This week is almost over but things are just getting started for us here at JLC.
The big event came Tuesday morning at 5 a.m.: Brad Bull and I got on a conference call with most of the development and product team at Hanley Wood - a select group of the some 45 folks who had been working on the new site for the past four to six months. The night before, link by link, each page - all 9,000+ JLC articles and the myriad landing and support pages that comprise JLC's website - "cut over" to the JLConline URL, and now everyone on the phone was hammering on the site, trying to "break it" so they could fix any bugs before too many folks started visiting the site.
The big test was on the subscription side, as previously we'd only been able to create a test environment to see how well the process of registering and subscribing online really worked. For over an hour the group hovered on the phone, each reporting as a completed task was checked off. There were a couple of hiccups, but so far everything was working well, as best we could tell (that's a veiled way of saying to you all here to please let us know if you experience any problems with your subscription: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-277-2721).
For me it was the culmination of work that began a couple years ago when we started re-envisioning what JLC should look like online. The goal was to take what JLC has stood for - some 30+ years of being a go-to reference about residential construction best practices - and leverage what makes the Internet great - being able to drill-down to an exact piece of information at anytime from anywhere. It's been a long road from the days of a thin newspaper "rag" (materially, this is an apt description, but it was anything but as an information source and industry talisman for me as a carpenter, then in Burlington, Vt.; I pored over its pages, which were filled with "for builder, by builder" insights) called New England Builder (with the tagline The Journal of Light Construction) ... to the bulky tabloid-style JLC that launched nationally in four regional editions ... to the glossy industry standard that it became under Hanley Wood.
The new JLConline does two important things:
1. It organizes the JLC archive of in-depth articles into nine "buckets" that roughly follow the order of construction: Foundations, Framing, Roofing, Exteriors, Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC, Insulation, and Interiors. This organization will take some getting used to. Things like "Building Science" and "Air Sealing" stetch beyond "Insulation," but it's in preparation for the insulation inspection that a lot of this will be implemented and tested. You get the idea.
2. The heart of the site is JLC's Digital Field Guide. Many will recognize this as a revamped version of the two-volume, spiral-bound encyclopedia of on-site knowledge we published in 2003. We've updated this essential reference and put it online so you can search and drill down to the details and task-specific explanations you need. The whole thing is mobile-optimized so you can call it up on a tablet to line-out a sub or installer. Or download the PDF and send it to key partners before a job begins. In the near future, it will also become the basic "textbook" for a range of training curricula that will be served up for trade schools, for state licensing exam prep and for completing a host of professional continuing-education requirements.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. We still have a ton of new material to publish into JLC's Digital Field Guide over the next couple of months, as well as the announcement of key alliances with training organizations and industry associations over the next year that will help loosen the real constraint to industry growth right now: a pronounced lack of skilled labor. And, of course, we stll have a magazine to put out with the same "by builder, for builder" content that's always been the well-spring from which all things JLC flow.
In the meantime, we at JLC hope you'll hammer on the site, and provide your candid feedback about how to accomplish the goal of improving skills and championing construction best practices.