Lessons Learned While Re-building My Website
Get Input From Others Early
It was too easy to imagine that I had planned out the ideal website for myself. After thinking about it for quite a while, I felt confident to move ahead with my ideas; however, my first attempt at a re-design was pretty much disasterous. No cohesiveness to the visuals. No direction. Harder to navigate than the original site. Boring. What seemed so great in my mind’s eye really needed the benefit of outside opinions; I was too close to the project and too enamoured with my own ideas in the beginning. A small slice of humble pie was in order to keep me on track.
Standards Are Not Always Bad
I found myself wanting to rethink and redesign every aspect of the web browsing experience to make it “my own.” However, that is a fallacious concept as the web belongs to everyone as do its conventions and standards. As an example, blue, underlined links are immediately recognized as such and I was given the good advice not to mess with that. Other aspects of the site, including how the menu system works, the quantity of graphic elements, organizational principles of the page layout, and more came from realizing that standards exist for certain reasons.
Web Development is Harder Than it Should Be
Having not done serious web design work for quite a few years, getting back in recently has shown me that even a simple website requires an inordinate amount of understanding and study. No one technology or concept is particularly difficult, but when confronted with the sum total of having to know all of these technologies simultaneously, certain frustrations arose.
I’m just one man working on one small 8-page site and I’m quite astounded by the splintered, convoluted process required to create something that stands alongside my peers:
- HTML is not-so-difficult, but a little wordy (there surely must be easier ways to tag a chunk of text).
- CSS takes a sound concept and overcomplicates matters, in my opinion.
- This blog uses WordPress, so of course I will need to incorporate a little PHP to make the WordPress template match my existing site.
- I’ve foresee some MySQL as I maintain the blog in the future.
That doesn’t even cover the non-technical aspects of the process:
- SEO has its own set of considerations that can guide the structuring of the site, but I’ve only made cursory strides in that regard for my own site.
- Google AdWords, Google Analytics and Google Sitemaps are technologies that I’ve been encouraged to investigate, yet simply haven’t had the time to understand them yet.
- The blogging world suggests registering one’s blog with certain sites, like Technorati. I’ve yet to do so and am really even yet to understand what this process means. Are there other sites with whom I should register? Who uses this registration and in what ways?
- Blogging is an entire job unto itself, it seems. Understanding WordPress (When should I use a category? When should I use a tag?) reading other blogs, making comments and linking back to your own blog, having ideas and writing about them, investing the time to keep the blog content fresh, and more.
A Website is Never Done
I think this was the biggest wake-up call for me during the re-building process. There is always something to do:
- SEO and Accessibility improvements
- Checking for dead links site-wide
- Keeping WordPress up-to-date
- Learning new ways to leverage the website and generate traffic
- Updating the blog 2 or 3 times a week
- In general, understanding the underlying technologies better
- There are still 2 or 3 more subdomains to develop for the overall christopherdrum.com site
- Look into bug-tracking and Scrum tools and see how I can integrate certain data points automatically into the development site proper.
- Optimization of graphics and code to reduce load times
- Create the mobile version of the site(s)
- Investigate and learn new software tools for making the whole website building/maintaing process easier. DreamWeaver vs. Coda? WordPress’ built-in editor vs. MarsEdit?