Previous Designs

SOME STATS:

To give you an idea of how much the site has grown since its humble beginnings, the original site only had around 20 to 30 pages total in late 1998/early 1999. It contained few, if any, pictures and took up only a few MBs of space.

The current site has over 500 indexed pages (not including unfinished pages and untranscribed episodes) and occupies about 700 MB of space. When completed, the site will consist of over 1000 pages, hundreds of articles, thousands of screen captures, and dozens of media files including audio and video clips,

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This site has undergone several changes in format, location, and content over the last two years. For those of you who never got to see it go through its "growing pains", I thought you'd get a kick out of seeing what it looked like at various points in time.

<<< May 1998 to early 1999
In early 1998, I decided to jump head first into the "home page" frenzy and signed up for my first web site -- a free one at Geocities. Since I couldn't find anything on the Web about "A Country Practice" at that time, I decided to add a page to my personal site to share my obsession with other fans who might stumble across it. Initially, it was a very small part of the web site at Geocities and it (and many other pages there) looked like this.

I was still very new to web design and I tended to fit a lot of information (and graphics) on one page. Still, I tried to follow the guidelines for good site creation as much as I could given my lack of experience (other than the unfortunate choice of busy backgrounds, I worked very hard to keep the "site" easy to read and navigate). At the time, I also had a great deal less information about "A Country Practice" and everything was fairly easily contained on about 20 to 30 pages. Most of the information came from my own memories of events that had taken place on the show and from episodes I had on tape. I started describing each episode as it aired on Showcase here in Canada but at that point each year's episodes fit on two or three pages (I got much wordier later on and now each episode takes up more than a whole season did originally). Just about every page on the site was at least as long as this one, which was (and is) a little awkward.

Yes, I know the pink and purple background is a bit hard to look at...I personally didn't find it too bad (or it wouldn't have been there in the first place) but I understand that it was tough for others to look at. Hey, at least I picked font colours that were fairly readable on it for the most part (be thankful I didn't go with blue or green text). I still like the background, though, so there's always the possibility it will turn up again somewhere on the site (though not with text written directly on it, of course...that would be cruel). ;-)

Tools used: FrontPage Express, Paint Shop Pro

 

Early 1999 to June 1999 >>>
All along, I was frustrated by the restrictions imposed on free sites by Geocities but, being new to the home page thing, it was a good place to start. By early 1999 the frustration built to the point that I decided to pay the fee for GeoPlus, a premium service offered by Geocities that had fewer restrictions and requirements at the time (have no idea what it as now). Since I was going to be making this change, I decided to move the site out of my personal home pages and onto its own site in the Television City neighbourhood at Geocities. At the same time, I decided to make a new page and site format (more in keeping with the subject matter and quantity of information I now had). I thought it would be quirky and unique to give the site a hospital-based theme, especially since some of the people in our chats had taken to calling me the Matron. With the new format came new, simple graphics that I created myself.

[Hmm, just realized that there's a Surgical Theatre section in this design -- wonder what I intended to put in that section? It seems to have gone missing somewhere in the designs since so I haven't the foggiest notion what I had in mind when I put it there.]

After a couple of months of work, I finally made the big move and set in place the new format, name, and homemade graphics (again, my first attempts at making my own graphics -- not fabulous but painstakingly created with my fledgling graphic design skills). I was very pleased with the lack of banners and other junk that Geocities requires for the pleasure of using their free web sites and the web site continued with the look you see to your right. The pages for the most part were shorter than the previous pages and there were many more of them than on the original site.

Tools used: FrontPage Express, KEdit, Paint Shop Pro

 

<<< July 1999 to March 2007
Unfortunately, within a couple of months of making the "big move", I got completely fed up with both the new graphics I made AND (more importantly) with Geocities, especially after Geocities joined with Yahoo. Both just HAD to go. I decided to buy my own domain name (mostly so that if I ever move to a different host again people will always be able to find us at the same URL) and move operations to a "real" web hosting service. The benefit of a "real" host is that I'm not required to have banners or links to the host unless I want to, unlike Geocities who at the time required even it's premium sites to include a link to them as a condition of service (or worse, required their free hosting customers to post a link back to them and put the Geocities banner on every page or be subjected to the incredibly annoying popup Geocities/Yahoo ad). Nowadays, Geocities seems to have just gotten worse -- a much more annoying ad bar, shutting down sites that haven't been updated in a certain amount of time, and temporarily disabling access when bandwidth has been exceeded, etc. But I digress...

For the move to this site, I rearranged and reformatted most of the pages and unveiled a new set of graphics with Javascript rollovers. This new design was initially created on my lovely 486-50 MHz laptop with a 640 X 480 maximum screen resolution. At the time, I was annoyed by webmasters who didn't even consider the fact that people might be browsing at something other than 800 X 600 or greater, forcing those of us without cutting edge computers to scroll from left to right to view the whole page. So, I decided to hard-code the page widths at 600 pixels. This looked great in 640 X 480, OK in 800 X 600 (little extra white space on either side) and passable, if kind of dwarfed, in anything larger (though "anything larger" really wasn't common at the time).

Updating this new site was very time consuming as each page had to be edited by hand. I couldn't use a GUI editor because of the Javascript (using something like FrontPage Express caused the Javascript to mess up), there were too many pages to load into Adobe PageMill without it crashing, and I couldn't afford something like Dreamweaver so each page was coded and updated manually in a text editor. That was a long and depressing process given the size that this site has grown to. Updating of the new site was done first on my little laptop, then on my work computers, and most recently on my iMac.

Around this time, I was also going through some personal issues including a serious illness and getting laid off from my job and, with ACP no longer airing anywhere near me, the site lay essentially stagnant for several years with few or no updates being made to it at all, let alone a site redesign.

Tools used: FrontPage Express (in early stages), KEdit, Paint Shop Pro, BBEdit, Graphics Converter,

 

March 2007 to present
[Yeah, alright. It's not finished. But this is what it will look like when it's all done.]

Well, you're looking at that design. Took me awhile (OK, a long while) and a few redesigns along the way but I finally got it finished. The biggest change to the look of the site is that all of the sections have the same colour scheme (whereas in the previous two looks, each section had its own unique colour). The site also now uses a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and a new page layout that uses the whole screen instead of being locked into a 600-pixel width. As you can see, I also managed to locate the actual font used in the A Country Practice logo and bought it to use in making the simple graphics for this new design. The new look is, admittedly, a little bland...especially when you consider some of the previous looks...but that's what I was going for: a design where the design itself doesn't get in the way of the actual content. The dark green is the same green that denoted the old Waiting Room pages and is a colour I've always liked.

Why is this redesign taking so long? I had been wanting to redesign the site for several years. In fact, in mid to late 2002, I was close to finishing a completely different redesign. In early 2003, I lost most of that in a hard drive crash (see Blog) and by the time I recreated it, I was sick and tired of looking at it. So I started all over again. This new design, in addition to being a little nicer (I hope) to look at, is also easier for me to keep up as I'm now using Dreamweaver to maintain it. I still code some of it by hand (a GUI is only useful up to a point and sometimes you just have to get stuck into the HTML itself) but being able to make use of templates and global string replacement is incredibly handy (no more manually editing 1000+ pages just to change the email address, for example).

No guarantees how long this new design will last (hey, it lasted long enough for me to actually start uploading the files and that's saying something) but I would expect it'll stick around for a while yet. Given the use of templates and CSS, though, any future redesign should be much more easily (and quickly) taken care of.

Tools used: Dreamweaver, Paint Shop Pro, KEdit, SnagIt, Graphics Converter, BBEdit, Dr. DIVX

*We miss you, SydWe miss you, GordonWe miss you, Sophie