“They want to know what we want in the new web site,” says Mrs. C.
The rules of journalism tell me that I am supposed to include in “first reference” everything you need to know about the people mentioned – particularly who they are what what on earth they have to do with the story.
So, to follow the rules, I must tell you that “Mrs. C” refers to Valerie, the managing partner of Dean & Valerie, the ad-making department of Vinton Today and, of course, “Grandma.”
I replied to Mrs. C thusly: “We simply need the new web site to do everything the old one does, and as well.”
We loved the old web site. It worked almost perfectly for six years. The only time it stopped working was when more people read it than we had expected and we had to expand our “bandwidth,” which, apparently, is techno-talk for “enough space in Internetland for everyone who wants to read Vinton Today to do so.”
Vinton Today I, which you are reading now, was made from scratch by Wesley McElwee, who at the time was the code writer for Monkeytown, the local office supply/web site facilitator company that has worked with other area businesses on their web sites. Wesley used a code known as PHP. PHP, in Crazy Internet World where the rules of grammar don’t apply, actually stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. But since a famous computer company is known as HP (apparently) they had to make up a new set of initials, so they added a P. And know, I have no idea what the first P stands for.
But apparently, PHP is like a carburetor in a fuel-injected era. While it works fine, there are very few people who know how to fix it if it goes wrong. Even Wesley, who has moved on to another job, advised us that PHP for our site and our purposes is becoming outdated.
So, over the past year or two, we’ve been discussing the idea that we probably need to change our platform to an HTML (Hyper Text Mark UP) system, which is much more commonly used (think VHS vs. Beta from the VCR era nearly 40 years ago).
That brings us to the question that started this column: What did we look for in a “new” web site?
Easy: Everything the old web site had. We needed it to be easy to read, with the same news categories as the old site, with the ability to put photos and links with our stories. Of course, we needed space for our growing number of advertisers.
We worked with Kathy Lariviere and her son, Steven, of Three Rivers Promotions, who have created a variety of web sites for area businesses. We told them we need the new site to do all the stuff I mentioned above.
So they started working, almost six months ago. They’d work for a while and say, “Like this?” We’d look at the site they had made and say, “Kind of, but can you try….”
This continued all summer as they continued building and we continued seeing how it works.
Finally, we think our new site is ready enough to replace the old one.
So, here we go.
Take a look around – the address is the same www.vintontoday.com. Go there first.
You will notice some changes, both in appearance and function. Click on the big yellow “menu” button and you will see every part of our page in one big list. Or you can scroll down and see the sections below.
Our weather – our link to local weather enthusiast Jason Hicok’s www.vintonweather.com page – is there, but at the bottom of our home page. Obituaries, also are toward the bottom. Above the weather is a list of upcoming events, which is a feature of our new calendar page. We can easily add things to that calender, so be sure to send us events you would like to add.
Our email (email@example.com) and Facebook pages remain the same. And we can still, as before, share stories easily via Facebook.
One new feature that people have asked us for is printable pages. Now, you can print each story with the photos included with it – one of the few things our old site did not allow. You can also choose not to print the photos, if you prefer. Sharing stories by Facebook, Twitter, etc., is also possible by clicking one of the buttons at the bottom of each story.
Several people from beyond Vinton have told us they wished their towns had a similar page. For us, Vinton Today is a full-time job with more than enough stories to keep us busy. But we have found a way to allow our neighbors from other parts of our area to share their stories. So you will see pages called “Benton Community Today,” “Union Community Today,” “Center Point-Urbana Today” and “Belle Plaine” today. There are also Facebook pages for those communities, to allow our friends from those places to share their stories with us and each other.
We still have our free classified pages for individuals; we have also added a business card page (called “Business Classified”). We still have space to add more business cards, so feel free to contact us if you are interested.
We still allow comments, and names are still required. But it’s easy to input your information to add a comment to our stories.
And as before, those who signed up for our daily e-mail will receive a list of the new stories we have published in the past day or so.
We have also added a few games, for those who like a challenge.
So, go explore. Take some time to look around. And if you see something that’s hard to use, or understand, let us know. If you have any suggestions or ideas, share them. We can make some changes to this new format as we go along.
And as always: Thanks for being part of this incredible Vinton Today journey.