So, I heard you guys like red? XD Anyway, welcome to the new and improved Shotgun Shuffle 2.0! I've spent the last couple of months working on this off and on, and I hope you guys like it. This isn't just a new coat of paint, by the way-- there's a lot of new stuff under the hood, too.
Why a new site?
For years now, Chris has been hosting this comic on Site 5, which was charging him nearly $200 a month for a VPS (virtual private server) and monthly backups. We were fine leaving it there until over the last year or so, their support and service quality has gone down, DRAMATICALLY. No doubt some of this was pandemic-related, but first they got rid of their phone support entirely, then their chat support. This meant any time the site went down because the server needed a restart or something else relatively simple, we had to put in an email ticket to get it done. Strike #1. Then in recent months, entire parts of their backend client area stopped working. No webhost manager, no CPanel, nothing. Strike #2. Finally, the actual plugin/theme that SS has relied on for years, ComicPress + ComicEasel, was deprecated and no longer being supported or updated by the creator. I was terrified to update Wordpress or other plugins because of the worry that an update might break ComicPress entirely, and without access to CPanel or FTP on Site5, rolling back any changes would not be easy. Strike #3 -- YOU'RE OUT! So I decided to get us a new webhost AND build a new website not reliant on ComicPress at the same time.
Building the site
Ended up getting a VPS from Godaddy for less than $50 a month, and I know from prior experience that they have pretty much 24/7 customer support and I can always reboot the server myself from their client area if I need to. So I began the process of cloning the site over to a development environment on the new server. As I mentioned before, the CPanel on Site5 was no longer working, so I couldn't access the file manager or the database directly to create backups. Instead, I was stuck with using plugins in Wordpress to generate what I needed. One major problem with this, however: 12+ years of comics makes for a gigantic backup (31.6 GB), and every plugin I tried kept choking on it. I finally managed to create the backup in pieces: one for the database, one for the wordpress install and themes, plugins, etc, and one for the wp-uploads folder (where all the comic images and every other image or video ever uploaded to the site is stored). Backups successfully created and downloaded, now I had to set about re-creating the site on the new webhost from these pieces. Just uploading all the files to the correct directory structure took 3 days alone. Then I had to make a new database, import the old table structure and contents from the old database, and then connect the wordpress installation to this new database. After about 2 solid weeks of work, I finally had a development clone of the site to work with.
Now the hard part. I spent the next month or so building out a new website (still based on Wordpress). I found a new theme framework and plugin that work similarly to ComicPress with custom post types, but with more robust possibilities for new features (more on that in a bit). Created a child theme for the site that I could mess with and add/change some functionality without messing with the base theme's files, then coded some new php templates to add things that I know you guys would want but that the base theme didn't do (comments on the home page's comic, for instance, or avatars pulled from images of various characters).
But it's so...RED
Finally, Chris and I collaborated on a new look for the site. He designed the Pumpkin banner you see up top, and then I re-styled the CSS of the theme to coordinate with that. I know it's a big change in color scheme from what you've been used to for the past decade, but we really like it a lot and hope you will, too. Chris loves collecting playing cards, and his inspiration for the new banner and site design was actually one of the rarest sets of playing cards in the world, the Scarlett Tally-Ho Playing Cards, with only 950 decks ever made:
He actually turned his design into a background for his computer, so here's a full-size version of that background for you guys:
So, What's New?
As I mentioned, there are some new features that come with this new site. Comics now display the number of views, comments, and likes right below the comic image. As on the old site, below each comic is a set of navigation buttons that link to the next comic, previous comic, first comic, or most recent comic. And on all comic pages besides the home page, I've also put a second set of navigation buttons ABOVE the comic image, to make it quicker to flip through comics while you're browsing or looking for a specific comic (thanks for the suggestion, Darnill!) There are also sharing buttons to share to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or to copy the URL.
Tags and New Unlocked Patreon Posts
You may also notice that on other comics besides the home page (which I'm trying to keep uncluttered), there are now some linked descriptors below the comic including Tags, Characters, and Locations. Characters and Locations are fairly self-explanatory: they will list the characters appearing in the comic (or occasionally characters mentioned in the comic if it's significant-- for example the first mention of Rebecca occurs in a comic she doesn't physically appear in, but I still tagged her in it). Tags are more for "arcs" or "subject matter", if that makes sense. For example, I've got tags for different relationship pairings, like Kyle/Tarra or David/Ellie. I also have tags for things like D52, or Esymmetry, Quinn's Hairclip, or the Camsite Saga. I also have a tag for Unlocked Patreon posts. Speaking of those, I have just added quite a few of those comics to the site, mostly chronicling "Quinn's Bad Night" including the house party with Ian, Stalker Pro, and the garbage disposal incident.
This is a work-in-progress, as I have to manually go through every comic and add these tags. I'm about 300 comics in right now. Once the project is done, I'll add some menu items that link to pages which list all the various tags/characters/locations. In the meantime, please feel free to click on the tags and check them out-- they should display a custom archive page of comics which contain that character/tag/location. Just keep in mind that these lists aren't complete yet, so there will definitely be stuff missing from them right now.
Speaking of the archive, that page is also new and improved. All the archived comics are in descending order (newest to oldest) instead of ascending, and show a thumbnail next to the comic title, along with the number of likes, views, and the date published. The thumbnails in particular should hopefully make it easier to find a specific comic you're looking for. There is also a new Chapters page, which you can use to click on a chapter and jump directly to the first comic in that chapter.
What's up with the Avatars?
I also want to touch on the comment avatars briefly. ComicPress handled these on the old site, and since we ditched ComicPress, this meant I had to code a new custom function to handle them for this site. So, if you don't have a custom avatar already set up on Gravatar, the site will randomly generate you an avatar in the comment section. These do NOT persist, so you will not have the same avatar with each comment you make. In fact, the avatars will change entirely if you refresh the page. I know some of you may be attached to whatever avatar you used on the old ComicPress setup, so I made an Avatars page under the Extras section in the menu. Head on over there and you can browse all the available avatars (I do plan to add some new ones to the lineup eventually). That page also explains how to download your favorite avatar and set it up on Gravatar so that you can keep the same avatar here for all of your comments. Please make sure you use the same email address on Gravatar that you do to comment here, otherwise it won't work! Other miscellaneous stuff: If you use a RSS reader, the new RSS url you'll want to add to your feeds is: https://shotgunshuffle.com/feed/?post_type=comic
The heck is a Subscribe Star?
Finally, after being asked by several people for this option, we recently set up a Subscribe Star account. This is just an alternative to Patreon for those who would rather not use their service. Both Patreon and Subscribe Star will have identical content and tiers, so you won't be missing out by choosing one over the other. The Subscribe Star account JUST got approved, so please give me a few days to copy over the Patreon posts. We've also added Paypal and Cashapp links to the Donate page if you would like to support the comic with a one-time donation. Donations or subscriptions are never expected or required, but they are much appreciated and help keep this site (and our big little family) going strong!
In conclusion, yikes.
I still have some more tweaks to the theme to do, especially on the mobile version. If you run into any problems/bugs, please let me know in the comments or tag me in the discord server. This has been a whole hell of a lot of work, and still more ahead for me to finish, but it was definitely worth it. Thanks everyone, and welcome to Shotgun Shuffle 2.0!! -Claire