You may notice some “construction work” taking place in various areas of the website in the weeks ahead. Much of the work is minor in nature. But one major project concerns how visitors get around the site. The American Mafia website menu, which has (for too long) occupied the rightmost column of the screen layout, is being condensed and moved to a horizontal drop-down menu bar at or near the top of the page.

American Mafia history website article page with new menu bar
The new menu bar will be seen at the very top of most pages.
American Mafia history website home page with new menu bar
It will appear a bit lower on the home page, with a logo and the Today in History box occupying the very top of the page.
American Mafia history website Rat Trap article page with new menu bar
It will take the place of the cumbersome American Mafia logo at the top of Rat Trap articles on the site.

In addition, a condensed text-only menu will appear at the bottom of every page, along with the copyright notice. Freeing up the column (which occupied as much as 50% of a screen window, depending on the device being used), should permit greater flexibility in article layout and easier readability for article text.

While doing the work of juggling layouts to spread content over the wider available area, we are also editing and updating. The web links page was the first to experience this overhaul. Non-functioning links were eliminated, others were updated and a few were added. The logos for linked pages were eliminated in favor of a cleaner-looking and better organized listing.

American Mafia website Web Links page
The new Web Links page

We are also making a few concessions in the interest of search engine optimization (nothing that should affect the visitor experience in any way) and taking back some concessions made to our affiliate advertising service. We had allowed an “experiment” in the unrestricted placing of ads that resulted in ads being plastered all over the site, including full-screen advertisements at the top of main access pages and others thrown at visitors before they were permitted to access linked pages. While this did generate additional revenue and was probably considered a very positive change for advertisers and the advertising service, in our opinion it was not worth the terrible disruption in the visitor experience. We are working to ensure that ads do not occupy the top portions of any pages and do not impede visitor access to linked pages.

American Mafia website homepage

We have been working on a number of adjustments to the website in order to make it more “friendly” to mobile device users.

Changes include less reliance on table formatting, scalable images and typesizes, and larger link buttons. These were prompted by Google’s announcement that sites deemed unfriendly to mobile users would be ranked poorly in web searches from mobile devices. But we believe the site generally benefits from a cleaner, more streamlined look.

Even desktop users will find the site easier to use, as most pages will require no specific web browser width – the page contents should size to fit whatever area your browser window is sized to.

As always, we welcome your feedback on these changes and on any other issues you may have with the American Mafia history website.

Online bookstore image

The American Mafia website’s bookstore has been redesigned. The online store – an affiliate of Amazon.com – features a selection of books relating to various areas of organized crime history. It contains a number of new releases as well as some underworld history classics. There is also a search function that enables visitors to locate books dealing with their specific interests.

UPDATE: Sorry to announce that this bookstore feature has since been turned off.

Book Notes section

The Book Notes section of the website has been reformatted. Older links on the page have been repaired. And some distracting widgets have been removed. The page should have a more organized look to it than it previously did.

It has been awhile since book reviews have been added to the page. I have a bunch to add and will begin doing that shortly.

Today in history image

I’ve been tinkering a little with the Today in History box on the main entrance of the website. (So, if it starts to screw up, that’s the reason.) In case you’re wondering, the information in that box is generated by a JavaScript program that checks the current date and finds relevant historic news data and prints it onto the screen.

I have reformatted the box to display information in neat columns, and I have added the ability to occasionally find and display a photograph related to the historic news items (and a small caption). I hope that makes the Today in History box just a bit more interesting.

Budget problems in the State of Connecticut and questionable business practices at Amazon.com are complicating the redesign of the American Mafia history website. We have been a longtime affiliate of Amazon.com and have provided sale links for books, movies and other Amazon products that have generated many tens of thousands of dollars in sales for the Internet retailer. Our relationship with Amazon has ended, however.

One of the steps that the State of Connecticut has taken to close its budget gap is to require that Amazon charge sales tax on purchases made through in-state web affiliates, like our website. Amazon has steadfastly refused to charge its customers sales tax. In the wake of the new Connecticut rule, Amazon fired all of its affiliates in the Nutmeg State.

We will shortly take steps to create a working relationship with another online bookseller, like Barnes and Noble, in order to serve the dual purposes of keeping the website financially viable and providing useful product links to our web visitors. In the meantime, we must remove the MANY Amazon sales links from the website.

 


Update (14 Feb 2013): With our relocation to Vermont this past summer, we have reestablished a relationship with Amazon.com and will offer revised links to books through that company.

The American Mafia history website’s Who Was Who biographies are slowly coming online in a new location. While they will remain accessible from the main mafiahistory.us website, the biographies will be held in their own site on Blogger.com. The direct address for accessing the biographies is: http://mob-who.blogspot.com/ .

By placing the biography entries into the blogger site, they will be more easily searchable by name and keyword. With just 15 entries transferred into the new site to this point, the index has already reached 120 terms. As in the old biographies, links are provided from the biographies to American Mafia articles and crime family boss listings. Links to relevant issues of Informer and related Amazon.com books have been added.

All of the biographies are being edited/rewritten to bring them up to date with information acquired over the past nine years.

I’ve started this blog in an effort to keep visitors informed of behind-the-scenes happenings on The American Mafia history website (mafiahistory.us). At this moment, the website is undergoing another redesign. My hope is to be able to present you a more streamlined and usable site in the very near future.

If you have any ideas for how the site could be made more useful or “friendly,” please feel free to share those ideas with me. Email messages can be sent to tphunt@gmail.com. You can also find me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/tphunt).