It's been awfully quiet on CBRD for quite some time now, but at last the cones have been cleared away, the ribbon has been cut and the new-look website is open for business. Welcome to the brand new CBRD!
A new look
This year CBRD will turn 16 years old. It's been through plenty of redesigns over the years, reflecting the changing nature of the site. Before we look at what's new, why don't we have a quick look at how far we've come?
So this is not even nearly the first time that the colour scheme and the layout has changed.
This isn't just a new look, though. Behind the scenes a huge amount has changed, with the site now running on new software that makes it easier to maintain and will hopefully mean more new material more often. It also makes pages like this possible - blog posts.
Fifteen years ago, when we first started, roads were not on the political agenda, and if you wanted to put something online you wrote static web pages in HTML. CBRD was a static website documenting something that never seemed to change much. These days nobody writes static web pages - they write blog posts. Given that road construction and improvement is not just back on the political agenda, but actually becoming a fast-moving and developing world without anything like the online coverage it deserves, it's high time CBRD picked up the pace and started to keep up more with current events.
So, we decided to test the water. In August 2016, when a lorry struck a footbridge, causing it to collapse onto the M20, CBRD published an experimental blog-style article explaining what had happened and how. It provided easy to read information about a current event on the road network, something that's not always easy to find, and the response was enormous.
From now on, we aim to do a lot more of that, making sense of new developments and discussing the changing face of the road network. And of course we won't be leaving behind any of the other things we already do: tracking current road schemes, detailing the motorway network and all its junctions, poking fun at bad junctions and publishing occasional long-form articles full of original research and historical insight.
Take a look around and you'll find everything is still here, presented in a new format. Tired old page layouts have been refreshed and hard-to-find features have been improved. Articles spread over multiple pages, for example, used to have a whole range of odd ways to navigate between pages; now they're all alike.
Many old pages were designed in an era of dial-up internet and used pictures sparingly. We're not just brightening things up on new pages with our big colourful page headers, more generous use of photos and more adventurous designs - we've actually been through a lot of old stuff to make the illustrations bigger and the design bolder.
Until now a lot of CBRD has been a one-way street. Now you can post comments directly on blog posts and many other pages. They'll be moderated before they go online, at least at first, so we're hoping discussions will be civilised and interesting. If you find something that interests you, why not start a conversation?
You can also find things more easily now. Pages, road schemes and blog posts are all now categorised three different ways, so you can find more of what you're interested in. You'll see them linked with tags that collect topics and themes together, routes that categorise pages according to the roads they discuss, and regions that identify geographic areas. There's also a much improved search tool and we think navigation is easier than it used to be too.
What you see so far is enough to get the new site online - we'll continue making improvements as time goes on. One thing we'd like to do fairly quickly is create a map view to search for Road Schemes instead of just finding them in the list.
At some point in the future, there might be a new name too - maybe.
One thing you might miss is the much-loved Ringways feature in the Articles section. It's enormous - virtually a website in itself - and was last updated in 2008, since which a huge volume of new information has come to light through research and been sent in by visitors. Rather than just putting it back online in that form, we'll be reworking the whole thing to add new information and, equally importantly, to improve its structure and design. The new, revised pages will be published over time, starting quite soon.
Finally, we've taken the opportunity to clear out a small number of pages from the old site that were long past their sell-by date - generally things published in the very early days of CBRD that weren't up to our current standards. We don't think anyone will miss them.
We hope you enjoy looking around the new site and, like us, you find yourself exploring it afresh. But with anything this new (and this big), there's bound to be something we've missed or overlooked. If you find anything on your travels that doesn't look right, please let us know - you can send us an email just the same as before, or - even better - you can leave a comment here.
The new layout is fantastic! Been a visitor to this site since 2006 and have always enjoyed our writing. Keep up the great work Chris
A concise, clear and modern-looking redesign. Best wishes for the future!
Wow this is really a change for the better.
Great to see the site in full flow Chris, but how about a return for the Motorway Simulator? I had great fun years ago creating the M12 that was postulated in "Roads for Prosperity" and extending it all the way up to Norwich, and it'd be good to see what other ideas your site users could come up with.
Fabulous site Chris. Very shiny now :)
After stumbling across your website around 2005 and being a regular visitor, I had a concentration lapse (due to work and other commitments) so I'd not checked in for around six weeks. All I can say is, "Wow!"
The new website looks superb and although the appearance may have changed, the warmth, humour, information (and occasional quirky subjects) remain.
Thank you - Lord Reith would be proud: Inform, Educate, Entertain :)
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- Aerial photograph of the collapsed bridge taken from an original by National Police Air Service Redhill with permission.