Goodbye, Hello

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If you’re reading this, it’s quite possible that you’re looking at the new Deep Focus splash page for the very first time. For some time now, I’ve been considering the possibilities for controlling my entire movie-review archive using powerful blogging software like Movable Type and WordPress. Based on a review of my site’s stats — fueled by a growing dissatisfaction with my recently redesigned home page — I found that more than 90 percent of my traffic was coming from visitors who were browsing at a screen resolution higher than 800 pixels wide, which I realized gave me the freedom to design a wider home page. (Sorry 10 percenters, but I think reviews should still be readable without side-scrolling.) And when I started mucking around in earnest with my Movable Type templates, I realized that they had the various design fixes and kludges already built in to make my preferred three-column layout work across different browser platforms. Once I figured out a way to populate a “Recent Reviews” box automagically, I was pretty well hooked. Using Movable Type for the entire Deep Focus Web site would not only simplify the process of updating my home page, but would also give me an easy way to populate the front page of the site with links to lots and lots of content. It came closer to what I had always wanted to do, manually, with the old Deep Focus, but rarely found the time to apply myself to.


I hashed out the particulars of a wider, three-column blog layout over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and then replaced the existing “Deep Focus Weblog” home page with a new one, just to see if I managed to break anything. I started writing reviews for the new Weblog, just to see if it was as easy to post new content as I hoped it would be. It was. And with a 480-pixel wide space for images at the top of each review, it would be every bit as graphics-heavy as I had hoped my redesigned main site would be. (I like pretty pictures, and I want my pages to be something that I find attractive to look at.)

Late Monday night, after several weeks of fiddling about, I finally flipped the switch to redirect visitors to the old Deep Focus index page to the new one. I know there are critical bits of navigation that will be hard to replicate in the Weblog format, like the handy yearly review listings, sorted by title or letter grade, that were probably the only easy ways to navigate the old site. I’ve replicated them in the new format, and they’re available in the right-hand column of the front page in the box headlined “The Vault.” You can also search the old Deep Focus database there to pull up old reviews by keyword.

Starting with the most highly trafficked pages from the old site (reviews for Titanic, The Brown Bunny, and Don’t Look Now are the Big Three), I’m going to be moving content from the old format to the new one, and redirecting traffic to the old pages accordingly. (This means the many old links out there on the Interwebs leading into my reviews won’t be broken, which is important to me.) I’m going to try to tag content effectively as I create it, meaning that eventually you should be able to click the “2006” tag at the bottom of any review of a 2006 film, and be presented with a listing of all the other reviews that are also tagged with “2006.” I’m tagging films with their letter grades, as well, and — in the case of auteurist favorites, at least — sometimes with the names of their directors.

If you want an easy way to keep track of new reviews (and the occasional ramble) that I post, you can use the XML/RSS feed indicated by the stylized orange box near the top right of each page. My RSS feed is syndicated through FeedBurner, allowing you to easily add it as a “subscription” so that you can see headlines and leads as they’re published without actually visiting the site. You can do this using Firefox live bookmarks, or Google Reader, or any number of dedicated “RSS reader” applications. Check it out. And if you just want to receive an email notification, there’s a box for subscribing to get mail whenever I mouth off.

Kindly let me know, via email or by posting a comment, if anything is obviously broken or stupid. And, oh yeah, anything you purchase from Amazon.com by following the links in their sidebar ads? Deep Focus gets a kickback.

4 Replies to “Goodbye, Hello”

  1. This is really great. Good job, Bryant.

    Once request, though: under your list of Last Seen films, won’t you please create a link to a longer list (sorted by year, perhaps?) of films that you had seen previously? This way, when titles are knocked off your Last Seen list, they won’t vanish into the ether. Obviously this won’t matter for new films, as they will be listed in The Vault.

  2. All right, coming up. I’m thinking of doing a yearly “Screening Log” (a la Mike D’Angelo) that will simply reside in the system and be linked from the front page. It’ll be extra-slick if I can figure out how to automatically populate the most recent 10 entries from that “Screening Log” at the home page so I only have to enter the titles and grades once.

  3. Dude,

    I’ve always loved your site for the content (reviews). I’m a bit ambivalent about the re-design given that I thought the old design looked plenty attractive and was highly functional.

    Anyway, I’m just trying to get to your review of “Miami Vice”. Just saw it (thanks, Netflix) and wanted to compare notes but I get an error message having following the link within 2006 reviews (sorted by either title of grade).

    Thanks!

    Supergeeky

  4. Sorry about the broken links. You can find the Miami Vice review here:

    http://45.55.88.86/flicker/miamivic.html

    The move to the weblog is largely an effort to fix mistakes like that, which I make a lot. When the links are generated under the hood, by an underlying content management system, there won’t be as many opportunities for human error (i.e. my own sloppiness) to cause problems. Once more content has been created in the new system, it should be easier to search and link to.

    Thanks for the note!

    -bf-

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