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Any Ideas For Improvement?

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#1 TheBicyclingGuitarist


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Posted 15 September 2011 - 12:23 PM

Hi. It's been a while since I've posted. I received much help here in years past. In the next few months I hope to record my first new album since 1994. I will publish and promote it on my web site, so naturally I want my site to be the best it can be.

The code is all strict valid HTML 4.01. I followed accessibility guidelines as best I could. I have a navigation bar and a breadcrumb trail on every page, a site map (and an xml site map for the search engines). I have many inbound links to many pages of my site and a fairly good page ranking for its being a personal web site.

The basic layout and color scheme have been more or less constant since the site's debut in 1997 (at a different domain back then), but if there are any ways to tweak the HTML or CSS to be more efficient or more accessible those are the tips I'd appreciate the most. But I am interested in the general impression of the site, user friendliness, or any other comments anyone offers.

The Bicycling Guitarist

Edited by TheBicyclingGuitarist, 15 September 2011 - 12:27 PM.

#2 jonbey


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Posted 15 September 2011 - 12:50 PM

My very first thought is that it could do with a better photo. The trees in the background are almost same colour as your shirt and trousers, would look better if there was more contrast.

A consistent navigation may be better. Nice little site though,

#3 A.N.Onym


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Posted 16 September 2011 - 12:03 AM

If you want to fiddle with HTML, how about fluid and responsive design to accomodate different screen resolutions (from small smartphones to new large monitor resolutions). However, that is probably one of least useful things you can do right now :D

Here's what I'd do:
- exchange places of the photo and the homepage text
- in the homepage text briefly introduce yourself
- show what your visitors can do on your site with reasons for that
- if possible, make it very easy to do the most important thing your site is made for on the homepage. For example, you are going to be releasing the album. If you are distributing it for free, offer a sample and a way to download it in its entireity or by tracks (and provide a way to listen to individual tracks, of course). You can probably use one of the many music hosting/sharing sites to host the music, but embed the code on the homepage (i'd pick the easiest to use among the most popular ones).

Also, you can embed your most recent YouTube video on the homepage or even provide links to the most recent videos, if YouTube has a widget to share them without having to update the list itself.

There probably are more things to mention, but that's the most important moments, right now.

In short, your homepage has to:
- explain what you do
- show the visitors what *they* can do and *why* they should do it
- provide an easy way for the visitors to do what they like

Right now, I can't do much on your homepage outside searching and clicking on links, guessing on what I'll find there (though curiosity had got the better of me and I've clicked around).

Edited by A.N.Onym, 18 September 2011 - 04:22 AM.

#4 TheBicyclingGuitarist


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Posted 17 September 2011 - 05:53 AM

Thanks for the tips, folks.

Yes the home page has a different layout than every other page on the site. The design and colors of the home page are intentional. As for the photograph, there aren't very many photos I have to work with, and this is one of the better ones for now. If I get a better newer one I'll consider changing it.

I do introduce myself on the home page ("Home of The Bicycling Guitarist" and the little blurb tells people what they can find on my web site (original songs, stories, essays, pets etc.). Perhaps another line of text such as "Since the early 1980s I have ridden tens of thousands of miles 'no hands' on a ten-speed bicycle while playing a Fender Stratocaster guitar at the same time, writing dozens of original songs (many available for free on this web site)."

I like the responsive design web pages. I will further investigate flexible image sizing and alternate style sheets for mobile. Just today I saw someone with a handheld device and asked to see my web site in it. It was fine, especially when he turned it landscape orientation. He could zoom in areas of the page too.

When I get new media material, perhaps I will embed the best on the home page. At the very least I will put a link there. I can't have everything on the home page though. That would make it too cluttered and slow to load. I hope the labels on the navigation buttons ("My Songs", etc.) give enough clues to people so they know what's available on my web site. Again though, thanks for the advice and links to other resources.

Edited by TheBicyclingGuitarist, 17 September 2011 - 08:20 AM.

#5 mrgoodfox


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Posted 17 September 2011 - 01:54 PM

I also agree that your whole site should have the same feel and theme to it. Maybe the inside of the homepage can have different pictures/content placement but I think the navigation should stay the same.

Why not feature a song (or a YouTube video) on the homepage? That can keep the visitors interested and eager to browse more.

I think for a site like yours email sign up form and social media pages are a must. You want to give your fans (and I bet you have a lot of them) a way to connect to you and promote you.

I think your site's title should be on top left instead of right. It should be the first thing visitors see.

Whats the difference between the Custom Search box on right side of the homepage and the search box in the bottom of the homepage? Its confusing.

What's the purpose of the "About.com" banner on homepage?

You don't have Google Analytic on the site. Are you using another form of traffic tracking and analyzing. You must, if not already.

Hope that helps a bit

#6 TheBicyclingGuitarist


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Posted 17 September 2011 - 04:12 PM

Thank you for more comments! I am reading and thinking about everything everyone says.

Yes, I need to use social media more. I have a Facebook page but don't use it, ditto for MySpace. I don't have many social contacts online and far fewer in real life. I do need to make links to those social media things from my site though, and add a newsletter or feed of some type too to notify people when I have new material or news posted.

I think I'll be converting the download mp3 links to streaming ones so people can more easily and quickly hear my stuff. I badly need to be recorded more though. All the recordings I currently have are old and of amateur sound quality. I play and especially sing much better now than ever before in my life.

I'm looking into adding search engine meta markup from schema.org, since Google, Bing and Yahoo are all in agreement about it. That will add a bit more code to my pages, but hopefully will help my web site to be better integrated into the network of available information on the internet. I hope there are threads about schema.org stuff in these forums. The instructions from that web site aren't always very clear.

The layout of the home page has been constant since 1997, although the code has been upgraded several times since then to keep up with changing standards. I don't want red navigation buttons down the left side column on all the pages, but for the home page for some reason I like that layout. I understand that a common theme is less confusing for visitors, but I hope since every other page except the home page has a common theme that it isn't too bad. Since everyone thinks I should be more consistent though, maybe I will have a menu navigation bar at the top of the home page as on all the other pages, get rid of the red buttons, and shift places of the photo and heading text on the site (text on the left, first seen, then the photo on the right, as opposed to the current layout). I need to fiddle with it some. Maybe then the home page can use the same style sheet as all the other pages too. For now, it has its very own separate style sheet.

The About.com banner is a courtesy to that web site for interviewing me some years ago and featuring me on their web site. I was confused about the question about the "other" search box at the bottom of the page, until I noticed that the current layout of the WebRing banner has a search box in it. The custom search box for my site is specific to my site. I don't know anything about the search box in the WebRing banner, but again, I keep the WebRing banner on my site for legacy purposes. While WebRings haven't brought me much traffic over the years, I thought the idea of connecting sites of related content together was a good one. More than a hundred of my web site's pages belong to unique web rings selected for the specific content of each page. I don't plan to add Web Rings to any new pages, but for now I am keeping them on the older pages.

I *do* have Google Analytics on my site, for more than two years now. Before that I used a variety of sources to check traffic, but I really like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

Edited by TheBicyclingGuitarist, 17 September 2011 - 04:16 PM.

#7 TheBicyclingGuitarist


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Posted 22 September 2011 - 12:52 AM

Hi. Today I finished fiddling with the home page so it has the same navigation as the other pages of the web site. I also switched the places of the welcome text and the photograph so the text is on the left, rewrote the text adding more information about who I am, what I do, and what the site offers, and got rid of the "Welcome to the home of..." text that is SO 1990s lol.

Compare Test of new index page to the original home page (still up for now). When I get new videos, I may try embedding the latest somewhere on the page, will add links to the new album when it becomes available, and will also work on integrating more social networking. I should probably put a link to my blog and to my twitter from my home page, huh? I also need to investigate how to set up a feed (for a newsletter from my web site?), invite people to subscribe, etc.

I need to clean up the HTML and CSS if I keep this new layout, but it will eliminate the need for a separate style sheet for the home page. What do you all think? Thanks

Edited by TheBicyclingGuitarist, 22 September 2011 - 01:04 AM.

#8 A.N.Onym


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Posted 22 September 2011 - 03:07 AM

It looks better :)

You might wonna link from your homepage text to your other pages (songs, dogs, etc), so visitors may click on those links, rather than the top navigation.

It might look better in a form of a list, such as this one

You can:
- learn <about me>, <my car>, <cats> and <dogs>
- read about my <philosophy> and <various music studies> that I've conducted

You can expand the list by making a list element for every link, but you'll also have to describe what the page has and what one learn there.

Also, I'd place the site name above your top nav, since it's the usual place for a logo/site name (top/left) and it makes reading/using the top nav easier.

The study page could use some introductory text, too:
- why did you do these studies and not others?
- how do they fit in your bicycling guitarist way?
- what can the visitor take from them?

ideally, every study would need a sentence or two of description, but just 2-3 introductory sentences on the study page would do, too.

I wonder, if you can setup WordPress (or Drupal, if you fancy). It'll eliminate the need to fix your HTML often (you can find an already created flexible theme to your liking) and will solve your subscription problem (through plugins/modules for those content management systems [CMS]). That being said, it'll require you to
- install the CMS by creating a database in your hosting account - it's relatively easy, if your hosting can do it. There are installation guides available, too.
- copy the content into your chosen CMS
- recreate the site there by using the same content, navigation and links
- use the same URLs as you do now (no real need to change them now).

In short, once a CMS is setup, you can do many things by using already developed plugins, but it requires some fiddling during the setup and *may* require inserting some already written code in your themes (not the case with Drupal, for the most part and WordPress should work fine now too, I believe, but I haven't used it for a long while). For an experienced person it'd take about 3-5 hours maximum to recreate the site, but it might take you longer without a clear cut plan.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 22 September 2011 - 03:23 AM.

#9 TheBicyclingGuitarist


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Posted 24 September 2011 - 12:22 PM

I did it. The test page is now my site's new home page incorporating several (but not all) of the suggestions received here. I also added an explanatory paragraph after the title of the Studies section of my web site. I would be interested in knowing how my site renders on small screen mobile devices if anyone has one to test with.

I tried switching to Drupal a few years ago when version 5 was the stable version. I never finished the conversion and finally began hand-coding individual pages in HTML and CSS again. I know site wide changes would be easier to implement with a CMS, and it has many features such as social networking and adding comments possible, but for now I have what I have. Thanks for the help in making it better. Any further suggestions are welcome.

#10 bwelford


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Posted 24 September 2011 - 12:55 PM

I checked out the home page on my Android Samsung Galaxie Fascinate 3G and it looks fine particularly in landscape mode.


#11 A.N.Onym


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Posted 24 September 2011 - 09:03 PM

I've checked in desktop Opera with a very narrow window width (you can resize your browser using this tool - mobile browsers show valid code correctly, anyway, so it's only a matter of screen width and mobile layout, IMHO).

I'd suggest using this CSS for the mobile or narrow-width version file:
.rightcol {clear:both;}
This will move the image under the main text, as well as the copyright notice.

You can also enclose the Webring code in a classed div and display:none it in the mobile version as well, since I don't think it's particularly useful to the mobile visitors.

I also suggest you re-read the article I've linked about showing/hiding menus and columns/sidebars. This one can be helpful, too.

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