It was around November I toyed with the idea of updating TH.com.... yes again. If you count my very first site on one of those free site builders (which I totally forgot about until I stumbled on it a few days ago), We've had 4 designs in total.. a new one would make 5. But I had good reason. Because of the platform I use to build the sites on was due to end security updates and pretty much become outdated, I decided it was the right time to play with the idea and see what could come up with.
I spoke to the team about it who of course all thought I was crazy, but supported the idea. The main thing I wanted was to make a more pro looking site with easy navigation being key. One thing that has annoyed the life out of me with past versions was we always had 2 menus, making it more complex for visitors to find their way around the site.
So I started work on some ideas, bouncing them off the team and mostly Steffen for his notorious straight to the point opinion. It took a couple of weeks but we came up with a basic framework and design, then spent a couple more weeks adding some content and working on the details. I needed at least one professional image for the home page of the website, so I contacted various people and Ville and Denis shared some images for me to pick to use. I got to the point that I was happy with the overall look and navigation of the site. I had more content to add and then start on the other languages, but before that went ahead I wanted to get Tuomas's opinion and seal of approval to continue.
I sent him all the information and he gave some really positive feedback, so it was time to add the rest of the English content then look into adding the translations. After about another month all the English was on the site, next was the translations, and this is where it all fell apart. For some reason the language sections were not working the way they were suppose to. I tried to isolate the issue for weeks to fix it but I had no joy. I got a bit annoyed and decided to delete the lot and start again.
So I deleted the whole database and started fresh. I eventually found out what caused the error which meant I couldn't use the original template layout I had planned. I worked on a similar idea but simplified it again, just aiming more for a 'to the point' layout. When I came up with something I once again showed Steffen, who preferred the look to the deleted one. I showed the girls who said the same. This time I made sure the other languages worked and they all linked together before I put weeks of work into it. Luckily it was working perfectly, though the system of adding translations will change from the way we did it on the old site. This was a worry as the girls had gotten so used to the translation tool of he current page, I didn't know how happy they would be changing the way they work. After a quick meeting and a demonstration I received the feedback I wanted. The new system was actually a lot easier and the girls were happy working this way.
It was decided to add all the content before showing Tuomas this time. Because of the changes, I still wanted him to check it before it went live. Then we had to go through the content, making sure it was all up to date and in the correct section. We decided to add a gallery again, but only include images taken by team members as we had some copyright issues in the past gallery on the MK3 site. All the content was tidied up and put into easy to find areas:
News - Self explanatory really
Diary - A place for updates from Tuomas, something that will be mostly used when he starts his solo project.
Interviews - Another easy to guess one
Exclusive videos - Footage we've been donated/allowed to share.
Once everything was in place Tuomas checked it again. He sent some updates to the discography that we missed but he approved it. So after nearly 6 months of trying to get an updated website, we were finally ready to launch.
The new site went live on Sunday 27th after 2 hours of transferring files and hair raising moments when I thought I deleted a file I really shouldn't of. Transferring the forum database and member database tables are the hardest as they need to be renamed and overwrite the original table. But we got there and we had nice positive messages from the members.
Of course to celebrate we turned on the site radio the next day, and was a nice surprise for members online when Tuomas showed up in the chat room and just joined in with the day to day chat. He listened to the radio as well, giving us stories of memories certain songs gave him. We had him with us for 2 hours and everyone enjoyed it and look forward to next time.
So TH.com mk5 is online, and I don't intend to do this scale of things again. We now can look forward to the future and work with Tuomas on bringing news and updates about his solo album to the fans.
It was actually Steffen who said "Yo CC write a blog post about the new site, I have something to add". So I sign off from me and now give you Steffen/Mojo's essay on... welll pretty much everything!
A few thoughts from an “outsider” about… Carol and TH.com.
How to stop Carol being away from the internet, creating, maintaining and running websites or forums? The answer is pretty simple: It’s not going to happen! Don’t try it! Don’t even think about it! You only shoot yourself in the food (t)! Yep!
Seriously, there’s way more behind the curtain of TH.com… let’s start with the start.
(Cool haa? I know this is a very creative cool sentence.)
Many people asked me this over the last months: How to get involved with webmaster CC?
(ChristmasCarol, internal running gag forced by Ewo.)
It’s a very good question and the only answer to that: Being a pain in the ass and don’t forget to involve some constructive criticism. Sounds easy? Nope, it’s not! Remember we’re talking about Carol here, right?
Short jump back in history:
It all began 15 months ago. Me stumbling over the TH.com link and my first honest thought was: Oh my god! Pleeeaaase, not again some bullshit girlie fansite about T. Holopainen and how great he looks and that they all want to marry him and have his babies! ZOMG!
I sneaked onto the site, looked around and went straight out after 3 minutes. It was soooo not my cup of tea to be honest. Two days later I found myself clicking the same stupid link again: TH.com. No idea why I did that. Maybe the force was me? Dunno. I spent about 10 minutes, clicking around. Read a few threads. Had a lot of real good facepalm moments and finally ended up at the very first TH.com chatroom. Yes! That was funny! Hilarious. I clicked! The window opened and there is was: The php chat: The utterly most colorful chatroom I’ve ever seen. Even if you’d declared yourself colorblind at that point this could had been your treatment of miracle healing! About “120” smilies in all different colors and shapes. Horraaaay! PaintBook Style!
Yes, you’re right I left again. It was to much color in the end and only three people chatting about “meows” and “hugs” all over the chatroom. That wasn’t really my thing.
Long story short- a few days later Carol and I started talking, more or less by accident, about this, that and chatroom and whatnot. After a few sentences it came to me: Hmmm, this girl is not some pink cloud closed minded fangirl! She’s not blindly running after all what TH has to say. Hmmm, that’s astonishing! Indeed! Hmmm, she looks dedicated and not that much “loco”. Hmmm. Ok, maybe I can be of any help here. Let’s offer some.
We started talking about getting a real chatroom setup and working, including me telling her:
Ok, I’ll do this for you. Set that up, run that for a few days, maybe weeks and then I’m out handing this over to you. (Yeaaaah me, my ideas sometimes going… pfuuufff!)
Oh yes, you guessed right. The last words “..handing this over to you” ? That was such pure wishful thinking!
Chatroom was setup. We got a lot of new people joining from all over the world and it paid of that we tried to keep the chatroom as clean as possible including sending trolls back to the forest same moment they showed up. (Big thanks goes to the IRC Moderating-Team here.) Members liked it and many of them put the link of the chatroom to there favorites. Over the last 12 months it became a meet-up place for so many, just to talk about anything and everything. Fun always included.
About the chatroom Carol and I started exchanging crazy ideas about what can be done to gain more members to the website and how to make this a place where people getting the feeling: The Website-Team cares about what they are doing and trying to make this a comfy and fun place to stay spending time.
The first competition we came up with was the “Hat” comp. How to get this done and how to do this differently. Carol and I thought about this for a week which means not only 10 minutes per day. Nope, we spend hours to get this sorted.
I can tell you one thing for sure: We both were closing our chat convo more then once because we didn’t agreed and it went into heating discussions and it stopped by not talking to each other for hours.
One point that needs to be mentioned. Carol stubborn. Me stubborn. Math formula to that goes like this: - + - = +
Competition went online and was a huge success. Members all over the world took part and the feedback Carol received was great.
So that competition was over. Straight the next day my MSN popped up. Carol: So that went well, what’s next? You have an idea? (me: oooh boy, here it comes)
Ok, now you tell me. How to stop that woman just to sit still on her ass, stopping her from jumping around? I’m still working on it but believe me that solution is not going to happen shortly.
So what’s next? Carol: I have an idea (me: oh boy, here it comes) How about to change the website layout? I don’t like it anymore. It looks, dunno, not pro enough!
Soooo, that was the part where we went on for “weeeeeeks” to get a new design sorted out, getting stuff lined up and to make it easy merging all needed things in no time.
Oh yeah do I need to mention we ended up all over fighting again about bits and pixels? No? Good, thought so too. LOL
Close to the day of getting the new design up, we spotted a lot of trouble with our hosting company who hosted our server where the website was setup and located. It took ages to load the page, lots of downtime out of a sudden because of server overload etc. Sure, members didn’t realized what was going on but Carol went nuts about this behaviour because she paid the hosting company and every server downtime is a real nightmare for any website admin.
Carol: What do you think, we should get a new hosting server company? (me: oh boy, here it comes) Let’s look for someone good! Again we spent searching the web for “someone good!”
Finally we found someone really cool! This was short to the launch date of the new site and Carol was a bit scared that we’re going to screw things up and the site could go down the toilet.
So we kept the old hoster and after weeks the new design was launched. This was the point were we found out of course during launch: Don’t forget to get a backup of your website because it helps a lot and you don’t have to shoot yourself afterwards.
Carol: Oh my god! I forgot to get a backup done! Oh no! We’re in trouble! A few things will not work properly! Oooooh shit! I have to do check all the changes by hand now! Shit! Shit! Shit! Sooooo, Carol spend another few hours to get rid of all small mistakes which were popping up all over the site. Job for me? Pixel counting and getting the info to her so she only had to check correct or wrong. Do I need to mention that I’m a hell annoying critic? No? Cool! As you may thought, yes we closed our convos more then once about tiny things we didn’t agreed on. Both are pissed? Convos closed! Two hours later: Shall we continue? Sure. LOL
Next step: What to do next? Yeah, let’s get Tuomas more involved. Easier said then done. Carol put a lot of time and effort into this and finally Tuomas agreed to do something he had never done before. A chat like Q&A and all that LIVE! He spent over four hours, in total, with the chatties and this was a huge success for the site.
After all this, we changed the server company and finally it turned out that was the best move ever. Carol: Is this for real? I asked the hosting company for help and 3 minutes later I received an answer? Wow!
After all that we did a few more competitions and a bit more Tuomas chat dates. All went well. Ok now the mother of all questions: What is Carol doing when she’s running out of things that needed to be done? Exactly! She has this habit to find things that NEEDED to be done and then: ASAP.
Carol: I thought about getting a new design again. This now, it’s not what I really want to keep forever. (me: ooooooh boy, here it comes) So yes, Carol went for a new desine idea.
This time a surprise! Carol + Me convos = NOT even one of them were closed during exchanging ideas! Yep, there is hope for us! LOL
The new design was launched a few days ago, which was in the pipeline for months!
Carol put a lot of careful thoughts to it how she could prepare this and getting closer to a pro looking website. The new software was ready to go, including the launch was ready. Because of a month-long preparation Carol made this launch smoothly in about 2 hours, means downtime of the website. That’s what I call pro! Yep.
Finally, working with Carol is and will be always be a challenge. This is meant in the very best way you can possibly thing of. Look what happened to me. From the thought of a fangirlie site admin to the point we’re I have to admit: TH.com? One of the best and dedicated Website-Teams I’ve been a part of! Anyone who’s going to think now: Oh god, now he’s over doing this!! Let me tell you this: People who know me will tell you that I’m the most utterly over the top critic when I think something is wrong or a waste of time and working hours but I’m also being fair to recognize when someone is doing an outstanding job for a community and then this should be addressed properly. Period!
Btw, a short statement from Nightwish Management to a few fans during one of the last live concerts: “Yes, over there? Yep, that’s Carol…aaah yes, she’s one of the best webmasters Nightwish ever had!” Anything else needed? Naaaa, enough said! ;-)