February 7, 2008

RID online gets a facelift: new/fixed features in store?

[Update: The new search is now functional. Read about some of the changes here.]

I use the online version of the Royal Institute Dictionary nearly every day, so I tend to catch any changes to it quickly. Sometime between this afternoon and just now, RID online got a golden makeover:

Usually with the Royal Institute website, you can tell a change is coming because they break the website while they're changing it. And sure enough, you can't actually use the search feature on the main page of the dictionary right now, presumably while they're making whatever transition they're making. It returns a 404 page not found error, though you can still search individual letters. (Then again, it's 2 a.m. right now. But they don't understand the beauty of the internet if they think there aren't people like me who use their dictionary in the middle of the night.)

Also notice a new version number (version 0.9) down at the bottom of the page with the contact and copyright info:

Prior to now, no version number was given.

I've covered the new online version of RID99 (so-called by me because it corresponds to the 1999 print version) extensively since its release last June, particularly focusing on usability issues and other ways it's not meeting its electronic potential. [See here, here, here, and here.] I sent some feedback by email to the address given on the site shortly after the new dictionary showed up online, but got no reply and never saw my suggestions implemented. A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit the Royal Institute, and while this wasn't the main purpose of the trip, I took the opportunity to pass on a list of issues that I had prepared and printed. I hoped it would be received in the spirit of constructive criticism that I intended.

I'm not going to go so far as to claim any direct connection between this site update and my suggestions (or my nagging, depending on how you look at it). But if this makeover on the site means we can expect improvements soon (like, in the morning, I hope), then at least I know they're still developing the online tool. It's gratifying to see it get better, regardless.

In fact, at least one of the issues that I originally wrote about has been fixed: even though the browsable full-text version of the dictionary is still missing large chunks from the letters ต and ส, you can now search words from the missing chunks and get results. This wasn't the case at first. Progress has been slow in coming, but it looks like we might be getting there.

I'll have a full report of any changes I can find after it's fully operational again. Stay tuned.

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