Welcome to the new Ballpark Digest! We’ve redesigned the site from the ground up to better serve you. We’ve puposely adopted a lightweight, airier interface that puts the emphasis on the news — and gives you the power to configure news feeds for your particular interests.
For the tech geeks in the audience: we took some robust open-source tools — Apache, MySQL, Joomla, some freely available templates and plugins — and combined them to create the new Ballpark Digest. As you can see on this page and the front page (assuming you came directly from the front page, of course), there’s a lot more white space in the new design, and there’s more space between the lines of text and the accompanying ads and navigation tools. Photos are larger as well, giving you more detail. Click on almost every photo and a larger version will appear. This “less is more” paradigm is the Zeitgeist in Web design.
As is giving readers the tools to create their own site. After you’re done reading this, go back to the front page of the site. The top left editorial section is a listing of the top stories of the day. Below that are five sections: Minor-League Baseball, Major-League Baseball, Independent Baseball, College Baseball, and At the Ballpark. These sections can be configured however you like. There’s a red title bar above each section. As you move your mouse over it, you’ll see three tools to the right: a wrench, a movement icon and a downward arrow. Clicking on the wrench brings up a menu where you can set how many items are displayed in the section, as well as controls for hiding the three subsections. The movement icon allows you to drag and drop the section to wherever you want it on the page: if you’re a big college baseball fan you can drag that section to the top of the sections. And the downward arrow button allows you to hide a section. Your front-page news is exactly how you want it.
We’ve also added tags to the site. Each new story will have tags at the end. Let’s say you’re reading about the move of the Portland Beavers and want more information. Click on the Portland Beavers tag at the end of the story and you’ll be presented with all stories tagged Portland Beavers. Tagging is a human activity; we try to limit the use of tags to situations where the subject is a prominent part of the story. In the right-hand column of every page there’s a box listing the most recent tags, the most popular tags (that is, the tags used most on the site) and the most read tags. All three should give you a good idea of what your fellow fans are reading.
If you want to search the site for all instances the phrase “Portland Beavers” is used, go to the top of the page and use the Search box. Search on the new site is significantly more robust than search on the old site.
And, of course, there are the social tools so trendy these days. We’re continuing with comments via Facebook; they’re good for users and easy to administer. At the bottom of each story there’s a toolbar that lets you share a story on the social-networking site of your choice. If you want to print an article, there’s an icon on the top providing this functionality. You can now email stories from Ballpark Digest directly to a friend; similarly, there’s a tool for creating a PDF of a story so it can be attached to a mail message.
Thanks to everyone who made this possible. Mike Hall, web consultant extraordinaire, did virtually all of the heavy lifting on the site implementation; as you can tell, it’s snappy and clean. We’d recommend him for any Web job you have. (Yes, we’d be happy to pass along a message.) The writers who contribute to the site — Mark Cryan, John Moist, Mike Pastore, Steve Kapsinow — certainly do not do it for the money. This site builds off the design of the previous version, led by Natalie Nowytski. And, of course, we couldn’t do it without the continued support of our advertisers: ResnickAmsterdam, Populous and Professional Sports Catering. Their support is essential to this site: go spend some money with them.
Now, we’re sure there will be some dead ends and some problem pages we couldn’t test. (That will happen on a site with over 2,600 pages, and yes, we’re already working on a fix for our history page.) We’re still in the process of importing photos from the old site (that, alas, is a manual process) and adding tags to older stories. If you’re having any problems, be sure to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please pass them along as well. We hope you enjoy the new site as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. –Kevin Reichard