Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012 - Website 01: Redevelopment Update

First of all I will take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that you have a great 2012. This is the first blog post of 2012 and hopefully there will be plenty more for this year.

In 2011, I decided that I would create a new Stourbridge Bus Information website from scratch, this meant that I would redesign and create brand new web pages for the main section of Stourbridge Bus Information, SBI Timetables and SBI Past, including the management area, an important part of the website as this lets me update the information that is held in the database in seconds rather than having to update the information in a web page and uploading the individual web page(s). After nine months since I started the project, I have made progress with some pages being added to the main site today. I did not set myself a time limit as I wanted to take my time and get everything right and develop the management system so that it would be even easier to update the website than I did previously with the old management system. As I have created the new web pages that appear on the site, I have also had to create quite a few pages extra for the management system at the same time, and this has been the reason why it has taken so long, previous redesigns of the website have been quick as I have not had to update the management system. It has taken a while for the redevelopment to take place as I also have limited spare time when I am not doing my day (paid) job. I originally wanted the SBI Timetables and main Stourbridge Bus Information website to be complete by the end of 2011, but due to limited time and finding new techniques of how the web page code is applied to make features work more interactively, this has sadly been passed, but I am not too far of from completing the website.

Phase 1 - SBI Timetables

Phase 1 of the redevelopment was to complete SBI Timetables (Management system and website), this was an easy phase to complete and did not take too long to do, this was because most of the pages are shared with the main Stourbridge Bus Information Website, so there was only a handful of web pages to complete. The management system for this part of the website was greatly improved which means that you only have to update one set of information on the database instead of two or three as the data is interlinked with each other. Another part of the SBI Timetables that has been improved is that I have gone from the old PDF way of showing the timetables to including the timetable data in the actual web page, which also means it is easier to print and also for me to update once any service changes are upcoming with the timetables.

Phase 2 - Stourbridge Bus Information Website

Phase 2 of the redevelopment is to complete the main part of the Stourbridge Bus Information website, the main bulk of pages have been uploaded today and apart from a handful of pages, this phase is near completion.

A quick summary of what has been changed today:

News - The news section has been improved especially with the management system side of things. Before, you would have to write the news story in a separate text file and upload it to the web server. Now, the whole story, including HTML coding, is actually stored within the database. This makes it easier and quicker to create a new news item or update information on an existing news story.

Gallery - This was a section which was created and uploaded to the website early on in the redevelopment of the site, this was partly due to the fact that there is no management system I had to rewrite for this section of the website, and also these pages are created using a flash application, so apart from creating an XML file for the information of where the pictures are situated on the server and any commentary on the photographs, this section was basically written for me from the flash application which I used. A new collection of the gallery appeared this year with pictures taken throughout the year of the works taking place on construction of the new Stourbridge Interchange, this added to the existing collections of Black and White, Double Deck, Minibuses and Single Deck photographs, these collection also having new photographs added to them.

Fares and Tickets - This section was completed within the last couple of weeks and made live today, just in time to coincide with the fare increases coming into force on 2nd January 2012. These pages have been made more cleaner with the way the data is shown. There are still three parts to this section, Cash Fares, Day Tickets and Travel Cards.

There is only one section to complete on the main part of the website, the Bus Information section, which is currently two-thirds completed after the pages which have been made live today:

  • Service Changes - This has been moved from the news section as I think it is more fitting to be in the Bus Information section as it is more of an information page that is always being changed as Stourbridge bus services change throughout the year.
  • Places Served - This has been renamed from the Where to? page to Places Served. The layout is more cleaner and text size has been increased (the same size is being used throughout on all the new web pages) making it easier for people to read, this has been accomplished by making all new pages on the site wider than the original 800 pixel wide layout - I have chosen to go larger after looking at the visitor statistics which showed that the majority of visitors have a screen size of 1024 pixels or wider.
  • Passenger Information - This page is shared by SBI Timetables, and was one of the earliest pages in the new layout to be completed.
  • Holiday Operations - This page has been made cleaner in the way it is laid out and it is also a page which is more interactive in how it displays information. In the past I have forgot to update this page and have been guilty of not showing information for an upcoming holiday or showing information for the previous holiday. This will not happen now as at the beginning of each year I input all of the data for all the public holidays in the coming year and the page will automatically display the data for the upcoming holiday three weeks in advance and then stop displaying it two weeks after the holiday has passed. I will also be using this technique on the relevant timetables in SBI Timetables for service changes and diversions in force for each individual service.
  • Frequency Guide - This is another page that was completed early on in the progress of redevelopment as this is another page which is also shared with SBI Timetables and the data that is used in this page is also shared with the timetable data, so any timetable description changes or operator changes will be updated automatically on this page when I make changes to the SBI Timetables data.

I have also completed the links section, but have not currently made this live as I am having a problem with one of the pages which is used to submit a link. When a link is submitted it sends me an email to inform me that a new link has been submitted, enabling me to log on and approve the link to display, it is this part of the code in the page that I am having problems with, which is confusing me as the contact form uses the same system and works. I will be contacting my web hosts to find an answer and hopefully making this section live in the near future.

That brings me up to date with the current state of the redevelopment of the website(s). I do have a little bit more work to do on the main part of the website, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and will be glad once the main section is complete. Once the main section is complete there are still a few housekeeping tasks to do, one is to replace pictures that are currently being used on the web pages. I hope to replace them with newer images with new images taken of the new interchange, and I will also have to do a little housekeeping of the management system to tie up a few loose ends with how the data is stored and collated with other web pages. The main layout of the website was actually created from the way I laid out this blog spot part of the website. Once I created the layout of the blog spot, I transferred this design into the layout of the main website, so that all parts of my website, internally produced (Stourbridge Bus Information, SBI Timetables) and externally (SBI Blogspot) look virtually the same.

Once that is complete, I will then start Phase Three, which is to redevelop the SBI Past part of the website, so I wont be taking it easy for a while to come, the first page which will be created is the current events guide which I did create during the early part of the redevelopment, but now I know how to store the data, I can redevelop the redeveloped page to make the data easier to store and display, especially data wise. Phase Four will involve sourcing a photographic sharing website to resurrect the Webmaster's images collection which died early last year when the image hosting website, Fotopic, disappeared from the Internet.

Also, last year I started to use the social media websites Facebook and Twitter which I use to inform website visitors about events taking place whilst out on the move and have no way of updating the main website until I get back to a laptop or PC. This has also been made easier after tying my Twitter account to the Facebook page which meant that I could tweet from my phone and the tweet would also update the status on the Facebook page, this has become a popular tool and both have been subscribed by a number of people, with numbers increasing as time goes on - tweets made by myself have also been retweeted on other twitter accounts which promote the local area.

All this will be taking place whilst I will be adding more blog posts to the blogspot with the tales of the days out with the ARM (Andy, Rog and Mark) team throughout the year, and this will be starting straight away as I will be updating the blog quite soon with the goings on of our first day out of 2012 next week and our first trip of the year to London. The new year has begun and I will still be working hard to make my goals complete, here is to a good and productive 2012.

No comments :