Blog post written by David Sharpe.
Subscribers to this blog might have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet of late. I want to assure that this doesn’t mean that we have been resting on our laurels. In fact we have been working on a whole host of improvements to ChemSpider – improving our infrastructure, developing ways to increase data quality and designing a new layout for our records.
We will discuss both the data quality work and the website redesign work in more detail in separate posts but ahead of the release of the new website design I want to provide some insight into what to expect when the changes go live.
Why are we changing the site now?
Well there are quite a few reasons:
- Primarily, we need to have a site that meets the standards of the modern internet. This means that the site needs to be usable not only on a desktop computer but also on a tablet or a mobile phone. This is often referred to as responsive web design
- ChemSpider has always had records that are full of lots of rich and varied types of information – which poses a challenge when it comes to presenting that information so that it is discoverable and easy to understand once found. We hope that the new layout will present data in an intuitive and clear way that will provide a better experience for everyone.
- We need to move away from technologies that are not supported by the widely used browsers. Java-based tools have been an issue for users on certain platforms for a while and this is only going to get worse. For a long time we have provided non-Java structure editors alongside the Java tools (the current version of the site incorporates Elemental and Ketcher for structure drawing. This release will see the adoption of JSmol to enable 3D structure view and Spectra display widgets for devices that don’t support Java . At this time we are providing both Java and non-Java solutions but expect to phase out Java applets in the near future.
- Improve the integration of ChemSpider with the wider Royal Society of Chemistry web family
Will there be any more changes to how the site works?
There will certainly be some changes to some aspects of the site due to: user feedback and bug fixes. We also what to look at how we can make more complex interfaces such as Advanced Search more usable, but we hope that there won’t be any major changes to the site.
Will all of the features that you use still be accessible?
In the main, the answer to this is; Yes! It might be that they now appear slightly differently or be accessible through a different interface. There are 2 caveats:
When accessing the site on mobile devices
The layout of a page on the smaller screens and tablets often needs to be different – wherever possible this is achieved by rearranging the elements of the page and adding new controls. But for some parts of the ChemSpider interface we realised that there wasn’t a good way to display all of the data and the only solution was not to show that part of the page on these smaller screens.
There are a couple of features (such as the Print button) which we felt were no longer relevant in the new design or need to be redesigned to make them more usable.
When will the new site be launched?
We hope that the new site will be ready to release within the next week.
How will the changes affect you?
We hope that the transition will be smooth for everyone. Once the new design goes live you might need to refresh/clear your Browser Cache. The new design does require a modern browser with a good support of the HTML 5 specification. We will try to ensure that the site is usable on as wide a range of browsers and platforms as possible but expect that the site will not work well in older browsers such as IE7.
Will it still be possible to access the site using the old interface?
Unfortunately, the old interface will not be available alongside the new one.
How will you be able to provide feedback on the new design?
The best way to provide feedback will be to email us at chemspider-at-rsc.org
Keep an eye out for the new design – when it is made live we will write a blog post about the changes.