Now that we've flipped the switch and officially launched our new site, we'd like to tell everyone a little bit about it.
Why a new site?
According to the wayback machine, JAT has maintained a web site since late 1996. Since then, it has grown from a collection of links to include to a searchable member database and an integrated mailing list. Unfortunately, the infrastructure upon which the site was built wasn't really equipped to handle its new responsibilities, and like a translation that has been revised by generations of editors, was drowning in cruft. The recently elected board decided to make this a priority, and has decided to make the switch from a hand-coded system to one based on well-tested frameworks.
Because most of the changes to the new site are in the background, the new site currently looks much like the old one, with a few exceptions:
A linkable page for every member
The six separate directories on the old site have been replaced by a single, unified interface. Instead of a public directory (that anyone can see) and a private directory (that only JAT members can see), there is a single directory that displays all profiles to logged-in members, and only public profiles to everyone else. And unlike the last directory, every member now has their own linkable and bookmarkable page, from which they can be contacted by other members.
Improved site organization
Since the new site is based on a content management system, the JAT admins no longer need to wade through a mess of inconsistent HTML to update the web site, and can manage the entire site from a single web-based interface. This is going to make it much easier for us to not only add fresh content, but add it in both English and Japanese, since multi-lingual support is baked into the platform.
Searchable archives, linked to member profile pages
Our next goal for the site is to integrate the archives for jat-list in realtime, linked with the profiles of each members. This is currently available separately at jat-lists thanks to the hard work of previous Webmaster Ryan Ginstrom, but we're going to try to integrate it with the rest of the site to make everything easier to find.
More content in both English and Japanese
Now that we have a content management system in place to manage everything, it will be much easier to add content for both languages. The JAT board is going to make efforts to have most of the important site content in both languages from now on.
We'll explain more over the coming weeks about additional functionality available on the new site, including OpenID (a new way to manage your logins) and Gravatars (to put your picture on your profile page).
Keep in mind that we'll be making small tweaks to the functionality and style of the site over the next few months, so please let our Webmaster know if you have any ideas or suggestions.