I had the opportunity to add a few site features today, between marking and curriculum develoment:
First, I’ve altered the social media links for each article. Previously, each blog entry had icons for submission to Facebook and aggregator sites (reddit and Digg). I’ve replaced them with a Facebook “Like” button and a “Tweet” icon. According to my analysis the previous buttons weren’t really used. Aggregator sites tend to be a churning and fickle sea of links; I am interested to see if a more personal networked approach is more successful. The technologies behind both the “Like” and “Tweet” buttons – in particular, Facebook’s Open Graph protocol – will have explanations of their own in this blog in the near future.
I’ve also improved search: there is now an automatic drop-down search suggestion for frequently-used search terms, and I supplement results with a link to a Google search using the same query, for potentially richer results. I’ve also scaled back the “relevance” count in results: with over 300 entries, some results were over the top.
(The CSS for the both the auto-suggest drop-down and the “like” button still need to be tweaked slightly).
Longer-term plans include the ability for users to add favorites, allowing easier reference and tracking of topics, options for the personalization of user’s information and profiles (including photographs), better pagination, and added sidebar features.
Finally, I wanted everyone to know how much I have appreciated your feedback regarding my work here. I have found that the biggest ongoing issue is one of information architecture: a blog format (entries made on an essentially random basis organized by descending date, or loosely grouped by tags) works well for the casual visitor, but makes long-term study difficult: relatively few people use the sidebar “Web Developer” navigation, which is growing ever more complex. As a solution, I plan to introduce a “book view” option for the site. In this mode, entries on web development will be shown organized by topic, complete with a table of contents. Navigation “forwards” and “backwards” would be to the next logical entry of related material. Visitors will be able to swap back and forth between “blog” and “book” view as they wish.
Programming this will take some effort, and it is logical to use the opportunity to work in a site refresh and transition to HTML5 code at the same time. My personal deadline for this is January 2012; in the meantime, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.
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