Stealth Upgrade

November 18, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

The site doesn't quite look the same as it did yesterday. I have been threatening for a while to do some kind of upgrade; I didn't expect it to come so soon. Sometimes I do things impulsively, and this is one of them. The new design is not necessarily permanent. It will get tweaked (in large part based on viewer response and how loudly my wife yells at me if she doesn't like it), but there are reasons behind everything. Some of my comments...

The frames are gone. Of all the upgrade requests I have gotten over the past two years, number one was to add an RSS feed (which I did earlier this year) and number two was to get rid of the frames. So they have been removed, replaced by a menu bar. In terms of managing and upgrading the site, it's easier to do without the frames. If your bookmark goes to master.html (which was the master frames page), it will still work, although it might be best to re-bookmark for the movies. html page. Nothing should be broken. The front page now merely has a link for "proceed" where it previously had "Frames/No Frames." Currently, there is no Fast Archive, but it will likely return as a menu bar. I just haven't decided where. For now, you'll have to click to the archives.

I should also clarify that the main menu bar will propegate throughout the site once it has stabilized. In other words, it will show upon all pages, including new reviews (older reviews will still be bar-less). This should limit some of the "multiple click" worries people may have with the redesign. For a sample of how this might look, you can check out the review for Casino Royale, which has been "outfitted" with the non-frames menu bar.

The background color is a soft gray. I toyed around with good old white, but I think the gray is a little easier on the eyes while not being so forceful that it makes things look ugly. The reverse approach - white text on a black background - may look cool, it wears out its welcome fast. For those who can remember far enough back, that's the way movies.html used to be. This is one area that's completely negotiable. If there's an outcry demanding the return of the darker background, that can be arranged.

The engineer-style tables have been deep-sixed. There was a divided opinion about them, but they made the page look too busy. Most of the information has been retained in a freer form style. The only major thing I dropped was the limited/wide release information. There was always ambiguity associated with this, so its usefulness was questionable. I retained the "post dates" for reviews added during the last two weeks but removed them for the "And Currently Playing..." section, where they're not really needed.

There are more ads, but I have tried to make them as unobtrusive as possible. Honestly, the driver for changing the look of the site is partially the ads. The old version looked fine when it was commercial free but the increase in ads made it look clumsy. It's not easy finding a balance beteen placing ads so their visible and putting them on a page in such a way that they don't ruin it.

None of the rest of the site has undergone changes (and the individual review pages will never continue to look the same, regardless of what I may do to the rest of the site). I won't be making wholesale upgrades until I have finalized the look. There may also be a graphical revision early next year, but I haven't finalized any details yet. For now, this is what it is. Hopefully, it's a little more comfortable than it was. Comments and suggestions are welcome. I can't guarantee I'll implement them, but I'll listen.

One final word: Some of you may have experienced a trojan horse warning if you accessed certain pages of the site between late Thursday afternoon and early Friday morning. The site was hacked and someone added a code to two pages. The pages have since been cleaned (or as a result of the upgrade, removed) and I have taken measures to upgrade the site's security. I am assured that the trojan horse was not malicious at this time (the site it "called" is non-existent), although it could have become so in the future. Nevertheless, if you visited the site during the indicated period and accessed index.html or master.html (the two infected pages), you may want to have your virus software double-check that no early Christmas present has been left on your hard drive. My apologies to anyone affected. Be assured that I will make every effort to ensure this does not happen again.