Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Page 2.0

Did you know, when I first developed Atlas Quest, there was no My Page at all? It didn't take long before I wanted a page to summarize what was going on on the site, mostly for my own. Were there new posts on the message boards? Did anyone add any new letterboxes? Who signed up today? Who updated their profiles? And I started collecting the summaries into what is now known as My Page. I figured if I found it useful, so would everyone else!

The dirty little secret, though, is that the feature was largely a hack. I added and tweaked it over the years, but they were minor things. For a long time, I've wanted to update it so people could customize the page to their own needs. Even I found myself wishing some of the sections weren't in my way, and wishing there was additional information that I felt most people wouldn't be interested in.

Even the information that was displayed, I'd often get request for changes that I would resist for various reasons. Such as listing *all* of one's favorite boards rather than just those that have new messages. (I resisted that one because for those who have hundreds of boards marked as favorites, the list would get quite lengthy and incredibly unhelpful.)

And for years, I've wanted to fix all that and do a proper job of things. And at long last, I have. Premium members have been able to follow its development almost from the day I first started working on it, numerous suggestions from them making it into this final form.

Each section on My Page is a box I call a "widget." It's a technical term that means, "that thing over there." I like the term better than "box," which on a letterboxing website can get especially confusing anyhow. So each of those sections on My Page are called widgets for our purposes.

You can drag them around and put them in whatever order best suits your needs. Internet Explorer, annoyingly, forces you to drag widgets from the name at the top of the widget, but Firefox properly lets you drag from anywhere in the title bar (minus the buttons, of course, which are used for other purposes). If there's a little picture of a pencil in the title bar, that's the edit button to edit the preferences for that widget. If there's a little question mark in a circle, clicking that will open a help page about the widget. You can also minimize and maximize widgets, or close them completely if you don't want to see it anymore at all.

One of the widgets is the My Page Options widget, which allows you to set preferences for all of My Page including the number of columns to use. By default, you have three columns to play with. If you have small screens or large text, you might find that two columns work better. For those of you with very wide screens, you might try a larger number. When you like your settings, you can close that box and get it out of your way.

You'll also want to take a gander at the widgets that can be added to My Page. I put the "main" widgets on by default, but a lot of those "non-core" widgets (such as newest members, non-traditional boxes, etc.) are opt-in widgets.

Numerous things to add to My Page have been suggested over the years, but I largely avoided them under the protective flag that I felt most people would find such specific information more annoying than annoying. Now that My Page can be customized, I don't feel anywhere near so constrained. =) So I added a couple of widgets that are there for no other reason than I can, such as the This Day In History widget and the Weather widget.

One common request has been a place to write notes to oneself. There's a widget for that now!

I'll probably add additional widgets in the upcoming months, so check for new ones on occasion.

Anyhow, the best way to get familiar with the feature is just to dig in and start using it. It should work properly with all modern browsers. Older browsers could have problems. The page itself should *display* fine, but you might not be able to edit preferences, drag widgets around, and such.

Happy trails!