2020 site overhaul release notes

Below is a comprehensive list of changes to the Games by Tim website, released June 14, 2020.

General changes

  • Games by Tim switches from Blogger to Gatsby.

    • Blogger is a free blog hosting service from Google, which made sense to use before I knew web development.
    • Gatsby is a static site generator that uses React, a JavaScript framework, to build the interface.
    • Compared to Blogger, Gatsby allows for a far more flexible website. It also incorporates modern techniques that enhance site performance, accessibility, and search engine optimization (SEO), explained throughout the rest of the release notes.
  • Games by Tim is now responsive for mobile devices.

    • The previous Blogger website had a separate mobile site, which deviated away from the main site's look and feel.
    • The new website is properly designed for both mobile and desktop devices. See for yourself by resizing your browser window.
    • Because the new website can dynamically adjust itself, larger displays get blessed with bigger font sizes and images.
  • Games by Tim now has animations.

    • Each page you load fades into view.
    • The homepage intro banner and the hamburger menu (on mobile view) also have their own animations.
    • Animations are disabled if "reduced motion" is enabled on your device.
  • Games by Tim now has a dark mode.

    • When you first visit the site, the site sets its theme based on your system preference.
    • You can change themes by clicking the sun or moon on the top right of the navbar.
  • Games by Tim is now open source.

Performance improvements

  • Thanks to Gatsby, the new site utilizes several techniques to improve page speed and performance, including:

    • Code minification - removing blank spaces from the code you load to minimize download size.
    • Link preloading - When your cursor hovers over a link, the site prefetches the page content. That way, the page instantly loads when you click on it.
    • Image lazy loading - Images won't load until you scroll down to them, saving precious seconds off initial page load. (That's why the images blur in if you were curious.)
    • Selective image downloading - It's a waste to download large images for small screens, so the site downloads smaller versions of images on such devices.

SEO improvements

  • URLs look a lot more cleaner.

    • For instance, the So Many Numbers project URL, which used to be (gamesbytim.com/2018/09/so-many-numbers-30-problem-arithmetic.html) is now simply (gamesbytim.com/so-many-numbers/).
    • Without the date hanging in the URLs, search engines should realize that projects are ongoing and not locked into a date.
    • Countless other URLs look cleaner too.
  • Page articles are now properly formatted.

    • On Blogger, I used workarounds against the web standard to make text look more attractive.
    • The new site better confirms to web standards, which should be easier for search engines to crawl.
  • Meta descriptions are now optimized for search engines.

    • Search engines tend to have around a 160-character limit for descriptions. Gatsby automatically makes the first 160 characters of full words of a blog post or project description the meta description.
  • Social media sharing cards have been optimized.

    • Whenever you share a link on Facebook, Twitter, or Slack, the post populates with an image, the website's title, and a description.
    • The new site specifically configures which images, titles, and descriptions to use for these cards.
  • Games by Tim is now a progressive web app (PWA).

    • On Chrome, you should see a plus button to "install" Games by Tim to your homescreen.

Navbar

  • The logo's now rendered as an SVG.

    • SVGs are scale able vector graphics that look perfect regardless of device.
  • The navbar's links are more streamlined.

    • The new Contact page contains a public-facing email address so you can privately send me a message.
    • The link to the GitHub profile is now the GitHub icon.
    • The Grab Bag link is gone since hardly anyone clicked on that link. You can instead find the Grab Bag at the bottom of the homepage.
  • The homepage and blog links now properly change style when you're on their pages.

    • The reason they didn't work previously was due to a Blogger limitation.
  • The navbar stays fixed across the site.

    • It stays with you as you scroll down the site for quick access to the links and theme toggle.
  • The navbar features gaussian blur.

    • Gaussian blur does not work on Firefox, which will instead use light transparency for the time being.

Homepage

  • The homepage is now directly on gamesbytim.com instead of gamesbytim.com/p/home.html.

    • The home.html thing was a Blogger limitation since all Blogger homepages have to be the blog feed. I had to set a redirect from the "homepage" to a different page.
  • Projects now display screenshots instead of their app icons.

    • Since the new site's more expansive, it makes sense to fill it with more expansive kinds of images. Plus, screenshots offer a more authentic preview of projects than app icons ever would.
  • "Other projects" no longer exist. Each smaller-scale project gets a dedicated category now.

Project pages

  • Project descriptions are now separated from blog posts.

    • This not only allows for a more unique project showcase, it also greatly improves SEO since there's no outdated date attached to the project page.
  • Each project page now has a streamlined look and feel.

    • Blogger posts didn't have structure, which meant each project page lacked some form of consistency.
    • Now they're more consistent since I can fine-tune exactly how a project page should look.
  • The Archive has been replaced with links to older versions of projects on their respective pages.

Blog feed

  • Instead of showing the beginning of the blog post, the blog feed now includes a short description instead.

    • This helps make each blog post look more consistent.
    • It also does away with jump breaks, which I had a hard time staying consistent with on Blogger.
  • Blog posts that were originally project descriptions have been removed because they are redundant.

Blog posts

  • All non-project blog posts have been ported to the new site.

    • Some blog posts received minor edits. Most, if not all blog posts received formatting improvements.
  • Blog posts have a smaller maximum number of characters per line.

    • Many article sites, such as Medium, limit the text width so articles are easier to read. The new Games by Tim adopts the trend.
  • Images now completely fill the text width when possible.

    • This would've been very difficult to pull off with Blogger. Gatsby does it automatically.
  • All images now come with slightly rounded edges.

    • This arguably looks more pleasing to the eye.
  • Blog posts about specific projects now have a top widget with relevant project links.

    • This change greatly improves consistency regarding where to put such links in the blog post.
  • A code formatting plugin has been installed so future blog posts can include code snippets.

    • A change not possible with Blogger. Prepare for more technically oriented blog posts moving forward.
  • I'm now mentioned by my name, Timothy Hsu, instead of Tim the Writer.

Comments

  • Comments are now run via Hyvor Talk.

    • Hyvor Talk's advantages over Blogger's built-in commenting system include spam protection with RECAPCHA and the ability to disclose your email to receive a notification whenever I reply to your post.

Grab Bag

  • Retired projects have been renamed to Unlisted projects.
  • The old Games by Tim remains accessible on old.gamesbytim.com.