Part of the reason I haven't been on h2g2 very much lately is that I've been busy redesigning the website I set up for our cricket club. I'm pleased to report that my work on the site is, at last, done, and you can see the results at www.cavendishcavaliers.com.
It's been interesting, not least because h2g2 is going through a redesign itself at the moment, and my experiences have demonstrated that it would be fairly simple for a volunteer group to improve the site by being given access to a test version of it.
For example, the look of the Cavaliers website is defined completely by a CSS file. This contains all the style information for the page; what colour the text and background should be and how high the header is, for example. This makes it possible to change the whole look of a page without fiddling about with lots of <FONT> tags and the like. To see what's possible with CSS, take a look at the CSS Zen Garden and look at a few different designs by clicking the links on the right. The content of each of the designs is identical, except the CSS file they refer to.
CSS is something some Researchers use already through the Plain skin, as Gnomon has eloquently explained in his study on the subject. However, we could go a step further. If a select group were able to create and modify stylesheets, we could actually recreate the older skins as community-created stylesheets, and begin to design our own.
The majority of my site runs on php, so, for example, the 'next fixture' box never needs to be updated. It looks in my database for the next fixture the Cavaliers have and displays it. php also grabs my three most recent blog posts for my front page, picks a player at random for the 'Honorary' section (and knows that I only want famous players for this bit) and runs all of the club records. All I ever have to do is update the database.
Clever though it is, there's nothing special about the code I've written. A number of people on h2g2 could do the same very easily simply by knowing what's in my database. And while I know h2g2 doesn't work on php, I'm sure that if those people had knowledge of the inner workings of the site, they could work on all kinds of widgets and gadgets for the site, stuff that might be fun and useful. How about Facebook or Last FM widgets? Or a proper search engine for h2g2, or a map of geographical h2g2 Entries? Or – dreaming just a little – an iPod app? I'm sure you have better or more realistic ideas, but you never know what might happen if we were to be allowed inside to play with the code.
There's a huge opportunity for h2g2 here. Let's just hope the budget stretches enough to enable us to make some real progress.
Deadline for the next issue is Sunday 21st June, which is not only the longest day of the year, but also Father's Day. Until then, enjoy this fine issue of The Post!