February 2021 Newsletter - New Life
By Justin Poublon
February 1, 2021 - 2:48 PM CST | 322 0
Good news to share this month. WIWX 10.0 release went live last night so the website continues to improve. One day it'll just hit me: "Oh, I should change the page navigation". Or I'll see something I know can make better and spontaneously get on with it. This is contrasted with days or weeks where not much happens. I don't force it.
Happy to say I've had a couple good weeks working on WIWX 10.0 and looking forward to future development.
NEW LIFE - NEW HEADER & SITE NAVIGATION
The result of this update was a breath of new life into the site navigation and make room for future growth. To start, I wanted to clean up the header. I stopped by weather.com and got some inspiration (lol). While YES the content of their website is poor but they have good ideas on usability. Companies of the scale will test usability so I assume that layout is most effective. I agree. I thought it was smart to put all the website links on one page (desktop). With regards to wiwx before, there would never be a way to perfectly organize all pages into the classic drop down menu and it was a guessing game as to where you might fight something you're looking for. This new solution will kill two birds with one stone; the same header for both desktop and mobile and allow expansion. The navigation differs between both platforms and I'm still testing the usability.
NWS ALERT HEADER & SEARCH BAR
Because I was already redoing the header & nav, the alert header & search bar should be improved too. The ALERT BAR, which previously appeared when storm events were occurring and the link would take you to the storm page. The NWS Alert Bar now appears instead. This will reduce the manual workload I have to put in long term. The NWS warning system we have is very robust and can be leveraged more. The alert bar works differently non-members vs. members. Lots of cool stuff about it you'll soon see.
The notification popup that appears for members was rebuilt and now shows thumbnail images. Clicking through to see all notifications will take you to the account page where the same layout was implemented. Much improved.
YOUTUBE VIDEOS ON HOME PAGE (still under construction)
On the HOME page, the WIWX 10.0 release displayed a section for the latest three videos posted to my YouTube channel. This morning I noticed this section wasn't displaying and upon further investigation I discovered the requests per day quota from Google was exceeding 10,000..at which point they block my requests. I won't pay to raise the quota. Theoretically I shouldn't need to pull that data for every single user session anyway so today I removed the section temporarily. I will need to create a new process to store YouTube data on the database and pull it less frequently. It will take until the next release to implement these changes. I LOVED having videos there in testing. Definitely want that back.
SMS TEXT MESSAGE SYSTEM TURNED OFF
I really like this system and will keep it around. The main issue is cost($$$). I plan to bring back free memberships. The cost of doing free text messages for even just a couple hundred would be too much right now. Much more cost efficient to run all comms through email despite deliverability concerns until circumstances change. Under different circumstances or with alternative revenue sources - preferably scaleable to traffic volume - it would be totally worth it. I have some cool ideas.
NUMEROUS OTHER CHANGES
Some of these things deserve more spotlight but I will keep it simple now for the sake of time.
- Home page featured news section now shows less weather forecasts and more diverse content. On mobile only one story will be displayed (for scrolling sake)
- Updated member registration page text to reflect new plans. New memberships are still disabled.
- Donate link is directly on the nav & header. Should you feel the need, it's a little quicker now. Thank You page was updated to reflect recent "organizational" change.
- Removed warning notifications (EMAIL alerts STILL OPERATIONAL). Just felt redundant having NWS alert bar, emails, and notifications. Maybe I'm wrong. Will try it this way for awhile.
- The historical Storm Events Database has been finished. It was a long, difficult project. I'm undecided on how to display this information so it sits for now. I may start with a simple table summary of reports per year? I had a service in the past where historical events could be searched for. Results would display on a google map. I might try to recreate that.
- Fixed bug where email notifications not happening after new comments on storm events.
- Fixed bug where following a link to new comment did not work correctly.
- Fixed bug on the forums where the side bar was displaying totally unrelated threads.
- Fixed bug with "LIKE" button not displaying correctly on profile, carried over into the repurposed WIWX FEED page.
- Latest Update page has become the WIWX FEED page. I'm trying to create a "COMMUNITY FEED". Might take a couple steps to get there. First step was to display recent comments and stories. This aspect of the website is certainly getting reworked.
- Fixed bug with SPC Map update creating constant error messages
There are several long term goals I'm trying to achieve around improving the community/membership experience. I want to reduce my manual workload and think I can do that by "leveling the playing field", giving members more spotlight and adding admins. Would love to say more but will save you the surprise. I've started on fully loaded 10.1 release and will share more info when I can!
See you around the website!