Nuketown’s Redesign, 2004 Edition

After months (well, more like years) of threatening it, I’m finally redesigning Nuketown. The current design launched back in 2000, and has served the site well. It’s seen several innovations, not the least of which was the introduction of database-driven content.

But as with all Web sites, time has not been kind to Nuketown. New features have been slapped onto the existing design, new features — like “related stories” and “related nethead” links have been slapped on — while the site navigation has been constantly tinkered with. Aspects of the original design — like the dynamic JavaScript menus — were ditched, sections have been renamed, and wholly new sections (like the blog) have been added. And the technology used to drive Nuketown’s presentation — a bastardized hybrid of HTML and Cascading Style Sheets — is now outdated.

As a result, Nuketown’s current design is more than a little creaky, protesting whenever anything new is loaded onto its framework. The time has come to redesign.

The new site is based on Web standards, and is being built using XHTML (the XML-based successor to HTML) for the structural markup and Cascading Style Sheets 2.1 for presentation. It will continue to be powered by PHP and MySQL on the backend. Technically, the new Nuketown will be far more streamlined than the old one, with a more efficient use of code that eliminates all of the accumulated HTML crud that’s built up over the ears. The use of true style sheets means every page will be inherently printer friendly (since the pages will use one style sheet to display on the Web, and another for printing). It even opens up the possibility of a hand-held edition.

Visually, the new design will somewhat simpler than the old one, but I think the overall presentation will be cleaner. The article pages will be easier to read — I’m building in different levels of headlines (i.e. article headline, subheads, etc.) into the design and I’m even working on integrating photos and screenshots into the site. The navigation system is being re-worked, and some old departments will be making a re-appearance. And speaking of navigation, the archives will be easier to navigate, and the “related articles/reviews/blogs/whatever” links will be better integrated into the design.

There is a downside to this all this though, at least for people using older Web browsers. The site will work fine in modern Web browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer 6, Mozilla 1.0 or higher, Safari 1.0 or higher, etc.) but older Web browsers with incomplete and incorrect support for Cascading Style Sheets (i.e. the wretched Netscape Navigator 4, the equally wretched Internet Explorer 3 and the abysmal versions of AOL based on IE 3) are going to have serious issues.

Now if this were a site for my day job, I’d go out of my way to make sure the site still rendered in those old browsers. But since this is my personal Web site, well, screw it. Web browsers are free and any machine that can run Netscape 4 should be able to handle the latest version of Mozilla. I can’t justify spending hours upon hours customizing Nuketown to accommodate ancient technology. Especially considering the fact that as of last week, only 1.3 percent of the people visiting Nuketown were using Netscape 4.

Having said that though, the new Nuketown will be work better than ever when it comes to text-based browsers (i.e. Lynx and the various text-reading browsers for the handicapped).

You can check out the current beta here. Fair warning though — the beta is very much a work in progress, and it’s possible that you’ll see errors. Not all of the sections are working, and some of the sections that have content aren’t completed. If you find a bad link or encounter other problems, check back again later. The beta is evolving quickly, and what doesn’t work one day should fixed by the next. Comments about the new design are welcome; you can e-mail them to me at