The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Tips, Tricks & Thoughts:

Site Changes

  • Summary Table of Contents

    AAC, like most every WordPress-based web site, lists articles under Topics (or Chapters under Books) with title, image, author, number of comments, date and descriptive excerpt.

    And that’s great if you are exploring an Online Book to decide which chapters you want to read.

    But if you just want to get a sense for what’s covered in that Book (or under a Topic), or want to zero in on a single Chapter (or Article) you know is there, that’s way too much information.

    So I, like many of you, I suspect, got into the habit of opening a chapter, or article, and then scrolling down to the bottom to use the TOC. Not elegant.

    So what to do? Cut the length of the Chapter or Article entry? Not good for new, or prospective members who want to see what’s available—classic site-design problem.

    But not any more.

    You can now click on the TOC at the top of every Online Book or Topic listing and get a summary TOC just like the one at the end of Chapters and Articles.

    The best of both worlds.

    And the super-cool thing is that because of all the effort we put into converting to Full Site Editing (the future of WordPress) last winter, it took me less than two hours to make the change.

    Let us know how you like the new TOC in a comment.

    Share your thoughts>

  • Site Improvements—Login

    It used to be that:

    • if you were an active member,
    • but your login had expired,
    • and you visited a paywalled Article or Tip,
    • you then had to login,
    • but you were returned to your Account page and then had to find your way back to the Article.

    Super irritating!

    To fix this I have added a login form that appears on the Article, so you can log in without leaving, and as soon as you do the whole Article appears.

    Much better!

    If you notice any other irritations like this, please leave a comment below. I’m knocking them down one by one.

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  • Getting The Most From AAC

    Having got the new site design built, installed, and pretty much debugged, I finally got to a project that has been on my todo list for ages: a video tour of AAC.

    I edited viciously to keep it down to 5 minutes.

    It’s mainly targeted at new members and those considering joining, but please have a watch anyway and tell us what you think in a comment.

    I’m particularly interested to know if you learned anything new about how to use the site, and if so, what it was.

    My thinking is that if you have been a member for a while, but still discover a new feature in the video, it might indicate that said feature is not intuitive enough and needs work.

    Here it is:

    Share your thoughts>

  • Searching Cruising Topics

    More Search

    Given that we have some 100 Article and 30 Tip Topics, categorizing our over 1200 chapters and Articles and nearly 250 Tips, I just added a search box to the Topics page as another way to zero in on what you need.

    Note that this new box searches the titles of the Topics themselves, not the underlying content, which can be searched using the magnifying glass icon on the menu.

    Give it a try and tell us, in a comment, how you like it.

    Share your thoughts>

  • Search Within Online Books

    Better Search

    The main reason I put in the months of work to write a new custom theme for AAC was to make further improvements way easier to do.

    One of the first to see the light of day is search restricted to the Online Books, or better yet, an individual Online Book.

    Here’s an example of what an advance this is:

    • If we search on “anchor shackle” we get over 30 Articles, and several Tips.
    • But if we do the same search, restricted to the Anchoring Book, we get just 18 results, most of which are relevant to the decision of which shackles to buy.

    You can access this new feature either on the Books or Advanced Search screens.

    This is just the start of improvements to searching that we are planning. Suggestions welcome in a comment.

    Share your thoughts>

  • AAC Menu Improvements


    As happens with any new site design, I’m improving a bunch of little things to make the site easier to use.

    The latest around the menu:

    Sticky Menu

    This design (and the old) have a sticky menu that appears only when we scroll up. The idea is that if we realize we are in the wrong place while reading a long article or comment stream, we will scroll up to get to the menu, but particularly on phones, that can take an age, so the menu appears immediately.

    However, I found that implementation was jittery, with the menu appearing and disappearing at the slightest change in scroll direction, so now we have to scroll up for more than a second for the menu to appear and back down for more than a second for it to disappear.


    While we are thinking about the sticky menu, it struck me that I use it all the time while reading on my phone, but never on a wide screen device like a computer, so I’m thinking about hiding it on wider screens.

    That said, I’m primarily a computer and big tablet user, as well as an old guy used to using scroll bars to get where I want to go, so I’m not typical.

    For example, when I initially put the old site up five years ago I never even thought about a sticky menu until a bunch of phone-reading members explained to me why it was vital for them (thank you).

    So what do you think about removing the sticky menu on wider screens? And if so, should it show on tablets, or just phones?

    Also, does the present sticky menu, after the fix detailed above, need any further improvements?

    Please leave a comment.

    Search Box

    Member John reported that the search box was counterintuitive because, after typing in our query it was logical to then click (or tap) on the search button, but that disappeared the query box—big piss off.

    This is core WordPress behaviour, but that doesn’t make it right, so I wrote script to hide the button when the search entry box is open.


    My thinking here is that with the button gone we will naturally hit the return key after typing our query. Do you agree or do I need to do more?

    Please leave a comment.

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  • Dark Mode at AAC

    Member Charlie R suggested in a comment to a Tip about the new AAC site design I’m working on that it incorporate dark mode.

    Initially I was skeptical because there is no consensus among web site experts that dark modes do anything useful, and I have always believed, as many web designers do, that the most readable colour scheme is good old black type on white background.

    But then I read further and there are benefits to dark mode.

    But, then again, none of those benefits are compelling enough to make that the default for the new design, particularly since many people hate dark modes.

    What to do? Not a problem:

    If you like dark mode, simply install the Night Eye extension in your browser and switch it on and off at will. I have tried it in both Safari and Chrome and it works great on AAC in either.

    Yes, I could add the code to AAC to switch back and forth, but that would slow the site down. Not much it’s true, but adding code to a web site is a bit like adding weight in the ends of a boat: a bit does not hurt but a little bit here and a little bit there sure adds up.

    But Night Eye only adds code at the local browser level, which is intrinsically faster, since only those who want it install it.

    You can even try Night Eye for two months for free and after that it’s reasonably priced at $US9 / year.

    Thanks to Charlie for the idea. Also see my answer to Charlie for more of my ideas on how we can get other functionality he suggests with no added code.

    Share your thoughts>