Developers Log

New Themes, E3, Analytics

Things are finally starting to get back to normal. We’ve got a few new themes coming in this week. We’re attempting to fill some of the themes that have been at the top of the request list for the last few months. One Tree Hill went up today, and we should have some others later … Continue reading “New Themes, E3, Analytics”

Things are finally starting to get back to normal. We’ve got a few new themes coming in this week. We’re attempting to fill some of the themes that have been at the top of the request list for the last few months. One Tree Hill went up today, and we should have some others later in the week.

We’ll also be putting up some new gaming themes over the next few days. It’s our way of getting excited about E3. A few of the themes have been requested for quite some time, so look out for those too.

Our experimentation with analytics has been going really well. We’re going to continue tracking the new pages, and if all is still well at the end of the month we’ll be implementing the technology on the rest of the site. We’re looking at adding a new feature later this year, but we’re still unsure if we’ll have it done in time to do this all at once.

Relocation and Analytics

Eric and Shannon have relocated their offices to a new city, and are still getting settled in. Designs are still being submitted, and we should have a few new ones up this weekend. We’re experimenting with analytics to help better track our statistics. We previously used Awstats, but we had to drop it once we … Continue reading “Relocation and Analytics”

Eric and Shannon have relocated their offices to a new city, and are still getting settled in. Designs are still being submitted, and we should have a few new ones up this weekend.

We’re experimenting with analytics to help better track our statistics. We previously used Awstats, but we had to drop it once we switched our servers earlier this year. We haven’t found a good replacement yet, so hopefully this is it! After a week or so we should have a better idea of whether or not we’ll be sticking with it. If we do, we’ll be patching each page with a small bit of code. User performance shouldn’t be affected.

This will allow us to better understand where our users are coming from and how to attract more. Also, we hope to more accurately represent the top eight themes on the main page. Whether we’ll be able to achieve this is yet to be seen.

v3.2 More Custom Links Are Here!

For the longest time, our most requested feature has been the addition of more custom links. Four links are good, users say, but eight would really hit the spot. Because of the way the pages were originally designed this was a very difficult task. It required reprogramming every page on the site, and hours of … Continue reading “v3.2 More Custom Links Are Here!”

For the longest time, our most requested feature has been the addition of more custom links. Four links are good, users say, but eight would really hit the spot. Because of the way the pages were originally designed this was a very difficult task. It required reprogramming every page on the site, and hours of error testing for the new preferences options. We’ve finally come up with a solution that is fairly simple to use and doesn’t get in the average user’s way.

You can now head over to the preferences page and click the “Extra Links” option on the right. This will add an option to your preferences page for more links. You can put any number from zero to four extra links. To remove a link, all you have to do is clear the box or click the little red X.

We’ve also got a subtle little addition on this page that will hopefully lead to something else many people have been requesting. The “Save Preferences” button is now “clickable”, unlike the static image button that appears on every startpage. The button will depress when clicked. To some, this will seem trivial, but you would be really surprised how many emails we get about this. Before we switch the button code for all our startpage, we want to get some feedback first. Does this new “Save Preferences” button work ok in your browser? Is anything wrong? Send us an email.

CSS Upgrades, Errors, 8 Links Coming

We’ve been doing some major updating to the site. Over the last week, every single one of the nearly 400 startpages has been re-coded. We’ve chopped roughly one-hundred lines of code off each page and moved straggling style code to css. This means faster load times and a more unified look. Along the way, we’ve … Continue reading “CSS Upgrades, Errors, 8 Links Coming”

We’ve been doing some major updating to the site. Over the last week, every single one of the nearly 400 startpages has been re-coded. We’ve chopped roughly one-hundred lines of code off each page and moved straggling style code to css. This means faster load times and a more unified look. Along the way, we’ve also fixed a few broken default links. Over time, some of the sites we’ve linked to have gone out of commission. If you find any links like this, contact us and we’ll fix or replace them.

The bottom links used to use a table for spacing; we’ve cut most of that code out to help unify spacing between long and short links. The spacing wasn’t a big deal before, but was starting to look weird with the addition of four extra links. As soon as we’re done revising our preferences page, this feature will pop up. We’re ahead of schedule – the additional custom links should be available in another week or so.

Different browsers and operating systems use different default fonts and widths for form elements. It’s really aggravating. The same code that creates a really short bar on Internet Explorer on a PC creates a ridiculously long bar with Safari on a Mac. We used to use PHP to detect the browser and change the size, but as it turns out that was really stupid. We’ve deleted that bloated code from all the pages, and are now using CSS. This alone should make your page load much faster.

Some users have been experiencing Service Temporarily Unavailable errors. Our current server only allows for so many connections per page. This is a pretty large number, but the load from development over the last week has been pushing our limits. The problem should be fixed, but if you’ve still got issues let us know.

As a general rule of thumb, anytime something isn’t working contact us. We have a very small development team, and it’s getting really hard to watch for errors on such a massive site. We can usually fix them within minutes, but we need you to help spot them. Thanks!

Feature Update, Top Requests

Earlier this month, we took a break from new themes to refocus our efforts on the new features. Our main focus, an additional row of custom links, is proving to be more difficult than we previous thought. The current solutions are unfortunately creating an unacceptable amount of load time for each startpage. We’re going to … Continue reading “Feature Update, Top Requests”

Earlier this month, we took a break from new themes to refocus our efforts on the new features. Our main focus, an additional row of custom links, is proving to be more difficult than we previous thought. The current solutions are unfortunately creating an unacceptable amount of load time for each startpage. We’re going to pause our efforts there for a bit to return to uploading new themes. After another week or two of theme uploading, we’ll get back to work on the additional preferences features. Additional custom links are still at the top of that list.

A few people have emailed us asking why the top theme requests have not been filled in a while. What it basically comes down to is this: our designers are all freelance. They do whatever themes they select, and those selections don’t often come from the top themes list. While the list provides a great way to tell them what our users want, the end decision is theirs. If you’ve been waiting a while for a new theme, and know someone good with photoshop, have them send us an entry.

New Features on the Way

We’ve been receiving a lot of emails asking for new features. We’re really thankful for everyone’s input. The majority of the requests have been for two features – a region specific search function and more custom links. The custom links will most likely come first. We’ve already begun looking into various ways to accomplish this; … Continue reading “New Features on the Way”

We’ve been receiving a lot of emails asking for new features. We’re really thankful for everyone’s input. The majority of the requests have been for two features – a region specific search function and more custom links.
The custom links will most likely come first. We’ve already begun looking into various ways to accomplish this; at this point it’s just a matter of implementation. As we approach 400 themes, the last thing we want to do is modify each one to include more links. When this new feature comes, it will be available in the advanced panel of the preferences page. If you choose not to use it, your page will remain unchanged.

Most of our users come from the US. Here our search is simple – search the internet. In other regions, however, search engines gives users the ability to search specifically for pages in a given territory – “search pages from the UK” for example. As our usage expands in other countries, we’ve begun experimenting with this feature. We’re still in the early stages, but this feature will probably make it’s way onto the site after the new custom links.

We hear you, and we’re hard at work. Hang in there!

DeviantArt Account

We’re starting off the new year with a new addition: we now have a deviantart page at http://awesomestart.deviantart.com. Our page over there has information about every single theme, including a full screenshot and the author. This is another outlet we’re hoping to use to bring new people to the site this year. We’ve got a … Continue reading “DeviantArt Account”

We’re starting off the new year with a new addition: we now have a deviantart page at http://awesomestart.deviantart.com. Our page over there has information about every single theme, including a full screenshot and the author. This is another outlet we’re hoping to use to bring new people to the site this year.

We’ve got a few new designers, as well as the return of some of our most popular ones – watch your friends list, bulletins, or the main page of the site for the latest themes!

v3.1 RSS Reader Has Arrived!

After months and months of coding and redesign, we’ve finally put the RSS feature online. You can now replace the generic two sentence blurb in the middle of your page with any xml feed! If you haven’t heard of RSS, you’re not alone. RSS has been around for some time, but has just recently started … Continue reading “v3.1 RSS Reader Has Arrived!”

After months and months of coding and redesign, we’ve finally put the RSS feature online. You can now replace the generic two sentence blurb in the middle of your page with any xml feed!
If you haven’t heard of RSS, you’re not alone. RSS has been around for some time, but has just recently started to become popular. The new RSS system is a simple but powerful feature that allows users to subscribe to a newsfeed or podcast listed in the preferences – or enter one from another site.

Selecting an RSS feed will allow you to get the latest news or content delivered right to your start page. Each time a new item on the feed is updated, the paragraph of information on your page will update as well. If CNN posts a new story, it shows up on your start page. If Ask a Ninja posts a new podcast, you’ll be the first to know.

This is the first of several new features finally making their way onto the preferences panel. For a while, we considered having an “advanced” preferences panel so as not to confuse users who just wanted the basic functions. Rather than switching back and forth however, we’ve come up with a more simple solution.

Advanced settings are going to appear on the right hand side in a special box, and you’re going to have the ability to add or subtract them from your preferences panel. By default, the new RSS feature will be turned off. If you’d like to add that option to your preferences, you can click the link in the right hand menu. As new features are added, you’ll also have the ability to go to your preferences and add them. We have two or three more major things we’ve already started working on. Keep checking the DevLog for details.

Ironically, if you want all the latest DevLog details delivered to your start page, you should probably NOT use the new RSS feature. We’ll still be updating the default two sentence blurb on a regular basis.

UPDATE: Tonight we updated the default announce paragraph to randomize messages. There’s currently seven of them, covering the various features of the site. We didn’t want non-RSS users to feel left out of today’s update!

New Servers are Up!

AwesomeStart is now running on brand new, shiny, expensive GoDaddy servers. The move took place yesterday, and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. This will hopefully put an end to all the downtime we were having last month. Thanks again for sticking with us as we made this move! In the last DevLog we mentioned … Continue reading “New Servers are Up!”

AwesomeStart is now running on brand new, shiny, expensive GoDaddy servers. The move took place yesterday, and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. This will hopefully put an end to all the downtime we were having last month. Thanks again for sticking with us as we made this move!

In the last DevLog we mentioned getting the RSS up before we moved the servers, but we were having so much trouble with outages that the move became the top priority. We’re still working on RSS implementation, and hope to have it done by the end of the month. Currently, we’re looking for a way to fit the feature into the preferences panel. We want that page to remain simple and uncluttered, but as the site grows it’s starting to get pretty full.

One option under consideration is an “advanced” preferences panel – it would allow more “advanced” users to go to a separate page to change even more things on their theme – add more links, add a feed, etc. There’s lots of ideas floating around right now, and it’s really just a matter of trail and error until we find the one that fits.

Server Updates and RSS

We’re working on some fantastic new features, but before we get to that, we should talk about the server updates. We’re aiming to move the site to a new server by the end of October. As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been having some trouble with our current Hostingplex server. The new server guarantees 99.9% uptime, … Continue reading “Server Updates and RSS”

We’re working on some fantastic new features, but before we get to that, we should talk about the server updates.

We’re aiming to move the site to a new server by the end of October. As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been having some trouble with our current Hostingplex server. The new server guarantees 99.9% uptime, and should be a little faster too. We’ll have an update when we know the exact time of the move.

We’re been getting your emails, and lately everyone seems to want the same thing: more links and RSS feeds! The links are going to require a bit of a major patch to all pages, so the RSS feeds are going to come first.

Dev 2006-10-19

This is what the current test implementation looks like, and is probably very close to the final v1.0 product. You’ll be able to check a box in your preferences to put a feed on your page in place of where the AwesomeStart blurb currently is. If you chose not to check that box, your page will remain how it is now. Eric and Greg have been working on adding several more features, but those probably won’t make this release. Adding RSS to these pages has proven to be more difficult than any of us every thought.

If you don’t know anything about RSS, it’s fairly simple. An RSS feed is simple a way to gain access to the latest news or updates of a site. If a site has RSS, then you’ll be able to get the latest news updates, podcasts, torrents, or even blog entries delivered right to your page. The above example is from the Skepticality podcast. Every time they post a new podcast, that paragraph gets updated on your start page with a link to it as well as a little note regarding it’s contents. Most sites with regularly updated content have an RSS feed – just look on the site, or try Googling the site’s name along with RSS.

The current version does not have support for html tags or images within the feed. Also, it will only display the latest feed. We’re looking to change it to implement these features as well as the iTunes RSS tag for podcasts. Whether these items make the first release or not, the RSS feature should go online before the end of the month.