New site design and updating schedule
25 July 2010
Some of you might have noticed this site has undergone something of a transformation. After seven years in existence it was high time thedarkfortress was updated code-wise and refreshed visually to help with issues of accessibility, web standards compliance and to take advantage of increasing monitor sizes.
In fact the redesign is not just superficial. The sites code has been completely rewritten to separate the presentation from the content. This has required extensive use of CSS for layout and design purposes with all the testing that that involves, while each individual page of content has had its html rigorously reviewed so that download times are quicker and less burden is put on the web server.
Through the combination of adopting style sheets and XHTML (the reformulation of HTML into the syntax of XML) we can achieve a certain amount of future-proofing to cope with emergent web technologies.
Migrating to XHTML today, we as content developers can enter the XML world with all of its attendant benefits, while still remaining confident in our content’s backward and future compatibility.
The goal being that the whole site will comply to the highest web coding standards and we can apply the Strict XHMTL DOCTYPE document declaration throughout.
A declared Strict DOCTYPE totally enforces the separation of structure and presentation, requiring that presentational elements like size, colour, font, positioning etc are removed from (xhtml) page markup to CSS style sheets. Using a Strict DOCTYPE also ensures that all markups are fully standards-compliant, and will only be processed by browsers in their strictest, standards-compliant mode. Theoretically, this should present the most visually consistent results across all browsers. However, not all browsers comply the way they should… but it's a good start point.
Compared to where the old site was in terms of its markup, we are know a million miles away. It takes time, patience, a lot of research and a lot of 'tinkering' to achieve that giant leap forwards. But undoubtedly this was the correct route to take.
In theory the next major overhaul could be delivered much quicker now all the building blocks are correctly set out. With the adjustment of the CSS style sheets and the addition of new graphics the whole site could be changed with minimum fuss.
Updating to the new design
There is no quick way to do this. Every old page's content must be ingested into the new page layout, resaved, validated as being fully complaint Strict XHMTL and then uploaded. In some cases extensive improvement to the original page's markup must be undertaken, so it takes time.
Each section will be updated sequentially. Here is the order of section updating and their current status notes:
- HQ section — complete
- BULLETIN ARCHIVE section — complete
- TECH REPORTS section — complete
- TACTICA REPORTS section — complete
- LIBRARIUM section — complete
- ORATORIUM section — complete
Refresh the page
As updating rolls out some pages might be in the new design, others until updated will be in the old design which might look a bit odd.
There might be times when an old page has been replaced by a new one but you just don't know it because your browser's internal cache may still be presenting you an older version of it. It will pay to Refresh the page on any page to reload it directly from the server, or simply empty your browsers cache. If that page has been updated then its new design will go into your cache.
Just to give an idea of update speeds: I'm only averaging around four pages per evening for the TECH REPORTS section, the whole site has some 170 pages in total!! But admittedly some sections will be quicker than others due to the nature of the content.
Is it all worthwhile?
Yes. I'm learning a lot which is always a positive outcome to any exercise, and, the site will be in a much better state than it was. In another seven years' time I'll look back to 2010 and be thankful I made all this effort now.
More information on web standards
- XHTML Standards
- XML Technology
- CSS, level 1
- Document Object Model (DOM) Level 2 Style Specification Version 1.0
- Associating Style Sheets with XML documents Version 1.0
- Recommended list of Doctype declarations
Should you want to know more.