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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekly Archive Beta Test

Michiel at Eikongraphis's feeling that archives are a challenge is something I definitely share. And while the daily page you are viewing has its problems -- owing mainly to my use an old modified blogger template with the "new" blogger -- I'm first tackling the task of improving the archives of my weekly doses, as I control the code of that page and am not at the mercy of blogger.

So what I've done on my weekly page is upload a beta version of the archive I've been working on, to ask readers for comments before I put in even more hours (notice the lack of "quality" posts in the last week or so) to include every dose back to week one in 1999. The idea is to consolidate four archives (by architect, by building, by date, by building type) into one sortable archive. The by location archive will stay, as one can browse geographically, with doses keyed to maps.

Here's what it looks like right now:

archive-beta.jpg

Here's a breakdown of the changes, from most important to least, keyed to the image above:
1. Sortable Headings: One click on a heading sorts the column ascending; a second click on the same heading sorts it descending, with ascending by architect as default. This is a java-based feature, so I'm not sure how it works on browsers without java compatability.

2. Highlighted Table Rows: Given the sheer number of archived doses (over 425 as of today), I was afraid the large table would be discouraging. Highlighting the individual rows as one moves the mouse up and down the page seems to help. Ditto on the java.

3. Flexible Table Cells This and #4 are part of a larger plan to subtly redesign the whole weekly dose site, starting with a move away from fixed table cells to flexible table cells. Flexible cells work better with the various text sizes that people control with their browser. One downside is for the expanding width for those with low-resolution monitors.

4. Fixed Logo: Given the length of the archive I thought it would help to have the name of the page be anchored, so where one is is never in doubt. Unfortunately, given that it's part of the background (a CSS feature), it's not interactive; it will not take one home. To do that, one must scroll to the very top or bottom for a navigation bar (not pictured).
That's about it. If you have any suggestions, criticisms, or notice anything funny going on, please comment below. This beta's been tested on IE6 and Firefox2, so if you use another browser, like Safari, please me know how it works.

Update 03.02: I've uploaded a revised version that incorporates most of the comments, including a normal cursor over headings, sorting by date for the default order, linking the whole highlighted row, and a consistent left justification. The only one I've yet to deal with is the background link, as most of the information I've found is conflicting and/or discourages one from doing what I'd like to do with that.

To me this latest version is an improvement, but the cursor in the highlighted rows does not change in Mozilla, only in IE. (I'm still not certain about Safari, so please comment if you're a Safaris user to let me know if everything works or not.) Otherwise all's well and I'll start to add the years before 2007 and start to phase out the other archives.

Please comment if you have any more suggestions.

Update 05.17: Well, three months later and the archive is done. It's now the main archive page, with a couple additions from the version presented here. Thanks to everybody again for all their help.

8 comments:

  1. One suggestion, regarding the cursor over the headings. Instead of a text select, maybe changing it to a normal select cursor instead?

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  2. John:

    In regards to the "home" concern with CSS. I would suggest you add a tab to the CSS template. If you need some ideas and perhaps a little CSS code to implement it may I suggest Dynamic Drive. This site is a very good reference for all things CSS related.

    Bradley Swarts, editor
    ecAr

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  3. this is great john! i second max's comment about adding a link icon for the headers, as it's not apparent that those are functional.

    personally, i would recommend that you use "date" as the default order, for those of us who take the doses on a weekly basis.

    also, while i like the highlighted row feature, it would be better if the entire row was a link, rather than just the project title.

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  4. Hi John,

    I would suggest maybe left justifying all the columns. It is difficult to read the columns that are right justified. Also, it will make the whole table feel a little neater.

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  5. Matt - The java script I found for the sortable table had just that, but I don't know why my use of it isn't working the same. That's something I need to figure out. Thanks.

    Bradley - Thanks for the link. Hopefully they have something that's just what I need, as my CSS skills are close to zero.

    Paul - The date default is something I considered, but if you click that heading you'll notice that the ordering does not work properly; dates in the same year/month are out of order. This is something I can modify in the code I found, though my java's skills are about as bad as my CSS skills. If I'm able to fix it and make sure it works across browsers, then I might do that. The row link is also something I thought about though don't know how to do. Definitely it's something I'm going to aim to implement. Thanks.

    Marcus - That's definitely easy enough to try, and maybe I'll post an option with that to get feedback. My thinking with the way it is right now is grouping the building with the architect and the city with the country. Thanks.

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  6. John:

    Okay so I have had further chance to review your archiving dilemna. I wonder if you could not add an Rx in some fashion under the anchored title that is part of the anchor but has a hotspot around the Rx that would return the viewer back to the home page. This is pretty basic stuff in html really. It might be slightly more tricky with CSS. If I think of anything more brilliant I will send you an email.

    Brad at ecAr

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  7. Bradley - I actually have a version of the image with just such a thing! Great minds...
    At the moment I'm occupied with adding past doses to the list (my goal is one year a week), so the home anchor will be on the backburner. If you come across the appropriate code please send it my way.

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