New Site Vs. Cleaning Up A Site

Are you a professional? Do you have a website? Does your website represent you as a professional?

Many professionals decide to create their own website using products such as MS Publisher, Frontpage, Word, etc. The thing about programs like these are that they use WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) technology, which makes it easy for them to use because they don’t have to learn code, but also creates many issues that don’t help them get the professional look they’re hoping for. Now, if you’re only creating one page, you can probably do a fairly competent job with things like this and move on with life. But almost every time, if you want to add more than the one page, things start going haywire.


coding example, modified

I recently had conversations with a couple of friends who do a lot of what I do. I asked one question; if you had your choice, would you rather create a new page from scratch or would you rather fix up a page someone created using WYSIWYG. Both said they’d must rather create from scratch, and that it would cost the client less to do so most of the time.

See, there’s the caveat… MOST of the time. Let me explain. Back in 2008 I wrote a post after I had finished working on a client’s site. He had used MS Publisher to create his site, and if he’d only stayed with the main page it wouldn’t have looked so bad. But every succeeding page looked different. The menu kept changing colors, the background moved around, he had a picture on one page that totally threw off the spacing, multiple fonts, sometimes multiple colored fonts… it was a mess. He did the best he could, but when he couldn’t get things looking right, he contacted me.

What I did for about 3 hours was try to remove code. He only had 10 pages, but there was so much code that it took me all that time to take care of 3 pages. That was ugly, and I was irritated. And I noticed that as I was removing code, his menu really wasn’t working anymore. It was totally skewed by Publisher because it had decided to create the menu on each page as an image, which means I couldn’t make it standard. Eventually what I decided to do was recreate his first page cleanly, figuring out his colors and changing a few, and that included his menu. It took a couple of hours, but once I got it done I then had a template that worked for all of the rest of his pages except one.

That was the one page with the image, and it took me a couple of hours trying to figure out how to get everything on that page to balance with all the other pages based on the new template. Eventually I got it figured out, moved all the other content, uploaded to his new host and all was right with the world. That took 10 hours to do, but would have taken much longer if I hadn’t been able to just create the template.

Recently I did another similar project. This one wasn’t as simple; more pages, more pages that were designed differently than the other pages. This was going to involve removing code, but also adding code. WYSIWYG allows for some formatting things that it doesn’t necessarily add code for, such as numbering and listing items, and it sometimes does some funky things with images. If you’ve ever noticed how some blogs have images that sit above or below the content instead of having the content wrap around images, like mine, you can bet those sites are most probably set up for WYSIWYG, although depending on the theme sometimes you’ll need to add some code to get those images to look right (I do).

Anyway, I had to remove a lot of code. Because of some tables on some pages, I couldn’t just create a template page for everything. However, I’ve learned some lessons over the years, and one is that when you can, copy newly cleaned code from one page to the other, always making sure to put it in the same place. That helped greatly when it came to the business name and the menus , and probably saved at least 3 hours of coding; many pages on the site, as I said. I found a few other places where I was able to do something similar, all saving time, and the final thing I did was to create a CSS file so that colors and fonts and other specialty things could be handled from one place.


color chart example

Of course, there’s still the little bit of extra coding one does when fixing things, and it’s always wise to make a copy of a page so that you remember what things looked like before you started so you can try to put them back where they belong. But it’s always important to make sure a website has some type of balance. If your site has a title, the title should always be in the same place. If it has a menu, the menu should always be in the same place. Think of it this way; if you were looking for someone to take care of you and went online to search, unless you knew them wouldn’t you potentially gauge their competence by how smooth their website was? No one needs to be perfect; you just look for some things to be standard so you can navigate through a site easily enough.

Oh, by the way; it only took me 13 hours to do more than 3 times the pages of the first site. We’re always learning more efficient ways to do our work so that we can hopefully save clients money and ourselves time and frustration. When you can, it’s probably better to allow the person working on your website to redesign certain things that will still look good but save you money. When you can’t, just acknowledge that it’s going to take time, that time costs money, and either bite the bullet or make changes one step at a time. That’s harder to do when you want a professional looking site, but you can only pay for what you can pay for. Yes, I meant to say that. 🙂

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Blogging/Sales Experiment; The Follow Up

In my last post, which was kind of brief, I mentioned that I was trying something new. That was to see if I could create HTML pages and attach them to this blog in some fashion.

The immediate answer turns out to be yes. I don’t know why I’d never thought about it before, but just because one has a blog, what would have prevented me from uploading HTML pages? Nothing, it seems. After all, I’ve uploaded pictures and files before. That part was actually very easy, as I just added a pretty much nothing page with one line, and it worked just fine.

The next part wasn’t as easy, though. I thought about it, and wondered how easy it would be to make at least the header look like the blog header. The first thing I realized is that I couldn’t just look at the source code and get what I needed because much of what you need is coded into the CSS files, along with the PHP files.

But I’m not so dumb; where there’s a will, there’s a way. It took me about an hour, but I figured out how to get the image to do what I wanted it to do so at least that looked like the blog. Then it took me another 10 minutes to figure out how to get the blog name onto the image; that was just stupidity on my part, and that’s one of the problems with trying to do things really late in the evening, or early in the morning, since it was almost 1:30 at this point. I did get it on there, though, got the font correct also. What I can’t do, though, is get the spacing correct. So, it’ll look like the main page, but the name will jump if someone comes to the page. That may or may not be a minor issue for some people.

The next thing I wanted to try was to see if I could get my brief content to look like it does on the blog. I spent 25 minutes on that before I decided either I was too tired or there’s something I’m missing. When I got the font and color to look like it does on the blog, it also added this line in front of the content, looking like some emails do when things are repeated and people aren’t using the > sign to indicate it. When I didn’t have the font color looking like my blog everything defaulted totally to the left. I tried adding the “blockquote” attribute, and things went, well, weird. Seems the blog software, even if it’s an independent page, just doesn’t like that one.

In the end, I’m left with some conclusions. One, can it be done; yes. Two, is it worth trying to make everything look like the rest of your blog? No. Three, is that a major deal? Probably not, but I’m troubled with some of the formatting issues I was having, especially everything defaulting totally to the left. I’d hate to get into having to add that “nbsp” thing all the time (I didn’t type the code in correctly because then you wouldn’t see it here) to add spaces for every line; that’s ugly coding, and way too much work if you want to have a long page with lots of content and products on it. At some point it might be worth it to do things that way. For now, though, I think I’ll continue sending people to my S&S blog to see my weekly specials. So much easier to deal with.

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CSS In 24 Hours

Although some of my friends might not believe it, I’m not an uber computer geek by any means. I learn what I need to learn, then go about my business until it’s time to learn something else.

Back in 2003, when I needed to learn HTML pretty quickly, I used a program called PageTutor. The fact that I learned HTML in just about 3 hours is proof enough for me to recommend it to people even now if you need to learn it. However, when it came time to learn CSS (cascading stylesheets), I found PageTutor couldn’t quite get me there.

So, I went to my favorite bookstore, Barnes and Noble, and went through all the books there on CSS. And the one I came home with was a champ. It’s called CSS In 24 Hours, and this was just the book I needed to help me get over the hump.

Not only was it quick and easy to use, but he gives you the different codes to use with each step, and you can go online and download templates and other information to help you see what’s going on. The chapters are broken into “hours”, hence the title, but you know I went through it faster than 24 hours. The best thing about a book is that you can go back and look at things over and over if you need to, and with this book, finding everything is simple and easy. Of course, I will make a confession, that being that I never make any websites based on CSS alone. One day I will, but so far, since I’ve noticed how websites with total CSS seem to not always have the same formatting from browser to browser, sometimes even within versions of the same browser, I’ve decided to stick with the

attribute to at least keep the basic format stable.

Anyway, I recommend CSS In 24 Hours for anyone who needs to learn CSS in a hurry, and without much hassle.

CSS In 24 Hours
by Kynn Bartlett