The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Grillin' & Smokin' v2.0

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Welcome to Grillin’ and Smokin’ version 2.0. Repeat visitors may be a little surprised to see the new look of the site. Believe me I am just about as surprised about it as you. A little over two months ago I never would have imagined this myself. But then Apple announced they were going to eliminate their Mobile Me web hosting service. Plus they seem to be no longer updating the iWeb software that I used to create this site. I basically had a year to find a new host and it seemed to make sense to switch to a new software package that was being actively developed. So after a couple months of work using new software and finding a new web host I am opening the doors to a new version of this site. There is a longer version to this story which I may make the subject of a future blog entry, but for now this blog will be the short version of the story, where I tell you what’s new or different with this site.

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The look of the new site is cleaner & more modern. A wider page with a sidebar allows me to put the focus on the photos in the main part of the page while being able to put the text and some useful links in the sidebar.

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The same page from the old site (left) and the new site (right). The descriptive text which was above the photos on the old site (left) has been moved to the sidebar (right). The recipe source citations are now in the sidebar on the same page as opposed to the old site where you had to visit a different page.

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The old pages (left) had smaller thumbnail with visible captions. The new site’s photo albums have bigger picture preview thumbnails and not visible captions. The captions appear only when you mouse over a picture (right). I didn’t like the idea at first but, I’ve changed my mind over the weeks creating the new site. I now feel the uncluttered look, which brings more attention to the photos is actually better.

The first thing you will notice is the look of the site is different. It is cleaner and more modern looking and IMHO a much better look. While viewing both the old and the new sites side by side on dual monitors, the old site was looking dated. The graphics on the photos pages of the new site are a bit bigger and they do not show a visual caption like the old site. This look is less cluttered and there is a caption if you mouse over a picture a yellow hot help type box appears over the picture at your current mouse location. At first the lack of a visible caption, but I am growing to like the less cluttered look of this and the captions are there if you want them. In the old site you could view a full sized version of the photos by clicking on an image thumbnail. The same thing happens with the new site where the picture opens on in a window on top of the photo page which blacks out in the background. You can move forwards and backwards with the arrow keys on you keyboard or clicking on the left or right side of the picture. The old site had a slideshow which was nice, but using the arrow keys is just as easy and I like the way the background is blacked out on the new version.

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The recipe summaries now reside in the sidebar (left) as do the recipe sources (right). You no longer need to go to a separate recipe sources area. As always the recipe sources cite the cookbook and page and provide a link if the recipe is available from an online source.

RapidWeaver like iWeb use themes which allow you to change the look of the site. The themes in RapidWeaver are more powerful than what I was used to in iWeb and these themes give you both local and global control for individual or all pages. The width of the pages you are allowed to use is greater, which suits the bigger screens we all seem to have these days. I also had the ability to have a sidebar, which I couldn’t do on the other site. This has allowed me to simplify some of the site structure and put the recipe sources in the sidebar on the picture page. The old site had a separate recipe page with citations and links (if appropriate) for all of the recipes in a category, say Beef 1.For the new site I added this information to the sidebar along with the description of the recipe. I was able to eliminate about 80 pages and make both viewing and editing the site easier. The theme I am using allows you to have picture headers (banners) at the top of the page. These pages can be either still images or slideshows. I have taken advantage of this capability throughout the site. If I do say so myself they add a lot of visual interest. Another nice touch is the main navigation bar can have a pull down menu instead of just being single item clickable links. These pull down menus can have sub-menus too.

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The new site has hierarchical pull down menus to help make navigation easier

There are lots of under the hood improvements too. iWeb was often criticized for creating non-standard or “dirty” HTML. RapidWeaver creates fully standards compliant HTML that should work on all modern standards compliant browsers. I have looked at it in Safari, Chrome and Firefox and have seen zero problems. The browser that is conspicuously absent from this list is IE. Microsoft has chosen to go it’s own way with it’s browser and I think the shrinking market share for IE is proof that is not the way to go. Bottom Line if you use a modern standards compliant browser you should have no problems viewing this site. This wasn’t always the case with my old site. Apple would post an upgrade to iWeb and it might cause problems with Firefox or Chrome and it was up to Google or Mozilla to fix it. Depending on what else was on there plate, this could take days, weeks or months. I have noticed a decent speed improvement loading pages on the new site. I don’t know if it is the cleaner code, the new host or some combination of the two, but load times are faster. When I was checking links on the new site I was opening the same pages on both sites at the same time and the new site loaded quicker just about every time.

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Adding visitor tracking to the old site was a complicated on-going mess. The new site couldn’t be easier. There is a special Stats dialogue box where you simply paste the HTML snippet furnished by Google Analytics. RapidWeaver takes care of inserting the right code in the right spot.

Another under the hood improvement is how easy it is to add tracking via Google Analytics and add other behind the scenes enhancements. I used Haloscan to track visitors to the old site, but it wasn’t easy. I had to put a code snippet on each page I wanted to track after the site was uploaded. You see iWeb erased any code it didn’t generate while uploading your site. So every time you uploaded a site you had to replace the code on the pages that were new or that had changed. Sure there were scripts or 3rd party software you could run to do this, but this process often took longer to do than upload the site itself. Plus you had to remember to do it. In RapidWeaver you tell the program you want to use Google analytics. The program provides you with a box to place the code snippet in and the program takes care of adding it to every page-once. On the old site I couldn’t track blog users because it killed blog comments. It literally made them disappear. Not a problem on the new site. As for blog comments with the old site I either had to use Apple’s built in commenting or if I used a 3rd party system I was back to pasting code snippets again. Apple’s commenting system could be so flaky it discouraged regular viewers from using it. They would instead email me directly. On the new site I simply tell RapidWeaver I want to use commenting and there is a popup I choose from to pick a commenting system to use. Enter a user name and password and that is it. BTW I am currently evaluating commenting systems and should shortly add something back in. I hope the stability of the new commenting system I choose will encourage people to use it in lieu of email.

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This is a screen shot of the new home page and the old home page zoomed out as small as the Safari browser allows me. You can see the new site (left) looks perfectly normal-everything is in the same relative position as it is at 100 percent. The old site home page (right) has issues to numerous to mention due to the absolute positioning of elements.

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Here is a screen shot of the new and old home pages with the Safari Browser zoomed all the way in. The new homepage (left) has kept it’s relative proportions while the old homepage (right) has issues. It appears the text stopped zooming while the rest of the page continue to grow. BTW so as not to confuse people: The zoomed in screen captures (lower) were originally much larger than the zoomed out ones (upper). I had to reduce the zoomed in versions much more to get them to fit on this page.

I think the thing I am most pleased about is the fact RapidWeaver uses relative positioning of objects vs iWeb’s absolute positioning.Trust me, it will make sense in a moment. When iWeb first came out most of us had small screens and you didn’t zoom pages in or out on your browser. With iWeb you placed boxes which had anchors at the corners or mid-point. This allowed for precise placement of every item on a page down to the pixel, which I really loved. Problem is as time went on and browsers added Zoom In and Zoom Out capabilities anchoring the objects this way caused a problem. As you zoomed a page in the text boxes stayed anchored at their anchor point and eventually items from other text or picture boxes would overflow into adjacent boxes. RapidWeaver uses relative positioning and this drove me crazy at first while doing page layout. You had to eyeball some things instead of the precise positioning of iWeb. But while relative positioning lacks the precision of absolute positioning, it more than makes up for it when you zoom in and out. An item that is one third down a 900 pixel page is still one third down the page regardless of how much you zoom it in or out. In iWeb it would have one corner of the box locked to 300 pixels regardless of the new page size you zooming required. Bottom line: the old site started looking scrappy if you zoomed in or out more than 1 level either way. The new site looks fine no matter how much you zoom in or out. In some ways this may be the biggest improvement of all.

So I hope everyone enjoys the new site. I still have to get a couple things working like blog commenting and linking some downloadable PDF recipe files to their new pages, but the site is at 99% percent capability. One of the reasons I like RapidWeaver and chose it over some other candidates is all of the extensions you can use to enhance it. Quite soon I hope to be able to add in a very powerful, very fast, full site search. If you have any likes (hopefully) or dislikes about the site let me know by signing the Guestbook. Once I get commenting up and running you can leave comments here too. From my standpoint it will be great to start posting items on the site again, instead of working on it.


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