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The plan is for this page to chart the development of the technical side of this web site, as a kind of help guide for any budding TA webmasters out there. I hope to add more information shortly, but for now, here's a rundown on things that are, things that have been, and things that may still come to pass.

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In The Beginning

After a very short-lived and abortive attempt at designing a site using MS Word, I made my first steps with MS Front Page, relying heavily on the F1 (help) key. I managed to make some slow, if unspectacular, progress, and concentrated mainly on content over design.

After a few trial and error experiments (see below), I found a winning formula and continued to expand by gradually adding to the diaries and scanning in photos. The very first diary accounts only ran to a couple of paragraphs (and they’re still there), but as more and more people were giving me encouraging feedback, these grew into the mini-novels they are today (3,000+ words for both Iceland and the Faroe Islands). Likewise, the photographs have become more numerous. When I first went on trips, I used to forget to take photos (which is why there is only a handful from places such as Germany and Bosnia) – these days I have a small digital camera with the site in mind.

As the site expanded, it became necessary to add more navigation buttons (making the page headers look quite clumsy) and a site map. The need to continue expanding the navigation was one of the main drivers behind the site re-design.

You can view an abridged archive version of NATA Online (from Jan 2003) here.

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Current situation

The web site you are looking at now was developed in Dreamweaver MX, and animated menu that you are hopefully able to see and use was built with Flash MX. The site is on Business Level Hosting with RedStation Hosting (£99 + VAT). I have been slowly learning Flash, and you can see small example of this on most pages, on the Site Map and on the NATA TV Preview.

I bought the .com domain name early on, in Spring 2001 - through UK Reg, and I have since added a couple more - see below for details. UK Reg are very easy to use, reliable and very well-priced (though bear in mind "global" domain names, such as .com, are more expensive than local ones).

I use the domain name to "point" at this site (which is actually a .net site) - this is because if there are any issues with my web space provider (of which I am happy to report: there have been none whatsoever!) I can always point it somewhere else. This would come in handy if I had to take the whole site down, or there was some kind of server crash.

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Site Ethics & Aims

I haven't spent too much time thinking these through, but the general principles I have followed with NATA Online can be summed up below:

  • Regular updates - the cornerstone of any attempt at web design success. Unfortunately, I've not always been able to update as often as would have liked, but it has evolved into once every 4-8 weeks (and I usually try to give an indication of when to expect new content). You can track the frequency of updates on the News Archive page.
  • Navigation - The main driving force behind the March 2003 revamp. With so many pages (over 80), covering a variety of themes, I took the decision to split the site into the sections you now see: Basics, Info & News, Travel, Interactive, Memories, Fun, Netley Guide and Links. There are several methods of navigation: the flash menu at the top of each page, the text links at the foot of each page leading to sub-menus and the Site Map itself - the main reason for this variety is...
  • Accessibility - I have tried to accommodate old and unusual browsers, including those without an up-to-date Flash Player (all the Flash used on NATA Online is backwards compatible to version 4). The text links at the foot of each page came about a while back when some users complained the Front Page hover buttons did not always appear.
  • Content over style - Much as I try to make the site attractive and stylish (hence the re-colour from the "insipid" yellow background), I have always maintained that content is the most important aspect of the web site - after all, it's no use having a lovely looking site if it doesn't serve any other purpose. Of course, some may say the recent diary entries may have a little too much content!
  • Humour - Always a difficult thing to call, as not everyone finds the same things funny. Certainly everything in the Fun section is admittedly an attempt at humour, but the best judge of that is you! I have also tried to put my sense of humour across elsewhere in the site, but as I said, it's very hard thing to judge.
  • Variety - As the site has grown and more and more content has been added, I have aimed for variety - a mixture of fun and informative pages, with a wide range of photographs and reports.
  • Reliable - I have been emailed in the past with questions about upcoming matches, and comments have been made that the SFA site is not always the most up-to-date. I have taken care in the past to point out when matches are only rumoured, and all information I include on the site is checked.
  • "Give the people what they want" - of late, the site has become very tavel-focussed. This has been the result of being constantly asked by pals for travel tips and pub recommendations - "why not put it online?", I thought.

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(Remember – you can view almost everything that has ever been on NATA Online via the Web Archive section)

One of the first experiments, and the least successful, was the Message Board. At the time there were actually two Tartan Army boards – the most popular being at Scott’s TAHPs, with an alternative one hosted on Ezzy’s Scotland pages. A change to the service of the TAHP one meant it was discontinued, and Ezzy was happy to open his board to the new influx. Since then the phenomenon has really taken off, and it’s offspring, now administered by Mirza (and hosted, ironically, on Scott’s TAHP web space) is the present-day TAMB.

It was against this backdrop that NATA Online launched, and a message board seemed a logical step (as more sites seemed to have them than not). After a brief discussion on the merits of recalling Gary MacAllister, it simply died a death, which coincided with another change of service provision, so I simply shut it down (not without copying and pasting the entries, which are here).

A more recent failed experiment was the NATA Poll, a bi-monthly opinion poll running on the front page, with questions running from who the best young player is to which trip was most eagerly anticipated to what away shirt was the best. This failed to capture the imagination of the web-browsing public, and was consigned to the archive (here). There was also a non-publicised (except on the TAMB) poll to try and establish club support – this was sabotaged by an Aberdeen fan who failed to grasp the point of such a poll, which rendered the whole exercise useless (this can be seen here).

Finally, one experiment which perhaps failed to take-off as I had hoped, but nonetheless remains in place, is the Tartan Army postcards section. This service is hosted by MyPostcards, and allows someone to write a greeting on a virtual postcard then send an invitation to an email address to come and pick up the postcard. The original idea was to rotate the pictures, although the lack of interest has led this to be put on the backburner. You can navigate to the Postcards page via the Basics part of the menu.

NATA Radio was another experiment that never really caught the readers' imaginations, hamstrung by slow download times and the need for Broadband connectivity, although other additions to the fledgling Interactive section, such as the Guide and the Game have received better feedback.

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Little touches

The Search facility at the foot of each page is courtesy of The Guestbook and counter on the index page are freebies from Bravenet - an excellent, if ad-driven, site for newcomers.

One small and effective addition was a favicon - if you add this site to your Favourites list you will see a small Lion Rampant icon in the address bar - you can design your own here for free.

The most recent gimmicky addition is the alternative CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). I use external style sheets, and these are basically a twist on the HTML tags that usually denote different text effects(e.g. bold, header etc) as well as using the body (for the background colour) and link tags, allowing much more flexibility and creativity. I knew nothing about CSS for 2 years, having come from an MS Office background (i.e. FrontPage being just like Word), however I took the time to read up about them (many resources exist - try here or the invaluable WebMonkey and Site Wizard resources). I decided to put CSS in when I made the move to DreamWeaver (it really is much easier if you think about this ahead and set it up before your site gets too big!).

The alternate style sheets was inspired by an HTML Help Guide on a piece of software I use at work, and after much trial, error and gnashing of teeth (and a wee bit of help from A List Apart) and a spot of JavaScript (view the code of this page to see what and where) and we're away. Again, try and plan ahead for this if you can - everything went much more smoothly on the WFCSA website!

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Future Plans

Many of the previous plans for the site have been realised in the recent re-design, however a few more possible developments I have in mind include:

  • A password-protected section, to allow a franker exchange of views without upsetting casual visitors
  • A feedback form
  • More animation and video (through the NATA TV pages)

This is in addition to the usual updates of stories, photographs and travel information.

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My other sites

Over the past few months, I have steadily expanded my "web empire" - I bought, followed shortly by - egomaniacal perhaps, but I'd rather own these names than something else. This has given me a chance to develop non-NATA related content on a suitable platform, and indulge myself with different types of web design.

I've also got no less than three Worthing FC related sites on the go - all do different things. The WFCSA site is an information-only site for the Supporters' Association, and the Woodside Road domain is ear-marked for future development as a tribute to the ground. Meanwhile, the Rebel Rebels site started off as a mere portal to an alternative WFC message board, but has since evolved into a Worthing webzine.

Finally, and surprisingly, the domain name became available a few months ago - not wanting this to fall into less scrupulous hands, I have turned this into a one-page hub for TA resources on the web.

See for links to all these sites.

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Aside from the F1 (Help) key, I've used a variety of resources to help shape the site. Here are some of the most helpful:

Rival sites

I don't like using the word "rival", as there is always room for more Tartan Army web sites, but it's a good idea to see what is already out there and what works well. Personally, I like the Tap Shop TA, the Bishopton TA and the Loony Alba, and particularly the new and innovative Crack of Dawn TA, sites for different reasons (some style, some content) - have a look at the Links Page and see what works for you.

Web Resources

There are loads of resource sites out there for every type of Web Design software, and reams of free code (for javascript or complicated HTML). I'd recommend the following as starting points:

Printed Resources

A lot of money has been spent in PC World and Waterstones, although in fairness I have learnt a lot from these books. Of particular help have been:

  • Web Pages for Dummies - for help when first getting to grips with how to structure the site
  • Using Dreamweaver MX - by Babani Computer Books - a very reasonably priced softback (although the illustrations are often on different pages)
  • Practical Web Projects Magazine - a regular expensive magazine (around £6 with a cover disk) that you should find in Smiths. A different piece of software is covered each month, and the Flash MX and Studio MX editions have helped me no end.
  • Web User Magazine - 99p every fortnight. Although the DIY Web Pages section is now less prominent, it has helped with ideas and suggestions. Also good for what other sites there are to look at.

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Copyright notice: All photographs on this site are the property of individual members of the Netley Abbey Tartan Army unless otherwise stated. The copyright of these images remains with the individual possessing the photographic negatives, and permission should ideally be sought before copying them. We are keen to prevent anyone from making financial gain from our copyrighted images, or bringing the reputation of the Netley Abbey Tartan Army into disrepute (as we are more than capable of doing this ourselves).
If anyone does wish to use these images and would like express written consent to do so, please e-mail Paul Allison using via the contact page.
© Netley Abbey Tartan Army, 2001-2008 (and beyond...)