Well, this is it, the public launch of the Aberdeenshire Guide website. Lots still to do, but the basics are now in place.
It's been a tough decision - is it better to introduce new features and functions to Ardgrain.com and risk changing the whole concept of the website, or is it better to bite the bullet and put something completely new together...
The answer is the Aberdeenshire Guide.
Ardgrain grew from a tiny website whose sole aim was to raise public awareness of a little-known Scottish house, to a fairly substantial website with 8000 daily hits and counting. I've re-vamped Ardgrain.com twice already, the early site was html and pretty clunky, and the later "blue themed" site runs with a fancy back-end. It generally works very well, though I guess some of the decisions made at the start have eventually become legacy issues, for better or worse.
Many of the publicly requested features would require a complete re-write, a 'Mk3' Ardgrain.com site, which will I promise happen eventually, but will be a massive undertaking.
So I sat down about a year ago and thought about putting together a new site, similar in theme, but with a focus on interactivity and public participation. Something better structured, and easier to update and maintain. And spent the evenings and weekends slowly putting the Aberdeenshire Guide together.
My initial plan was to include:
- Public participation - letting people register and upload content, rather than just me
- More emphasis on galleries, and the ability for users to upload photographs
- An interactive map, which shows all of Aberdeenshire and lets people browse easily and intuitively
- A local directory aimed at holidays, days away, crafts and arts, for planning days out and about in the North East and helping people find hidden gems in the area
- A forum feature for lively discussions - something that Ardgrain.com visitors frequently request
- A way to post comments and rate or vote on favourite parts of the site
- Flexibility and future-proofing built-in from the start, to expand the site organically, based on public feedback
I guess the last point is the most important - getting a site which can grow and adapt over time without needing to be re-written. Many of the decisions on site layout and back-end features have this primary objective in mind, so fingers crossed how it all goes!
Feel free to take a browse, and also try registering for a user account. As a registered user you can post pictures and create galleries, and more features will be added very shortly. Feedback is greatly received - you can contact me through the contact page, or with a comment below, and registered users can also send me a message directly online.