Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The new Statesman.com is up and running

A few months ago at work we found out that we would be moving our website to a new content management system. Ouch.

For those of you not familiar with what a CMS is, it's kind of like the platform or program that you work through to build the website. Our old CMS was called Teamsite and it was pretty old school. We hand coded every piece of information for the site. We didn't use Dreamweaver or Wordpress or anything like that - everything was written out in html in BBedit (or on a sticky note, or in Word, or however you wanted to write it). Then it would be FTP to our server and managed through Teamsite. It was a bit of labor-intensive process.

Exhibit A - Old site

The new CMS is called Escenic and it's supposed to automate a lot of this work. It's more drag and drop, point and click style. Want something bolded? Gone are the tags. Now you highlight and click a button labeled B, just like in Word. No more copy and pasting links. No more FTPing items. It's all in one.

Before we go any further, here's something to understand about the old site. Everything was a separate file, a separate page. The homepage wasn't just one html file - it was about a dozen. Plus ads pulling in. And videos. And on and on. Each story is a separate file, a separate page.

To change to a new CMS, each of these files had to be rebuilt, piece by piece, on the new CMS. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of files, folks. More ouch.

And the kicker? We had a little under three months to do it all. That's right, three months.

So for the past three months, we've been working our tails off, especially my boss Kristi and the genius behind the web, Christian. Today was our launch date and I'm happy to show you the difference!

 Exhibit B - new site

What do you think? It's a lot cleaner, a lot less cluttered. But the drawback is that we, the website producers, have a lot less control. We can't pick what size image we want, or really move items anywhere but where they are now.

There's still a lot of bugs and we'll be sorting it out for weeks, but take a look at statesman.com and austin360.com today to see the new changes.

On a separate note, I edit a website 40 hours a week and I can't figure out how to get this stupid blog to do a lightbox feature on my images. Anyone know how??

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