Rebecca warned me

September 9, 2012

Rebecca warned me. She said she saw a skunk in her back yard a couple nights ago and it was going into the yard between hers and ours. Who thinks about an early morning conversation at 10:00 pm when the dogs are asking to go out before bed? George and I were even talking about it earlier in the evening while sitting on the back patio and enjoying the evening fresh air. But that was hours ago and we were all tired and ready for bed.

Well, the dogs went out and made a bee line for the corner of the back yard. My first thought? The cats were back. I called off the dogs, but they ignored me, of course. Then, walking along the back fence, I saw a small black animal with a white stripe. SKUNK! I screamed for George “there’s a skunk”. In his underwear he came running to the back door and called the dogs. Too late.

It was raining and only 10:00 pm. What the hell is a skunk doing out that early, and in the rain? Shouldn’t it be hiding in its little home somewhere? Shouldn’t it be keeping itself out of the rain? Shouldn’t it be in someone else’s yard? We have dogs and the smell of dogs all through our yard. Why would it even try to visit us? The dogs knew it didn’t belong here, why didn’t the skunk know it? Dumb skunk.

Tomato juice for both dogs. Man it stinks. Then soap and water. Man it stinks. Then deodorizing wipes. Man it stinks. Toss out the towels. Man it stinks. Toss out the rugs from the kitchen that they stepped on. Man it stinks. Toss out the ton of paper towels used to wipe down the dogs. Man it stinks. Toss out T-shirts that we wore while wiping down the dogs. Man It Stinks!

Oh, did I mention that the dogs never did piddle when they went out? With all the excitement, they forgot. So now, in the rain, after the skunk, we’ve got to figure out how to get the dogs out to do their business. Out with the leashes and walking in the FRONT yard. Sort of like closing the barn door after the horse is gone, but we were not taking any chances that the skunk was brazen enough to hang around after the dogs chased him (or her) out of our yard.

Came back into the house and Oh My Gosh, Man it stinks! Maybe we should have wiped down the dogs in the back yard. Oh yeah, the skunk was still out there somewhere in the rain. Oh well, do we have any room deodorizer? Thank goodness for Renuzit Cones, and Fabreeze Super Oder Eliminator, and Oust Super Oder Eliminator. I don’t know which was worse, the smell of the skunk or the smell of all those deodorizers. Imagine this if you can, sweet pungent deodorizer over skunk. I don’t want to imagine it or remember it. Ugh!

Now, to sleep? Yeah right. This morning, thankfully, it is cool with low humidity and a mild breeze. The windows are open all around the house and a fresh breeze is wafting through. It’s taking out with it both the skunk and the deodorizer scents. Today’s grocery list? It contains gallons of ammonia to soak rags and place around the yard to keep the skunk out. New dog collars for both dogs. New and brighter light bulbs for the back porch light. New rugs for the kitchen. MORE TOMATO JUICE! Oh, and I think I’m going to take a nap today.

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Design Size

January 19, 2010

Every visitor has a screen that they will view your web site on.  Laptops have LCD screens, desktops have CRTs and LCDs of varying sizes.  Your first step in designing the site is to research the most common screen size of the day.  Then your design should fit nicely in that space.

My recommendation is that you design the site, if at all possible, to stretch.  This way if the most common size is 1024 x 768, but someone comes along with a screen of 1920 x 1200, your site will stretch to fit the space. This method means your design will fit nicely in any space your visitor has.

The alternate form of design is to design for a particular size (say 800 x 600) and put a color background on the page, and either center or left justify the design.  This is fine as long as the visitors come with a fairly close screen size.  But when that visitor comes along with a huge screen, and your tiny design is in the middle of their screen, it looks a bit out of place.

Oh, and don’t forget about shrinkage.  Yeah, a log of folks surf the web these days on their BlackBerrys, iPhones, or other smart phones.  If your design does not shrink, they will have difficulty seeing what is on the site and finding what they came looking for.

Test your site design before you build too many pages with multiple browsers, multiple screen resolutions, and multiple devices.  Check it out on your smart phone (or have a friend do it).  It will be worth your time doing so.

Important Pages for Every Site

December 27, 2009

Some of the most important pages for every site to have are

  • the About Us page.  You don’t have to call it that, but it should tell your visitor who you are and why you are an authority on your topic or a trustworthy business, etc.
  • the Contact Us page.  Self-explanatory, I think.  How else does someone get in touch with you.  And by all means, don’t hide your address and phone number behind a web form.  If you are not trustworthy enough to put your company information on-line, then I won’t buy from you.
  • the Privacy Statement.  This is a somewhat controversial page.  If you have a Privacy Statement, you are bound to abide by it.  If you don’t have one, many web surfers won’t give you their valuable information (such as their email address).  So give this page careful consideration.
  • the Site Map.  If you have any sort of visual or javascript menu, you should have a purely text site map.  You can link to it from the bottom of each page.  The search engines will find this sort of linking scheme easier to follow and more of your internal pages will get “spidered”.  The hardest part about this is keeping it updated as you add and remove pages as time goes on.

The remaining pages should be focused on your product, your service or the information you provide.  There can be as many or as few as make sense, and they can be categorized, sub-categorized, etc.

Navigation

December 22, 2009

In the USA we read from top to bottom and from left to right.  Your most important piece of information should be closer to the top of the page, and more to the left of the page.

Thus, your web site navigation should be either top or left side navigation.  Bottom supplemental navigation links (such as privacy statements, even contact us) are customary, but the main navigation belongs either across the upper 1/4 of your page, or along the left hand margin.

Make sure when planning your navigation that your visitor can get to every one of your pages within 4 clicks … 3 is even better.  Mouseover menus help in this regard, but try to organize the menu in such a way that there are no more than 3 levels in any given menu item.

One last thought.  Be sure to check every link on your navigation menu.  How embarassing to have a link on the menu go to a non-existent page.  And don’t put up “under construction” pages.  Just don’t put up the menu link until the page is done.

Use of HTML Heading Tags

December 9, 2009

One thing to keep in mind is that search engines look for certain pieces of information and certain codes within your text.  They purportedly rank text placed in HTML Heading Tags higher than text not in heading tags.  So think about your design, think about your text, and how can you use these tags to your advantage.

The first line of each page will most likely be a heading, identifying the over arching topic for the page.  That line should be in a HTML Heading tag.  Then sub-headings along the way in your content should also be in HTML Heading tags.

You can use css style commands to make these lines encoded with heading tags look exactly as you want them to.  They can be a different color, or bold, or a different font size, or a completely different font.  Be careful with non-standard fonts, but your css style commands can really make a difference in the visual appeal of the page.

Thus your content can be visually appealing to the human visitor, and contextually appealing to the search engine robot visitor … without sacrificing on either side.

What About Hosting?

December 1, 2009

So we talked about templates for building a web site.  Now what about hosting?  There are so many options and there is no real right or wrong answer.  Each hosting company has it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks.

I always suggest that you ask your web site developer for their suggestion(s).  They have been working with a number of hosting companies and can speak to the quality of tech support, the availability of support, how sites go down for scheduled maintenance, how often sites go down for unexpected reasons, how easy it is to access various features and functions provided by the hosting company, how much spam gets through the email service, etc.  Let them give you their input into hosting companies.  Then, evaluate the responses and make your decision.

What about Templates

November 24, 2009

Oh, I know there are lots of template site builders out there.  You can go here or there and build a web site for free.  You can pay them for hosting, and sometimes you can get hosting for free as well.  If you build one of these template sites, your site will look like every other site built with that template.

Well, think about something my husband once said to me.  He said, “Do you have a $10 head?  Then buy a $10 helmet to protect it.  If your head is worth more, then you need a better helmet.”  If you take that to the web, then what is your business worth?  If it is a viable, worthwhile business then why would you promote it with a free web site?

Don’t get me wrong.  If you are a kid in school wanting to create a web site to share information with friends or just for the fun of it, these templates are great.  If you are a small potatoes organization and don’t care who knows, then I guess they are fine.  But if you want to give a professional impression to your visitors on the web, then why wouldn’t you want a web site that was professionally built?

Remember Your Audience

November 17, 2009

As you are building components of your web site, always keep your audience in mind.  Remember, they came to the site for a purpose and it is your job to fulfill that purpose.  If they came for information, you need to provide that information in a clear, concise, easy to follow manner.  If they came for a product, you need to provide information about the product and an easy way to purchase it.  When you are thinking about a new component, make sure it fits within the overall theme and purpose of the site.  Make sure that it enhances the content and provides value to your and your visitor.

If you or your web developer wants to add some new thing to the site, a flash movie on the home page for example.  Ask yourself “why”, ask your designer “why” (yes even if it is me).  Why does this flash movie belong on my home page.  What value does it bring to my visitor?  What value does it bring to me?  Does it enhance the purpose my visitors have come to find or is it simply there because it is “cool” and is it really clutter? Make sure you can answer these questions before you decide to add some fancy new thing to the site.

Think about those sites you go to that have so much going on on the page that you can’t figure out what is really going on and what the purpose of the site is.  There are many examples of this sort of site, you’ve been on them.  The animation on the right margin is going like crazy, and the flash banner movie is going along the top constantly, and there is the blinking ad on the left that is screaming at you, and the content you really came for is buried “below the fold” on screen 7 or 8 of the page.  Man, it’s hard to believe that anyone would buy anything from that site.  You don’t want your visitors feeling like that when they come to your site.

The Purpose of a Web Site

November 10, 2009

One thing you should always remember when building a site, is it’s purpose.  Now you may say, “I don’t want to sell anything on the web, I just want to provide information to people.”  Wrong Answer.  I don’t care if you have a brochure site, an information site, a news site, or a shopping site … every web site is selling something to someone.  If you have a service business, your web site is selling you and your services.  If you have a news business, your web site is selling your and your services and your news.  If you have a product site, then the web site is selling you and your products.

Regardless of what you do or you want your site to do, in some way it is selling you and/or your company.  If you keep that notion in mind, then your content will be more interesting and your web site will be more successful.  Remember at the end of each page, or somewhere in the page, include an action statement.  What do you want people to do after reading the page?  Should they call you?  Should they email you? Should they pick up the phone and call their congressman?  Whatever the case, why not ask them to do it?  If you don’t ask, they may not think of it themselves.

Flash, video, and Stuff

November 3, 2009

So you think you’ve got it all together and you’re ready to begin building the site.  But you want to add some jazz to the site.  There are lots of ways to do this.  There are animated gif images, there is Flash animation, there are movie clips, there are talking avatars, and more.  The thing you need to keep in mind when adding any of this is, what does it add to the site?  If it provides a meaninful purpose then it belongs.  If it is just there because it is “cool”, then you should probably leave it off.

Some people spend so much time, energy, and money building jazz into their site that they lose the point.  If your site confuses your visitor, or there is so much going on they don’t know where to look first, they may not look at all.  There is an old saying (old as in a few years old) that goes …. on the web your competition is just one click away.  This still hold very true today and you want to make sure that when they get to your site they know who you are, what you do, and how to get around to find what they are looking for.  If you don’t provide that to them, all the flash and animation in the world won’t rescue your site.