Category Archives: Web Stuff

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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Two Free Programs, Two Great Chess Sites

As the title says, today I’m going to introduce two free programs you might not know about, and then talk about two free chess sites that those of you who like playing chess might enjoy, and I’ll have something else for you at the end.

The first is a free PDF program called doPDF. Obviously what it lets you do is print pdf files from any program on your computer. I’d been looking for one of these for a long time, because the one I had was free as long as you wanted to look at an ad every time you created a pdf. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except it opened up IE every single time, and if I was creating a bunch of pdfs, or needed to make corrections on one, that just got tiring after awhile. Anyway, there are no frills with the program, but at least it lets you save your pdf wherever you want to.

The next program is something from a company called Brothersoft. The program is called Convert MP4 to MP3. Plain and simple, that’s also what it does. Once again this was something I’d been looking for. Through a script from Greasemonkey, which you can use with Firefox, I can actually download movies in an MP4 format from YouTube. However, many times I’m downloading the video because I really want the song, and I’d been wanting to add those songs to my music database. So I found this program, totally freeware, and you can convert multiple files at a time. Works very fast as well, and since the download from YouTube is the highest quality download, what you end up getting after the conversion is high quality as well. That is, as long as the original version was high quality to begin with.

Done with programs; now onto chess. It’s one of the few games I play online, probably because it’s not something that you have to sit down and play live with someone, although there are sites that do that. For both of these sites, you get to make your move, then go about your life until you get an email notification that there’s been a move in a game you’re playing. I love that.

The first site I’m going to mention is called Scheming Mind, and it’s a site created by a friend of mine named Austin Lockwood; I’m not quite sure where he’s from, but the site is located somewhere in Europe. Anyway, it’s a free chess site as long as you play fewer than 10 games at a time. If you want to play unlimited games, it’s only $20 a year, and trust me he’s not getting rich off the site.

Sire and I play here, and I think it works for us because not only can we talk during the games, but every message we write is saved so we can go back and read them again, or address them after a move so we can take some time to think about things. The site also offers multiple types of games and different speeds of games, so that you can have as many as 30 days for each player to make a single move or as few as 5 days. You can join tournaments, though if you’re playing for free you can only join one tournament at a time. You can also ask the site to suggest a player based on ranking criteria, then select someone who they suggest or ask for more suggestions. However, sometimes it’s a hit or miss as to whether you’ll be playing that game, since people can reject you. Overall I love the site.

The other chess site is called Net-Chess, and I like this site as well, but for a different reason. With this site you can play as many games as you want to, but you’ll also find that it can be overwhelming if you’re not paying attention to how you’re joining the games. Every game you get into is some kind of mini tournament. You can decide how many games you’re going to play against each opponent if you create the tournament, or you can join a tournament that fits your ranking; you’ll establish a real ranking after you’ve played so many games.

The overwhelming part is that you might not be paying attention and suddenly find yourself playing upwards of 40 or more games at one time. True, you get to make each individual move at your leisure, but for some folks, like myself, that’s a few too many games at once. I like to have 20 going when I can, mainly because some people won’t ever start the games every though they signed up, and some people will forget, being overwhelmed, and they’ll lose on time. As long as they’ve made 10 moves in the game, if they time out you automatically get both the win and the points, and points are given based on your rank and the rank of your opponent at the time.

There are the two free programs and the two chess sites. The final thing is a little motivational thing from a blog friend named Marelisa, whom I’ve mentioned thrice before, once within a post on great posts, once highlighting her blog on Blog Day 2009, and later on a post on creativity. Anyway she’s got another great post, short by her standards, titled 525+ Bucket List Ideas, somewhat based on the movie The Bucket List. Yeah, that’s pretty comprehensive, but that’s kind of her point, that there are limitless opportunities for all of us to find within ourselves to try if we’re predisposed to do it.

There you go; don’t ever say I don’t provide any value to anyone! lol

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Formspring.me

This is something different that I bet most of us wouldn’t really have the courage to use; at least I know I don’t.

It’s called Formspring.me. What it allows you to do is set up an account where people can anonymously ask you questions about pretty much anything, and you answer them. You have the opportunity to tell people the types of things you talk about so that maybe people will stay on topic, but they can deviate at any moment and ask you about pretty much anything.

How did I discover it? One of my Twitter friends, a local young lady, created an account that she’d heard of from someone else, and started promoting it there. She answers questions about sex, mainly about her own escapades, and no, I’m not going to link to it. Yeah, she’s pretty open about it on Twitter with people who follow her, and if she decides she wants to post something here about it then that’s on her.

Suffice it to say, she created the account, put it up on Twitter, and I tracked it there to see what it was all about. It’s eye opening stuff, and she’s really open about her thoughts and experiences. I didn’t know someone could experience so much before the age of 25; man, I’ve not lived at all!

Anyway, you’ll find it’s a pretty simple page. There’s no searching; you pretty much have to tell people you have an account once you create one, and you’ll probably have to keep telling them to keep them coming back. Actually, it might be a good thing for business sites; I might have to rethink this one for one of my sites. We’ll see.

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Klout

There’s another neat little web service that will tell you what they’ve perceived is your clout on Twitter. Of course, it’s called Klout.

What you do is put in your Twitter account name, it does some calculations, and then it comes out and gives you what it calls a Kscore. My score is 56, and strangely enough, out of everyone I personally know, I have the highest score of all of them; pays to have been around awhile, I figure. Then I checked some other names, and the only person I could find who was higher than me, that I kind of know (since I wasn’t interested in looking up Oprah or Ashton Kutcher, or any other celebrities for that matter), is Guy Kawasaki, who has an 82; ouch!

Klout tells you a bit more than that. Without signing up, it also gives you the names of people who are following you that you’re influencing in more than just a totally casual manner, and how you’re influencing them, as well as who’s possibly influencing you and how they’re doing it. One oddity about that is that one of the categories of influence is “casual”, and Sire happens to be the one person in that area for me. And it will also tell you the Kscore of those people. There’s one guy who supposedly influences me a lot, yet I don’t know who he is, and I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen any of his Twitter posts.

If you register you can get other information as well, such as statistics and content and some type of influence tracker. I’m not sure what any of those things are because I didn’t register yet, and I’m not sure if I will or not. Sometimes when you register for those things, they automatically go onto Twitter and tell everyone, and if I can’t control that I’m not going to be a happy camper. There’s also the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to cancel if I signed up, which has happened to one other thing that I just can’t figure out how to get out of.

Anyway, it’s just another bit of fun people can have with Twitter; give it a shot.

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Everyone’s Got An Opinion

Yesterday I was going through some of the forums with my little bit of advertising on my writing services. When I’m posting those articles, I always include a link to some article samples so people can see that I can write different ways on different topics. None of them are overly long, as it’s only supposed to be a sample.

I ended up getting a response from one guy on one of those forums. He wasn’t looking for a writer; he was looking to basically be a jerk. He wrote that he didn’t like my presentation and that no one would ever hire me as a writer if that’s all I could do.

What did I do? I went back to that forum and thanked him for his comment, and moved on. I figured there was no reason to get into a back and forth with the guy because, after all, what would it have solved? My articles are what they are, on my website that I really market the writing services from, and that’s that.

Now, what he could have been griping about is my website, and if that’s the case, well, then that’s only one person’s opinion of what they expect certain websites to look like. Now don’t get me wrong, because something I’m known to do is look at websites and judge them on how well I think they look. However, what I look for is more balance and readability than whether I overly like something or not.

There are things that put off many people, and one of those things is a lack of balance from page to page. Another is multiple fonts on a webpage, and images that suddenly show up without any rhyme or reason. Or content with lots of spelling mistakes. Or a lot of flash or too little flash or, or, or… you decide it.

The truth is there are many different websites, over 120 million at this juncture if we include blogs. Many that look the same are template websites, and many of us hate those because, well, they’re template websites. There are also websites on free platforms, although many of those are starting to go away. There are people who put a website together using programs like MS Publisher, which isn’t really a website tool, and, well, you get what you get. Usually those people haven’t studied some of the nuances of what might make a good website, but still, it assaults your senses.

With that being said, not every webpage is going to be pleasant for everyone. And not every style is supposed to be the same either. My SEO website looks like it does because I wanted it to look that way. Every page is outlined the same, and the menu is in the same place on each page. I marked a couple of my products on each page also; that’s fair, since they’re my products.

No, I’m not asking people whether they like that page or not. I probably should, since it’s supposed to be a business website, but I’m not. It is what it is, just as your site is what it is, and your blog is what it is. I like it, it’s doing okay, and until I get sick of it, that’s just how it’s going to look.

Because, in the end, everyone has an opinion; how often are we supposed to bend to everyone else’s opinions?