Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Sweet homepage transformation - Revamping the image of the Sidepodcast site

Published by Mr. C

Although we're still fielding questions about the whereabouts of certain podcasts on a daily basis, I'm hoping that no-one can accuse us of taking it easy whilst Formula 1 takes a lesser role in our lives. This site's homepage recently saw something of a revamp and a number of smaller changes are occurring on a daily basis. It must be time for a behind-the-scenes update.

A whole lot of history

A couple of days ago I unearthed some concept artwork, intended to be the basis for a redesigned Sidepodcast. Version 3.0 was the name of the file, the creation date was listed as the 18 December 2008, with the last modified date coming a day later. A month previous we'd posted a request for feedback on the future design of this site, so I'm assuming the image in question came in response to that feedback.

Various circumstances stood in the way of realising the v3 update as quickly as intended, but its notable that within the past month we've probably gotten quite close to that goal. Here's the unedited image rediscovered last week.

Sidepodcast Version 3.0 redesign concept
Credit: Sidepodcast

If you compare the above to the homepage today, there are a lot of similarities. In the page header, the tabbed links optimistically list the 2009 season as an option, but the archive button and the more button appear in basically the correct place. The search box also appears in almost the correct position, although the bright red Ferrari nose never made the cut.

Further down the page the tabbed info box can be seen, and includes an in-place video player. The red buttons might be attempting to blend with the Ferrari, but conceptually they appear to provide identical functionality. The right hand page column also details the Daily Discussion, although the ability to join in the conversation from the homepage was unceremoniously dumped in the intervening period.

It surprises me, looking back at this artwork, just how long things take to materialise. I always imagined the internet to be a fast moving thing, where ideas become reality very quickly. That was 15 months of lead time at the very least.

Contextual changes

The homepage revamp is finally getting there though, however late it might be. The extended navigation hiding behind the expandable "More" button, is probably my favourite part of Sidepodcast right now. It's not revolutionary, but it is a neat solution to the problem of too many links and nowhere to put them. I've wasted far too many hours expanding and shrinking the triangle, bouncing the page up and down, up and...

Also recently changed is the default body copy typeface, which has migrated from Helvetica to Lucida Grande (on machines and browsers that support it). Again many, many hours were wasted spent running through available options and it still took two weeks of daily usage to be convinced the change was worth it. It was worth it, right?

A screenshot of the current homepage at the time of writing
Credit: Sidepodcast

Getting all technical for a brief moment, audio and video podcasts are now being delivered to supported browsers using HTML5 technologies. That means if you are using up-to-date versions of Safari or Chrome, you'll likely get a better listening and viewing experience no effort required. It also means you can watch and listen directly on an iPhone, iPad or Android mobile, again no extra effort required.

To make things really simple, the latest audio and video shows play directly inside the tabbed homepage infobox, and that's HTML5 enabled too.

The final notable site improvement is also technical. It likely won't make any appreciable difference to anyone, but I like it. The Current Standings found on the homepage sidebar are a mini-revolution in themselves. Technically we could update results manually after every race, but instead the information is driven automatically from posts in the standings category. Blog entries on this site may look like any standard post when you read them, but they also have the ability to store data sources within them. This allows us to slice and dice the data and deliver it in ways not associated with the original post. Reducing re-keying on the homepage is a trivial use of the technology, but there's more to come on the front in the future.

I think that must wrap up most of the important changes. The F1 Twitter Directory now contains more lists than ever and the F1 Calendar offers some additional alternate means of accessing reminders.

I'll leave you with an amended Commenting Policy for your perusal. A page that even I can't get excited about.