Big Site Upgrade
By Dan Vis
December 12, 2018

Ready to discover all the ins and outs of the new site upgrade? Here's a quick summary of the changes we made to our desktop version. We also freshened up our mobile version as well. Enjoy the quick overview!

When you first logged in today, you may have noticed a few small changes to our site. It may not have seemed big at first, but the reality is we made lots of tweaks all through the site--not to mention massive changes under the hood. Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, we think you are going to love it!

We worked super hard to give you quicker access to everything you use, while streamlining out everything you don't. And all the while, trying to keep things as familiar as possible. At the same time we've added a few nifty new features, and made room for more improvements in the future.

Here's What's New

Here's a quick rundown of new things you should notice.

New Navigation
We updated the main tabs from four to seven. We added a Getting Started tab for new members, added direct links to our classes, memos, and study guides--as these are some of the most important parts of our site. The tools and centers tabs are still there, and we added an all new Lab. More on that below. Basically one click gets you to any section you want.

Dynamic Office
Ok, this was kind of fun. To save screen space and get the side menu for each page up closer to the top (desktop version), we made your office section dynamic. That is, rather than showing all your account links and the toolbox icons on every page, we hid them. Now just waive your mouse over your name, picture, or messages link, and all your account links open up. Nifty, don't you think? I also changed up the links here. Now you have quicker access to your Friends, and a long needed transcript to record future classes. And your toolbox icons go right to your daily resources, rather than the report page--like the mobile version did. One less click!

Simplified Menus
We went through each and every menu on every section of our site to streamline your menu options to the bare minimum necessary. In fact, unless you are a member of the Lab or in a Training Center, every one of our top level tabs (other than the tools) have just one menu item each! Once things started coming together, the simplification process turned out to be rather stunning.

Toolbox Refresh
The toolbox got the biggest refresh. In a goal to make our core tools drop-dead simple, we created a new "More Tools" section for all our standalone tools. And then squished everything out but the absolute essentials from each of the 4 core tools. Eventually we were able to work each of them down to just 3-4 menu options each. Take a look and see what I mean. It's hard to imagine finding a way to get these any simpler! I should also add we reworked the code through the toolbox, and fixed a number of things not quite working right.

Online Bible
I did two cool things to the Online Bible. First, I added a navigation bar to the top of every page. That means, you can go from any page in the site, to any book of the Bible in one click. Two clicks to get to any verse. Second I stumbled on to a clever little way to bring back our translations and connect them to all our tools. We still don't have copyright permission for some of the more popular versions like NIV and NKJV, but if we ever do, it will be a snap to install them. And six versions are still better than one!

The Lab
This section of the site deserves it's own article, and I'll definitely be talking more about it in the coming days--as I really want to see everyone get the experience we have planned for lab members. But this is going to be the training headquarters for anyone at FAST serious about growing spiritually. It's going to be the hub I've been trying to figure out for two years. Take a look to see what it's all about.

What's Not Done

Actually, there's still a fair bit to do in 2019. Most of it involves more code revisions to make things even faster, and simpler to run. I plan to go through every single process in our site with a fine-tooth comb until it's greased-lightning efficient. But on your end, those will all be small, barely noticeable little conveniences I slip in here and there through the year.

There are two BIG things I haven't done yet that are top of my stack to do and I plan on tackling them headfirst as soon as the year ticks over. Basically, we've got two areas that are about to get a lot better:

The Toolbox
While this upgrade created a lot of cosmetic change in the toolbox, I didn't change much of the basic functionality. My plans for the coming months is to start knocking out a long list of new features and capabilities for each of these tools, provide more training in how to use them, and link them more tightly with our FAST classes. I'll be starting with Engine, and among other things, adding the ability to memorize quotes and hymns as well as verses. But that's just the tip of the iceberg--and I have plans for every one of our core tools.

Training Centers
I've also got something big planned for our partner churches. When we initially launched our training centers we created a powerful suite of church admin tools. Tools I used everyday in my own church. But I never had the time to do much with them here at FAST and ended up discontinuing that project temporarily. In 2019, my plan is to bring them back, but simplified, streamlined, and paired up with extensive training. My goal is to make your FAST training center one of the most useful leadership tools your church has--above and beyond all the training resources. I won't spill the beans here, but this is going to be big.

Final thoughts

Before closing, one quick word of caution. While many of the changes above deal primarily with layout and navigation, this release involved a massive rebuild of our entire code base all the way down to the deepest level. Usually upgrades are surface or deep. This one is both! As a result I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few glitches here and there, and it may take a few days to get everything working just right again. Please be patient while we plow through that process.

Anyway, this gives a bit of an update to where we are right now. If you read this week's article on Roadmap 2019, you'll realize this is just the first step in our 2019 plan. The Lab is step 2 and that opens January 1. Then the toolbox and training centers go under the knife.

It's going to be an exciting year, and I look forward to seeing how things progress! Please continue to keep us in your prayers!


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