ActorAgeCheck Revamp Released

ActorAgeCheck has been completely redeveloped and redesigned for a more modern experience. Both the backend and the frontend bring new changes that come together to offer a faster, more reliable, and all around better experience.

There are several quality of life improvements alongside major overhauls to the design to make the website far more useful. This change will help manage growth into the future (as the website now transfers TB’s of data and handles millions of requests).

Original ActorAgeCheck Design

Why the redesign?
ActorAgeCheck was released in 2013 as a side project of mine during school. It was a fun experiment that ended up requiring more investments in CDN and caching technology to keep up with the demand. It received some pretty big cosmetic updates in 2014 (mostly mimicking the OS X Yosemite flat design) and retained its old design and feature set for the better part of the next decade.

It received several behind-the-scenes bug fixes and improvements over the years as we slowly chipped away at the aging codebase. It was adapted with an all new caching system (two custom-built ones, actually) to support future development and ensure that the website was very fast. However, the aging codebase was proving to hinder performance as well as hindering potential future developments. The websites frontend and backend have had hundreds of updates since 2014; however, most of these were just patches (e.g. better international language support) or minor improvements to ensure the website still functioned as intended alongside server software upgrades.

What’s New?

There’s a lot to unwrap in the new version, so a summary of the most noticeable changes are below. Keep in mind that not every change is noted (and even some frontend changes may not be in this overview). The idea here was to completely modernize the website and prepare for potential future deployments and projects. The goal remained the same as was set in 2014: fast and privacy-centric. That means no accounts, no newsletters, no signups, etc.

Complete Redesign

The new release has a completely re-imagined UI with an emphasis on ensuring that relevant information is available no matter what page you’re on. It also focuses on accessibility and ensuring that the important information is legible and clear. No more blur/flat styling! This does not necessarily represent a final design, but rather indicates our new approach to designing new elements of the site. If you have any suggestions, use the new contact form to let us know. Your help in improving the site is always appreciated!

Dark mode is now also supported with a completely new darker UI!

An Improved Search

An all new searching system is now available with search suggestions as you type! The search experience is more responsive and now presents clearer and more relevant results.

Cast searching and movie credit searching
In addition to searching for actors, movies, and TV shows: you may now search on movie/tv show credit pages for the person you’re looking for. You can also search actor pages for a specific movie. These new in-depth search options give you the ability to quickly narrow down and focus on exactly what you’re looking for without needing to scroll through a ton of results!

TV Show Support

Introducing TV show support. This is an initial version of the release and more refined options will be released over time. If you have suggestions on how this feature can be improved, use the contact form.

Crew listing

Movie and TV Show credit pages now offer crew information (e.g. Directors, Writers, Producers) in addition to actor information. Crew credit pages for individual people are now available as well, allowing you to view their acting roles and their crew work as well.

Submission form for corrections/suggestions

ActorAgeCheck has always been receptive of corrections or suggestions through email; however, there hasn’t been an easy way to make quick suggestions to a pages content.

We now have a contact form that offers the ability to make a correction to any specific URL on the site. If you click the “Report a problem/concern” button at the bottom of any page, it will take you to a form where you only need to fill out your name (or nickname) and a small message field with your suggestions or corrections. This means that you can now more easily make submissions anonymously, if desired. It also means that it’s overall quicker to make improvements to the site.

We hope that these changes will help facilitate ensuring that the website has the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Other enhancements

As previously stated: there’s almost too many enhancements and improvements across every aspect of the website. Even in the quick breakdown below, they are not all noted.

Quality of life enhancements
Several QoL improvements have been made across the site. For example: actor birthdays are now displayed on search result pages. An actors death day (if applicable) is now listed on search results and inside movie credits. Actor birthplaces are now displayed. Improved grammar on credit pages.
Critical information is now more prominently displayed across the site.

Improved CDN Distribution/Improved caching
An improved caching system and a more distributed CDN network means that pages are returned faster and more reliably, even during times of heavy use.

Homepage Improvements
The main landing page of ActorAgeCheck now offers a clearer overview of where to get started. The main page still includes a list of recently searched, but this has expanded to now also include a list of the most popular actors and actresses.

Module-based system
There is new enhancements in both the frontend and backend that will make it easier to develop features moving forward. A new module based system ensures that feature development will be possible. This will be an ongoing improvement effort.

ActorAgeCheck October Website Update

ActorAgeCheck has had a minor update to improve performance and prevent downtime in certain conditions.

The image server has been slightly modified to prevent resource hogging in the event that the image database is failing to return image data timely. The site experienced an issue with its image database today which resulted in website timeouts or severe slowdowns (e.g. in some cases taking 30 seconds or longer to load a page).

I have made some improvements to the image system to fail gracefully in the event that our image database is not returning images in a timely manner.

This change will have no user-facing impact except in times of technical difficulties with a moving part of the site. If the image server fails to return images in a timely manner, it will no longer cause an overall site slowdown or timeout during times of heavy traffic.

ActorAgeCheck 1.0.40 website update

ActorAgeCheck.com recently went down for maintenance on January 28th 2021. This was to address some backend issues that were resulting cache data not being cleared from the server as frequently as it should be.

This issue didn’t have any user facing impact, but the backend was not working as intended.

Maintenance completed after a couple of hours and I continue to work on backend changes; however, I am confident that I can complete these changes without taking the site down for maintenance and without any major user impact.

This update also:

  • Adds support for movie titles with a question mark in their title. In some cases, this would result in a 404 error due to part of the movie title being interpreted as a query string
  • Improves recently searched list links and self corrects any titles with unapproved special characters
  • Prevents failed responses from being cached

I will be performing these changes and optimizations over the next few days. During this time, the website may be slightly slower than normal. I do not expect any downtime or other issues during this work.

Thanks for your support!

ActorAgeCheck 1.0.39 website update

ActorAgeCheck.com has received a minor update today to improve speed and functionality. A new version is still on the way, but this minor update has some large backend changes that should result in a much faster experience and will pave the way for future development.

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy!

This update:

  • Adds support for special characters in the search field, and improves foreign-alphabet compatibility for person pages as well as movie pages
  • Improvements to foreign language display
  • A brand new caching system has been activated.
    • The previous caching system worked well; however, it made two calls to the cache system for every request in an effort to reduce processing time and get data processed in the backend quicker. This only reduced processing time in some scenarios, and actually increased it in scenarios where the cache data was valid. I felt this could be streamlined, so the new caching system is based on a database architecture and a single system call is now made for each cache request, with all logic handled in one sweep. The difference should be very noticeable when the site is under stress.

      Note: This new cache system will be monitored to ensure it is improving site responsiveness, and not hindering it.

ActorAgeCheck.com 1.0.38 website update

Update (November 6th 2019)
As planned, the image subdomain has been completely disabled and will now show an error message. Please update your usage accordingly. I do not have any information at this time about whether it will return.

The current iteration of ActorAgeCheck.com has received a minor update to assist with performance and responsiveness. It also fixes a few issues with images, along with adding some usability enhancements.

This update:

  • Improves clarity when visiting a new movie or actor page from the cast list on a movie page or the credits list on an actor page. The new page will now highlight and scroll to the relevant movie or individual, which should greatly improve the usability of the site.
  • Improvements to the caching system, which now allows credits and cast lists to be cached.
  • Made changes to allow text input on the search field while a page is still loading. Prior to this release, the search bar would not accept input until every image and script has finished loading.
  • Reverted image serving to the previous image backend. Due to changes with the image subdomain backend, I’ve delegated image serving back to the https://actoragecheck.com/image/xxx.png URI. As of writing, the image subdomain will remain unavailable for the foreseeable future.
  • Slightly increased the recently searched cool down period
    This change has been reverted as of November 10th 2019

As always, if you have any feedback or suggestions on what I can do to improve ActorAgeCheck.com, please reach out to the team using the contact form on the site. All feedback is welcome and will be taken into consideration (particularly during the development of the overhauled site)

ActorAgeCheck.com 1.0.37 website update

ActorAgeCheck.com has received a minor update today in preparation for the imminent revamp. This update fixes a few issues relating to HTTP to HTTPS redirection.

This update:

  • Addresses an issue that could cause URL’s to lose their easier-to-read permalink on HTTP to HTTPS redirection situations.
  • Addresses an issue which caused recently searched links to be presented as non-secure HTTP links even if you’re visiting the secure site.
  • Added failsafes to core components to prevent non-HTTPS access. This ensures content is always served securely.

ActorAgeCheck.com 1.0.36 website update

UPDATE (Feb 3 2019)
Dynamic reCAPTCHA enabled
A recent server side update has been pushed out that now automatically enables and disables reCAPTCHA as deemed necessary by the risk level determined by incoming connections. This means the entire reCAPTCHA system will be disabled unless suspicious activity is detected that the server cannot mitigate (in which case, reCAPTCHA will activate and you may have to solve a captcha). This means in cases where the server does not see any issues, there will be no reCAPTCHA scripts sent by the server and no verification completed.

ActorAgeCheck.com has been updated to enhance the security and performance of the website. This update is a precursor to the new overhaul of the website, and has two goals: combat bots to improve performance by giving server power to those who need it (humans, i.e. you, the user), as well as server-side enhancements to the caching system.

This update focuses on two new changes to the sites infrastructure and client-side code, and marks one of the final updates of the original website release prior to the overhaul. This update:

Adds reCAPTCHA to the search system
I know, I know, most people aren’t a huge fan of those impromptu quizzes to prove you’re not the worlds greatest artificial intelligence. “Select the traffic lights” aren’t fun, but I’ve decided it’s a necessary addition as I continue to improve the site, especially with the new features coming in the major update. This reCAPTCHA protection applies to the search system on the site (searching for actors/movies/etc) and not individual pages. reCAPTCHA is smart enough that if it trusts you, you shouldn’t even notice this change.
An additional note is visible at the bottom of this post if you’re using an API

Cache enhancement and clearing
The cached data collected over the past few weeks has been reset to prevent issues with any code changes in this push.

API changes
There are no changes to the API with the reCAPTCHA change. We suggest implementing reCAPTCHA on your end, but there are no changes to the actual use of the API itself. No limits and no reCAPTCHA requirement.

ActorAgeCheck.com 1.0.35 website update

An update has been pushed out to ActorAgeCheck.com.

This is a very minor update that mainly focuses on server-side adjustments to the caching system to improve response time and ensures users are not waiting too long for a response.

An overhaul is still planned and I should have more details about that shortly.

This update:

  • Made some adjustments to the server side database to make sure all pages are responsive and served as quickly as possible. Rocket Loader can only do so much, but we need to get the content to it as quickly as possible.
  • Adjusted caching policies to make sure CloudFlare is served cached data whenever possible to ensure the quickest response time; however, we’ve adjusted cache time-to-live to make sure users are getting the latest data.
  • Client side: CSS improvements for older browsers
  • Client side: CSS improvements for older mobile devices (mainly performance)
  • Client side: Some pages were displaying an error for some images. This has been corrected with some JavaScript checks.

ActorAgeCheck 1.0.34 website update

An update has been pushed out to ActorAgeCheck.com. This update made some changes to the core foundation of the website and its backend in preparations for a big overhaul that I first mentioned in the last website update.

Since the last update, I’ve made progress on all the items I had previously mentioned, including the full deprecation of the old image subdomain.

Todays update consists primarily of backend overhauls in preparation for a completely redesigned and vastly improved version of the site. These changes are mostly on the backend; however, since the current iteration of the website is able to utilize the new backend, there are some changes on the frontend (as the backend does a lot of content generation). As a result, the current website (1.0.34) is utilizing some components from the new backend, which results in a slight change to how some content is presented on the current site.

Some temporary changes as I prepare to launch the new site:

  • TV Shows are referenced in some places on the site. It is pulling these references from the new backend; however, the functionality is not yet complete and the current frontend cannot interface with the new responses from the backend to actually display any TV Show content. The ability to search TV Shows and display their information will become available when the new website launches, and won’t be available prior to that.
  • Some API’s are returning slightly different responses with modified organization. This is temporary while the old frontend still exists. Once the website is completely overhauled, the responses will return to the original organization.
  • Some API’s have become exposed but are not used on the current frontend. For example: search autocomplete. The frontend has exposed a new script that returns autocomplete results for the search field. It is in development and testing and is not currently active. Like the TV Show functionality, this feature will become available when the new website launches. You should not be calling it from your scripts, since its state is likely to change prior to launch.

ActorAgeCheck 1.0.33 website update

An update has been pushed out to ActorAgeCheck.com. While I am planning an overhaul of the entire website, I’ve gone ahead and released a maintenance update to improve the performance and reliability of data on the website. Additionally, this maintenance update includes various server-side enhancements that will carry over into the new overhauled website. I’ll post more on the brand new overhauled version shortly.

This maintenance update (1.0.33) includes:

  • HTTPS is now enabled and forced on all domains. Non-HTTPS links will push users to the equivalent HTTPS page.
  • Images are now served by the image subdomain by default on most pages. Some pages may occasionally revert to the old https://actoragecheck.com/image/ URL. This will eventually be completely phased out in favour of the image subdomain which boasts a much faster response time since the image no longer passes through a few servers for processing.
    • Deprecation heads up: The https://actoragecheck.com/image/xxx.png URL that still serves images is being phased out and will eventually (prior to the overhaul) no longer serve any images. If you link or reference images, please prepare to move to the new https://image.actoragecheck.com/ domain which is far more responsive.
  • Caching is now utilized for almost all lookups to improve the responsiveness of movie and actor detail pages. These lookups are now aggregated and cached on the ActorAgeCheck server and will be served if the cached data has not expired.
  • CloudFlare has now been applied to all aspects of the website as another layer of caching and to improve content delivery
  • Movie and actor lookups are now limited to 20 results each to improve performance
  • The FAQ section is being moved to a separate link rather than an HTML object with a :hover CSS rule. This will improve the sites usability. * Note: this change may take a couple of weeks to roll out to all visitors *

Thanks for your support! The overhauled website will be detailed shortly, but this maintenance update will enhance the experience on the current website. It focuses primarily on responsiveness, caching improvements, and forcing security. All of these changes are also laying the foundation for the new site.

Please note, due to the aggressive intelligent use of caching, some of these changes may not be present on all pages of the website. As cached data expires server-side, the new data pull will contain any relevant changes as mentioned above. Since cached data is still valid, I’m not going to flush any of the currently existing cache, but will instead roll features in and phase deprecated functions out as I can. This will make sure the site remains reliable and responsive.