Ohio Boating

15th Feb 2006 ¥åßßå

Link: http://www.ohioboating.net

The Problem: "We have a nicely designed, 10-page website, but the designer doesn't know anything about blogs or PHP. His pages are difficult to update and most of our content is in the blog, which is just one link button on the front page. Can you help?"

The Solution: "Sure. We recommend integrating the blog skin with the current site design and move the blog to the front page, replacing the existing (relatively static) content."

The Challenges: Working on a live site, maintaining all internal links, doing the work as soon as possible and ensuring that all old, inbound links point to the correct, new location.

Follow up:

Read More on "Ohio Boating" ...

It's not often you're asked to replace a live website with its internal blog, while maintaining all of the old links that people may have bookmarked. This wasn't just CSS and XHTML editing, but also involved Apache rewrite and alias module directives in the root .htaccess file (system level stuff).

The Ohio Boating site is part of a much larger and extensive, multi-site, blog-engine redesign that AstonishMe! is currently working on. Because it would be some time before the Ohio Boating site benefited from that larger overhaul, a short-term solution was to give it a quick facelift and move the dynamic content to a more prominent position, replacing the pretty (but static) front page. For a quick turn-a-round, we kept the existing fixed width layout, as both the blog and the site were both fixed width. Instead, we focused on integration.

On the left is a picture of the Ohio Boating blog, as it existed off the front page. For those familiar with b2evolution, you might recognize the page as a modification of the "custom" skin, designed by François Planque, who is also the project manager of b2evolution).

To make certain that return visitors weren't confused by a completely radically new front page layout, we kept the original banner image and internal link buttons, seamlessly grafted the blog menu immediately below.

All of this work was done in a new, unique blog skin, which involved coding a new skin from the ground up. We tidied up the sidebar content and tweaked the styles to better match the new theme. We added a CSS drop shadow effect around each post, which pops them off the page and provides the blog with a 3-D effect (depth) that was lacking prior to adding it. The drop shadows also help to delineate the content, between posts and we thought that the results were visually pleasing.

Deploying the new front page also meant checking internal links, as the site's home page was now a PHP file and the blog link no longer worked. All 10 of the original pages were modified and at the same time, modified the .htaccess file to make certain that any old blog or page links, were seemlessly redirected to their new location. It took a bit of time to make certain that all the links, both internal and external, were properly pointed in the correct direction.

Within two days, the new integrated blog was deployed and our client was very happy. :D



Comment from: ann
Oh my goodness, had no idea you had posted this.

Great place for me to bestow my gratitude as well as accolades for a job exceedingly well done.Trying to communicate this concept to many designers met with resistance, from some outright contempt, some had no idea what blogs were, - many provided dire warnings that I would be lost to search engines and traffic would die - and finally,out of frustration, I had to settle for a pretty site that chained me to the site designer whenever i wanted to update the front pages (I am HTML/CSS illiterate to the max) and it served to force the reader to jump through hoops to get to the regularly updated blog content.

An intrinsic component to a blog's viability as a business tool is it's immediacy,authentic content and the possibility to interact. The idea of making blogs 'the water' the business site 'swims in', if you will (sorry - I have nautical on the brain), seems a natural expression of blogs as opposed to their being appended like some clumsy hanger-on to an existing static site.

I'd been using B2 on a personal site when I took on the job of writing content for ohioboating and I knew B2's flexibility and ease of use would serve the concept of creating a boating community well. Cruising B2 forums for clues on changes I wanted to do, I had the fortune to communicate with Scott and long story made short - he was the designer/developer I had been looking for all along.

It was an incredible relief to have finally found someone willing to imagine and invent and make happen exactly what I had hoped was possible for a web site to achieve. It is fortunate that boating is such a pretty business and boaters tend to be community oriented. It is a very good example of the product being a good match with the blog concept.

I am excited as hell to see the completed site but I'm so in love with our intermediate site that I might fight to keep it when it's time to roll it in. The blues blend beautifully and the shadow affect is classy and adds to the mood. Yup, we might duke it out on that one... :>)

Many thanks gentlemen.

15/02/06 @ 16:56
It means a lot to us, as the designers/programmers, to hear that we're going to have to duke it out with you over the design! We're so certain that you'll love the new layout that we're prepared to bet you $1,000 -you won't even consider fighting to keep the interim one. ;)

We're truly pleased you like the intermediate design and we thank you for your kind words. Although it means a loss in editing revenue, we agree that a blog provides the power to control your own website, without needing a dedicated web team. At the end of the day, a website, like any tool, should work for you as best it can and not the other way around. We simply strive to provide our clients with the best tools.

Regardless, we're going to win the bet! ;)

15/02/06 @ 18:39
Comment from: tilqicom
the site has been closed :|
20/09/08 @ 16:34

Comments are closed for this post.


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