The "Beta" version of the upcoming new site for The Linux Rain is now live and ready for your perusal and testing. While it is a beta and by no means entirely complete or set in stone, it is more than usable and already reached feature parity with the current site.
It is live and reachable now at www.beta.thelinuxrain.com.
Of course, saying "feature parity" isn't really, well, saying much. The basic features really needed is to be able to navigate and read articles. The strength of the new site, however, is the features that are to come, especially for authors.
For those of you who contribute to The Linux Rain, the new site (backend powered by Wordpress CMS) will provide vastly greater power and options. With a user login system and the 'rankings' or user permissions system that it provides, Linux Rain authors will now be able to keep track of their articles and submit new articles through the CMS dashboard. Of course, if you simply wish to do article submission the "old way", i.e submit the article to me via email, that is completely fine. But at least this way we have options and a bit more automation at our disposal.
However, the beta focuses primarily on the frontend experience, at least initially. The backend and the options it gives us is exciting but hasn't yet been greatly tested, at least in the context of this site. The user system of Wordpress is well established so it should be pretty much working out of the box. If you want to sign up to the site and test this part of the site, by all means do so.
Nevertheless though, the frontend is the main user/reader experience and it is a new design for The Linux Rain, so for the time being I really want to make sure that this portion of the site is taken care of and not doing anything terribly unexpected.
I have personally developed the new website and have done my best to test a variety of conditions, such as browsers and screen sizes. The layout is responsive and focuses on liberal use of modern CSS and HTML5 to be performant. Still, testing by others is crucial and there is bound to be something to fix or improve.
Some notable new features/improvements over the current site:
- Inbuilt comment system. No more third-party Disqus, although I would still provide that as an option if there's enough demand.
- Improved 'About The Author' section including the 5 most recent articles list for that author.
- Inbuilt search. Rather nicer than relying on embedding a Google search form.
- More powerful categories and tags.
- Forums. This one might be a bit surprising and to be honest, it was a late inclusion. But actually I think having our own inbuilt forums could be a great thing. Also potentially an alternate way to comment on articles. The forums can be reached at www.beta.thelinuxrain.com/forums.
Things still to be worked on:
- While the design is intentionally spacious and minimal, to a point, there is a sparsity to the site that is simply a result of lacking content. The About, Contact pages etc. will be paid more attention soon. For now they have the bare minimum content to "be there" instead of just placeholders.
- The forum hasn't really had any styling applied to it. It works OK as it inherits the basic site design, but could do with visual tweaking. But it works.
- Performance. The backend has had some tweaking and optimizations and as such actually scores very well in such performance indicators as Google PageSpeed Insights and GT Metrics, but could still be improved. Caching is already working well so even if the initial load is a bit so-so in terms of speed, subsequent page loads should be very fast. Initial page load still isn't as sprightly as the existing Linux Rain site, but hopefully it will get there (and maybe even better), but we are dealing with a comparatively larger and more complex backend, so perhaps it's to be expected.
- Custom login/register page could be nice.
- Similar to the first point about sparsity of content, there are many articles that will need to be migrated over. All the very latest articles are being posted to the Beta site pretty much in sync with the existing site, but most of the older articles have not yet been migrated, but will be done so in time.
- I recently purchased an SSL Certificate for the server, but it only applies to the base www.thelinuxrain.com domain. So until the new site becomes, well, the current site, HTTPS won't be activated. Once that takes place, however, HTTPS will be viable and I think it is an important thing nowadays.
- There's currently no ads. I know, I know. That's so terrible for you! As it does provide some small help for hosting costs, ads will likely be re-implemented down the track, but in the least intrusive way possible. I will certainly provide other options though, such as donations or subscription, to get rid of ads for those users. There will also likely be other perks down the track for supporters and trusted/regular authors as well...
Alright, that's it for now I think. So get to it! Again, the new site can be reached on the beta subdomain at www.beta.thelinuxrain.com until it becomes the primary Linux Rain website.
Any questions, don't hesitate to ask me in comments, email or even the new forums. The forums would actually be the best place to submit any issues or feedback! So there you go, they're already useful.