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.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Singing the Browns

I hope you guys liked the tutorial from yesterday. Today it's back to site reviews!

Shawn writes:

I love the idea behind your blog, and I hope it gives back enough that you don't get burned out on it.
Thanks, and amen to that. So far so good, though.

I'm the webmaster for a small-niche organization: a traditional singing club in the greater Twin Cities area of Minnesota. My main aims with the website are to keep members posted on upcoming events (in conjunction with regular email updates), to provide useful resources for them, and to attract new members. Secondarily I'd be thrilled if the site became useful for people outside our area who share our interests. Naturally I want it to be as usable and attractive overall as I can manage. (Professional appearance is less important than a comfortable look and feel that will neither daunt technophobes nor annoy geeks such as myself.)

What do I need to fix, and how can the site better serve its purposes?

Shawn, I'd have to say that in general, your site serves your purpose. It appears that the site provides a means for your users to stay informed (so long as it remains updated, which at the time of this writing, it is). You provide your users with some useful links and current information, which I believe is tantamount to useful information. Also, your site would validate with minor fixes (what appear to be simple coding oversights, like closing a tag one time too many), so no problem there. You use generally proper XHTML/CSS structure (I'd lose the [b] tags and replace them with [strong] tags). Overall, structurally, nice work.

However, there are a few areas you can improve upon. You mentioned that you want to attract new users. It's pretty hard to do that if they can't find your site. Google says you have zero incoming links. If you want to start showing up higher in Google search rankings, you must get people to link to you. You should try to get those sites you link to in your bios to link back to you. Also, your metadata is a bit weak. Your keywords are the same on every page, meaning that some of them don't match the content on your pages. Your titles, while I suppose aren't that bad, would possibly benefit if they were more descriptive. Try to work a keyword or two into your title, for instance, instead of "Traditional Singers Club - Upcoming Events" call it something like "Upcoming Irish or Scottish Singing Events." While a bit less user-friendly, it's not terrible. No one is going to search Google for "Upcoming Events" but they might be looking for "Irish singing events." I think you catch my drift.

Also, something I noticed is that you don't have any news articles or writeups of any events. I think that this may be something useful to your readers and would add a bit more meat to your site.

On to design, I think you've taken a creative approach, making your site look like it's posted on a telephone pole or something, just how a singing venue might be guerilla advertised. A few things to note (although some may seem a bit nitpicky):

  1. The repetition of the bird design element. I would get rid of it either at the top or the bottom, and my guess is at the bottom since it's out of context down there.
  2. Your staples are grainy. When you cut them out and save them for web in Photoshop, be sure to put a matte on them. This helps transparent images blend into their background better.
  3. You have some tables (used in correct semantic context) that are relatively unformatted, and thus look amateurish. I would put some sort of styling on them, like thinning out the borders and putting a color on them. It looks like you've got a decent handle on CSS, so this shouldn't be too tough.
  4. Your homepage looks like every other page in your site. Remember that your homepage is where most of your traffic comes through. Put some unique elements on it so that it looks different without straying too far from the original concept.
  5. Aside from your background, your site has about four colors. Keeping your main palette small is good, but you should expand your auxiliary palette, meaning using different shades of existing colors. For instance, I suggested you format your tables. Maybe you could use a light brown for your cell borders. Also, you can pretty much always use shades of gray.
  6. The big, green "Keep on singing!" at the bottom of every page looks like one of those things that you put there and you just like it. Fair enough, but personally I think it looks out of place. While I suggested you include more colors, you don't have green anywhere else on your site, and it looks like it's the largest text in your site. I think a more effective way to say this may be to keep it in the same position on your page, but make it the smallest text on your site and put it in a lighter brown that matches your background.
  7. Your navigation is confusing design-wise. Since you didn't expand your <a> tag in your CSS to include the whole rectangle, the "button" behaves oddly when you mouse over it. One way to remedy this in CSS is display: block; width: Xpx; height: Xpx; on your <a> element.

Okay, I think that's all I've got for now. Summary: good information, pretty good coding, some fixes to the design and metadata, get some incoming links. I'm sure your users would love to know what's going on, so some articles may be in store. Other than that, keep on singing!


At June 22, 2006 12:41 PM, Anonymous Shawn said...


Thanks for taking the time to review the Singers Club site!

My reactions to your suggestions cover the range from 'I knew I should have done that' (e.g. getting rid of the repeated bird element and cleaning up the staples) to 'Hey, that's a great idea.' The only suggestion I have any trouble with is #7, on the navigation. I recognize the issue, but unfortunately when I expand the [a] tag to include the rectangle, it causes the mouseover effect to break my layout in IE. Any thoughts on how I can avoid this?

All in all, great comments and suggestions. I'll be taking nearly all of your advice, and while I'm at it I'll link back.

Thanks again!


At June 28, 2006 3:16 AM, Anonymous Carol W said...

You wrote: ". Google says you have zero incoming links."

For years Google only shares a random sampling of links - and backlinks, like PR display on the toolbar, goes through 'updates'.

For a better idea of backlinks to a site or page - use Yahoo. Google has never been a helpful one for that search operator - may be due to their love-hate relationship with SEO? ;)


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