Saturday, 1 January 2011

Introducing: DMD3

Saturday, 1 January 2011
The overhaul of Dan's Media Digest, to celebrate its fifth year, is finally here! Yes, after a few months work, DMD3 is officially L-I-V-E! So what are you waiting for? Take a look around, click some links, get comfy!

Hopefully, your first impression is: ooh, wider, cleaner, cooler... um, bluer.

The Big Changes...

Width: The blog is much wider, which is particularly apparent when you visit each post's unique page (stretched from 480px to 610px). As an added bonus, this extra space means I can embed bigger images and videos!

Social Networking: If you're a devoted Twitter/Facebook user, you'll find it's easy to "like" or "retweet" posts with a simple click! Yes, you no longer have to follow my Twitter stream or Facebook page directly in order to "push" DMD content to your friends, followers, or contacts. You can also flag stuff to Google Buzz and StumbleUpon from within each post. The success of this feature relies on people using it, so I hope everyone with Facebook/Twitter accounts take advantage. If you rarely have time to leave comments here, one-click appreciation like this is a GREAT alternative. It lets me know things are being read, enjoyed and disseminated. Other social networking sites may be linked to in the future.

There are other changes in DMD3, but they're mainly aesthetic, which I don't think will cause much concern. Changes like having a three-column footer, to store some sidebar content. No big deal, right? I'll continue to tinker with colours/sizes in the weeks to come, naturally.

Developments on the horizon...

Menu Navigation: The navigation bar at the top of the page has extra categories to choose from, but these will soon be positioned as drop-down menus. This will make it easier to access specific features of DMD from the top menu (competitions, trailers, polls, etc) without having to stare at a confusing Label Cloud, or enter a search query.

Current flaws...

Search. The search bar doesn't appear to work yet. I'm hopeful this will be fixed soon, or an alternative Google-powered search bar inserted instead.

Labels. The biggest flaw with DMD3 right now is that there are no labels attached to posts, meaning it's harder to investigate the archive for reviews on the same subject. Again, this will hopefully be fixed very soon, but in the meantime I'll link to relevant labels myself within new posts, and urge you to use the Label Cloud in the sidebar, or the LinkWithin-powered "related articles" at the foot of posts.

Sharebox. There's a handy social networking "sharebox" floating on the left-side of every post's unique page. I've noticed that it may slightly overlap the written content if your monitor is set to a certain resolution (1280 x 800, say). I haven't investigated this too much yet, but improvements will be made to ensure it's anchored away from the text. If there's a problem for you, please get in touch and let me know what your screen resolution is.

The loss of 'Read Me'..

One bone of contention may be the removal of the "Read More" capability, otherwise known as "peek-a-boo posts". It was quicker to access posts using that feature in old-DMD, but I've decided to remove it and force you to visit each post's unique page. Cruel, huh?

Why, you scream? Well, ditching "Read More" has resulted in a faster loading time for the main page, and I can see which pages are popular much easier. See, people using the "Read More" jumps never registered as a "hit" for that specific post being read, as it was technically part of the front page.

Anyway, I don't think the delay when you jump into each post's page is long enough to worry about. It may annoy a few people, but it's not a big issue in my mind. Most other blogs work the way DMD3 is now.

Beta-testing & feedback...

I have tested DMD3 in FireFox3 and IE8 (using Windows Vista), but if you're using a different OS/browser to me, please let me know if something isn't working properly, or looks strange. If your browser is particularly old and you're having problems -- well, sorry, you'll just have to upgrade your own software.

All feedback is welcome (good or bad), but please be constructive and polite about any criticism. And keep in mind, there's always a period of adjustment with major revamps like this! If you tend to dislike change, or didn't think DMD needed to be upgraded to begin with, then you're probably going to grumble for a month or so. I can understand that. But I'm pretty sure that DMD3 is a step in the right direction to bring it in-line with contemporary blogs/sites and will rapidly improve in the months to come.

If there are any genuine concerns and issues about DMD3's new look, let me know. If I agree with your quibbles, and the problems you identify are an easy fix, I'll adjust things. But, broadly speaking, I like the general look and functionality of DMD3, so the core changes are likely to stay. Unless there's a deafening outcry about something, of course!

A big thank you...

Finally, none of this would have been possible without the efforts of coding maestro Franklin Manuel of Bloggermint. DMD3 is based on a readymade template he created, which he kindly tweaked to my specifications, at no cost. What a nice man! His hard work is much appreciated, and he's done such a good job I'll probably pester him for improvements every few months! Sorry, Franklin, it's the price you pay for being so talented...