2 months ago
This one is a bit of a ramble. But I last posted here over a year ago, so maybe that's ok.
Two weeks ago we rolled out the responsive layout. It wasn't without its issues and the deployment wasn't as smooth as I'd have liked.
I was to leave to go on vacation that following Sunday and be gone for a week. We had planned the vacation over a year in advance, and so it was happening no matter what. I had planned to deploy the layout on the Wednesday before to give ample time to iron out issues, but we kept finding bugs and squashing them so it got delayed until Friday. Note to self: don't do a major deploy a few days before vacation. It turns vacation into not-a-vacation, and that impacts the whole family negatively. Anyhow.
We thought the responsive layout was in decent shape because we had launched Cycling Builder with it. That seemed to be running ok. But there's no substitute for lots of eyeballs, so when we restarted PCPP with the new layout there was hell to pay. People seem to think this site is pretty simple (how hard could it be to write a new PCPP?). In theory it is pretty basic, but in reality there are hundreds of little nooks and cranies, little features and usability improvements implemented over the last nine years. Migrating all of that to a totally new layout takes time and thoughtfulness. It's not just moving this here or there, but rethinking everything on usability, readability, consistency, and appearance. Migrating data-heavy content like our part category tables is hard. Migrate a blog? No problem. News site? No problem. Tables with 5000 rows and 10 columns on a phone? That can be hard.
So I'd like to give a major shout-out to our two designers, Phil Coffman and AJ Lohman. They implemented the responsive layout you see here, and they were outstanding in doing it in a way we could reuse across multiple sites. They put in a ton of effort in building out the new layout infrastructure. Phil has also been working tirelessly the last few weeks on last-minute pre-launch tweaks as well as numerous adjustments post-launch from user feedback. We're not done adjusting the layout, but some significant changes have been made if you know where to look.
The payoff for us here at PCPP is that we get a single modern layout that can be used for phones, tablets, and desktops. We write the templates once and only have one set to maintain. (As opposed to before where we had two sets of templates - one for desktop and one for mobile, with different feature sets available on each.) Now we have one set of templates with feature parity across all screen sizes. It's more work to implement a new view, but the long-term maintenance savings are immense. And it sets us up perfectly to implement a progressive web application, which will come at some as-yet-undefined time (assuming it turns out ok).
Working on this site, running the business, and doing dev work on the front and backend systems is tremendous fun. It's such an incredible blessing to be able to do something I love and provide for my family in the process. I don't ever want to lose perspective on that. But it is also exhausting. The push to get Cycling Builder live was long - we ground away for years just to reach the starting line. But with it live, with the new responsive layout live on PCPP, and with the first round of feedback incorporated into the new layout, well, there's finally a chance to pause for a second and take a deep breath. There's a bit of rest before jumping back in again. It's impossible to grind away forever, but it's also impossible to sit still for long.
We have so many cool things in the works. We're nearing the permitting phase on a significant renovation to our office. Once that starts I'll be documenting the details here and hopefully in some video content. Meanwhile work on PCPP, Cycling Builder, and two more unnamed sites will continue.
Ok, rest time is over. It's time to get back to work. :)