Monday, April 11, 2011

The Last Small Update

SURPRISE!!!!! =)
You often hear me talk about the "Next Big Update." I use the term so often, I sometimes even abbreviate it as NBU. Sounds cool that way. =)

Well, I took AQ down this evening for an update, but admittedly, it's not particularly big, but there are a few items worth noting. In essence, it was the "Next Small Update." Or rather, now that the update is in the past, the "Last Small Update."

So what changed? First, if you check out the Letterboxing Preferences, you'll find a few new options. A number of months ago, I added options so you can eliminate boxes that have been abandoned for at least 6 months, boxes that have at least 3 strikeouts, and boxes that haven't been found for the past year. I think those numbers work fairly well, but I know darned well that others may feel differently.

And now--you can change them! Have at it! =)

The only other semi-functional change I can think of--on the Advanced Search page. There are a few new options to search for cemetery boxes, night boxes, rest area boxes, and boxes in historical locations. It's just a glorified clue search and isn't actually new functionality--it just makes it a little quicker and easier to search for specific types of terms. If you search for cemetery boxes, for instance, it'll also search for various derivatives of the term cemetery (e.g. cemeteries) and common misspellings (e.g. cemetary), and related words (e.g. graveyard). It's not a perfect search, and one test showed that about 10% of cemetery searches returned false positives. It'll certainly narrow down such boxes, however!

Those are the only functional change I can think of that was in this update--and that second one isn't even much of a functional change to begin with--but depending on the browser you use, you might see a number of minor cosmetic changes. I've been updating much of the website to use HTML5. There's a lot of cool new stuff available with HTML5, but only the most modern of browsers have relatively decent support for it, and even the most recent browsers don't fully support it. I can mark form fields as being "required," and the form will not submit until you enter data into it.

For instance, take the Advanced Search page. The location-based search requires you to enter a location. In the past, if you submitted the search without a location, it would come back with an error message to enter a location. If you try it now, the form won't even be sent to the AQ server--your browser will stop you. Exactly what it looks like and how the error is handled is dependent on the browser you use. My browser of choice--Firefox 4--highlights the location with a fuzzy, red border and a pop-up box that says, "Please fill out this field."

Another example, also found on that Advanced Search page, is the distance. I've marked it as a "number," and browsers that support it will force you to use a number. Firefox 4, alas, does not do this. I've heard that the latest version of the Opera browser does this, but admittedly, I haven't tried it in that browser. But as browsers are updated with the latest HTML5 support, I expect more and more of the validation to be done by browsers.

Another neat trick I added can also be found on that Advanced Search page. If you take a look at the "Member" option, you might see that the box for member has the word "Trailname" in it. That's a placeholder and disappears when you start typing. I added placeholders all over the place. The box name/number, the clue search, the location, and all over Atlas Quest. Not a big deal--if your browser supports it, you'd likely barely notice the change. But there's another feature of the Members box I want to point out: It's smarter. =)

When AQ sends that member box, it's waiting for you to type a trailname into it. Many websites today are fancy and start trying to predict what you're guessing for. Google searches do this. You type the first letter, and a bunch of common search terms starting with that letter show up in a list just below it that you can select from. Type another letter, and the possible search terms change to use those first two letters. I never implemented something like that because it seemed like too much work for the relatively little gain in slickness.

But with HTML5, I can send a list of trailnames with the box, and if you start typing, it'll give you a list of matching trailnames. It's not quite as slick as Google's search--I have to send all possible trailnames that can be used with the box. There are over 25,000 trailnames on AQ right now, and it's not especially efficient to include 25,000 trailnames every time you want to run a search! But really, whose boxes are you most likely to search for? Friends, of course! So rather than sending every trailname on Atlas Quest, AQ checks your contacts, your exchanges, and people you've AQ mailed and received AQ mail from, and sends just those trailnames. Chances are, whoever you're search for is going to be one of those names.

This effect works in Firefox 4, but I don't think it works with IE9 if I remember correctly. I've been trying all of these cosmetic features with all sorts of browsers--Firefox, IE, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, and I never really kept track of what worked with each browser. From what I've read and tested, Opera seems to have the best HTML5 support. (Not perfect, but still the best.) Chrome and Safari have generally excelled at support for HTML5 for quite some time. Only the very latest versions of Firefox and IE have any support for HTML5 (Firefox 4 and IE 9). IE 9 still has a lot to be desired. Firefox 4 I think is pretty good. But one thing I like about IE9--you can finally see the rounded corners! AQ looks so much better with rounded corners. (If you use IE9 and don't see rounded corners, take the browser out of the "compatibility" view.)

I'm having a lot of fun exploring HTML5. You'll likely see additional such tweaks over time, but the changes are largely cosmetic in nature and not particularly noteworthy for the most part. I won't be posting about them again in the future. =)

So there you have it. That's what was in this update. (At least the visible changes.)

Happy trails!

-- Ryan


MichKathy said...

Sounds great! Thanks for all of the improvements!

If you want to keep an eye on the input type="number" progress for Firefox, watch this bug:

Sarcasmo said...

Can't wait to try the new Adv Search updates! Night boxes... muahahaha, hee hee!

Rabid Quilter from California said...

Sometimes when I read your update posts, I just end up giggling. . . because it feels as though half of it is in a language I don't speak. I consider myself computer savvy but when YOU talk, Ryan, I often feel like a 2-year old. A 2-year old in awe of your abilities!


Ryan said...

I'm more excited about the date, time, and color picker input types. THAT would be friggin' awesome! =) But only Opera supports those types, which almost nobody uses (about 1% of AQ members), so I haven't changed anything to use those types. As soon as Firefox and/or IE support that, however..... You'll start seeing those used a lot more on AQ!

I just love all the new input types! =)

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

It did!!! My Firefox 4 did not let me get away with leaving the Location blank, and asked me to fill-in the blank there. Thank you, Tortuga!

~ Hansenclan

Blue said...

Small update my bee-hind! Since it's all a mystery to me, I will just say Thanks.

MO UR4Me said...

Love the new advanced search options!