The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

New Site Design

New Design

As you have probably noticed, things are different now. I have just installed the new custom theme I have been working on for the last four months.

What’s New

  • Tips are now interleaved with Articles on the New page, but also formatted to make clear that Articles are more important—everything new is now in date order in one place.
  • Tips by topic, for example heavy weather, now display as the full Tip, not just an excerpt, so you can read through quickly without clicking on a new page and then having to go back to the topic.
  • There is now an abbreviated table of contents (blue box) under all Articles that lists other Articles on the same topic. Previously this only worked with Online Book chapters.
  • If you click on any photo on the site, it will enlarge in a cool lightbox, that can be quickly collapsed with another click, rather than either doing nothing or opening in another window, as before.
  • We have implemented a more legible body text font designed for reading large blocks of text on a screen.
  • You may notice subtle tweaks to the text and headings spacing to improve legibility—easy to do in the new theme, hard in the old.
  • When in an Online Book chapter, clicking on the cover of the book will take you back to the table of contents.

Just The Start

The above is just the start of the improvements that are buzzing about in my head, now that I have got the heavy lifting of building the new theme done:

  • A special area that’s branded and designed specifcally for the Adventure 40.
  • A redesign of the About page to make it lighter and better.
  • A redesign of the page for each Article topic and Online Book table of contents to make them more compact when scrolling through looking for something.
  • More improvements to search.

Have ideas for other improvements? Please leave a comment.

Bugs

I have sweated bullets to make this new theme bug free, but the chances that I have actualy swatted all the little blighters are slim to none.

So if you find something that does not work, please leave a comment either on the article with the bug, or on this article.

What Do You Think?

Please have a look around, and then come back here to tell us what you think, both positive and negative, in a comment. We really want to know.

Under The Hood

For those interested, here’s some techie stuff about the new theme:

WordPress

Yes, AAC is built on WordPress, and has been for some 15 years, the open-systems content-management system that powers over 40% of websites in the world.

Why WordPress?

Many reasons, but the most important one is that Phyllis and I don’t want to be internet sharecroppers at the mercy of whoever controls a closed system.

With WordPress we have total control. Heck, a few years ago, we were able to change membership systems without you members even having to change your password or how you pay us.

And the WordPress community is full of thousands of cool motivated people all dedicated to two ideals: retention of content ownership and portability. No lock-in.

Yeah, I’m a bit evangelical about it, most of us in the WordPress world are.

Ground Up

Instead of using a generic theme and building on it, as we have always done in the past, and most all sites on the internet do, I built it from the ground up just for AAC, so it’s smaller and faster.

That said, a big shout out to the many contributors to the WordPress 2024 theme, which was my inspiration, and from which I swiped1 much of the code.

Built For the Future

Our new theme, like 2024, is built on the new Full Site Editing WordPress front end, rather than what we are now calling a classic theme, so it will be:

  • Easily upgradable as new features and capabilities are added to WordPress.
  • Much easier to tweak and change to make the site ever better.

Assistant Coder

Also a shout out to my assistant coder, ChatGPT-4. Yes, much of the new code that makes all this work was actually written by AI.

Working with the bot was one of the most interesting parts of the project. I learned we need to:

  • Clearly understand the structure of the code we want.
  • Break the problem down into small functions.
  • Understand the programming language being used and clearly specify exactly what we want the code to do and how—this only works if the person using it can already code.
  • Be able to read the resulting code to check it.

That said, because I don’t code much and I’m dyslexic, I make a lot of little mistakes when I do, so using the bot was a huge productivity gain for me. For a better coder the gains would be less.

Other stuff:

  • ChatGPT-4 (paid) is way, way, better than ChatGPT-3 (free), which is near useless for coding.
  • If we use it for research, we have to understand the subject well to phrase the query right and it’s important to verify the bot’s output.
  • The bot won’t cite its sources, which makes verification more important and more difficult.
  • While the bot is pretty good at coding, it makes nasty and potentially dangerous mistakes when researching—be careful.
  • For fun I asked ChatGPT-4 to write a couple of articles. The results were truly terrible and often plain wrong—I’m not fearing for my job yet!
  1. That’s OK, in fact encouraged, in the open-systems world of WordPress. ↩︎
37 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments