Hi, everyone! Boy, do I have exciting news! Remember how I told you (here) that Cookie Connection is getting revamped with a new responsive web design. Well, the time is nearly here for the big reveal of our new site!
***** VERY IMPORTANT *****
PLEASE READ ON. THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW AND DO ONCE THE NEW SITE IS LIVE.
First and foremost, on Monday, November 30 from 11 am to 9 pm eastern, the current site will cease to exist and the transition to the new site will take place. Please expect downtime of at least four hours during this window to allow for the migration of all existing content to be completed. Please do not notify me of any downtime during this window, as it is completely expected. And, have no fear, anything you have posted prior to this time will get migrated to the new site.
**** CHANGES YOU'LL SEE *****
In short, you'll see A LOT! Absolutely every page and interface on the site (for standard laptops and mobile devices, alike) has changed. Please visit this post on Hoop.la's site for a complete - and rather technical - rundown of all changes. (BTW, Hoop.la is Cookie Connection's host platform.) Below is a synopsis of those changes that will most affect your day-to-day experience on Cookie Connection, written in hopefully less technical speak :
1. Responsive design is here! Basically, "responsive design" means that rather than having separate interfaces for laptops and mobile devices as we had before, all interfaces will look and behave nearly the same. The primary difference is that the main navigation line on mobile devices will appear only after you click on a button in the upper part of the screen; whereas it will be in its usual place across the top when viewing on a laptop. Responsive design also means that all images and sections of the site will automatically scale up or down to view optimally on whatever device you are using. All in all, responsive design should lead to an easier time of viewing and interacting with the site, especially on mobile devices.
2. All images are much bigger! Yes, many of you have been asking for this enhancement for some time, and now we've got larger-than-life images everywhere, as you can see from this partial view of the new home page.
The scrolling "top 10" photo galleries now span about two-thirds of the width of the home page, as opposed to the one-third that we had; avatars are almost three times their original size; and each blog post will now be accompanied by a big glossy "title image", aka photo. (More on avatars and blog title images in a bit.)
Note: The "Make a Cookie Connection" image above is a blog title image "placeholder" for now, but it should give you a pretty good picture of how big these images will be. (Again, I'll talk more about these images in a bit.)
One more note: While photo clip thumbnails will appear much larger, as shown below, they will all appear in the same shape and size. (Making them a consistent size/shape makes responsive web design much easier to do.)
What this means is that some portion of each uploaded image may get cropped in this view, depending on the original size and shape of the image. So, in all likelihood, you'll still find it necessary to click through to the full image detail view (shown below) to see the entire image in clear view.
3. There's less clutter. The home page has been redesigned to a two-column (from a three-column) format, which means that it's substantially less cluttered. Content is also organized more neatly in the area in which it naturally belongs - so, for instance, all blog-related materials will be in the "Blog" section, except for one featured blog post on the home page; all event listings will now be in the "Calendar" section; and so on. The idea was to make it faster for you to find all of our great content - all of which is still here, just shuffled a bit.
4. Posting content is easier than ever. Now, you can post any type of content from any page of the site. (Before, we only had this function on the home page). You'll just have to click on the big blue "Post" button in the upper right of any page (in laptop view) to be presented with all of your posting options.
5. You have more shortcut commands at your fingertips. Now, when you click on your member profile icon in the upper right of the site, you'll not only see an option for updating your profile, but also links for inviting new members to the site, changing your email notifications and personal settings, and so on.
I've also added a new "Join and Invite" tab under the "About" section to make it easier to invite others to the site, and for invitees to join. The more, the merrier, after all!
6. You can see who's online and contact members real-time, in a flash! We had this functionality before, but truth be told, I never noticed it until I got on the new site! Now, you'll see a much more obvious green spot next to members' names (like mine, below) when they are online. (Trust me, it's bigger in person!) And, if you hover over a name, you'll be taken to that member's mini profile, which will give you options to private message and follow him/her, among other things. I'm hoping this enhanced feature will lead to more impromptu chats and connections!
7. The clip editing functions have changed location. All of the same functions that once allowed for editing clip sets, tags, and titles are still here; they are just more compactly located under an "Edit Clip" link under the "Manage Clip" button at the upper right of your clips. These functions are there so that you can make corrections or updates to your clips at any time, and I encourage you to use them. (Of course, only you, and super admins like me, can edit your clips.)
8. The calendar is now huge and more easily sorted. Yes, it was a particular frustration of mine to try to find cookie events on the old site. Now, all of the event info is contained under the "Calendar" tab in the main navigation line; the calendar view is a full page; and, best of all, the calendar can quickly be sorted (using the dropdown filter in the upper right) to isolate cookie classes from birthdays and chats.
- A new section called "Online Classes" has been added under the "Resources" tab. It's designed to be a spot where you can get quick access to some of the Internet's best online cookie decorating courses. (P.S. If you know of any I've missed, please let me know.)
- "Dialogs" have been renamed "Private Messages" so it's clearer what they are!
- All pages are now automatically printer-friendly.
- It's now (technically) mandatory to also select clip sets (not just tags) when uploading a clip of any kind. (Our guidelines have always required them, but now you won't be able to post a photo, video, or file unless you add them.)
- We've now got quick links to each of our contributors' content right there on the "Contributors" page. No more searching for the latest Practice Bakes Perfect challenge rules!
- You can still perform "advanced" searches of all site content or select areas of the site, but the search function is now located on the main navigation bar. Just click on the magnifying glass icon there!
- While you'll find handy "Post" buttons on every page to allow you to post content anywhere, you can also find the same functions under the plus (+) icon on the main navigation bar.
- Comments under posted content can now be sorted in three ways: most popular, most recent, and least recent.
- Links in the body of blog and forum posts will become blue (rather than pink) to be consistent with links in widgets and elsewhere on the site.
- You can now directly embed YouTube videos in any comment, just by entering the link. You can also embed them in the video clip uploading area. However, please only upload your own content, as always.
***** WHAT YOU NEED TO DO ONCE THE SITE GOES LIVE *****
Since the site will be migrating most of November 30, my best advice is to stay off the site on November 30. (You may not have access to it much before December 1 anyway.)
- Explore and have fun!
- Revisit your member profile, including your email notifications and personal settings. There's no reason for anything you've entered to change, but it's worth it to get acquainted with your new member profile - it too will look completely different.
- Revisit your avatar (profile image) after December 1. This is A MUST! Because the avatar size has tripled, all of the site's stock avatars will appear blurry. If you selected a stock avatar, you will need to re-upload a new, larger one. But those new ones will not be available to you until I can load them on the new site on December 1. Unfortunately, I cannot load them any sooner than after the site has gone live. If you uploaded one of your own avatars and it's now blurry, that's because it's too small to view well on the new site. You'll want to upload a larger version at least 300 x 300 pixels.
- Overlook (for a while) missing blog title images and any funny line spacing in blog and other posts. Like the avatars, blog title images cannot be uploaded until after the site goes live. And because the site's word processing interface has also changed, I am anticipating that I will have to do minor reformatting (removal of excess lines and such) on almost every past post made to the site. Again, none of this editing could have been done in advance.
- Please be patient with me. My plan is to have blog title images uploaded to the most recent blog posts (10 or so) no later than December 1; all other past blog posts will remain blog title image-less, forever! With nearly 400 blog posts on the site, it would be impossible for me to create new title images for all of them. However, my aim is to make other text edits in all past content, including all site sign-up and posting procedures, over the course of December and January. All new content will, of course, be posted with title images (as applicable) and in tip-top edited condition!
***** A FEW PARTING WORDS ABOUT THE NEW SITE *****
While I hope you'll be as psyched as I am about our new site, I'm sure you'll find some old things that you loved now missing, or some new things not quite as you had expected. A site redesign as comprehensive as this is always a balancing act that requires some compromises. But, please know that I have done my absolute best within the constraints of the Hoop.la platform and my resources (time and budget) to deliver an update that I believe will bring us all closer together.
I definitely welcome feedback, comments, and concerns in the comments below! However, I encourage you to explore the site first, and to "live and breathe" it for a little while, before crystallizing your impressions. Anything this new is going to take some getting used to! (I know, I'm still discovering facets of it, and I've been working on it for the last two months!) That said, if you see any strange formatting on any device (i.e., graphics or text not appearing in the right place), please do notify me ASAP. Even though I've tested the site on at least three different devices, there may be a few display formatting bugs that still need working out.
As someone very wise once said: "If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." ~ Unknown.