New School WebsiteI'm nervously approaching a very important day. This Monday I switch on a new website for Springfield Public Schools.
I have been working on this new site since last December. It's a complete re-write of the whole site. The current site has been around for four years and had gotten to the point where adding new features was extremely inefficient. The current site was built to enable teachers and schools to post content online themselves without having to upload static HTML files via FTP.
We've come a long way since those days, and now we want to have students logging in, interacting with teachers and creating digital portfolios. We want to have private discussion forums, groups that share information, clubs and sports that have calendars that users can subscribe to, dashboards where logged-in users can quickly see all the information important to them, etc.
In December it was apparent that the quickest way to move forward was to go back and start over on a new site.
The launch date is Monday, and I'm getting close to being ready for it. I thought it would be nice to take a little break and post a few notes about the site.
So far the code base has about 100,000 "words" of code. Web code isn't necessarily written like English, but the comparison works on some level. At an average word count of 300 words per page, I have written the equivalent of a term paper over 300 pages long (only in a term paper, the words don't actually have to communicate with each other).
More important than the number of words I've written is the number of words I haven't written -- the new site uses less than 30% as much code as the site it's replacing (the current site has over 2.5 million characters of code).
The new site is much more efficient in how it's written, how it's executed and how it will be maintained in the future. I spent a couple months in the winter developing a solid foundation for the site that has proven to make development as easy as possible.
The new site doesn't use the Adobe Flash plugin anywhere. This wasn't a goal of mine going in, but as I got close to the end, I was able to find better solutions for the few tasks that I currently use Flash for (uploading multiple files, showing progress bars for uploads and presenting video on a page). This means better compatibility for Apple's mobile devices and easier upgradability when it's time to make changes.
What does all of this mean for the average user on Monday? Probably not a ton. The site should look very similar to the current site. It will be wider and have updated graphics, but overall it will be relatively the same style. Some things will be in different places, and school and teacher home pages will look quite a bit different.
The strength of the new site should make itself apparent as the school year progresses. Students, teachers and employees have much better tools and many more ways to put content online. The hope is that they will USE the tools and actually put stuff up there. It doesn't matter if we have the best tools around if people don't actually use them to post stuff online. But I have to realize some things are out of my control.
Anyway, I'm excited. I'm pretty nervous. I just want it to work without any major unexpected problems. I expect there will be issues, especially on Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully the major bugs will expose themselves quick and will be simple fixes.
I'm kind of looking forward to having my life back too. I've been in "crunch time" mode for over a month now, and I've had a hard time letting myself do anything for fun. I'm feeling very sloth-like and need to get back out in the real world and move around. Maybe in August.