TUCOWS ARTICLE

What's New @ Tucows [2008-01]

Home page changes. What's New page. Lost Password. Speed, speed and more speed. Search changes. Improvements, various and sundry. Fare thee well.
Published: Jan 16, 2008
Author: Alfred Ayache

[Previous edition: http://tucows.com/article/1874]

It's been a busy couple of months since my first What's New column. So it's time to catch up on all the doin's here at Tucows.com.

Home Page Changes

First up are the many changes on the Home page. The main thing you'll notice is that the large "Find a Solution" panel has switched places with the Software sampler panel (Featured, Newest and Popular). And the Software sampler panel has been split, with Featured as one panel, and Newest and Popular as another. This is meant to allow our users to see both Featured and Newest lists without having to toggle the tabs.

You'll also notice the unselected tabs now have a grey background. This increases the page's contrast, and reinforces the tab metaphor.

A more subtle change is the linking of the Newest and Popular panel to the platform (i.e. Currently browsing, in the upper right hand corner). As you switch platforms (PC to Mac, for instance), the panel will also switch software lists. I could explain why this wasn't working before, but your eyes would glaze over and you'd start gasping for breath. Trust me: now it works.

The final visual change to the home page is the addition of a link at the bottom of the Newest/Popular panel, to our new... (Cue the drum roll...)

What's New Page

Many of you wrote in saying you'd noticed the loss of the What's New page when we transitioned to the new design. We weren't ignoring you; we were just busy with other tasks. So here we are: a What's New page that allows you to explore one year's worth of new titles, as well as filter them by license.

As with the Newest / Popular panel on the home page, it is also linked to the platform selection: switch platforms, and you'll get a new set of What's New software titles.

Lost Password

For the man who has everything... with the possible exception of his password. You'll find the link to the Lost Password page on the Sign In dialog. It requires either your user ID or email address, and will send you a link via email to a page on which you can reset your password.

If you don't use the emailed link within 3 days, it gets eliminated, and you'll need to start over again.

Speed, Speed, and More Speed

Remember the dancing cows we introduced in the last installment of this column? We're doing our best to make them redundant. (You're saying whatnow?) The cows were put up to provide visual cues that the site was fetching data, so please be patient. They also showed the request was completed when they went away.

So, if the request happens faster, you don't really need the cows. But don't worry, we'll probably keep them even if they just flash briefly. (No, not that kind of flash.)

First, we incorporated the fetching of solution lists in the home page, rather than invoking an AJAX script. (I don't know what we were thinking.) This makes the home page appear faster.

Next we replaced our database-driven session handler with a cookie-based session handler. What's a session handler? It keeps track of the choices you've made during this session. So for instance, when you decide you want to see Mac titles, rather than PC titles, it keeps track of that for you; so the next page you bring up knows you're interested in Mac software now. It also lets us know whether you've logged in or not.

Now, before you go off on a tear about Big Brother looking over your shoulder and conspiracy theories, let me remind you it's a "session" handler. As soon as you shut down your browser, the session's data is gone. We don't keep it, and neither does your browser.

This is probably a good time to say we're committed to your privacy and security. Every time we make a change to the site, we take into consideration how to keep your data safe from evildoers. To paraphrase an old motto: You're in good hands with Tucows.

Back to the new cookie-based session handler. This change has significantly improved the response time of the software and solution navigators. Which means you'll be spending less time with the dancing cows.

We have more speed tricks up our sleeves. So keep checking back.

Search Changes

Although we had already implemented a software/solutions filter, we thought it might speed things up for you if we actually used the filter for you, based on the page you were launching the search from. So, you'll notice that the Home and Software pages now say Search software in the search box, while the Solutions page says Search solutions. You still have access to the software/solutions filter on the search results page.

We're on a platform kick this time around. Search results are now platform-specific. Switching platforms while on the search results page (and having software selected as part of the software/solutions filter), will display a new result set with titles specific to the new platform.

One of our users wrote in asking why Ctrl-clicking on search results in IE 7 not only produced a new tab with the requested page, but also forced the search results page to go to the desired link. I looked into this, and found there was something odd in the code. Happily, I was able to fix this item, and the IE 7 results page now behaves as expected.

The moral of this story is, don't be shy. If there's something you're not happy with, let us know about it. We love hearing from you, and we love making the site better for you.

Improvements, Various & Sundry

One of the criticisms of our software and solutions navigators was that because they were AJAX-based, the URL was always the same. So you couldn't send a link to your friend saying "Hey! Check out this category. It's exactly what you've been looking for!"

Well, now you can right click on the "Link to this page" link, and select Copy Link Location (in Firefox) or Save Target As... (in IE), and you'll have a URL which will get you to the platform, category and page you are looking at. It won't, however, keep track of the license filter for you.

The software navigator now also has the date the title was added, as well as the operating systems the title is available for.

Fare Thee Well

I'm sorry to announce that our good friend and colleague, Matt Bleicher, in charge of Customer Service and Author Relations, Content Division, has decided to leave the herd in search of greener pastures. We wish him godspeed, and best of luck in his new endeavours.

In the meantime, if you've nursed a secret desire to join the herd, now may the time to check out our job postings at http://jobs.tucows.com.

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As I said at the beginning, we had a very busy couple of months since the last column. There's tons more a-comin', so y'all come on back! See you soon.


About Alfred Ayache

Born at a young age, Alfred showed early promise in programming when he coded what is largely thought to be the world's first online casino on his father's calculator. When the tax evasion charges didn't stick, he fell in with a bad crowd (telecoms). It wasn't until the full flowering of maturity that he discovered his true calling: web application development. Alfred feels honoured and privileged to work at Tucows, with the very talented Content Division.

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