This is part 6 in a series on the redesign of fetchsoftworks.com; the series starts at Part 1: My Original Sin.
Our Work Begins
At last we had ten pages of beautiful, standards-compliant XHTML and CSS, and layer upon layer of fresh graphics, still warm from Happy Cog’s Photoshop ovens, and our work began in earnest. No longer were we asking ourselves who we were or what shade of blue we liked; now we had to write code. The integration work had a number of pieces:
- My colleague Ben Artin turned each shared page element (header, footer, etc.) into PHP code that could be reused across the site. BBEdit’s wonderful local preview feature let us see the results of our changes immediately.
- Ben also moved our blog content from Movable Type to WordPress, and created a WordPress template to match our site design.
- Ben customized Google’s Custom Search Engine to search our content and present results in a consistent style.
- My colleague Scott McGuire dragged the four hundred pages of Fetch Help HTML kicking and screaming into CSS.
- Ben and Scott switched our message board from UBB to a heavily customized copy of bbPress, and adapted Happy Cog’s XHTML and CSS so that the message board would have a consistent look and feel.
- I turned Happy Cog’s code into a custom layout for our eSellerate-based web store (that was a challenge; for example, eSellerate custom layouts do not support XHTML).
- Together we moved all of our content, including a variety of forms (for upgrading, applying for an educational license, etc.) to the new design.
In the Other Part of Our Brains
Meanwhile, we were still working hard on a new Fetch release, in fact our most significant release in the four years since we shipped Fetch 5.0. As we got closer to finishing both Fetch 5.5 and the new website, it became clear to me that I did not want to launch 5.5 on the old crummy website. And I did not want to launch our shiny new website without shiny new software for visitors to download. So it had to be a big bang, a simultaneous rollout. Gulp.
QA Twice, Ship Once
We had never had as complicated a software release as Fetch 5.5; for the first time it was possible to purchase an upgrade to a new version from within Fetch (a subject for a future blog post). And we’d never released a totally new website, complete with eight years of imported message board and blog content, a brand new search engine, a new online store, and a variety of other pesky details.
To keep us from having a collective stroke, we recruited a large crew of beta testers for an extended shakedown cruise, and when they got bored looking for Fetch bugs we set them loose on the new website. They immediately identified some navigation problems that had been staring me in the face for months, but that I could not see because I already knew how to navigate the site. For that, and many other eye-opening doses of feedback, I am very grateful. Of course the bugs that remain are our responsibility alone.
I set a goal of shipping before WWDC, when we knew that the Mac world’s attention would be monopolized by Apple’s announcements. With some late nights and weekends, and the help of our beta testers, we met our deadline: we shipped Fetch 5.5 and launched the new website on June 2, 2009. There were goofs here and there — we sent the wrong email announcement to some Fetch 5 licensees, and caught a wording error on the home page hours before launch — but to my amazement everything that had to go well, did.