A New Look for royalcorinthian.co.uk 6 Jan 2012
2012 marks a decade since Mark Eagling became involved with our website, and to mark this auspicious anniversary, royalcorinthian.co.uk has had a major makeover. Here Mark gives us a run-down of what’s changed and what’s stayed the same.
It’s at that age – so royalcorinthian.co.uk is having a few nips and tucks for 2012. Although the previous design had stood the test of time quite well (it first appeared in 2005) it had starting to look a bit dated – the fact that the majority of the random pictures in the top-bar were pre-2005 didn’t exactly help, but more on that later.
Although my involvement with the day to day running of the site has diminished significantly over the last 10 years (it’s currently being very ably managed by your webeditor Wendy), I’ve remained deeply involved behind the scenes, and continue to look at the website from a high-level perspective, ensuring it’s as good as it can be.
These changes to the appearance of the site are part of that continual improvement process. A lot of the visual features of the previous site existed because I thought “that looks OK” back in 2005, rather than because I thought “that looks great”.
When the latest version of the website software was developed in 2008, relatively little time was spent on the front-end. In-fact, a decision was made to make it look pretty much like the old one – it was felt that getting all the new functionality working was the priority. So we ended up with something that looked like a slightly wider version of the old website – even if it was fundamentally different under the surface.
The most important point to emphasise, is that all that has been changed is “The Skin”. “The Skin” is an industry term that describes the files that make up the outer wrapper of the site – in other words – the files that produce the visual appearance. There have been absolutely no changes to the functionality that is on the back-end of the website. It’s exactly the same website. It just looks like a different website.
If it ain’t broke
There is no doubt, royalcorinthian.co.uk is held by some to be possibly the best Yacht Club website on the Internet. And it maybe – I haven’t seen every single one. But the reason it’s so highly regarded, isn’t primarily because of what it looks like. It’s because it has a great structure, is easily navigated and is interesting to read. It’s updated on a regular basis, with great writing and relevant images. Its scope is adventurous. It has become quite central to the RCYC’s activities. And it’s intended that it will continue in this vein. So all the good stuff is staying the same.
Ringing the changes
Playing by my own rules
First off, the new skin brings the website in-line with the RCYC’s new Brand Identity Guidelines which have been written by Mandy Wade and me, due to be published and made available to all interested parties later this winter/early in the spring.
While the Guidelines will cover more than just the website, the most important point that has being adhered to in this case, is the one about not overusing the colour crest!
On the previous website, the colour crest appeared on pretty much every page. The new Identity Guidelines suggest reserving this version of the crest for those occasions when an impact is required – so the new design uses this element far more sparingly.
Secondly, the club’s logotype now conforms to the new Brand Guidelines. They require that whenever the words Royal Corinthian Yacht Club appear as a logo, they should be in Futura Medium. The full story of why we will be using this typeface for the logotype will come soon, but in the meantime be assured that it has historical precedent.
Perhaps the most significant change – certainly the one that has most impact – is that the content that used to appear in a column on the left side, now appears on the right. This has given the main content on each page a more “immediate” feel as it’s the first thing that the eye sees. It has also allowed for the removal of the left hand border…
A well as the aesthetic improvements, moving the left-hand column has provided a number of further benefits – not least of which is the ability to create pages that run across the full width of the website. The new results pages are a good example of this.
Little boxes, on a website, all made out of ticky-tacky
With hindsight, the design of the 2008 – 2011 site is actually quite fussy – with many vertical and horizontal lines creating a very blocky and boxy layout. By losing those all those vertical borders, the whole page is opened up and feels noticeably fresher and easier on the eye. Which in turns provides for a much more contemporary appearance.
One of the additional benefits that comes from losing the vertical borders on a page’s columns, is that the design no longer needs to allow pixels for padding within those columns. This allows the page to appear significantly wider, even though it is using exactly the same amount of horizontal space. Compare the two top images on the right, both designs are 960 pixels wide, but the top page appears much wider.
Also, the use of nine random images (or seven on the 2005 version) and then tying them tightly into the design created a very tight visual grid, but this in-turn restricted the number of top-level links that could be used. The new design allows top-level links to be added or removed as required, without effecting the layout in any way.
Goodbye 2004. Hello 2012.
The random sailing images across the top of every page are no more. Although they were considered a cool* addition when they first appeared on the site in 2005, they’ve begun to look increasingly tired and dated. Although they were meant to give the site’s appearance an unpredictable feel, they ended up, ironically, feeling highly predictable.
That’s because there were only about 80 images in the pool for selection, the bulk of them taken from Hugh Bourne’s website in 2005, and they therefore reflect RCYC sailing seven or eight years ago. While a handful of images have been added in the interim, these “random” images have ultimately become a snapshot of the club’s activities back in 2004 – they don’t represent the on water activities of the club in 2012.
Another improvement gained by removing the images at the top, is that we’ve been able to reduce the height of every page. Although people are less reluctant to scroll these days, we should always looking for ways to reduce page height.
* Using random images in this way was an exciting and edgy new concept in 2005. They are overused on every dodgy website in 2012. Which makes them uncool. IMHO.
Click me if you can
Significant efforts have been applied to making the website more clickable – so rather than having to move your mouse to the little read-more link underneath the summary to continue on to the detail about an event or news story, you can now click on the summary image (if there is one) or you can click on the summary title. To avoid confusion over what you can click on, or what you can’t, all text that is a link now appears in the deep blue – if it’s not, it will be dark grey. The only exception to this is the H1 (primary heading) on each page which is still deep blue.
Still to come…
There’s plenty of other stuff happening to the website over the next couple of months, although that’s all more related to the general day to day maintainence programme. Expect to see major changes to the Fleets section (half done, which is why the new pages are empty) and new content appearing in the History section. There are also plans for a major rebuild of the site’s Functions section – expect to see some more contemporary pictures if nothing else!