Exciting Day at RD2

Apr 24 2006

Last Friday was a pretty exciting day at RD2, and, having only been with the company for a month and this being my first “real” job in the web design world, it probably made it that much more exciting.

We are very close to launching a site, so we are finishing up the Quality Assurance process. Some very interesting issues arose Friday. I wasn’t directly involved in the team that built the site, as it was already in progress when I came here about a month ago, but I helped on occasion when an extra hand was needed, and was involved in the QA team.

In the morning we had a couple of issues with WordPress and how it handled a link to a category with no posts in it. When choosing a category with no posts, WordPress returned a 404 page that had no style or information about the error. So Chris Griego did some surgery on the PHP that handles 404 errors and fixed it to look and see if the category is present and send it to the category page saying there aren’t any posts in this category yet. Thinking that was the end, we felt good and went to lunch.

While at lunch we got a call saying there was an issue and we should get back as soon as possible. We had a display bug in IE on the PC that we later determined was a reflow issue. The kicker? This bug only showed up on the very first load, and when I say very first load, that is what I mean. Even after clearing cache, temporary files, history, and anything else that affected IE, the problem couldn’t be recreated.

The issue was with a logo at the bottom of the screen which was absolutely positioned. On the first load, it would display in the wrong spot over some of the text content. What was causing this was that the sIFR we are using for the headers is loading after the page is drawn and the element was not being re-flowed correctly in the document. Chris finally found a possible fix to cause IE to reflow the document correctly and we implemented the fix.

The only problem with that was we didn’t really know how to test it, because almost every PC in the office we could think of had already loaded the page. So after remoting into some servers and having Mike fire up his Parallels virtual machine on his Intel Mac Mini, we found out that the issue had been fixed.

After the reflow issue had been fixed, a big sigh of relief came over me and, again, I thought it was over. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Another issue was noticed with some of the image replacement we had in place. The image replacement we are using was flickering when you moused over the links they were contained in. IE sometimes does not cache background images set by CSS and will download them each time you change the style rule for the element where they are applied (and thus force IE to re-render that part of the screen). I had never encoutnered this issue before, so I did some searching and found that you could have Apache force IE to cache the images. After a few hiccups, we fixed the problem.

For a while during the day, especially during the reflow issue, I had no idea how we were going to fix these issues. Fortunately, we have a talented team when it comes to CSS, PHP, and JavaScript issues.

Overall, Friday was probably the best day I’ve had at work so far. I got to stretch my brain and come up with some innovative solutions for problems I didn’t even know existed. It was a very exciting day and after all the issues were worked out, Leia took me and Chris to get some ice cream to celebrate a hard day’s work.

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