Tomorrow is "Jason tries to finish the staff interview and get the new news icons Anton worked his ass off on getting done" day. Also figuring out the details of this Bayside contest, trying to get this tour sponsorship thing sorted out, and preparing for a Saosin exclusive.
One of the final pieces to the "New AP" puzzle is to create a little banner letting people know about it once they are viewing the new AP. So I created a little banner to put in the upper right corner of all the pages linking to one of my blog entries (see below). That entry will have links to other entries explaining the new AP.net, why I did it, my thoughts, as well as allow people to leave comments about bugs/problems - and things like that.
This is definitely one of the last steps before I am ready to go beta. It's interesting to see how similar the new AP is to the old - but yet just how different it is at the same time.
If you're reading this blog - odds are you're viewing the "beta" version of the new AbsolutePunk.net layout. We've changed some things up while trying to keep the structure of the website you have come to know and love. Our goal was to create a website that is easy to use - yet extremely functional. Moreover, to create an environment that is uniform throughout the entire website regardless of which internal page you are viewing.
So, to start let's talk about a few of the changes on the website - and then I'll address how you can help make the page even better. If you've been following my blog you'll see a bunch of the changes and new functions of the website as well as my explanation for them (if you're curious about why something looks or acts or works the way it does -- odds are I have talked about it in the past 6 months in one of those entries).
First, I want to point out that yes change is weird ... but I am confident that after spending some time with the changes you will realize why we made them and see that it makes the website better. This is the future of AP.net and the framework from which we will be using for a long time.
The biggest change is the font. We have increased the majority of the font sizes around the website. We did this to make things easier to read for all users and provide a better experience. I thought it made sense to point this out so there's not a million questions about it.
BUGS / PROBLEMS / ISSUES:
Please realize that right now the website in the "new" version is still a beta version of the website. It is not completely ready for mass use -- that's why it's sort of hidden on how to get to it. So, if you find something that is not working correctly - please let us know. The best way to do this is to leave a comment to to this blog post (click add comment) -- and to include the following information:
- A description of the bug/problem/issue (and link if you have one).
- A description on how you achieved the problem.
- Any other information we may need to fix or reproduce the problem.
We're looking for anything that may look "off" may not work correctly or may not fit into the same uniform design as another part of the website. Maybe something that you think should do one thing and it doesn't work or it does something else instead.
If you want to switch back to the older version of AP.net while we are still in beta mode -- you can edit your options and select "Default." Hope you enjoy what you see ... it took a lot of time and I firmly believe this to be the future of AP.net as we continue to bring you the best possible online experience and give you the tools to talk about your favorite bands as well as engage with our top quality content.
We're going to be skinning the website for the Copeland release. Steve just wrote a great review for the album - I love it - and Buzznet set it up. Should be cool.
Anton brought up the ideas about how people love the skins and would like to keep them -- this is something I've thought about before; however, the problem is that each new skin creates a new database for images/files/etc - and takes up a lot of space/bandwidth to use. So, I've ended up using one pre-made "custom" skin and then changing that one up for the new skins we do. I have given some thought to making a skin where you can customize the background -- you can make AP look however you want by entering a URL to a background or something. This is a long way away as I have a bunch of other stuff to do first.
Posting news now, then working on some ad tag stuff for buzznet, then answering emails, and then back to the to-do list for the new AP. Then it will be making sure everything works in different browsers - and then beta testing for everyone that is interested. Slowly rolling the site out.
Our hits and pageviews are up - the stock market is down.
Had some other things I wanted to get done today - ended up having to focus on some anti-spam provisions instead. Sooooooo, I worked on adding some of those into the site - hopefully that helps some things, if it doesn't - I have a few more ideas to try.
Got most of the news I wanted posted today - hopefully some staff will finish up the queue. I have some phone calls to make in the meantime, and then I am running out to pick up Rowdy. Busy day. We'll see how much I can multi-task with a new dog in the house in the next few days. Hahah.
One of the things we never really did very well was a chat calendar. The problem was that it didn't make much sense to put the information in so many places. So - for the future we will using news tags to keep track of all chat related happenings.
Been working on my to-do list tonight. Got quite a bit done. One of the things I am changing up that I thought I would highlight here is I am changing the "Set as Homepage" link on our footer to a "Share this Page" link instead. This will provide a pop-up (screenshot) allowing easy access to all the top social bookmarking sites (myspace, facebook, digg, etc.) as well as quick access to bookmarking the page. This will be available on every single one of the pages on AP.net. Thought this was more useful - and more productive.
Some other stuff has been fixed as well - but it's boring semantics, and I doubt you want to hear about every time I change some padding to 2px instead of 1px. Yeah.
I am enjoying some Skittles at the moment. I also posted some new photos to my photoblog up there - check those out. I've been listening to "I Don't Care" by Fall Out Boy most of the day, I can't get that chorus out of my head. I've also been playing the Acoustic EP from Motion City Soundtrack.
Check out Anton's blog for some great news for the website - and check out his awesome "songs I am listening to + review" post he has.
It is my goal for the weekend to work on my to-do list (AP.net stuff), get prepared for Rowdy, get my emails down to 50, clear my PM inbox (82 unread - yikes), and write up a "how to get your reviews/blog/interviews/exclusives more exposure" memo for staff, and hopefully enjoy some football as well.
I'm sitting here working on my AP list. Lots of stuff to do - it's always funny how the little things show up that take so long to do. Things I forget - and then make notes to fix. So that's my job right now - work. Lots and lots of work. Ever feel like you work more than anyone else? I get that feeling a lot.
Also have realized there are some bugs in FF3 for the new layout. So I have to finish it up for Safair and FF3 as well after I finish this last batch of bugs.
Oh, yeah, I picked up a macbook for design purposes and because I like having a nice compact laptop to use on the couch (that's where I am right now) and in bed. Nice little laptop. Fun times.
Side Note: Still don't like The Morning Light - but I do like making fun of them in threads and watching their fans freak out. I'm not very nice.
Last but not least - AP's stats continue to grow. That's a good thing for us. Now, if I could only get stuff finished and start implementing some marketing.
I spent some time tonight fixing up a little feature we have on our member profiles ... to help combat spam we convert member email addresses (if the user chooses to have it shown) to images. Tonight I decided to re-write the script that does this using TrueType fonts instead. It just gives the image a cleaner look in the new layout - because it uses the same font as the rest of the page.
It's not exact because GD handles kerning differently than your browser/OS will probably render it - but it's a lot better than before.
This is how I did it - for those that are either curious or maybe you just like PHP:
Pretty simple - but effective. Fuck spam. Of course I hit the database first to grab the email address and then assigned that to the $text variable.
Not a whole lot will be changing with the main page of the website in the new version. Basically I like our current look - I like the use of modules - and it's actually pretty consistent with the trends (look at iTunes layout, or Apple.com for example). So the main thing I wanted to do was clean it up a little bit. So I fixed some spacing issues and increased the font to the new default for easier reading.
Here's a screen shot of the current "new" version. Note that this includes the admin module (left side) instead of the regular "My Control Panel" module that you usually will be seeing.
So this now leaves me with the next few stages -- this will be the archived news pages (I'm doing those next) as well as a few other pages (tagged news pages) that need to be cleaned up.
One thing that working on the main page allows me to do is re-think some of the current ad structure on the main page. As of right now our current ad set-up is like this:
1 Top Banner (468x60)
2 Right Side Banners (185x199)
1 Left Side Skyscraper Banner (140x390)
1 Left "trial" Skyscrapper banner (160x600)
3 Right Mini-Banners (146x146)
1 Bottom Banner (468x60)
1 Rotating Pop-Up Ad
(Note: These are the only buyable assets on the entire website - everything else is editorial.)
Now the thing about this set up is that it's pretty much just tossed together. I just made up ad sizes back in the day and have sort of been putting them wherever I can. I never put much thought into the entire thing. So, now that we are working with Buzznet on ads it makes sense to really re-think the main page and how to best monetize the website while giving our users the best experience. Yes, making sure the website makes money is important.
After thinking about this a whole lot - I think I have put together a plan that will work best for everyone (ad sales, me, our users, etc.). I am going to be migrating in "standard ad sizes" to the website instead of our creepy weird sizes. Because of this change in ad sizes, I also want to remove some of the ads we currently have on the website - so that the user experience is not impacted - but enhanced. Here's what I think the new set-up will entail:
On the right hand side of the page - we will remove the "Browse Profiles" box. It's not being used very often for such a prime screen real estate spot. It's clicked on by only about 3% of our users. That's pretty shitty - and it doesn't really add value to the site when the information can be found by clicking "profiles" at the top of the page. So, we're going to get rid of that module. This leaves us with a great spot above the fold to place an advertisement. This will easily be the most sought after ad on the entire website and with our reputation and traffic - one of the must buy ad units for music releases. I'm going to put the 160x600 unit right here. Seeing as this will move the ABSOLUTExclusive module down the page - I'm just not ok with that - so I am going to be moving that module to the left hand side under the "My Control Panel" module (for registered users). I will then be removing the two 185x199 ad-units on the right hand side of the page. Zap. I will be keeping the small 146 units because I want to make sure there are units any size label or band can purchase on the website (and I am going to be giving these 3 units special placement around the website for higher viability - those following my other screen shots may have seen them). I am then going to replace the skyscraper on the left side (140x390) with another new 160x600 unit and remove the "tester" unit at the bottom of the page. I may then also change out the footer ad unit as well.
The goal is to give advertisers standard sizes to buy into - while giving the user an experience that is not taken over by ads. I think this can do that. Sub-pages will only have one 160 and the three 146s on them (down from the current craziness) - and the homepage will be a better sell + easier to navigate.
Blah, seriously - talking about the ad stuff is easily the weirdest part of my job. It's that little elephant in the room that you have to deal with as a webmaster that you really don't want to. It's the part that's not as fun as everything else. I love talking about music - focusing on new features and promotions - I don't like dealing with the monetization. However, it's needed if we're going to keep the website profitable and therefore still on the interweb. When running a business you have to focus on everything, not just the stuff you want to do. So, after a lot of back and forth I think I have a good plan of compromise for the future of the website. Right now this is all just speculation and some ideas of what to do ... but I think it's going to be the best for us - guess we'll have to see.
Tomorrow is all about fixing up the home page and getting it skinned/looking correctly. After that I have only two more sub-pages (that I can remember) that need to be fixed up. After that I'll be opening up a beta test of the new website while I fix all of the unregistered/regular user features on the website that I can't see when I am logged in to my admin account. We're getting close.
I also came up with a few new ideas for the new member profiles that might be added in the future ... that would be a little section under the "inside ap.net" feed that includes a link to list all of a user's album reviews. I think this might be helpful for album reviewers. Could be cool.
I'm eating donuts and playing around on the website taking notes of things that need work. Mainly I see a lot of front page stuff -- some forum things that just don't "feel" right - and that's about it. I love the profiles, love the blogs (easily my favorite of the new site), love the reviews, interviews, articles, release dates, and gallery sections -- and really am proud of what we have put together. Close ... so close.
Well the seasons seem to be starting to shift. It's starting to morph into fall over here -- the weather is getting a little colder and I've been having to move from my regular work outfit of shorts to sweatpants. I really love the fall - I love the smells, the sting of the cold, the food, the friends, and the memories. I love the late nights with the rain pouring over the rooftops as I lay in bed. There's just something about this time of year that helps relax me - I think it's that I know everyone else is inside, so it gives me even more motivation to work, relax, and live. It's a great time of the year. At least - for me.
Anyway, it's getting close to the start of the new week - so I figured I should make some notes about the plan for the week. First off, I definitely need to work on getting news posted - that's priority number 1 for the week. Second is getting my "interview" questions answered for the staff interview. Third would be handling my email, with finishing up/working on the new AP stuff as a close 4 - I would love to be able to be pretty much finished with the beta of "new" AP by the end of the week. However, that really depends on how much I have to work on the other stuff. Last, I am going to be working on a marketing push for the final quarter of the year. Right now we don't really have anyone focusing on this - a few staff (Adrian, Anton, and Tony) have worked on various processes in the past - however, I am going to write up a marketing plan and put it into action. I am going to start focusing on Fridays as my day to really push this website ... I'll be hoping to push the new AP.net because the features/ease of use/accessibility are far and above better than what we currently have. I think that will be a big draw for new users -- easily the best layout we have ever had. Very consistent with other sites they may have used on the internet (Facebook, etc.). So, I'll be dedicating a day a week to promotion and marketing -- I don't want to give too much away, but I'll be posting some marketing techniques, ideas, and brainstorms I have over the next few weeks as I build the new marketing plan. I have some goals of where I want to put AP.net in 2009 - and I think we could easily hit them. I think we're only getting started.
You'll be able to take a spin of some new AP.net stuff as soon as I finish up: minor forum stuff, banner page, faq, bbcode page, forum search, home page.
I think that's all I have left.
If you've got any little questions you're curious about - hit up the comments, I'll try and answer them. Always nice to get them out of the way before a launch -- haha, so I know what to be prepared for.
Liking all the blogs tonight? I missed posting. The egomaniac I am.
Travis Parno (Reviewer, working with Adrian on user reviews) Eric Loranger (More "hardcore" reviews, and working with Blake on user reviews)
We may be looking for more "helper" staff in the future, people that can work directly under some of our more busy staff members (Anton, Joe, Garett, etc.) and help them with their tasks and projects. That kind of thing is usually left up to the staff members themselves - if they need or want help, etc.
This is what I did today. If I could see straight I would explain - however, I am extremely tired and my eyes are bugging out of my head. So, I will explain everything tomorrow - just felt like getting a screen shot up before I crash.
I guess the picture is probably more fun than my reasoning anyway. Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see.
Edit: Weird, it's almost exactly 12 hours since I posted my last blog entry saying I would start working on this ... geeez.