Welcome to the Mirror Online Blog! This blog will discuss topics regarding our Web site. In this entry, I will discuss the process of how we developed our newly redesigned Web site.
In Dec. 2008, I was recruited to work for the Mirror by the then Online Managing Editor Christopher Haliskoe in order to improve the Web site. After using College Publisher for a few weeks, I determined that it was not possible to create the site I envisioned. The staff and I researched many alternatives before making the decision to transition the entire site to a WordPress platform. WordPress is web based blog software, but by adding numerous plug-ins to enhance its functionality, it was possible to turn it into a robust site designed for a newspaper. By the end of January, we selected our theme, but it needed some work to fit our image, since it was very generic.
Around February, we contacted our old web host to retrieve our story archives. This took a really long time. College Publisher was very cooperative and always answered our questions. The most difficult part was gaining ownership of our domain name, since there were numerous steps, verification codes and communication issues – but eventually, that was all taken care of.
We received the database around June, and CoPress helped us convert its structure to something compatible with WordPress. All 7,000+ articles were unsorted and many authors’ information was redundant. I spent many hours merging user accounts, removing dead images, cleaning up dead links and adding some basic functionality. This is where all the technical stuff goes (the PHP, the SQL and the CSS) but I’d put you to sleep if I went on, so I’ll skip further detail here.
This site would not exist right now without Michelle Morrison, Melissa Mann and Traci Dantoni, who shared the tedious job of manually sorting over 7,300 articles and adding images for the past semester’s stories. This literally took the entire summer to complete. While I worked on the technical, behind the scenes aspect of the site, without their work getting the content organized properly, the site would have been pointless. I’d also like to thank the entire Mirror staff for their feedback throughout the process. Many people helped me find bugs I would have overlooked.
Once the content stage was completed, I spent the whole month of September doing the finishing touches – minor functionality tweaks that improve the site, such as rearranging menus, moving sidebar content around, fixing the text styling, etc. This was the fun part. We also finalized out new logo that mirrored (pun intended) our print redesign. I’d like to give a big thanks to the business department and redesign team for attending conferences and working on the logo since summer.
On Monday, Sept. 5, 2009 we switched our DNS to the new servers in anticipation for our 10/7/09 launch (it can take up to 48 hours for a site to change servers on the internet). Ironically, those on campus were the last to see the site change over, since the DNS servers on campus did not update. After contacting Computing and Network Services on Thursday, the issue was promptly resolved.
I’d like to give a shout out to Miles Skorpen, who was extremely helpful along the way – from programming to plugin help. (I’m sure he was sick of my emails after a certain point, but he’d always reply promptly and resolve our issues.) I’d also like to thank the rest of the CoPress team who have helped out behind the scenes.
And that’s the new site! I’m really proud of how it turned out, and we are continually making improvements. (For example, I just noticed that the links within stories were the same color and not underlined, so that’s fixed).