Complete Site Facelift

“Facelift” may be a bit of an understatement.  I finally got fed up with how ugly and amateurish the site looked, and decided that it was time to bite the bullet and go to a fixed-width layout.  I think you’ll agree the site looks better by leaps and bounds.  However, the reason I didn’t have a fixed-width layout in the first place is because the site features lots of very wide tables that won’t fit in the usual 1000px.  Thus, although the new design comes with a number of new features, right now I want to focus on the revised tables.

Instead of having controls at the top and bottom and lots of buttons, all tables now have a title bar (a la a standard window in your OS of choice), a “page bar” on the right, and possibly some other options like search and page size below the title bar.  These options are unchanged, so if you’ve used the site, you know how they work.  The title bar and page bar are a bit different.

Title Bar

Aside from the title, each title bar may have a number of controls on either side.  To the left is a checkbox.  Clicking this will toggle checklists for the current table.  The popup that explained that you need a login to make full use of this feature has been removed, but once I come up with something a bit less intrusive I’ll put something in.

On the right side, there are four possible buttons.  The minimize button will hide everything but the title bar, while the restore button brings it back.  Currently there isn’t a lot of purpose to doing this, but the plan is for the site to save your preferences as far as which tables to keep minimized, and allow you to re-order tables on view pages (with minimized tables going to the bottom).  The box with an arrow is a maximize/new window button.  This will open the table in its own window, without the fixed-width layout and therefore without any horizontal scrolling.  Basically this lets you view a given table as if it were on the old version of the site.  Finally, the box with a bunch of lines is the “reset” button, which will clear any search text, reset the page size to 20, and bring you back to page 1 of the table with the default sort.

Page Bar

In an effort to condense the standard paging controls into something unobtrusive, as well as something that works well on mobile devices, I came up with the page bar.  It’s basically a segmented scroll bar, with each segment representing a single page of data.  You can use the arrow buttons at the top and bottom to move one page at a time, or click directly on the page you want.  Best of all, scrolling the mouse wheel while hovering over a table will change the page as well.  It’s not quite a vertical scrollbar, and despite appearances, it’s not trying to be.  Though I may implement a vertical scrollbar option later for those who want it.

Table Contents

Finally, if a table doesn’t fit into its allowed space, you’ll notice that one or more columns may be “frozen” in place.  This allows you to horizontally scroll and see other data while keeping the name of whatever it is you’re looking at visible.  This feature doesn’t work on mobile pages where space is at a premium, however.  As mentioned earlier, if you need more horizontal space, you can “maximize” the table and use it that way.

Aside from the table changes, the overall navigation has changed, the mobile theme is operational, and the notes are now displayed in a sidebar that scrolls along with the window for your convenience, among other minor tweaks.  I hope you like the revised Gamer Corner Guides!

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Checklists For Everyone!

Some time ago, I added a powerful feature to the Gamer Corner Guides site: checklists. Basically, this enables you to turn (almost) any list on the site into a personalized checklist. You can track which treasures you’ve found, which areas you’ve visited, which enemies you’ve found, or whatever you like. The checklists can be turned on or off on a per-table basis, and you don’t have to do anything beyond clicking a checkbox to save your data.

As cool as this feature is, no one but me has ever actually used it. Why not? Because it requires you to create an account, and if you don’t already have one, you’d probably never know the feature existed. Well, no more! You can now enable checkboxes even without an account. The first time you do so, a message will explain how the system works and direct you to this blog post.

The reason this feature required a login is because that is how I track the data between browsing sessions. Truth be told, it’s still using an account, but now that account can be completely anonymous, and tracked with cookies. Of course, a cookie-based account isn’t terribly convenient. You can’t access your data on another computer or even another browser, and if you go 30 days without visiting the site, your cookie will expire and the data will be lost.

I recommend playing with the feature, and seeing if you can get some use out of it. If so, create an account – your existing checklists will be transferred to that new account. Note that I do require a valid e-mail address for account creation. I’m not looking to sell it or send you spam or anything like that, I just want a simple method of avoiding bots. A password will be created for you and sent to that e-mail, though you can continue using the account via cookies as well.

In the future, I plan to add other features that will require an account, such as notes created by users other than myself. In the meantime, enjoy the checklist feature!

Link Style Overhaul

I’ve always been fond of query strings in URLs (everything following a ?) for some reason.  I guess it all just seemed like a cool way to deal with dynamically-generated content, compared to the static HTML I first worked with.  But it’s really not very user-friendly, so I’ve decided to change how links on the site are created.  The old style links will still work indefinitely, as they are at the core of how the site actually functions, but now the link structure is text-based and a whole lot easier to follow.

Starting now, instead of /ffxiii/?m=component&id=136, the same page can now be reached at /ffxiii/components/adamantite.  It’s fairly easy to guess a URL for any given item, provided there is only one of it (and even then it’s not hard).  Not that this change was made to encourage manual URL entry.  Rather, the advantage here is that you always know where you are, and sharing links is much clearer as well.

This required a pretty massive overhaul of the underlying site code, so it’s entirely possible I broke something.  I will be on the alert for broken links in the coming days, aiming to fix them as quickly as possible.  If you happen to see any weirdness, please let me know.

The Gamer Corner Guides Blog

I’ve been running the Gamer Corner Guides site for some time now, and it’s been steadily gaining traffic.  I want the site to be as useful and convenient as it can be, and one of the obstacles in the way of that goal has been a lack of easy communication with users.  Yes, users can send me feedback (and I wholeheartedly thank those who have!), but aside from the version history, there’s really no way to learn about new features I add to the site.  There are a number of cool features no one ever uses, like the checkboxes, and my intent is to make them more convenient and obvious so people can take full advantage of the site.

Rather than clutter the guides site with my own ramblings, I’m going to keep all site news, updates, and discussion on this blog.  My intent is to have posts that explain certain features, and link to those posts on the site as a way to easily get help for those functions.  I’ll also announce anything new and what’s in development.