As you will see as soon as you hit the home page, we've made some radical changes to the site. There's a completely new home page and menu system which support a set of three separate finders for concerts, opera and ballet, each of them specially adapted to give a better experience to fans of that particular genre. Behind all of this is a new input system geared at making it easier, faster and more accurate to get listings into our database. Here are the details:

For the site visitor

The biggest improvement in this site upgrade is that we've separated the original “Find a concert” facility into three separate finders for concerts, opera and ballet, each specially adapted to its type of event. There's also a “find events” button in case you want to find everything that's on at a particular place and/or time.

This will be particularly important for ballet fans. As well as keeping ballet properly separated from other events, the new “find a ballet” system gives due prominence to the ballet company, choreographers and cast as well as giving the ballet title higher importance than the composer. To go with the improved system, we have brushed up the data about ballets that we hold, and input many dozens of performances from some of the top companies around the world.

Opera fans will also benefit from a properly separate opera finder, as well as the higher prominence given to the opera company and the title of the opera. Concert finder users who have no interest in opera or ballet will find their listings suitably uncluttered.

For all three finders, the “quick links” on the front are now automatically updated to show the programme, performers and places with the greatest number of listings, and if you set a “show only events in my country” flag, the quick links are adapted accordingly. This greatly increases the number of popular searches that are just a single click away from the concert finder home page.

For the visitor arriving at the site, the most obvious difference will be the redesigned home page and menu bar. These are far more economical on space and are therefore able to give immediate access to several parts of the site that were previously buried away in submenus, such as the alerts system, the list of talks/lectures and the festival finder. A “More...” button on the home page also gives access to a complete sitemap.

For the contributor

Backing up the changes for the visitors is a total overhaul of the system for inputting events. There are some obvious large changes, and a host of minor tweaks, all of which are designed to give contributors the quickest and easiest way of getting accurate event data into our database.

A change that was obviously essential was to provide separate input screens for concerts, operas and ballet, with the slightly different data that each entails. But we also decided to change the system to put the whole of the data for each event on a single page, removing the need for wizard-style “Next”-“Next”-“Next” of the previous system. Every piece of input now follows the same logical sequence of starting at the top of the page and working your way down to the bottom, and when you are editing an event, you can see all the data without having to flick your way through four separate pages.

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Since we were doing such radical changes, we overhauled the whole input system to ensure the highest possible degree of consistency across every input screen. We've tried to make all the selection mechanisms work identically unless there was a particular reason for doing something special. And we've made many small changes to appearance and functionality: for example, the tables of works or performers are clearer to read, mandatory items are now highlighted in yellow, and various confusing editor-only items have been removed from view. The error-prone “Concert/staged performance” flag has now disappeared: promoters of concert or semi-staged opera performances can now simply decide whether to put them in as a concert or as an opera (you're not allowed to do both!).

We've added functions to make it easier for contributors to edit their events, as well as a new “Clone” button to allow you to quickly input a copy of an event, for example when putting on an additional performance.

Finally, contributors will appreciate the “Input” button on the main menu bar, removing the need to hunt down the right hand side of a page to find an “Input events” link in very small print!

For us

You'll be glad to know that we've also made some changes to the parts of the site that we use for maintenance, so that hopefully we'll be just that bit more responsive to your needs in a number of areas. And the software that operates the input system has been rewritten from scratch so that there are actually fewer lines of code – which (fingers crossed) should reduce the bug count and keep it easier to maintain in future.

-------------------- We hope you enjoy using the new site! As ever, keep those comments coming...

29th April 2009