This article was posted on Thursday, 21st March 2013
Whilst I have some free time between jobs (yes I am looking for interesting opportunities- let me know!) I decided to redesign the local business/organisation directory I made about four years, the Athy Directory.
I had built it to scratch my own itch- a lot of small local businesses had no web presence, which makes it very difficult to Google them. Things have changed now and there are many more of them online, but I think my directory still stands up.
There are plenty of little bits and pieces that I still need to do, which I will get 'round to doing soon, but at the moment, these are the elements I've been working on.
As with any project that is your own, I spent too much time going back and forward with different designs. Mobile devices are important but I didn't really want to end up creating a heap of media queries (I wanted to Keep It Simple, See?) In the end I decided to take the Zeldman route and design a site that essentially looks the same regardless of device (although I still used a few media queries but not many.) The Athy colours are red and white, so I wanted to use them (previously blue and orange for some reason.)
I really wanted an autocomplete function, it's almost ubiquitous with search, so I set about it. I thought I could do it easily enough, but in the end I used an Autocomplete JQuery plugin, which worked great. As I developed the backend system, it was easy for me to output a JSON file with all businesses, organisation and categories that people may be searching for. This feature ended up being much easier than I expected.
With the previous version, I had pulled the Yahoo weather feed in, via RSS, for Athy. I wanted to continue this providing useful information, so I linked to the Wikipedia page and location on Google Maps.
I had worked on an analog clock mechanism (because I'm a wannabe horologist) in a previous project, and as it wasn't being used anymore, I decided to put one on this homepage. It's an adapted version of this clock code. It's pretty simple, my contribution to it, was having it independent of the clock on the visitor's computer.
I think I'll have to explain this in a separate blog post.
Initially I tried a sponsorship program with local businesses to cover hosting costs etcetera, but more time was spent chasing payment. Google Adsense allows me to cover costs with no work. Pity the ads are always so bloody ugly.
I have both a Facebook account and page for the Directory, so I felt I needed to put a Like button on the page. Yes, that's it, the goofy element that always looks out of place. I'm beginning to accept the role FB has to play online. I accept it but I don't 'like' it.
I built the backend using PHP, which has held up fine. I used the Sphider indexing system to create a fast search. It's ok and does the job. Athy is a small town so there's never a heavy load on traffic or visitors, and as I manually put in new businesses, it's secure from bad people.