Ento-musings from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UK Entomology Website update

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

Our main UK Entomology website has just received a major facelift. Take a look here:

Like any new site, it will probably have a few bugs (pun intended), so please comment here if you notice any glitches.

The primary reason for the update was to make our site look more like the main UK College of Agriculture website. In particular, we needed to add the new College of Agriculture headers. I really like the new look, so it was pleasure to implement it on our site!

There were other changes as well (most of this is only interesting for website-design nerds--read at your own risk!):
1. The site is now "liquid." This means that the width is flexible instead of fixed. Our old site was fixed at a width of about 800pixels. In 2007, we decided to fix it at 800px because many of our visitors used screens with a resolution of 800px. These days, according to Google Analytics (which gives us detailed--but anonymous!!--information about our site's visitors), only about 3% of visitors are using 800px. Most of the other visitors are using higher resolutions. Our new liquid design allows the content to fill the whole screen, no matter what the user's screen resolution is. So, our website still looks good at 800px, but it now also looks good on screens with higher resolutions.

2. In addition to horizontal flexibility, the updated site is now more flexible VERTICALLY. This means that it can stretch to better-accommodate text-size changes. Users often change the text size in their browser's "preferences" menu. Our old site didn't handle this very well because some of the elements had a fixed height. Now, all of the heights will stretch down to accommodate larger text sizes.

By the way, the most popular (at 28%) screen resolution for our site's visitors is 1024x768. The second-most popular (20%) is 1280x800. And... hmmmm... the 9th most popular resolution (about 3% of users) is 320x396. This confused me at first... seems tiny. Why would 3% of our visitors have a computer with a screen-width of only 320px?? Well, I'm a dummy, because a lot of people are using this screen-resolution: this is the typical screen-size of a hand-held web-browsing gadget, such as an iphone or a Blackberry. In fact, according to Google analytics, 306.82% more people used this resolution in 2009 than in 2008. Will this percentage continue to grow? I'm not sure. On the one hand, more and more people are using these devices. On the other hand, the screens on these devices are improving: the new Google nexus has a resolution of 800x480. Either way, though, it might be smart for our department to develop a mobile version of our website. Such a version would have bigger, easier-to-read text, simplified menus, and probably a bunch of other changes that I don't understand very well yet.

Back to the drawing board!