NI Ferry Site annual refit (2018)

By: Steven Tarbox
Last updated:
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As is now traditional, NI Ferry Site is undergoing an update and facelift this year during quarter 1. This years changes primarily focus on cosmetics, with a particular focus on making the site more readable with mobile devices. However, as well as changes to the way posts and pages look, there will be some tweaks to the layout to improve navigation for both mobile and computer users.  No significant downtime is envisaged during this years refit with all changes taking place “in service”.  So far as possible no changes will be made during the peak times of early morning and evenings to minimise any potential disruption.  If the website does need to be inaccessible for an hour or two notice will be given, however as some plugins will also be changing there is an increased chance of unplanned downtime (NIFS has had 100% uptime so far in 2018).

The majority of changes, including the changes to navigation and layout, will take place during the following 2 3 weeks (from 21st February 2018), although some tweaking and the appearance of some new custom graphics will follow after this period – this won’t make the site any less usable.  During this period new vessel and operator/routes pages will replace the current operator and routes pages as the main way to access the individual vessel profiles, deck plans, and galleries making all the information for each vessel together accessible from one place for the first time.  The “Former ferries of NI” pages have also been merged and totally rebuilt as well as updated with new content, but are not yet live.  Some minor changes have already taken place to the front page of the site which has been simplified.  As well as making the site easier to use for users, the planned changes should also make the site easier to update and keep updated.

Update timeline

Pre-refit:  New site layout mockups and site structure diagrams created.  Review of plugins, code, and scripts in use with list of alternatives drawn up.

Wed 21 – Fri 23/2/18: Some images replaced with higher resolution versions.  Rebuild of “Former ferries of NI” feature continued in advance of launch at the weekend.  New homepage construction started.  Custom header added to archives as a trial for site wide changes later in refit.  Site logo tweaked for updating later.

Sat 24/2/18: Yoast News plugin added and configured.  SEO review.  Refit duration extended by 1 week.

Sun 25/2/18: Disused plugins removed. New social media sharing plugin activated.  Site speed monitored on GTMetrix and Pingdom.

Mon 26/2/18: Vessel tags merged (45 pages reduced to 36).  Database cleanup following plugin changes.  Database size reduced from 35mb to 21mb.

Tue 27/2/18: All internal and external links audited and fixed including images.  Database cleanup.  Update on LE RIF published.  First “Blast from the Past” article written and scheduled for posting tomorrow morning.  Auto-post plugin for facebook and twitter optimised following code re-write by developers.

Wed 28/2/18: New “Blast from the Past” section added.  Menu updated to reflect this.  Review image watermark.  Progress review and list of tasks for following week drawn up.

Thu 1/3/18: Continue yesterday’s work.

Fri 2/3/18: Produce new watermark mockups.  [Halt on site development due to confirmed bug in key plugin – awaiting developer fix].

Sat 3/3/18: Following developer fix, design and rollout new post header styles.

Sun 4/3/18: Caching plugin change and reconfiguration.  New gallery and lightbox installed for better compatibility.

Mon 5/3/18:  Custom vessel graphics created and added.  Update of some lower resolution pictures with higher quality direct replacements.

Mon 12/3/18:  New menu layout goes live.

Wed 14/3/18:  Refit complete with introduction of new home page layout.

April – May 2018: Review of vessel profile pages and rewrite if necessary.  Update images and format using operator templates instead of individually formatting each post.  Complete drafts and start publishing new material.

Polite notice: While we welcome our articles being shared, we request that links to this website are provided rather than other approaches. Thank you (NI Ferry Site team).

Categories: Blog