Improvements to the Site—Finding What You Want

Back in February we rolled out (and I wrote about) the first phase of our 2020 improvements to this site, which focused on simplification, improved readability on phones, and speed.

We also rolled out a bunch of changes designed to make it easier to find what you are looking for in our over 1000 articles, including:

  • Breadcrumbs, so you always know where you are.
  • An hierarchical Topics page.
  • Series within Topics so it’s easier to read through a linked group of articles that are not part of an Online Book.

That was all good, but it quickly became apparent that the next thing needed was a damned good housecleaning and re-categorization of our content. Here’s what we did:

Trashed the Junk

We deleted over 100 old articles that were no longer relevant or just plain wrong based on stuff we have learned since writing them.

That said, we did not get too carried away, since many of our older articles have great comment threads that we don’t want to lose.

Re-Categorized

The way in which we had articles categorized under topics had evolved over the years, and was a mess, so we sorted all that out by rationalizing the topics and refiling almost all the articles so that each only appears under one topic.

If you think that sounds like a lot of work, it was, but it will now be much easier to find what you want, or to simply browse.

We have also changed the site code so that articles that appear in a child topic are no longer in the parent. This sounds trivial, but in fact makes it easier to browse, since there is no longer any duplication.

Cleaned Up Online Books

We added cool new covers for the Online Books.

The new Series within Topics feature allowed us to reduce the Online Books from 25 to 12, a long overdue simplification. So now Online Books are only for clearly threaded chapters that cover subjects like anchoring, docking, or storm tactics with solid how-to information.

That said, nothing was lost; rather, things like multi-article cruise accounts are now categorized as a Series under Topics.

There’s still plenty to do to make the Online Books better, and we will keep pegging away at that.

Made It Easy

Finding stuff is much easier now with just three menu items to look under:

  • New: Our latest content, both articles and new Online Book chapters.
  • Books: Online Books with the chapters in logical threaded order.
  • Topics: All articles and Online Books in an hierarchical tree and in date order with most recent first, with the exception of Series, which are in logical order.

Look for buttons like this as you explore the site.


That said, there are some new and very cool features of the site that are not intuitively obvious, so we have added a Tips area (accessible with a button click) to both of the latter pages. Don’t miss the Tips.

Also, don’t forget that you can search the whole site by clicking on the magnify icon at the top of every page.

More Free Stuff

We have always understood that we need to be generous with free content if we want non-members to join. So while we were reorganizing, we opened up many older articles that we had originally published behind the paywall.

We are also publishing more new articles for free during this unsettling time. We hope these added free articles will be a pleasant distraction from epidemic news for non-members.

At the time of writing we have:

  • 1077 articles and book chapters.
  • 707 articles that are free.
  • 370 Online Book chapters and in-depth reviews that require joining to read.

Thank You

That said, Phyllis and I are always deeply grateful to those who join, and particularly to those loyal members who renew year after year, but that goes double at the moment. Thank you. Without you there would be no AAC.

Comments

All that said, I’m sure there are more things we can improve, so if you have a suggestion, please leave a comment—worth your while since many of the above improvements were inspired by suggestions from members.

Recent Comments

Talking of suggestions. Several members were disappointed when we removed Recent Comments from the sidebar and put the link to the new Recent Comments page at the bottom of the screen.

We do understand that this is less convenient than a link at the top of the page would be. However, we plan to get rid of the collapsing “hamburger menu”, that appears on tablets and phones, a change which is only possible with four menu items.

Also, there’s a simple answer for those of you who like to regularly check the Recent Comments: bookmark the link.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:


Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

19 comments… add one
  • Jake Fraser May 8, 2020, 11:46 am

    Hi John
    I so appreciate all the wonderfully informative articles in your books.
    in a recent post colin i think recommended as i recall a beta diesel with a zf gear
    a bit of a heads up on recent ZF gears.
    As it is uncertain what the outcome will be wit these defective zf gears please don’t publish this comment yet
    , the company isn’t forthcoming on the problem or the solution and seems determined to ride out the problem at purchasers expense, right now for sure i wouldn’t buy one.

    i installed a new new zf 25m last march 2019 installed exactly to spec, it lasted 20 hrs before jumping in and out of gear under load #2 a 25m had some scraping noise inside when installed and rotated by hand so pulled it out and returned to dealer
    there were three more rejected at the various zf warehouses for unspecified problems i then installed 2 more rebuilt one by the dealer one by zf the first got 340 hrs the second 142 hrs before failure
    all run well below max rated max load and rpm yanmar 4JH TE about 56 hp
    tried to upgrade to a 30m but that one in stock also had some thing wrong found at the warehouse
    the last one #8 a 30 m installed in october or november 2019 is now installed with about 2 hrs on it no failure yet.
    I know these have been a good gear in the past, however something changed about a year ago and zf is not forthcoming on what was going on. there was a 700 unit range in failed gear serial numbers that i was involved with most that failed had clutch slippage. i know it was not isolated incident as there were a few m25 lined up on the bench at the zf dealer all with the same issues
    im Still in negotiations with zf on compensation and isn’t looking good at all for a further warranty, they won’t be supplying any more replacements and their solution/suggestion was that i hope for the best and call a dealer if there was a problem…like that is a reassuring thing for a long distance boat in remote areas
    at this point will be getting a second gear for a spare as these zf’s are so unreliable . wish i could recommend small zf”s but cant and wish there was a decent small gear i could recommend but dont know of one. Ill write again when i know more or this is sorted out.
    i have been a marine service provider for about 40 years these gears were installed exactly to zf specs.
    Cheers
    Jake Fraser

    • John May 8, 2020, 4:33 pm

      Hi Jake,

      I think that you meant to comment on the engine post, not this one. We no longer move comments, but if you want to reenter your comment I will delete this one.

      You also asked that we not publish the comment yet. Sorry, but our system does not work that way in that comments publish immediately.

      See our comment guidelines: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/11/10/aac-comment-guide-lines/

  • Alastair Currie May 8, 2020, 8:01 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to sort, appreciated as it is easier to browse now.

    • John May 9, 2020, 8:00 am

      Hi Alastair,

      Thanks, great to hear that browsing works better now.

  • Ernest E Vogelsinger May 9, 2020, 6:04 am

    Great new structure, John.
    I didn’t expect to be able to learn about efficient website structuring here, but I do – and will keep a lot of ideas for my own projects 😉

    • John May 9, 2020, 7:59 am

      Hi Ernest,

      Thank you very much for the kind words, particularly valued when I consider the source.

      Still lots to do, including a complete new more readable theme, but I think we are on the right track.

      I’s amazing how things have changed in the last five years. Then it was all about being cool and fancy, now it’s all about speed and clarity.

      • Marc Dacey May 15, 2020, 12:19 pm

        Simple works, and ambiguity should be banished. These refinements work.

        • John May 16, 2020, 9:02 am

          Hi Mark,

          Thank you, good to hear. More coming, but probably not until fall.

  • Henry Rech May 16, 2020, 10:14 pm

    John,

    I thought the list of current and latest comments was useful.

    It is very easy to see where the new discussions are.

    Any chance it can be reinstated?

    • John May 17, 2020, 8:49 am

      Hi Henry,

      Sorry, no chance, particularly since the sidebar is going in the next update.

      Displaying comments on every page was a performance hit to the site because it added a data base query to every page load, regardless of whether or not the reader was using it. The result was 100% of readers were negatively affected on every page load. Think of it like adding gear and features to an offshore sailboat. Sure each piece of gear or feature can be useful, but if one just adds every piece that can be useful you end up with a slow overloaded awkward boat.

      Also, what’s the problem with just bookmarking the link, as I suggested in the post above?

      And the added advantage is that the new comment page gives you more information at a glance than the old sidebar did.

      • Henry Rech May 17, 2020, 5:28 pm

        John,

        There’s a comment page?

        Where is it found?

        • Henry Rech May 17, 2020, 5:30 pm

          Sorry, John just found it.

        • John May 18, 2020, 8:10 am

          Hi Henry,

          The menu at the bottom of every page.

  • Henry Rech May 16, 2020, 10:17 pm

    John,

    There also appears to not be a logout button at top of page?

    • John May 17, 2020, 9:45 am

      Hi Henry,

      No, I took that off too. No real reason to log off since we are not storing anything critical on our site, and I thought it would be a lot better use of the space, something in very short supply in the header, to display a link to your account page.

      That said, if you click on the ACCOUNT link you will then see a logout link.

  • Henry Rech Jun 4, 2020, 8:36 pm

    John,

    Any chance you could put the Recent Comments button at the top of the page rather than the bottom? Save a lot of scrolling.

    • John Jun 6, 2020, 11:12 am

      Hi Henry,

      Sorry, no. There are good reasons for this and a good work around: See the last paragraph of the article above.

      The other reason for not doing that is that people tend to go direct to comments from the comment page and then add their thoughts without ever reading the article above. The result is that the conversation becomes more and more “forum like” and off topic over time, rather than adding value to the original subject. Far less useful I think, and anyway there are forums for unstructured conversation—that’s simply not what we do here at AAC. Or to put it another way, I just don’t have the bandwidth (or desire) to do my primary job: in depth research and writing on offshore sailing, and be a forum moderator.

  • Terence Mason Jul 3, 2020, 11:25 pm

    Do you still have a “boats for sale” section?

    • John Jul 4, 2020, 8:42 am

      Hi Terence,

      No, that went when we got rid of corporate sponsorship.

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