Announcing Website 21: Lean, Modernized, and Faster (Updated)

I’m very pleased to announce the launch of a major revision to Off on a Tangent, bringing the site to version 21.0. This is the first major revision since my migration to the WordPress blogging and content management system, and the first since I officially dropped support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. This change in browser support allowed me significantly improved leeway in writing simple, clean, functional code that takes advantage of the capabilities of modern web browsers. Read on for details about what has changed:

  • Major Rewrite of Underlying Code: While I did re-use some parts of the previous version of the site, I ended up rewriting most of it. The new code is simple, clean, and correct, which means that IE 6 support is now completely broken (really, I promise). If you are still using IE 6, please, I’m begging you, upgrade. The site has been tested in all current major browsers including IE 7, IE 8, Firefox 3, Opera 9, Safari 4, Chrome 2, and more. Please report any problems you experience in any of the supported browsers listed on the ‘About the Site‘ page.
  • Leaner and Zippier: Along with improving the underlying code, I had an eye toward efficiency. The total size of the site template dropped from about 870kb to a skant 500kb, and the data transfer for each load of the home page dropped from about 350kb to about 200kb. In addition, the main menu has been re-developed using ‘Son of Suckerfish‘ which is much faster, smaller, and more efficient than the ‘DomMenu‘ system I had been using. All of this should result in a noticeable speed-up, particularly in page loads.
  • Visual Improvements: As always, I redid the look a bit. The randomized photos at the top right now fade gently from the right to the left (and can actually layer seamlessly underneath the title text if you have a smaller screen). I tightened things up a bit to make better use of the space. The main menu also follows you as you scroll down the page now, allowing you to quickly access the site navigation and search functions even if you’re at the very bottom of a page.
  • Mobile Version: I’ve significantly improved the mobile version of the site. The navigation structure no longer appears on all mobile pages, replaced with a prominent link to a site map, and I tightened things up so you see more useful data on the first screen. This drastically improves load time (especially on slow wireless connections). The mobile version works with all current, major mobile browsers including Safari (iPhone), Android Browser, S60 Browser, Palm Blazer, Opera Mini, IE Mobile, and more. Please report any problems in any of the supported browsers listed on the ‘About the Site‘ page.
  • Choose Your Version: The site automatically determines whether the mobile or desktop version of the site is best for your browser, but you can now choose to override that determination. Any browser supporting JavaScript and cookies (most modern mobile and desktop browsers) will remember your choice, and you can switch back and forth at-will if you want. To view the mobile version, click ‘Mobile Version’ at the top of the right column. To switch back, click ‘Full Version’ near the top of the mobile site. (Note: I only officially support the default choice in the supported browsers. If you override the choice, there’s a distinct possibility that things will not work right.)
  • Holiday Images: As has been the case through several versions of the site, special images appear at the top-right (replacing one picture of me) on particular civil, religious, and personal holidays. First, I’ve completely re-factored the holiday image code to improve efficiency. Second, holiday images are now clickable and will lead you to information about the holiday, in case you ever wonder what the special image is for.
  • Open Source Development: I do try to practice what I preach, and I preach the importance of open formats and open source software. For the first time, I performed the development of this web site entirely using open formats and products. The initial prototyping and design was done in Inkscape (SVG format), image processing in Gimp (XCF format with PNG and JPG export), coding in Smultron and Bluefish (text files), primary testing in Firefox, file uploads in FileZilla, and, of course, deployment on WordPress.

UPDATE 5/8/2009: I have become aware of a bug that appears to effect Mozilla Firefox users who are using the most-recent Firefox 3.5 BETA release on Windows, and some users of this and other Firefox versions on Linux. This bug causes the fixed menu to flicker while scrolling the page up and down. Oddly, it does not seem to be affecting Firefox users on Mac OS X. I have filed this bug on the Mozilla bug tracker, so hopefully it will be repaired before the final release of Firefox 3.5.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.