I’ve Been Working on the Web Site

It has been a very busy off-season for the Diamondbacks and their fans. By busy I am not talking about just player movement. In fact on that front it was relatively quiet compared to years past. Other than the improvement to the starting rotation through trades for Doug Davis and Randy Johnson, there was not much happening to the roster. This can be attributed to the fact that the young nucleus of players that the Diamondbacks will be relying upon are all under team control for the next several years. No, the changes causing this to be busy are mostly focused upon the changes to the Diamondbacks logos and color scheme that was introduced November 8 at the Valley Ho resort. I’ve documented my thoughts on the elimination of Purple and Teal on many occasions so I will just let it go. That change though had a large impact on my time and my closet and continues to be a driving factor in my life to this day. Besides this blog, I also have a relatively large Diamondbacks based web site Now Hitting that has been in existence since 1999 and chronicles the Arizona Diamondbacks. The graphical elements and content were all based on the team’s color scheme of Purple and Teal. That though needs to change and hence why every waking hour and some sleeping hours have been consumed this off season.

When I began to contemplate changing Now Hitting I thought it would be a simple matter of modifying the graphics and changing a few colors. I quickly realized that nothing is ever simple especially in web development. Since Now Hitting was built well before current web standards were defined, I did the cardinal sin of mixing presentation with mark-up. In technical terms that meant that I embedded countless tables, colors, and graphics on each page. I have always been a proponent of writing code myself rather than rely upon WYSIWYG tools. Those tools could never completely produce the look and feel that I wanted so I always write my pages by hand using nothing more than an editor (in my case HomeSite by MacroMedia). When I started to dissect the pages of Now Hitting I quickly realized that it was going to be faster and easier to rewrite the whole site rather than try to update what was already there.

I took this opportunity to try and develop a site based on current standards using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and eliminating as many presentation titles as possible. This was done for two reasons. First because the pages should load faster and be more conformant to multiple clients such as web browsers, smart phones, PDA, etc. Second and much more importantly, by using CSS I could eliminate the presentation information on each page and store that centrally so that if or when the Diamondbacks ever make another change to their logos or color scheme I can change it in one place and have it ripple through the whole site giving me a lot more time to do the things I like to do like go to a Spring Training game. Besides CSS, I also wanted to incorporate more changes that would allow me to separate not only the presentation code but also the content from the mark-up. This would allow me to modify the content without having to mess with the XHTML code that describes the site. In layman’s terms that meant I needed to implement a content management system (CMS). I wanted the CMS to be open source and easy enough to use that I could allow non-technical users an opportunity to add to the site content without disrupting the underlying page information. After testing several I came to the conclusion that Joomla! would meet my needs and allow me to develop the site I wanted. My problem was that I was not familiar with this software nor was I completely sure that it would meet all of my needs. Since I am never one to shy away from the unknown I jumped in with both feet and began creating the site.

I’ve always been graphically inclined and therefore when I begin a project I start with a diagrams and graphics and then fill in the technical details around that. This meant I would be spending a tremendous amount of time in Adobe Photoshop and other graphics tools designing each graphical element that I would use in the site redesign. I wanted to be as accurate as possible so I went to Major League Baseball properties and got the new color scheme and logos. I then matched the colors to the Panatone Color System to make sure that Sedona Red really was Sedona Red. (For the record, the color Sedona Red is defined as Red=161, Green=28, Blue=49 or in hexadecimal terms #A11C31 and Sonoran Sand is defined as Red=219, Green=206, Blue=172 or in hexadecimal terms #DBCEAC). I also felt that the new site should take advantage of the continually expanding monitors that computer users have. This meant that I wanted the format to be dynamic so that content changed as the user changed their window size. This may sound trivial (at least it did to me when I started) but that ended up being one of the most time consuming aspects of the site redesign.

I set as a goal to have Now Hitting up and operational by Opening Day 2007. That seemed to be a good goal and I thought for sure that I would have it done before Spring Training games began. Boy was I ever wrong. I completely underestimated the amount of content that I had collected on Now Hitting and I totally blew any estimate I had of what it would take to recreate the content in a dynamic database-driven content system. I’ve now put in over 500 hours of work on the web site and I am probably 30 percent complete. I am working on it each and every day moving what content I can and adding additional details that I find interesting. In the end I hope to have a substantial clearing house of data about the Arizona Diamondbacks to provide visitors with a single site for all information Diamondbacks related. There will of course be a lot of cross writing between Diary of a Diehard and Now Hitting as you would expect. As I get into this effort more I am augmenting the data that I already collected with other sources. For example I now have a full set of Diamondbacks Media Guides from 1998 through the 2006 season. As time permits I will add details that the media has at their disposal so that all fans have access to this type of information. I’ve come to the conclusion that the redesign and update to Now Hitting will never fully be complete since I am always finding another tidbit of data that I think is interesting so I add a page or section to the site to include it. I invite you to contact me if you have comments or suggestions and I will try to include them. So I invite you to keep an eye on Now Hitting and see how it progresses and grows into the Diamondbacks reference site I have envisioned. For those of you curious of what Now Hitting used to look like, I have moved it in its entirety into my portfolio section.

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