Plans Upgrades

Many of you have asked us questions regarding the functionality of our Web site. The most common are, “Why can’t I see past issues,” and “Why can’t I search for a particular author.” Well, in short, you currently can. The problem, however, is we’ve found these functions aren’t as intuitive as we’d like them to be.

The solution, of course, is a large upgrade to the site that we hope will be implemented by the end of the year. We know that may seem like a long time to wait, but we assure you what we have in mind is going to knock your socks off in terms of improved performance of the Web site. However, when preparing for any socks being knocked off, one has to ensure the job is done right, so we appreciate your patience and continued loyalty.

Part of the preparation process, of course, is to inform you, our most valued readers, what to expect from a site we hope you cherish as we do. So, below you can find a list of some of the larger improvements you can hope to see on by the end of this year.

As a disclaimer, however, our first step before implementing these changes will be to find out if they’ll be worth it. Before making any investment, you’d like to be well-informed, right? So we’ll be conducting user research over the next several weeks. Don’t worry. We won’t annoy you with pop-ups, asking if you’d like to take part in the user survey. We will have a permanent link on the Home page, and participation will be completely voluntary. In advance, we really appreciate any feedback you can give us. The disclaimer part: Some of these projects may change when we see the survey results.

Advanced Search and Categories
As one of the features we’ve already upgraded, the advanced search and categories will help you browse in a whole new way. Many of you have wanted a more “clickable” way to navigate past issues, and this is one way to do it. Is the key word that you’re looking for on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t spit it out? Use the advanced search and categories. We used to have approximately 50 categories you could select to search through our archives. We’ve almost doubled that number. Want to see what we have on alternative energy? No problem. Click the “alternative energy” box and then the search button. This is just one way we’re helping you find what you’re looking for.

Clickable Archives
Of course, upgrading the advanced search and categories feature was just patchwork. Many of you have asked for a fully clickable archive. And we are happy to oblige. Later this year, we are planning to give you the ability to search every issue we’ve published back through January 2000 just by clicking. Details on the feature’s functionality are pending, but suffice to say, if you’d like to read, say, the May 2003 issue, you’ll never have to type a single letter on your keyboard. Well, except for the one’s you’ll have to push to get to, unless you have it set as your home page (hint, hint).

Other Searching Upgrades
There have been other small feedback items regarding our search engine that we’ve taken to heart. Currently, if you want to read everything one of our author’s have written, you’ll have to only type the author’s last name in the search box. This is a way to get around the limitations of the search feature: It doesn’t search the bylines of articles, and it searches for exact matches only. In other words, if you search for, say, Joe O’Connor, you’ll find no record of his existence on our site. However, if you search for “O’Connor,” you’ll see everything he’s written since 2000 in perfect chronological order. The reason for this is we feature a bio with every article and begin every bio with the author’s last name. This is what the search function finds. Needless to say, we’re on it.

Appearance and Global Functionality
One of the questions we ask internally is, “Why do we have landing pages for both Electrical Contractor and S+LSS?” You may ask, “What’s a landing page?” When you load, you are taken to the Web site’s home page. On this page, you can access some of the most popular sections of the magazine, such as Industry Watch and New Products. There also are other features that are not in print, such as Web Exclusives, the Quick Poll, and the commodities ticker. However, the vast majority of the material is most easily accessed on the magazine’s landing page. We intended the home page to give the Web site an identity of its own, to act as the magazine’s home on the Internet. We wanted it to be a place to prepare you to delve into the monster that is the magazine.

The problem is we suspect people aren’t doing that. We think people are looking at the home page and thinking that’s all there is, when the truth is they’ve barely begun to scratch the surface. The catch 22 is that there’s far too much information to place on one page. It simply could be intimidating and turn people away because they don’t want to sort through all that information.

To fix this problem, we are going to tweak the look of the site. Of course, this project is most dependent on the results of the user survey we hope you will take part in. We are still examining our options here, but we are planning to change the look of the site slightly to increase your ability to get the information you want and, at the same time, have the ability to see what else we have to offer. We feel we have a lot of good information you need to know, and we don’t want you to miss a thing.

Finally, we invite you to give us feedback. On this site, you’ll find an e-mail address to contact us. Please, let us know how we are doing. Email with your thoughts, concerns, suggestions, etc. We would love to hear from you!


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