If you are reading this blog, then I can comfortably assume that you've probably visited AINonline before and have already noticed it has had a substantial upgrade. "Welcome back!" I hope you find the new design much improved from our previous edition.
If this is your first time visiting AINonline.com, then "Welcome! We're happy you're here."
The new design, which we dubbed "AINonline 3.0" internally, has been a long time coming. We knew at least two years ago that v2.0 needed an upgrade. We also had many ideas about how the redesign should look and what it should be able to do.
Our biggest decision, however, revolved around which content management system (CMS) to use. Our upgrade from v1.0 (created in 1999) to v2.0 (in 2006) had introduced us to content management systems. Upon the recommendation of a Web-design company, we selected an open-source CMS called Typo3. This was an improvement over v1.0 and worked OK, but required our use of outside consultants to make frequently needed fixes, changes and upgrades. However, the adjective "user friendly" is never used to describe Typo3. The best I have heard people say of Typo3 is that it is "robust." This CMS continues to have its enthusiasts, but few of them seem to live in the U.S.
Anyway, after much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth, we eventually settled on Drupal for our CMS, as well as a skilled and personable Web designer, Mike Giaimo, who lives not far from AIN's editorial office in New Jersey. He is now AIN's first full-time Web developer. If you're going to NBAA 2011 in Las Vegas, you might meet him, as he'll be riding shotgun on AINonline in AIN's NBAA pressroom (N112).
Mike started working on AINonline 3.0 in April, with his first task being the migration of some 30,000 articles from the Typo3 CMS to the new Drupal CMS. A whole lot more work followed, and the nearly seamless switch from v2.0 to v3.0 took place on October 1.
How good is Drupal? You can judge its functionality yourself, as you zip around our website. If you like the way it looks, feel free to compliment Joe Darlington, AIN's long-time online graphic artist (and long-suffering Typo3 user and critic), who did the graphics for AINonline 3.0. He'll also be working in AIN's pressroom at NBAA. Just don't mention Typo3 to him.
How easy is Drupal? Well, I'm writing this blog in the Drupal content-entry page of the new AINonline. I never would have done this on the old Typo3 system. It was just too complicated.
To be sure, there are still a lot of things that need tweaking or fixing, but on the whole we are really happy with how AINonline 3.0 has turned out. And we're planning to add many more new features to AINonline.com over the coming year, as well as switch BJTonline.com, the website of our sister publication, Business Jet Traveler magazine, to Drupal.
One thing that has and will not change is the editorial philosophy of AIN Publications. Jim Holahan, AIN's founding editor, would often remind his editors and freelance writers what this philosophy is. About a year after I had joined AIN full-time in 1993, I asked Jim to put his philosophy in writing so I could use it as the introduction to guidelines I was writing for the editorial staff. This is what Jim wrote:
"What makes AIN different? Our insight, discernment and background knowledge of the subject. Clear interesting writing. Good, hard news and not just public relations hype. We look for the other side of the story–what is the company not saying in the press conference? We don't shy away from the truth. But be careful not to editorialize–stick to the facts. Write for the reader, not the advertiser."
AINonline has a new design, but AIN's dedication to providing its readers with timely, accurate, fair, balanced and interesting coverage of aviation and aerospace news from around the world remains the same.