It's happening, yet again. Website Upgrade WIP.
Melev's Reef has been my pride and joy since I started building the very first webpage back in 2003. Nearly 14 years later, it's time for the next incarnation. Plans are in motion with careful attention to the overall design for a 2017 look that is easy to navigate no matter what device you use. The shop area is getting a huge upgrade, among other things. In the coming weeks, a team will be working quietly to bring this newer version to life, and I'm super excited. That being said, I'm not revealing anything specific quite yet since it has to become reality first. But I have high hopes it will be pretty darn awesome. Look where it all started originally in May 2003:
That's so long ago, I don't even recognize that early format.
Two years later, it grew a little bigger with more pages, and the front page widened out (May 2005):
And then in May 2007, it changed significantly. This is the landing or home page, but I clearly remember spending many nights coding the first group of pages: About 30 pages were MACNA-based articles about how great those conferences were coupled with tons of pictures. Once those were done, then I went on to match that format with all the rest of my site's collection of articles.
The new pages were laid out as you see below, and every section of the site had a different big visual header. There were at least a dozen different ones, made up of images I'd taken:
By early 2009, the home page changed a litle more, showcasing a link to Reefcast, the podcast Evan and I did for several years. The little chalkboard is where I'd highlight thel latest additions to the site. I had to keep that chalkboard file saved in Photoshop, and each time a new item was added, I had to edit that graphic, save it and upload it to the site. Good times:
In 2010, the front page was updated with a great image of the 280g's beauty. I loved this reef, and still miss it to this day:
Some of you may remember the Hidden Treasure page of my site, which essentially was a Site Map of all my content organized by category:
And then in late 2011 an entire revamping of the website began. That was a frustrating period because the final product was supposed to be revealed at MACNA 2012 -- but it wasn't ready! Months went by, but it didn't progress. I was able to fix the issues myself and in May, 2013, I unleashed the beast, which is the site you are currently familiar with:
Why change the site when it's functional, familiar, and looks good? Referring both to google and to google analytics, it was clear to me that the world has embraced their smartphones. When my pages are discovered in Google, it states (to me) "your page is not mobile friendly." and when I look at the website traffic going to Melev's Reef, over 50% are doing so from their cellphones, and slightly less from desktop computers. A tiny group are using tablets. I've had customers tell me they couldn't purchase items from their phone or iPad, and would have to do so from their laptop or desktop later. No business owner wants to hear that the customer can't buy something easily, right?
Let me tell you a little bit about how this project's momentum came to be, because it's another one of those stories that surprised me. Not too long ago - I'm going to guess it was about a year ago but maybe a little longer, a nice guy decided he wanted a fish tank, but it had to be saltwater. And he'd never had an aquarium before - zero freshwater experience - and knew his was an ambitious plan. After doing some research, he decided he wanted a big tank because why bother otherwise. He searched the web, and on youtube he queried big beautiful reef tanks and landed on one of my videos showcasing the 400g reef. As he looked more closely, he spotted the penductors and thought that was a great way to provide flow in a big display. He followed a link to my blog on ReefAddicts.com where I explained exactly how the plumbing was assembled, and from there he stumbled onto a link to MelevsReef.com and found the motherload of information that answered many of his questions. He was quickly impressed by all of this, and his setup benefitted greatly. He joined DFWMAS, the club I'm in. I've been to his home during one of our tank tours, last year. I think we met for the first time during that tour, in fact.
I've seen him at a few of our club meetings; he recently became a BOD member of our club... and about a week ago while chatting at the meeting, I explained to him that I was at a standstill with my website upgrade due to some issues I had with the chosen theme. It was then that I discovered that he was intimately familiar with my site's core software and he quickly gave me some pointers and advice. After that initial conversation, we ended up talking via messenger nearly every night about what could be accomplished. We agreed to meet up today for a few hours to really hammer out the details to get a quote for this endeavor, and that turned into a seven hour nerdfest discussing every facet and some forward-thinking ideas. Fully informed with what I'm doing now as well as what I want next for the site, he went away with my list of demands (hahaha) and construction will begin next week. He is super excited to be tackling this project because he has a passion for what my site brings to the hobby, and frankly his attitude is infectious. I'm psyched! Plus, I want his semi-newbie point of view to help me showcase what he would be looking for as a hobbyist... coupled with his years of experience with web and app design. It's like a dream-team scenario, both of us bouncing ideas off each other, thinking about the possibilities to come up with the best user-experience. His company is emasis.com and they are very likely going to blow me away. And you as well.
I don't have an end date specifically in mind, but I'm going to hazard a guess it will be 90 days. Maybe less, but I'm not going to rush this since I want it done right. Things will look differently, but for the better to be sure. I'm already thinking ahead and it's renewing my zeal to add even more new thoughts, blogs and articles. I may even drop some easter eggs in future youtube videos, maybe.
How am I supposed to get any sleep with this going on?! #TheStruggleIsReal