The New e-Train
By John V. Luppino
TCA Operations Manager
e-Train has established itself as a significant resource for information on all things toy train. It is now visited by over 15,000 people a month. Since it began a decade ago, technology has changed, and the expectations of web surfers have also become more sophisticated.
As such, with over 430 articles built up over a decade, many having been updated numerous times, it was time for both a new look and some under-the-hood technical changes so that it could serve our members for at least another decade.
Thus, the “new” e-Train:
- A fresh look.
- Larger font, which many eyes will appreciate.
- Wider pages, with more room for content, reflecting larger screens now in use, yet keeping lines short enough for easy reading.
- Access to Google Custom Search on every page. If you can find information easier, that’s good. (Do note that Google can take a few months to sort its way through a major rebuild, but it’s the best search engine currently available.)
- An improved menu system. There were many different categories that we could have picked from in selecting our main menu buttons, but we went with ones that would meet the needs of the most users. If you don’t find something on the menu, use the Search feature.
- Bringing technical functions up to date, to work better in modern browsers. We won’t bore you with how we updated our cascading style sheets, how we introduced server-side includes, or how we used W3C Validation testing, but there was some heavy lifting behind the scenes.
Yet all of the old articles remain. What’s good is good, and when we call this a Treasury of Toy Train Information, we mean that, and respect the hard work of a long line of contributors who have shared their expertise, experiences, and photos.
In fact, there are so many articles that we could not bring them all into the new look without blowing the budget, so most of the old ones continue to look the same. However, from this issue forward, every new article, and every old one that gets updated, will be in the new format. And since many articles do get updated with each issue, we’ll be gradually making more and more look better and better.
And, while we could not design the rebuild to look “perfect” on every different mobile phone or tablet (where heavy content sites like ours are not easy to read at best), the site in fact is viewable on devices like the iPad and the Galaxy S2 smartphone.
What’s Coming Next?
Since TCA began, technology has continued to evolve. To serve our large membership base, we’ve had to steadily improve our internal computer operations, provide more online services, and do so in a thoughtful, affordable manner. So the progress does not stop with e-Train. We’re already thinking of adding a smartphone-friendly version of our National Toy Train Museum site, to attract more visitors. Other TCA web sites will gradually undergo transformations. And as fast as we change, the technology will keep changing, so the task is ongoing. That’s what we’re here for.
Of course, none of this is the work of one person. There are many to thank. In no particular order we have Bob Mintz the editor, who worked with Jim Alexander our Webmaster and designer using input from Tim Stier, editor of the National Headquarters News. Also, we need to thank Angelo Lautazi because if he had not written the original code we would not even be here today.