The site you are now viewing was developed in June 2009 by Ken Simons, and updated to HTML5 in April 2015. My main aspirations were to make a site which was flexible; accessible; easy to navigate; and with a clearly-organized archive of papers and audio-visual material from SfP’s past conferences, programme work, and publications.
As of May 2015, there are more than 1300 individual articles on the site. The majority of these are individual Bulletin articles, but there are also event reports and background papers which were not formerly on the Science for Peace website in any of its previous incarnations; from May 2015, we have also introduced a password-protected section for SfP members.
The Bulletin archive goes back to the very first issue in May 1981, and is available in both text (as individual articles, concatenated together into issues) and as a PDF facsimile of the paper edition.
Good content deserves a good framework, of course. The new site is nearly fully scaleable; only the sidebars are a fixed size, and all fonts except for the main title are given in proportional sizes. This means:
- People with restricted vision can use standard browser tools (“Font size” in Explorer; “Zoom” in Firefox) to adapt font sizes to their preference;
- People viewing the site on mobile devices and tablets will see the site displayed with a modified stylesheet depending on their screen size and resolution;
- People viewing the site on a desktop or regular laptop computer can decrease or increase the size of their browser window and have the site adjust its layout to fit. Below about 600 pixels, the page will be displayed as a single column, with the sidebar moving to the bottom of the page and the menu changing to a “select” list (This is also the standard layout on smartphones and small tablets).
- Colours are picked for high contrast. Articles generally feature dark text on a white background; the less essential sidebar material is displayed on a coloured background to distinguish it from the main text (and to add a splash of colour) but should still have sufficient contrast for the majority of users.
Additionally, the site is designed for easier navigation by blind users and others who use screen reader software:
- Tables are not used for visual layout purposes. Current web accessibility guidelines state that tables should only be used for the presentation of data, following a logical format with column and row headers where possible. Accordingly, all our layout effects — positioning, colour, sizing — are accomplished by stylesheet settings alone. (In a few cases, tables are used to present data, which is permitted under the guidelines as long as the table syntax is correct.)
- Illustrations in graphic format (JPG, PNG, GIF) are not used to deliver textual information. Illustrations such as charts and photos generally have an accompanying caption and/or alternate text explaining what is illustrated.
A couple of pages have Powerpoint-style presentations or audio clips which show up as Flash in an inline frame. We are working to eliminate (or offer alternatives to) Flash as many browsers and portable devices are retiring support for the plugin. For example, all of our video content is shown on an embedded YouTube player which adjusts for the correct display size and player type (eg Flash or HTML5) on every supported device.
The site has a simple but comprehensive search engine which can be accessed from any page (note that it searches text files only, not PDF or multimedia files). In addition, there is a resources page/sitemap which lists all the site’s text and non-text (PDF, mp3, Flash) files. If you can’t find a particular file, try here first.
Finally, there is a print stylesheet to help you conserve paper when printing out a page. This is automatically selected by most browsers, even relatively old ones, and hides the sidebar and other non-essential layout elements, allowing the text to print across the full page.
The site has been tested with Microsoft Explorer 8—11 (Win); Mozilla/Firefox 3-30.x (Linux, Mac, and Win); Chrome 8—30.x (Win, Mac, and Linux), Safari 1—5 (Mac and iPhone); Opera 9.x-11.x (Win and Mac); and Mobile Safari, Chrome, and Opera (iOS 6-8).
What’s new for administrators and writers
For this site, I used the Textpattern content management system (CMS) — in my experience, the most transparent and easily adaptable of the major CMSes — to manage the site’s database, templates, and display styles. The admin interface is nice and clean as well — it’s easy for an administrator to add new content and place it in the appropriate category, or alternately to edit older articles.
Most of the site’s static content is posted as lightly-formatted text, using a markup language called Textile. Some basic Textile shortcuts can be seen when a user adds a comment to an article from the site’s front end, or when using article edit page when logged in to the site’s back end. For instance, you can mark up text as italic
_like this_ or bold
*like this*, or add a clickable link to an external site by entering
"$:" before your link — eg
"$":http://someothersite.com/somepage.html (replacing the dummy text, naturally).
Textpattern lends itself well to batch conversions of groups of old files. Back issues of the SfP Bulletin have been converted from PDF and broken down into individual articles, greatly improving their searchability and visibility. This may seem somewhat redundant, as the Bulletin issues had already been available on the website in PDF. However, it is generally not recommended to post archival information in PDF alone, as some users do not have their browsers configured to read PDFs inline, while others have problems in getting an external viewer program to work properly with their browser. Moreover, internal search engines are not capable of searching this format (Google can search the contents of PDFs, but no organization should rely on Google to enable their members and readers to navigate their own site).
The static pages are designed to be of high archival value. For example, endnotes (which are unsupported or only partially supported in many CMS text editors) are easily formatted with Textile and Textpattern; require much less fuss than in Word or in raw HTML; and will automatically create bi-directional links (that is, both from the text to the footnote and back to the original text location).
Wherever possible, we obfuscate email addresses to protect the address-holders from spam or worse (The addresses are still clearly visible to human users, though not to bots — automated tools). We also provide active hyperlinks wherever a URL was given in a printed document — we cannot vouch for the continued accuracy of web links or email addresses in older documents, however.