer community that can custom build a site for you. They might also be able to code up importing your current content.

No matter what you choose you will have to decide whether to migrate all your current content or to “start clean”. If I can be of any help let me know. I’ve been through this. I ditched all of legacy content because most of it was stale and it was much easier and less time consuming to just start clean.

Regarding changes relative to the current site, you should build in “responsive web” design and use a fluid layout. The “responsive web” design will make the site adjust to the viewing platform of the visitor (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop) by changing where things appear, what things appear, and how they appear. A fluid layout will let the major content region adjust itself according to the viewer’s platform in order to maximize that content based on available screen / window real estate.

25 Beautiful Responsive Web Design Examples for Inspiration
20 Best Responsive Web Design Examples of 2012

You can test out most of these on your desktop by simply resizing your window smaller and larger and watching them adjust as you resize the window.

Wordpress is easier than Drupal, but Drupal is more powerful for searching and queries. If you are getting an expert to do the job for you, Drupal is a good choice.

AJ Jack

Just curious if you’ve had a conversation with Squarespace regarding conundrum and current needs. Might they work with you to address these?

Also, I just learned about Statamic: powerful, dynamic websites without a database. I know of a few who are/have moved to static site generators, such as Marco Arment, but I don’t know if available feature set will satisfy your check list. I’ve exhausted my knowledge on this, but it might be worth investigating.

http://statamic.com

Walter — Thanks for your input. Some great examples of fluid sites there, those are fantastic! I’ll go through all of those looking for ideas. And yes that’s exactly the sort of thing I have in mind. I personally move between an 11” MacBook Air, a 27” iMac, my iPad and iPhone constantly, and so can appreciate a site that handles that well. And to be fair this site as it is now, while it does not change format at all, does actually do quite well on all of those devices and screen sizes. I pride myself on picking a good size for things when I started, and adapting to HiDPI graphics quickly and where possible (not all screenshots are high enough rez to begin with), but it’s time to grow up.

Legacy content will all be there. My engineer has been looking through things and at this point is confident we can migrate all text, images and comments in the tips (this page) and retain all existing URLs. Comments will probably close on those, but the content will all be there. The forums are a little trickier but the content will still be there. It’s exceedingly important to me that there is no data lost. This site is a treasure trove and I’m not about to give all that good stuff up!

Just FYI, I didn’t pick the platform and then look for an engineer; it went the other way around. I met the guy I’m using through another project and his preferred platform is Drupal. If he told me that hand coding in HTML 1 was the way to go, I’d probably listen. Just kidding.

I appreciate the offer of assistance, and will keep it in mind :)

John — I’ve spoken with Squarespace extensively, both before and after the release of Ss6. I’ve had many conversations with, well, someone senior and they know that I can’t move this site to Ss6, understand what’s lacking in Ss5, and basically can’t offer much. They are very secretive about the future and I think to their discredit, have adopted an Apple-like approach to new features (i.e. near-zero communication). I’ve waited two years for the forums to get better, and they haven’t changed at all. I do love Ss6 and it does offer many of the features I want, but without really good forums, DOA to me. And frankly the lack of control in Ss6 doesn’t fit with how I need to do things on this site. It’s really, really nice for my photo blogs, but just not enough for this business.

And I’ll look into Statamic, thanks.

Keep the comments coming!
-Joseph

@PhotoJoseph
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