WHAT’S NEW – OCTOBER 2021

Our web guy, John, explains how and why our web site has changed.

Retail sales of peat-based composts are to be banned from 2024!

So what has this to do with this web site, you ask. Well, nothing directly but if you haven’t already gone down the peat-free road (I haven’t bought any peat-based composts for over 12 years and it’s fine), you’ll have to adapt. Lots of people have tried and said they’ve failed; that peat is essential and they just can’t grow plants peat-free. Not surprising. This is because the way we garden peat-free has to be different. But whatever, People are going to have to change. and make things work, peat-free from 2024, whatever Peter Seabrook says.

And, in a way, it’s the same with web sites. Times change and web sites have to change with them. Way back when, designing and maintaining a web site was simple because people accessed the internet using desktop computers with monitors and we all designed web sites simply for a “screen resolution of 640 by 480 pixels”. Now people may be using a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, a smart TV or even a smart fridge. And, for tablets and phones, they may be holding their device that way (vertically or “portrait”) or the other way (horizontal or “landscape”). And so web sites have to be all things to all people.

When I started work on this web site, I was aware that our membership tends to be a bit on the older side (like me!). We’re not young whipper-snappers who just have to get hold of the latest Apple device or high end smartphone. We often use older “stuff”. And even if we have the latest gadgets, we probably don’t know how much they can do and so don’t use them to full advantage. If you’re reading this on a smartphone, the little device you’re holding in your hand is way more powerful than the rooms-full of computers that put the first men on the moon! But, anyhow, I built the site with the aim of making it work for those who use the older devices as well as the newer ones. And in doing so, created a rod for my own back. I manage a fair number of sites and can update them in a couple of minutes whereas it can take me an hour or more to add a single page to this site. Everything has had to be done manually; stuff automation. And, more recently, I’ve been unable to update the site at all because the software I was using no longer worked with the updated web servers I was using.

I had to make changes, whether I wanted to or not! So what does this mean for you as a visitor to our site?

Apart from being able to get a backlog of new content published, there have been several changes that you may not notice too much, unless …..

  • We will no longer try to make the site look the same, irrespective of the device you’re using when you visit it. The emphasis will now be on letting your device do its job. And it can do that far better than we can.
  • Menus will have the same look and feel as most other web sites. Click/tap on a menu item and either a page will open or you’ll see an expanded menu which you scroll down to select the page you want to see. You won’t have an option of opening a menu page and clicking/tapping through that any more. On devices with big “screens”, the main (“top level”) menu will appear as a line or two of words towards the top of the display. On smaller devices you may see what’s called a “pancake” – a little square, usually in the top left corner, with three horizontal lines in it – or a “button”, somewhere up top, with the word “MENU” in it. You click on whichever you see to open the menu.
  • We’ve made some changes to the organisation of the content. For example, what was “Plant of the Month” is now simply “Plants” and the pages are in alphabetical order of plant name rather than by organised by month of interest. The home page will now be, essentially, a pointer to the latest, or currently most significant, content on the site rather than a simple, static welcome page. The email sent to subscribers to announce site updates will link to the home page rather than providing a list of links to individual updated pages.
  • The site will respond better to the device you’re using and to the speed (bandwidth) of your internet connection. It should (well, there might be the odd exception) switch around immediately if you are using a handheld device and turn it from vertical to horizontal, or the other way. If you have a slow connection, rather than load the whole page before you can see it, only the bit you are looking at will load and more will load as you scroll down the page. Also, with a slow connection, or if you are using mobile data rather than WiFi, images may be replaced with a “placeholder” which you click if you want to see the picture. This can reduce the amount of data that has to travel across a slow/paid for connection and is all governed by settings which you can make/change on your device. Essentially, the difference is that rather than the site telling your device what to do, your device (and hence you) will tell the site how it wants to see the content it wants to see.
  • It will be far easier to change the size of the text if you want to do that. How you do this depends on your device and the way you have set it up so, sorry, you have to work out how to do that. But it will be easier to do.
  • There is always a downside! If you are using an older device, we will no longer be making an effort to try to make the site work properly with it. There’s no hard and fast rule but, as a rough guide, if your device is more than four years old, the manufacturer of the device and the producer(s) of the software/apps that run on it may no longer support it and its functionality will start to become limited. In the past, we’ve tried to provide workarounds for this but won’t do that any more. This doesn’t mean that the site won’t work but, rather, it may get a bit unpredictable. But you’re going to encounter this with any other web site you visit as your device gets older and can’t always keep up with the latest developments in web technology. Perhaps the biggest impact of this will be if you’re using a handheld device and working through menus. If you lift your fingertip from the touch screen or move it outside the boundary of the menu, the menu will most likely disappear.
  • Hopefully, the site will be updated more frequently. I say hopefully as my role has changed a bit. I’m no longer a Committee member but, rather, simply the web guy. So I won’t be writing content but merely publishing what others send me to publish. It’s YOUR group and YOUR web site so please feel free to offer up some content. This may be some text, with or without photos, or simply a collection of photos you’ve taken of your garden. Why not share your garden with others – we can set up a page for you and you could then send in occasional collections of seasonal photos to add to your page. Check out the link in the sidebar on the right for info on how to send something in to add to the site.