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The Audlem Online Mark I website was forged in the white heat of enthusiasm following the highly successful Parish Plan in 2005. The response was very encouraging, so within six months it was succeeded by Mark II.

The number of daily "hits" (the number of different users who access the site on a specific day) has since risen steadily and currently stands at an average of about 230 — a very high figure for this kind of site. The story which produced the greatest impact (and certainly the most nationally discussed) was of course the spoof April 1st "Audlem to apply to join Wales" story, and the April 1st stories have become widely known and anxiously anticipated each year.

Since the start the proud record of at least one new news item per day has been maintained and it is very pleasing to report that this gets steadily easier with the increasing number of people within the community who are ready, willing and able to contribute stories themselves.

Mark IIIEarly in 2008, it was decided to develop Mark III of the Audlem Online website, to take advantage of new browser technology and the experience gained since the original launch of the website in 2005.

At the same time the team of Bob Cartwright, Pam Seddon, John Gunstone and Mike Mason who have carried the development and running of the site more or less since its inception decided to recruit some new blood. This coincided with my near-complete retirement from being a computer programmer for over 40 years and since they obviously felt I needed something to do with my time and the words "computer" and "expert" were banded around rather too freely, I was recruited to assist on the technical side as the relaunch gathered pace. Now this is a bit like asking somebody who has spent a working lifetime fiddling with the insides of a two-stroke lawnmower engine to suddenly switch to tuning a space-rocket, so naturally before long I was promoted (?) to Chairman of our little ad hoc team.

Meanwhile Bob retains a firm grip on the editorial and copy side, John G is the main driving force behind the technical "goodies" and Pam attempts to ensure fairplay on all sides, contributes much of the page content and represents the Parish Council as it relates to our activities.

It only took a few weeks to realise that we could go on refining and developing our ideas more or less for ever, and so launch deadlines were proposed and set and missed, until the whole project began to feel like a multi-billion NHS computer system (but unfortunately without the multi-billion pound fees).

So early in 2009 we set a deadline for the relaunch of May 1st or bust — we have more or less achieved this target, albeit with a few rough edges and leaving out some nice features which will have to be postponed for a few weeks more. There is every likelihood that keen users will find some (hopefully minor) glitches in the new website — do please let us know and we will fix them as soon as we can and meanwhile please bear with us.

What new features are there in Audlem Online Mark III?
  • Navigation round the various pages of information — the menu selection bar appears across the top of all pages, and can be used to find other pages on each section by clicking on the appropriate menu item, and then again to the next layer and so on (it is almost impossible to describe this process coherently — just try it and it should be intuitive).
  • The news items are still the lifeblood of the website — there is now a bigger list of recent items down the righthand side, split into each day's items. Each individual news item now has a relevant photograph with it, as well as links to other information items on the website where appropriate.
  • A new page, Newsroom, allows us to provide even better lists of news items, together with some items from the website from previous years as well as a "strange but true" section, to pick up the occasional weird story from the outside world.
  • There is a greatly expanded gallery area on the site with loads of photographs, including some interesting old photographs of the village.
  • We have risked the inclusion of a weather forecast (obtained from the most reputable sources) to show the likely weather for the next three days.
  • There is an interactive village map, based on the map on the dioramas — this allows users to pinpoint any defined location in the village and it includes a gazetteer of (hopefully) all the streets in the village in the right places.
  • The Tourism section has been expanded to try to provide the kind of information which prospective visitors to the village need to know.
  • There is a puzzles section which for now comprises just three versions of the familiar Sudoku puzzle. These are changed daily, generated by computer program.
  • Many other minor bits and pieces have been added, such as a link to straight to the bus timetable page provided by the bus company for the bus services through Audlem; news stories can now carry YouTube links; a map link carried on many information pages to link directly with the interactive map.....
#And where do we go from here?
  • We wanted (and still want) to include a buy/sell feature.
  • Bob, in particular, is very keen to develop the potential of the site with sound and moving pictures, and has a dream that Radio Audlem may one day challenge Radio Stoke (or indeed Radio 1 or even Radio 4 depending on your point of view).
#Your chance to give us your viewThe first vote poll on the relaunched website gives you the opportunity to register your views on the results of our endeavours — just click on the poll title under "your poll counts" and follow your nose. We do not promise to revert to the old site even if the vote is universally negative!

Old browsersIn common with many modern websites, we have taken advantage of the facilities available on up-to-date browsers. This means that some loss of format and functionality will occur with older browsers, particularly IE6 and earlier. We would recommend that you load Mozilla Firefox click here, with all the usual caveats about security etc.