Sunday, December 26, 2010

Journal of a New Web site

This adventure started when I lost my home page, otherwise known as index.html. It just disappeared. I had no idea where it went, but I knew I had no way to access my Web site. I called my Web site host, who had never failed to save my life in the past but declined to help me this time for less than $50 and hour. I will spare you the details of their new policy or their sudden decision to enforce their old policy.

I called my friend Doreen Hulsey who kept me from total panic. Eventually, I found an old index page on my laptop and was able to recreate it to the most recent version.Then, I realized the rest of my pages were blank. I downloaded them to my local folder feeling quite clever. The problem was they were all Web pages that couldn't be changed in Dreamweaver (my Web design program). This was very bad news.

Doreen is a Web site and software designer, and in a matter of minutes, we agreed that she would design a new Web site for me. Having designed my own, originally—even though I thought it was very complicated—I had no idea what was involved in doing it correctly. I was in for an education.

The good news was I knew what colors I wanted—earth tones—and that there were many pages of my copy floating around out there on the server that could be retrieved. Beyond those two things, I had a lot to learn. Here are some of the elements that had to be decided, rewritten, illustrated, or created from scratch:

  • Template: This would be used for every other page on the site, so we couldn't go forward until it was complete.
  • Home page: What elements should it include? How could we create some visual interest that would attract the reader's eye?
  • Color scheme: Earth tones mean different things to different people. For example, there are 50 shades of brown and caramel is not spelled camel (a typo), or even carmel.
  • Menus: Should we use buttons, drop down menus, or bars? And what pages would go in the main menu, at the top, or on the bottom?
  • Content: There was way too much copy and too many pages. What should we keep and what could we pitch?
  • Movement: This required screens for a Adobe Flash movie, which in turn meant copy, layout, colors, and appropriate images. Flash was as a total mystery to me.
  • Images: People expect to see something besides words when they surf the Web, which meant we needed a graphic for every single page. I scrambled to find appropriate images or take my own photos. The best image site I found was i23rf.
  • New stuff: What are my shipping and privacy policies? How should they be worded? What else was I missing? I didn't know those policies should be on a Web site.
  • Links: Could we connect to my blogs and other Web site? My "links" page was a mess and needed reorganizing and repair.
  • Timing: Could we unveil the new site by the end of the year? Doreen didn't think so, but I've never seen anyone work so fast.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO is part art and part science. I am neither an artist nor a scientist, but people were landing on my pages. The idea was to improve that performance.
  • Articles: I had a great many on my article page, but they were difficult to navigate. More reorganization took place
  • Videos: I have 46 videos on YouTube created and owned by (which is now called The videos are unrehearsed but fun, and they do explain how to write a nonfiction book. Would it be possible to embed that code into my Web pages?
  • The store and shopping cart: the store moved to the new template, but the shopping cart was stuck. Since it was originally installed by another consultant, Brett Fullmer of Fullmer Media Group (new company name), I have to track Brett down.
These were the BIG questions. there were countless smaller ones. It seems I will also need "template lessons" so I can maintain my own site, unless I want to hire Doreen for the rest of her life. So, here I sit, eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the new Believe me, I'll announce it here first.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Day My Web Site Died

There are those days that go to hell in a hand basket, and you stare at your computer screen is utter dismay. Usually, it’s a hard drive crash, and while you may just want to lie down and die, you usually calm down and do what you have to do. A comparable event is when you lose your Web site. One minute it’s there; the next, it’s gone. That’s what happened yesterday.

I know it was my fault, though I'm not sure exactly what I did. Failing to undo my own folly, I called Verio, my Web site host, who has never let me down—that is, until yesterday. Every time I have ever called in the past, the genius-tech has solved my problem in the flick of an eyelash. Not yesterday. Instead, he explained that if he went back and retrieved an earlier index page from the server, it would cost me $50/hour. But, even then, he was “not allowed” to check to see if worked.

What happened? Had there been a change of policy since my last call? I asked to speak to a supervisor, who patiently explained that the policy had not changed, only its enforcement.

Before I paid the $50/hour, I called my friend Doreen Hulsey who knows everything about Web sites and DreamWeaver, the program in which my site was designed. Somehow, we managed to find an older page on one of my many backups and reinstate it. Then, of course it had to be brought up to date without losing it again. Doreen looked at my site and tactfully observed that it was overcomplicated and a few other things I am embarrassed to relate, since I designed it to begin with.

The result of this conversation was—or will be—a completely redesigned Web site, done correctly and professionally. I am almost too excited to write this. While Doreen can’t promise it by the New Year, she assures me it will be “live” by my birthday. It’s a long overdue gift I am giving myself!

The other good news? I saved $50.