Sal's Realm Version 4 Development Q&A

Answers to all your burning questions about the development process behind the Sal's Realm Version 4 redesign!

When did you begin the site redesign?
Work on the website redesign or “Site Refresh” began during the summer of 2007.
Why did it take so long to complete?
The short answer is: college. University took up much of my time during the fall/spring semesters, and work on the site overhaul mainly took place over breaks. There was also quite a bit of things involved in overhauling the website, from rewriting all of our custom code (Item Database, skill calculators, submission system, and polls), to coding the layout to work with different browsers, to cleaning up the actual website content so that it could be imported into our content management system. Needless to say, there was a lot to do, and a lot that went wrong while putting all the pieces together!
What were your initial plans for the new website?
The initial plan was to simply give the website a fresh look with a new design. I didn’t initially plan to use a content management system or to rewrite any code.
Did your plans change as you made progress on the new website?
Yes! Initially, I only wanted to update the overall design of the website. But after evaluating how the current system worked, I decided that it would be practically impossible for us to grow our website in the future with new projects and content.

Previously, it was very difficult to make changes across all of our site pages. Suppose we wanted to add a simple button to each page which would allow you to submit a correction for that particular page. In order to do this, each page would need to be manually updated. Try updating hundreds of pages just to add a simple button – it’s painful! Or, suppose we wanted to use a three-column layout across all our pages rather than a two-column layout. This would require updating each and every page on the site with new layout markup! If the layout ever needs a tweak, every page must again be updated!

Our current system is much more flexible, making it immensely easier to make changes across all our site’s pages. It also adds the ability to use our own built-in search engine, easily update links to a certain page automatically, and allows for some very neat features we really couldn’t implement otherwise.
Can you highlight some of the major changes in the new website?
First, our site has a fresh, new design which really shouts “RuneScape!” The layout is much more flexible, so we can add features as necessary.

Our Item Database has received a huge facelift. There are many new search options for finding the items you want, as well as a comparison feature to help you choose the right item for the task at hand. The “Item Basket” makes it easy to keep track of items of interest. The Item Database also makes use of the Grand Exchange to keep prices updated every day.

The Skill Calculators have also been overhauled to use JavaScript rather than Java, so they should be speedier and will no longer lag slower PCs when using them at the same time you’re playing RuneScape. New filtering options, goal options, items which offer bonus experience, and a “Pick My Own Plan” mode will help you make the most of your time skilling!

The submission system has been integrated with the site to make it easier to submit corrections to a specific guide. It’s also possible to submit new items, as well as corrections to existing item, directly through our submission system! This will make it easier to keep our database up to date with RuneScape. Finally, the “My Highscores” and “My Quests” pages allow players to look up their stats and completed quests, for use in various site features such as the Item Database, skill calculators, and guide skill requirement listings.
Will the redesign make it easier to keep the website updated?
Absolutely, that was one of the main points of the site overhaul! Aside from being able to make changes across all site pages easily, it will be much easier to add new content and update existing pages.
What was the most complicated aspect of the site redesign?
I’d say the most complex part of it all was integrating everything together into our website. The layout, tools, and content are all integrated together and unified in such a way that we think people will find them to be convenient and useful. There’s a lot of code behind all of these things (a lot of “moving parts” if you will) that connects one part to another, which really makes the entire website complex.
What was your favourite part about the site redesign?
One of my favourite parts of the redesign was seeing everything come together, from the layout, to the various tools on our website and even the content itself. However, my favourite part is seeing the reactions to our website, whether it be a particular feature, an entire tool, or the website in general. Whenever you devote a great deal of time to creating something, it’s amazing to see it grow and eventually be put to use in some way. That’s my favourite part: seeing people use our new website and its features to get the most out of RuneScape!

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