Analysis of Existing Sites II
In this the second part of my review of TBH based sites I will discuss what I call the far sites - those that have moved far beyond or away from the original.
Actually this site is rather near to the original except that the original was a site focused on user submitted articles with an eCommerce module thrown in, whereas the EcoElectricals site is an eCommerce site with no Articles. The default page has been cleared of the RSS, forum and article material and displays only products.
The page layout has been made static so there is no problem with the login box overlaying the header graphic. The theme selector has been removed. This is probably an appropriate decision for an eCommerce site.
The footer menu is stock as is the header menu except that it has been moved to the very top of the page. There seem to be two Master pages. One of which has polls and the other of which has vertical menu of categories. This side menu appears to be a static list of hyperlinks. The stock menus from the original TBH aren't good enough for eCommerce.
Overall the site seems to be very sucessfull eCommerce implimentation. It doesn't seem to have any bugs or unexpected behavior. Using this site as a guide, an experienced TBH developere should be able to mount an eCommerce project in a very short time.
The SkiStyle site is one of the best looking TBH based sites with its 3D graphics panels. Like the EcoElectrical site above it has a static page layout where the content is in a central rectangle that floats on a background. TBH of course has no real background - it occupies all available space.
Also like the EcoElectrical site the author has removed the Theme selector feature.
TBH Master page has a header and a footer with three vertical columns in between. There is a main panel in the center and two framing columns - one on each side. In the original these side columns carry additional content like polls and newsletter registration. SkiStyle has only one side column on the left. Therefore content like the newsletter registration is presented in the main panel. The left panel on most pages present ads. The revenue model seems to be paid advertising.
The site's main content is a description and a summary of the weather conditions at various ski slopes in Europe.
The site seems to be the only TBH based site with a search feature.
Most of the ads are actually in English yet all the content is written in Flemish(or is it Dutch?). There are at least three languages widely spoken in Belgium - French, German, and Dutch. TBH has a model implementation of support for English and Italian. This site would seem to benefit from multi-lingual support
Like most other advanced TBH implementations SkiStyle has trouble with the stock TBH menus. The vertical menu in the left column on the default page looks great but lacks rollovers or flyouts - features which one would expect on such a sophisticated looking site.
The site seems to be well frequented and bug free. The graphics are of a different order from most other TBH sites. There are gradients, rounded corners, and drop shadows.
The Maggot TV site hardly looks like a TBH site at all. Like the two sites reviewed above it has abandoned the dynamic layout and the theme selection features of TBH. Like the SkiStyle site Maggot only presents content in two columns - in Maggot's case the sidebar column is on the right.
The main purpose of the Maggot site is to present videos. In a sense they are a competitor of YouTube - but not really. Maggot like YouTube uses Flash video but the Maggot videos have a different aspect ratio - 374 by 615 versus 350 by 425. Maggot therefore is approximately widescreen like HDTV versus YouTube which has an AR similar to SDTV. Furthermore the Maggot videos are presented at a much higher data rate - probably in excess of 500kbps.
Of course all the maggot videos are mounted by the site operators whereas YouTube gets videos from its users. Users have to mount their candidate videos on their own web site. The video is then reviewed by Maggot for quality. It is not clear if the videos seen on Maggot are all hosted on Maggot's servers or if at least some of them are links to the video producer's site. This is a pessimistic strategy requiring prior approval whereas YouTube has an optimistic strategy with a posteriori review. As a consequence Maggot has a handfull of high quality videos and YouTube has a mountain of low quality videos. On my PC with a mid-level DSL connection the Maggot videos do not stream smoothly. Perhaps they are ahead of the market.
Maggot reserves the top of the right column for a Categories menu which remains the same on each page. Maggot took the login box off the header and replaced it with a link to a separate login page. This is the way we used to do logins in conventional .NET 1.1 membership sites. It works well.
The site is marked as Beta but it looks good and seems robust. I experienced no bugs except for the video streaming. The graphics are excellent. The site uses most of TBH functionality in innovative ways. They do keep the newsletter, rating system, and comments but seem to have dropped the store and forum.
No site seems to utilize the multi-lingual features of TBH design. I have planned to use this feature in my site so I am a bit discouraged.
Most of the advanced sites only have two columns. I too have eliminated one column except for the main default page.
Most of the better looking sites have avoided the theme selection feature. If you only chage colors and acsx module positions a theme changer makes some sense. But if you have an elaborate graphic look a theme changer means a lot more work.
Most advanced sites have adopted a static layout for much the same reason - elaborate graphics require stability. I use TBH dynamic layout in my site but I'm considering developing a static layout after studying the Maggot and SkiStye sites.
TBH menu features use the underlying .NET 2.0 features well. The breadcrumbs feature is particularly elegant and easy. Also the integration with roles is a real advance. However the web.sitemap XML file structure naturally creates a tree and none of the sites reviewed here use tree navigation. All use some form of a horizontal line menu. TBH menu is restricted to one level and has primitive link lists on main sub pages. That is to say there are no contextual menus. The menu appearance is also a problem. There are only very primitive rollovers and no drop downs. Most of the advanced TBH sites have some sort of supplemental menu system. My site uses a dual line menu approach (a dog's breakfast of a design). I use the telerik menu at the top for appearance and the stock TBH menu at the bottom for breadcrumb and role support.
Everyone seems to use the stock Contact page except me. I have adapted an old design of mine that has many advantages over the stock page. It is supported by a half dozen database tables and PROCs and has a DAL. There is also an admin page to manage the feedback messages. If anyone is interested I will post this code somewhere.
No one except me seems to have credited Marco and WROX. I thought that was just good manners.
There seem to be no significant extensions to the forum. I may take a crack at it. I am open to ideas and advice.
There are at least three sites with video. SkiStyle has simple YouTube video link on its main page. Maggot hosts a number of high quality Flash videos. My site links to hundreds of YouTube videos and locally hosts a handful of Windows Media videos - all low quality.
I seem to be the only one who uses third party tools.
My apologies if I have offended anyone in my presumption at reviewing the work of others.