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Website Development Update, February 2024

Hello drivers! With the completion of some repairs to the site I felt now would be a good time to share some development information with you all.

Let's begin though by discussing the reasoning behind the changes. Frankly the site had become quite outdated and extremely difficult to manage with buttons taking up 20% of the available screen space. As we began looking at how to design the site we looked to IMSA as we always do (as we are an IMSA-based league), and even though we didn't want to use a white background and needed features relevant to our organization we essentially used IMSA's site structure. We also decided to break features apart by presentation: surface-level "fan" information, and deep-dive "competitor" information. The goal of this is to support traffic to the site by casual visitors, who may not be interested in DIP points and incident rate per lap - with the statistics our drivers like being contained in a "competitor" menu that requires you to be a logged in member to reach. We've tried a couple of different approaches to the competitor menu and feel where we are now works best; we ask you all to acclimate yourself with the navigation as we consider this design initiative to be finalized.

Our original goal was to have the entire site ready to go by August 2023 but that did not happen for several reasons, the biggest of which was the 100 page limit imposed by Wix. With our decision to do away with the "one gigantic page with a lot of anchors" management method, that meant each series now required several pages for different needs such as results and standings. Building out the first series was fine but as we started duplicating pages for a second series we soon ran up against the page limit, meaning we had to alter our strategy and move to what Wix calls "dynamic pages" where you create a page outline and connect it to a database and the URL you visit changes the content. This technique is used frequently in web design but the Wix implementation had to be learned, and existing work re-done or removed. The end result is though that any time we need to add a new series we merely have to do a little work in the database once the assets are ready; we can now have a new series published in a matter of days instead of weeks.

Another delay has been integrating the Scoring API. As Scoring is a product aimed at all of iRacing and not just our league, there is only so much customization that has value considering the time it takes to implement - so some of the graphics we wish to present for our members and viewers have to be controlled by Wix. While our initial connections to Scoring were successful, we soon discovered tying that live data to stored Wix data was making the pages take a very long time to load and as we want the site to be a welcoming entry point for potential new members and casual visitors the long load times were unacceptable. This meant that yet again work which had been completed would need to be re-done - and that some data would now be delayed reaching the site as we must "datamart" the data we wish to present. At this time roster entries reach the site once every 15 minutes and results post once an hour (still quicker than IMSA gets results up on their site lol), but the ultimate result is a responsive and attractive site.

Lastly, a major factor of this project has been to eliminate editing issues which can be broken down into two categories:

  • Edits break existing content

  • Kevin spends all his free time working on the site

I can't count the number of times I had to repair the old site because Kevin needed to update some text and starting a new line of text literally moved everything else on the page out of place. There's also the amount of time Kevin was spending updating the site on top of all his other administrative duties. While we still have a lot of work to do, the end result has been that most of the information needed on the site is now automated from Scoring which means Kevin can do things once instead of several times, and even the tasks he still does manually like opening and closing registration or posting race pictures don't break existing content - and he can easily manage them from the database without ever going into edit mode on the site.

Moving forward we'll be updating all of the landing pages to better match the new content and make them easier to manage, as well as updating all our sponsor signage and implementing a system to make those updates fast and seamless. We want Frank and his staff and any of our other partners to be able to supply us with new assets for the site that we can have published within minutes. We'll also be adding comprehensive schedules to the landing pages which display all events for all series under a competition category such as road or oval to encourage visitors to check out more of our content. Once we reach a point we feel the new features are stable we will begin implementing these changes for our oval members as well; until then Ed will continue to manage oval manually as to insure reliability for his drivers. But as with all things XMS this is a labor of love which has to be accomplished as real life permits, so please continue to bear with us as we grind on.


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