State of the BeerLeg: 20/20 Focus
My Fellow BeerLeggers:
We’ve just barely cleared the two-week mark in the year 2020, and RPLS Today is already enjoying an assortment of great new features. This article will outline how we ended 2019, the updates we’ve already made in 2020, and some planned improvements in the upcoming months.
2019 Was Pretty Great for RPLS Today
While there wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking in 2019, it was a pretty nice year. We continued along with some long-time advertisers (thank you!) and gained a couple new ones. We switched hosting plans in early 2019 in an ongoing effort to improve load times and security. We opened an e-commerce store and launched some products, like t-shirts, hoodies, and coffee mugs.
In the Community Forums, we added the long-awaited threaded forum layout and implemented a recent posts filter. We added multi-quote capabilities, automated user mentions in replies, and included spoilers in forum posts.
We reached 10,000 registered Members, and we finally heard back from RADU after a long hiatus. We even had a small BeerLegger in Tonawanda, New York (near Buffalo) in December to close the year on the right foot. All good things.
And, if you haven’t already heard, POB Magazine shut down RPLS.com for good. That’s not necessarily good news — in fact, one could say it’s the end of the Mark Deal era.
We Started 2020 in 20/20
An Amazing New Host
In the wee hours of January 11, 2020, I put RPLS Today into maintenance mode and moved the whole thing to a new hosting platform. This occurred less than a year since the last move, but I’ve been trying desperately to find a great solution that is cost effective and provides a great service. I found a comparable platform, so technically I didn’t upgrade the hardware — but the reviews were good and my initial tests prior to the move were amazing. The new platform provides much better support and they have the perfect combination of operating system, caching and other features. On January 12, I posted an update in the forum and the feedback has been 100% positive. The load times have apparently shrunk in half for most folks, while others are reporting a “ten-fold increase” in performance. We’ve been working since then to improve performance even more and our new hosting service is offering a free server review and performance tweaking after they’ve collected 30 to 45 days of data since the move.
Honoring Our Supporters
On January 1, we started the year by celebrating another trip around the sun. But we also asked for help. Our amazing advertisers cover nearly a third of our expenses, but certainly not everything when you add up our hard expenses, recurring fees, and volunteer hours. So I created a Supporters usergroup — anyone who donates can elect to become an official Supporter (or they can remain anonymous, if they wish). Not everyone wants to make a big deal out of it, so I tried to provide recognition while also being somewhat discrete. Supporters get a badge in their Community Profiles that replaces the standard “Member” badge. It appears in their profiles as well as in their forum posts and replies.
To take it another step further, we will be offering our Supporters some perks as we launch new products and services that benefit surveyors. They’ll enjoy early bird access, coupon codes, discounts, and/or other great benefits as they become available.
Major Improvements to Our News Pages
As of yesterday, I’ve also updated the RPLS Today homepage to include more than just our in-house news and forum statistics. We’re now pulling in news items from multiple sources, and I plan to add more in the near future. The News page was also updated significantly, as well as the individual article pages. One cool thing you’ll notice on the News landing page is the addition of category filters — these will greatly improve your ability to sort our articles so you can quickly find what you are looking for.
As for content, I’ve revived our About page, but not without first performing a bunch of additions, updates and cool information. One of my favorite new features is the Timeline, where we give you a brief history of RPLS Today. Since I haven’t officially documented all points that might be important, please feel free to contact us if you have an event in the RPLS Today historical timeline that you think is worthy of inclusion.
The icing on the cake is the updated footer, with an improved menu and links, which are much more mobile-friendly as well. The footer section appears on all pages of the website.
More Advertising Opportunities
While redesigning the homepage and News pages, I added a new advertising zone. Because of the magazine-style layout, it opened up the ability to offer a new zone that fits into the design, isn’t overly flashy, but is still noticeable to users while perusing those pages. The new ad zone is a standard configuration called a “Medium Rectangle” (somebody was being super creative when they came up with that one) and is 300 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall. It appears on the homepage, News page, category and tag archive pages, and on individual article pages. For more information about pricing, please visit our Advertise page.
I’m very proud of the advertising setup here at RPLS Today because I’ve put a lot of effort into making it attractive for our valued advertisers, yet not annoying for users. I think it makes our visitors more likely to click on them because they trust us — we’re not one of those sites where you get bombarded with popups, autoplay videos and other annoyances — and we don’t allow spammy ads either.
Back to Top
This may seem like a trivial update, but it’s one that helps tremendously with the overall user-friendliness of the website. I’ve added a back-to-top button at the bottom right corner of all pages throughout the site. Once you scroll down a page a little bit, the back-to-top button will appear, allowing you to click or tap and quickly scroll back to the top of the page where the main navigation menu awaits you.
Improving The Vision
Does a vision of better than 20/20 exist? I’m betting on it. We have other plans for the future and likely a couple of surprises for you as well.
I plan to create a Resources page where you can find products and services that are specific to Land Surveying. This will include our advertisers but also some other affiliate links to external websites. We want to help you find what you are looking for, and by following our affiliated Resource links, you’ll be helping us, too. Don’t worry — I’m very careful about these kinds of things. I won’t post anything that seems spammy.
Other Great Projects
Our parent company, Harness Media LLC, is working on other projects specifically focused on improving the Land Surveying industry. One of the first to launch will be Surveyor Websites, a fully-hosted Website-as-a-Service (WaaS). Surveyor Websites will allow you to easily build a website for your surveying business in 10 minutes or less. Seriously. RPLS Today Supporters will get first dibs and we’ll be sending them special coupon codes.
There’s also some other external projects in the works and I’ll keep you updated as they get closer.
And if all that wasn’t enough, I’ll have some surprise announcements in 2020. The word “collaborations” is the keyword. We’ll be working with some other brands to help each other, which ultimately helps the profession as a whole. We’re pretty excited, so watch for some fun announcements in the coming months.
It’s going to be a fun year. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you are, too. Stay tuned!
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