Wednesday, June 23, 1999

A New HokieCentral Home Page

Those of you who have been around HokieCentral for a few years know that I can't leave well enough alone, and that I like to redesign the home page every summer.  I usually do this without anyone's blessing but my own, and it usually ticks some people off, but at least it's not boring.

The HokieCentral subpages like News and Notes are still the same, but as you saw when you logged on, the home page has undergone quite a revamp.  These redesigns are always a shock when you first look at them, but the basic principle behind every HokieCentral home page has always been this:  for the latest update, just look smack dab at the middle of your screen, and for links to all the major HC pages, look to the left.

Anything else you see is just reference material or informative fluff.  Make yourself familiar with the oodles of info in the right hand column, for example, and use it when you want to, but the meat of the home page has always been just below the HokieCentral logo.

Here are the big changes for the new look:

The Lane Stadium and player graphics are gone - I really wanted to get rid of the player photos, because it's incredibly hard to find good action shots without stealing copyrighted material.  I was often forced to use pics of players that had graduated or pics that were of poor quality.  So I definitely wanted to get away from those.  As for the Lane Stadium graphic, I loved it, but there was nowhere to fit it in smoothly in the new design, plus, that thing took a long time to load.  Fortunately, you can still download the graphic as wallpaper from the Sights and Sounds page (see the Hokie Wallpaper and Cursors link there).

The home page is formatted as a 640 pixel wide table - give or take a few pixels, I have caved in to convention and have formatted the home page to be 640 pixels wide.  My old home pages would stretch out to fit the resolution of the user's display, but the new one doesn't.  That means that if you're running at 800x600, like most people, there is a blank area to the right on the home page, and if you're running 1024x768 or larger, there's a big blank area to the right.  I've always kind of hated it when sites do that, but it's becoming the norm, and I have to admit, it is easier to design.  The good news is, the sub pages like News and Notes will still stretch out and fill the screen, and that's where you spend most of your time, anyway.

There is more "recent update" information - underneath the latest update information, there is a section titled "Recent Updates" that gives you information on, well, recent updates to the web site.   This section goes about 5-6 updates deep, and is pretty descriptive, making it superior to my old method of putting tiny links in the upper right hand corner of the home page.

Fewer graphics - there are only a few graphics on the home page now, which means that it loads mega-quick.  The HC logo has also been reduced in size.  The total file size of all of the home page graphics is now only about 17k, whereas before, the HC logo alone was 15k.  On the old home page, the player graphics (two of them) were 10-15k each, and the Lane Stadium graphic was almost 40k.  So you can see that with the reduced graphics, load time of the home page is now faster than a Virginia Tech linebacker.

One thing that's not different is that once again, my home page features no JavaScript and no animated gifs.  I guess I'm a content guy, not a flashy bells-and-whistles guy.  That stuff takes too much time to learn, and in the case of JavaScript, creates way too many headaches, so I never seem to get around to it.

Anyway, make a few visits, get used to the new look, and you'll be surfing at top speed again in no time.  As always, comments are welcome.   Enjoy!


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