Making the Aberystwyth SSAGO Website

aberystwyth ssago website

Many Moons ago the webmaster of a AberSSAGO asked me to redo their club website for them. Having a familiarity of the club through a good friend called AberMary (who many readers of this blog also know as Fearless Guider) I wanted the club to put its best foot forward so I thought “‘what the hey’ I could do with a bubbly and friendly piece to add to my portfolio” and got involved.

Section Jump

At a Glance, Tip of the Iceberg, Labor omnia vincit, Proxime Accessit, Design, Finale

At a Glance

Aber SSAGO Mascot Sketches

Whereas I thoroughly check the status quo of a client’s website, advertising or printed media before starting work for Scouts I usually only take a glance at their website, ask for any files they have available and usually get very little because either there is nothing or the owner has no idea what they’ve got. What I initially browsed to find were some flat web pages on one domain and an old Coppermine Gallery and a broken Simple Machine forum on another. I thought that a little cut & paste of the html content and an upgrade of the current apps in use would get things up an running again then I could move on to the fun bit of drawing up some designs to display the content in a friendlier format. David managed to find a few sketches and emailed them onto me aswell but I knew from experience that pretty much what I’d have to work with would be what was left on the website itself.

Tip of the Iceberg

Aber Ssago Backups

When I finally managed to get access to the hosting what I had found so far was only the tip of the iceberg. On the active website there were several unlinked folders each containing overlapping backups of past generations of the website. With each new generation of webmaster they had re-organised and reworked the site but because they had been courteous enough to make a backup I now had reworked versions of articles to compare to the originals. Also, rather than reusing one uploaded image copies were made to fit into the new arrangement. Not so bad if they are the same size or name but when they’re not checking for duplicates becomes a cruel game of Pairs. All in all AberSSAGO has a long history that was fractured and hopefully a large notice on my backup saying “All this on Website circa Dec 2009″ will save any confusion in the future.

Labor omnia vincit (“Hard work conquers all”)

Aber Ssago Message Board Data

With all this content to manually add I thought the best way forward was to get the gallery and forums running, the gallery contained 17 albums, 350 photos and 5000 spam comments! The forum had 65 Topics, 2,460 messages but the IDs were all wrong, the last topic was the 329th and the last message was the 5561st. Stuff had been deleted. I started cross-referencing ALL indexes and found that messages and topics had gone and some were left that belonged to members that had been deleted. Without the actual data I couldn’t restore the topics and messages so I focused on restoring the members that did have messages to their name so that the lack of user details didn’t cause a wobbly in the code. I started by looking at the synchronising between the forum and the gallery, there wasn’t any, separate logins had been used for both applications. I looked at when the 50 users had registered in the gallery and the 80 users in forums and with a little inductive reasoning filled out the gaps in the list of forum users, resulting in a complete list for the site. Yay. The photos transferred over easy enough, although some were missing from there upload folder so where possible I found duplicates in the archives.

Proxime Accessit (‘The Next Guy’)

Whilst this had been rather frustrating so far it now meant that I didn’t have to stick to using the current apps and flat files so I could choose my own to convert all the data to. This helped because I’d only have to work out how to do the bilingual content in one app rather than two. I tried 7 different plugins that enabled multiple languages of content but most instructions where translated to English making their activities hard to determine. Others obfuscated what entries belong where and the relation between them, meaning the next guy after the webmaster I’m handing this over to might struggle if he passes it on in a similar fashion to what I received. Obviously my predecessor (hopefully) didn’t intend me to have a hodge-podge of data and files but it happened. I don’t see this sort of courtesy a lot at work as no-one wants to spend more time making their replacements job easier, I offer this ‘service’ to clients with the claim that future bills elsewhere will be lower although mine will be highier but rarely is it taken up. Although it is annoying when I am the next guy. I digress, with the data organised and the content entry sorted I could now move onto the…

Design

Aberystwyth SSAGO Logo Progression since Inception

I knew the original logo quite well, it had been created during the time of Mary, hand drawn and scanned with a little graphical overlaying done to tidy up edges of the shield. I darkened the colour shield so the Scout, Guide and Aber logo look like don’t look they are floating when used on a white background and redrew the badger and sheep with the computer so their lines would be sharper. They look very similar, about the difference between the shield when it was first drawn and its digital overlay at a later date, so I don’t feel so guilty about being inexact as parts of it have been redrawn before. The resemblance is very obvious and anyone that sees one will relate it to the other. The webmaster is now in-charge so if they don’t like it they can change it back to the original but I doubt they will as the old one wouldn’t fit as nicely with the rest of the site.

Finale

This post reads a lot quicker than it actually happened, it took 10 years of training and several dozens of hours of work to get this done the conversations via email weren’t exactly short, there were days when I’d get 2-3 emails and sometimes all in an hour; very annoying! I’m no innocent in this as I’m sure I’ve done equally annoying things! :P At the end of the day I’ve done a lot of work (for free) and the end result is liked and hopefully admired by others. It has been one big gruelling project but now that hard work is done just the arduous job of putting the rest of the old content online is left. I really hope it all gets on there otherwise its going to get filed away and this process will happen all over again in a few years time! But for now the Aberystwyth Student Scout and Guide Club have a website with modern and interesting presentation and I have this rather lovely commemorative post and an optional new page for my portfolio.

Site address: aberssago.escouts.net