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Changes to the Website for the 9th Edition

With the transition to the 9th edition of A First Look in 2014, we have kept the basic structure of the site first introduced in 2008 with the 7th edition, then enhanced with the 8th edition in 2011. There are a number of changes that will affect your use of the site:

Edition Selection

WIth the release of the 9th edition, you will be able to view the resources available for the 7th, 8th, and 9th editions. The site defaults to the 9th edition. If you have cookies enabled in your browser, it will remember the last edition selection you made until you clear the cookies. At some time in the 2014-15 school year, support for the 7th Edition may be dropped. If that happens, we will provide advance warning on the site.

Major changes

The site will be familiar to those who have used Editions 7 or 8, but there are some differences in the overall design:

  • The display area is wider (up to 1125 pixels), allowing more room for Theory Resources, with the width of other pages adjusted for best readability.
  • The color scheme for content areas is whiter, with softer complementary colors, again to enhance readability and to be more consistent with newer sites.
  • An area in the masthead has been added to provide social media links. At the introduction of Edition 9, we have a link to our YouTube account, which provides another way to get at the Conversation Videos.
  • In Theory Resources, the resource content appeared in a fixed-height window with scrolling added when needed. It became evident, however, that the scrolling window did not work in some tablets. For Edition 9, we have allowed the resource window to take as much height as it needs, so scrolling is done in the browser itself rather than the window.
  • The Question of the Moment feature has been dropped, so it is no longer in the main menu.

Less apparent are several significant technical changes:

  • The Edition 9 update takes advantage of a number of enhancements that were part of the upgrade to Adobe Cold Fusion 10, the "application server" that controls page layout, connections with the database (where the majority of content for the site is stored), and handles many java-based functions with minimal code. The upgrade to Cold Fusion 10 includes a completely new platform for the web server developed by Newtek, the web host used by Graphic Impact.
  • Interaction with the site database now uses Object Relational Mapping, a feature built in to Cold Fusion 10. ORM significantly reduces the amount and complexity of code needed for many database operations.
  • Videos now employ the HMTL5 video tag to more easily deploy videos across platforms. When first introduced in 2013 (with Glenn Sparks' interview with Sandra Petronio), we continued to support Flash videos and a smaller MP3 format along with the standard MP4 file. In Edition 9, only "standard" MP4 files are used, so there is no need for the somewhat confusing options found in the old site. Our tests indicate very good performance in most locations, though trying to run videos when connecting through a public Wi-Fi network can be problematic because some severely restrict shared bandwidth (videos from other sites also stream erratically, so it is not a problem with our web server).

Site urls (addresses) and your bookmarks

  • With the 8th edition came a move to Search Engine Optimized (SEO) urls that are descriptive in nature, making it easy for you to understand them and pass them on, but most importantly, serving as keywords for search engines.
  • The 9th edition maintains this structure, so some of the urls you used in the previous version of the site will still work. However, because many are edition-specific, it is highly recommended that you update all bookmarks for the 9th Edition. (For example, the Table of Contents url is www.afirstlook.com/edition_9/contents.)

Site Features

Main menu:

  • The Book (for general users) or Instructors options (for logged in instructors) remain the "home page," with links adjusted to the currently selected edition
  • Table of Contents was added for Edition 8, but the wider layout available in Edition 9 allowed us to present it in two columns. (The printed version remains a single column).
  • Theory List is similar, but the wider display allows for less text wrapping.
  • Theory Resources are similar to the old site, with several changes:
    • As mentioned above, the detail window is larger and allowed to expand in height as needed (the scroll bar on the fixed-height window did not function on some tablets).
    • The Conversation Videos list has been changed to a table format, which allows you to see the collection more easily. Two new conversations have been added in the last year, both in HD format: Sandra Petronio (Communication Privacy Management Theory) interviewed by Glenn Sparks, and Howard Giles (Communicatin Accomodation Theory) interviewed by Andrew Ledbetter.
    • The Navigation Bar in Resources by Theory has been fine-tuned to eliminate several problems.
    • Self-Help Quizzes have been completely updated by Andrew Ledbetter. Andrew's quizzes will also appear on the McGraw-Hill site. You can choose to view 10, 15 or all 20 of the questions for the selected chapter. Questions are always shuffled each time you start a quiz, so you will always get a dfferent order.

Other navigation links and user options:

  • All author bios, including Emily Langan for the Instructors Manual, have been combined into a single "Meet the Authors" page, linked from the Footer
  • Printing has been checked to resolve a number of known problems and improved where necessary.

Text sizing and Display width:

  • The Text Size option has been dropped since most browsers now have good support for zooming and accessability features. (The display width adjustment was dropped with the Edition 8 upgrade).
  • While the site seems to work well on most tablets, we will make adjustments to optimize the site for smartphones. This should be completed in the summer of 2014.

Also see:
Changes in the Text: Edition 9, Edition 8, Edition 7 - Changes to the Website: Edition 8, Edition 7

updated April 28, 2014

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