New website scheduled for the Alpha release

Let’s face it, the current CoolBasic website is pretty horrible. In addition to the fact that it’s completely outdated, it’s also ugly!

The placeholder CoolBasic website of failure

To be honest, the (current) website was supposed to be a short-time placeholder. Well, CoolBasic was supposed to be released years ago, too. But not all things end up turning out as planned in life. For CoolBasic, there was a long lull with the project, and everything kind of grew out of trend in the meanwhile. Tech evolved. World changed. Game industry changed. Game tooling changed. And now we’re in a situation where once great products such as BlitzBasic and Dark Basic have been unable to change and improve with the world. New, more modern tools entered the market and took over (such as Unity that’s got a lot of traction recently), thanks to their more competitive, technological advantage. Ironically, this is also true for CoolBasic. So when we come back, we’ll have to offer modern solutions! The Story of BlitzBasic has taught me a lot.

Along with the entirety of CoolBasic, the website needs a complete overhaul and better design. However, as the development of the new CoolBasic is still on-going (and not quite ready for public alpha just yet,) I don’t really want to waste time on a temporary website facelift. So let’s launch it with the actual CoolBasic alpha and go all-out with it!

CoolBasic is an interesting software project because it involves so many different sub-projects: We have some tech-heavy stuff like the compiler and runtime virtual machine. Then we have some UI coding for the IDE and additional tools. Then there’s the game engine. And also the whole set of services on the web, like the website or the future coming online documentation system. If I should temporarily grow tired on one aspect, I can switch to something else. And recently, I’ve been active with the new website.

Although not planned for immediate launch, I thought that now would be a good time to make some preparations in terms of establishing the design and foundation for the future site. How should it look and feel? What kind of pages and structure it should have so that I can deliver the intended message as effectively as possible? What is its purpose? What information should it contain and what topics are better handled on the forums and just provide a link for? And then there’s the technical topics to consider: Should I embrace HTML5 and CSS3 exclusively or still retain compatibility with other browsers?

Developer as I am, I decided to go with full HTML5/CSS3/responsive design (mainly because it’s new and fun, but also because I believe that by the time we go full public the majority of our target audience do have these things covered.)

Responsive design makes the website’s layout adjust accordingly to the available viewport dimensions. For desktop use, this is the size of the browser window. For mobile devices, it’s the size of the screen. Responsive design has some branches of interest: The common design principle complies to all devices and treats them evenhanded; the content is being laid out in such a way that from the browser’s view it’s like: “When the viewport is shrinking, where should I arrange all this content to.”

Then there’s the mobile-first approach that assumes that the site is mainly viewed on a phone or tablet. Mobile-first content is designed to appear in specific order most of the time. From the browser’s view it’s like “When the viewport is growing, I should scale everything up and larger.” For CoolBasic website, I’m going with the generic model.

With these goals in mind, off I went and came up with the basic content structure and a strategy how I would split the information across the pages. The main purpose of the new website is to introduce the CoolBasic alpha release and make all necessary information available to those who want to test it. The site’s lifespan is designed to last through alpha, beta, and perhaps even carry on at the final release.

Having working with it for a few days now, it’s starting to shape up. I’m happy with how the responsive layout re-arranges content blocks as the viewport size changes. I’m happy with the color scheme too, as it now gives out a more “professional” impression, but still has the CoolBasic ish vibe to it. Coherent design: single theme color; accent color; clear typography; image arrangement; symbol icons; CSS3 transitions; proper HTML5 markup.

Wasn’t easy, though. Not having done much web design for a couple of years, I definitely felt a bit out of touch with how fast web technologies have gone forward. Especially all that responsiveness – not an easy task to implement for pages with multiple columns, images and more complex widgets. CSS media queries are rather simple as a concept, but in practise can prove to be difficult to pull off when you have, say, site logo and site menu occupying the same “row.” I’m using the Twitter bootstrap as the basis of the layout and Font Awesome for glyphs.

At the moment, I consider the layout if not then close to final. I have all headers in place and know what I’m going to be writing about in each planned paragraph within the website. Currently I’m using placeholder images and the paragraphs only contain lorem ipsum, though.

In short, yes a new website will be coming, but not until we’re publishing the alpha. I’m not going to reveal it just yet, but maybe a bit closer to the release 😉

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