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This blog is meant as an informal forum for communication with our valued readers. We will publish posts occasionally, when we have something new to share with you, and we will read all of your comments and suggestions for making the Toronto Star's website better for consideration in our 2006 redesign.
thestar.com is a huge website with thousands of web pages. Most days we publish hundreds of stories, several contests, photo galleries, polls, Speak Out discussions, circulation offers, archives and special sections and respond to hundreds of queries to our Webmaster email. The newspaper business has often been described as the daily miracle - thestar.com has to reflect that miracle and must in its own way be a miracle as well. There is nothing simple about the technology behind thestar.com. The daily demands on the site are huge and we do our best to make sure that it is accessible to as many of our readers as possible, 100 per cent of the time. We commit to continued improvement and adding new features to our site as quickly and often as possible.
A final thought: This webmaking blog is meant to be a constructive forum for communicating ideas, bugs, new technologies and enhancements that will make thestar.com the best website for local, national, international news and breaking news. If you have comments about the editorial content of the Toronto Star please feel free to contact the appropriate department which can be found on our Contact Us page.
The Toronto Star and thestar.com announced today that the Company has removed the mandatory registration feature from its Internet site, making it even easier for readers to access Toronto's best site for local, continuously updated news, blogs and information.
"We believe that in order to be competitive in the online news and information space, growth of both audience and page impressions will be the cornerstone of our success. Further, we believe that the key to that growth is through the removal of all barriers, including registration," said Michael Goldbloom, Publisher, Toronto Star. "Our online readers have told us that registration is an inconvenience. We listened to our readers, and we've removed mandatory registration from our site."
thestar.com will continue to gather limited information from online readers who choose to register on a voluntary basis. In addition, there will be some areas of the site that will still require online readers to enter personal information, such as contest forms, placing a classified advertisement, discussions and newsletters.
The Toronto Star and thestar.com are committed to responding to feedback from its readers and as such, will include readers' input and opinions in the redesign of thestar.com, scheduled for 2006.
"thestar.com will begin planning for a full redesign early in the new year," said Sharon Dean, Director of Electronic Publishing, Toronto Star. "We look forward to receiving the valuable feedback that our online readers are known for providing and to including as much of that feedback as possible in the updates that we make to the site."
The team at thestar.com worked hard to make the recent refresh of the site work with as many platform and browser combinations as possible, but in this day and age of complex content management systems, adservers, CSS and dynamic pages thestar.com performs better on some set-ups than others.
For thestar.com that means that we build to windows XP/IE 6.0 first, because it is the platform and browser of choice for the majority of our users based on our log files. We also know that it is impossible to satisfy every one of our online readers because of the vast range of system configurations and platforms our readers use.
So what did we do?
We went through the entire set of browser and platform combinations, which include XP and Firefox, OSX and Safari/Firefox, and prioritized which ones were essential to support. We know that our AOL 9, MAC Internet Explorer users and WebTV surfers have a slightly less than optimal experience on our site. Please bear with us as we continue to work on some of the bugs emailed to us from our readers.
Some FireFox users have complained that our site refresh - introduced in early November - did not display properly in that browser, and wondered if we intentionally left FireFox out of testing.
In fact, a lot of time and effort went into making sure the site rendered properly in the current versions of Internet Explorer, FireFox, Netscape and Safari for both PC and Mac systems. Not an easy feat, since all of these browsers and operating systems seem to render web style sheets slightly differently. We worked to resolve outstanding style issues as quickly as possible.
One thing we noticed with FireFox is that it has much more persistent caching, so that outdated style sheets or other information may be cached in the browser and playing havoc with the way it renders. Please try clearing the cache on FireFox if you think thestar.com is not rendering properly.