Fix My Site

Does your site suck? Do you need professional advice? Do you not want to pay for this advice? Send me an email, and I'll take a look at your site and provide you with some real suggestions. By real, I mean real.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Phlogary Prototype

Tom, mother of, writes:

Really enjoy your blog. You may need to start another one just to deal with my site.
Thanks, and you may be right.

Even though I work in IT, I am totally self-taught when it comes to web design. I started a simple site five years ago with the goal of finding out what happened to every member of my kindergarten class. However, I have been constantly under construction since then (like the Winchester Mystery House), and I now have hundreds of pages of crap with no organization whatsover behind it....

I have only a rudimentary knowledge of HTML, and can basically add text, pictures, and set up links, but that is about it. I will admit that anything fancier than that I have "borrowed" and adapted from other sites along the way. I am not expacting a miracle, but would like some simple suggestions to organize and clean up my site.
Oh, boy...where to begin? Well, I suppose the first thing I need to do is challenge myself to make this review as long or longer than the screen shot of your homepage, which, if you couldn't tell, is about 10 screens too long.

I am supposing that you don't really care about the "professional" look, as you're not really selling anything, just sucking on to your little section of the underbelly of the internet whaleshark. In terms of design, I must say that this has to be one of the cleanest of the messiest sites I've seen. While there is crap everywhere, it's orderly crap, and it actually has a bit of a photo-albumy feel to it.

I've read a bunch of your stories, and the site content and pictures are interesting. I think the best way for you to get more people to stick around and read them, though, is to organize it better. This can be acheived by grouping like stories together and providing the user with some sort of navigation, ie "Car, Concerts, Random Crap" etc. Then go ahead and put these like files in directories. It should help organize you a bit. Remember that if you do end up putting files in directories, all your links will need to change accordingly.

Another observation I've made is that it appears that this site started as a site with a focused mission (reunite your kindergarten buddies, to their delight or chagrin) and gradually evolved into a blog-esque photo diary, which I will hereby dub a phlogary. If you drop that word in casual conversation, let me know. The problem is, you can't decide which you want to do, the kindergarten reuniting or the phlogary, and honestly, you need to pick one. Since you already have as your domain name, keep this site for solely that and create a new site for you, and then link the two (prominently, if you want). Keeping the two in the same domain is just a bit too confusing.

I think that your site shall become the phlogary prototype, and all those aspiring to create their own phlogaries should look at your site first (after you clean it up and organize it a bit, of course). This is one of those sites where, even though the coding sucks, and the design sucks, the concept and the content are so great that these fallacies are overshadowed. Not everyone is a professional nor can everyone have a professional site, especially if it's your own personal site and you don't give a damn what other people think of the design. This site, in terms of design (not content), reminds me of Maddux's site, which is poor on that end, but people don't seem to mind, as he gets a five-digit number of hits almost daily.

While I could suggest that you redesign the site, it appears as though it has gone past the point of no return without spending an inordinate amount of time on it, due to the lack of templating or CSS and the three million pages that would require updating. Also, the design (or lack thereof) doesn't really detract from the content, as I found myself clicking on more pictures and continuing to read more stories, although some navigation elements would help some. Hitting the back button to navigate through a site can get annoying.

Anyways, moral of the story is, content is king. If you've got something that people want to see, they'll keep coming back.

A summary, in haiku:

For your phlogary is key
Keep shooting, writing


At June 26, 2006 10:59 AM, Blogger Sam L. Parity said...

Thanks a lot for the honest review. Spent all weekend updating the site and implementing some of the changes you suggested. Guess we'll see if it makes any difference!


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