Saturday, January 5, 2013

1st Report on the 2013 site upgrade programme

Over the Christmas Break work has started to improve the user interface to make navigation easier - and also to provide more flexibility in the way that new information is introduced and cross-linked within the site. Most of the changes involve improvements to the menus, the headings of pages, and some relocation of pages for internal maintenance reasons. This is done by introducing new "picture button blocks" and eventually all information pages will have a block of buttons in the top right hand corner of the page.

Because of the size of the site the changes have concentrated on the key menus and links. Other menus and pages will continue to work as before and no factual information has been removed. These menus and pages will be upgraded over the year, with priority being given to pages "of interest" - for instance ones relevant to a query or the introduction of new information. This will ensure that the menus and pages most likely to be visited will have the new button blocks first.

To give you some idea of the extent of the changes so far the New Years Eve run that put the initial changes in place generated a listing of 1550 change reports. So far only minor problems have been found as a result of the upgrade - but the process has identified many areas where changes would be beneficial over the coming year.

See below the fold for detailed reports on particular areas of change.

Men at Work
Because of the age of the site (some pages will be 12 years old in April) and the ways in which it has developed, some pages are now out of date, or have been waiting for updates for years, and as a result I am introducing the "Men at Work" sign, usually with a brief text explanation, where appropriate. If you come across such a sign and would like "repairs" to be done A.S.A.P.  please tell me and I can give the matter priority.  If no-one raises the issue the "repair" will go to the bottom of the queue because no-one has expressed any interest.

Home Page
When someone wants the Home page they could be coming from a menu, from a link on a "contents" page, from the Newsletter blog, or from a frame accessed from a search engine - without a menu! The approach taken in the past has been somewhat inconsistent, and the changes are partially to ensure a single route which will guarantee a proper "front page" re-entry point. It also provides a one click good introduction to navigation by either menus or picture buttons.

The menu has also been re-ordered and the aim is that all entries simply call down another menu including a picture button which loads a page introducing the group of pages accessed from the menu. Several of the secondary menus require more work - and are shown below a "Men at Work" sign. 

  • Minor changes to the Places Overview page
  • The Opening menu has been tidied up, and links to adjoining counties added.
  • The Supplementary menus (A to Z) have been tidied up.
  • The Churches in the 21st Century section (which has not been developed in the way originally planned) has been removed, and the pages transferred to the appropriate village pages.
  • The menus for the following larger towns have been reformatted: Bishops Stortford
One of the advantages of the new approach is that it makes it a lot easier to set up a series of related pages linked by a picture button, and in the case of larger pages the button can occur next to the relevant text or picture on the page. For instance a button has been created for pages dealing with trees. It is planned to introduce new subject picture buttons on a regular basis.

Minor changes have been made to the menu, but linkage changes have been made to all the index pages. I am considering changing the way questions are asked but the present arrangements will continue for the time being.

Some initial changes have already been made to combine information on newspapers and "Old News" press cuttings. Priority will be given to this area over the next three weeks as I have just been asked to give a talk to our local U3A Genealogy Group on "Local Newspapers" at the beginning of February and will try and get everything up to grade by then.

How To ...

Some of the advice pages need action and the way they are accessed needs improvement. This affects the guide and F.A.Q. I have decided I will assess what is needed after I have had some experience of running the site with the new picture button arrangement. If you want more up-to-dateadvice please ask and I will add the appropriate out of date page to my "To Do ..." List

Tutorial - In the early days of the site, when there were very few other genealogy web sites on line, I begun the construction of a tutorial section which used an old family bible as the framework for an exploration of how to explore your family history using the resources then available. The statistics showed that few people were using it so development stopped and its references to external sites are now out of date. The old menus all had a reference to the Tutorial - this is being dropped - but it will still be accessible through the advice pages..

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This is the newsletter for the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web site. Comments on this blog are moderated and may be transferred to the web site where appropriate. If you have a local or family history query you want answered you must use "Ask Chris" - See box in right hand column. Anonymous comments cannot be answered.