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.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th!Happy Fourth of July to everyone! Don't read my blog today, you're wasting your time. Read it tomorrow and the next and the next, but today is for setting off illegal fireworks, drinking gallons of Festive, and watching the World Cup semifinals. Not for trashing someone's website. Go outside, dammit!

See you tomorrow.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Smells Like Fish

So, crisis averted. Lesson to all readers: back everything up regularly, as in every time you change something, because something will happen. In fact, go back up your stuff now, and then come back. Back? "Back" is one of those words that if you say it enough times, it starts to lose meaning and look and sound funny. Anyways...

Guess what today is? Monday!

Josh, heir to, writes:
My dad recently asked me to help him update his site for him. He doesnt have any money to pay someone else to do it, so I got stuck doing it. I am requesting your help if you have time. There is so much that needs to be done, I dont know where to start.
Ha, Josh...This situation has been all too familiar to me, too, except my father sells stuff and your father sells fishing. While it may be easier for me since I have something tangible to display on the internet, everyone loves a good fishing trip. Personally, I believe that any company-that-doesn't-sell-a-product's strong point is its "proof of success," which in your case, is pictures of grizzled, old guys hoisting ginormous fish above their heads. I'm sure you have many of these, and in fact you have several on your home page. However, the way you present them is not very attractive, so this (design) may be a good starting point.

So, let's attack your design, specifically on your homepage. First, lose the gradient background. Red to yellow? For real? It's glaring and doesn't add anything to the page. At least you got rid of it in your downpages. I think your logo would be fine if you got rid of the ".net" at the end of it. Do people know your company as "Striper Guides" or ""? Do you see Yahoo! and Google and eBay and Amazon going around touting themselves as [company name].com? Sure, you see a couple, like or, but they've spent millions branding themselves as such, and they're also purely online-based companies (okay, so are Yahoo! and Google and eBay and Amazon, but they haven't branded themselves as {0}.com).

Navigation: it appears you used some repeating graphic on the side that doesn't quite mesh with itself, so that looks extra tacky. Add that to the buttons that also don't match the pattern exactly and you've got super tacky, kind of like the glue you used to use in kindergarten to make those pipe-cleaner animals. You use unnecessary javascript for your button rollovers, which only bloats your code (which we will get to in a second, don't you worry). Check out my tutorial on how to create image rollovers in straight CSS for my preferred method.

Other than that, your design is just kind of plain and uninteresting. Very mid-90's, just-figured-out-how-to-add-bevels-in-photoshop-5. Do you really think that with this site you're going to convince Jim Bob and Ronny Johnny to drop $300 to do something they can get drunk and do themselves in Ronny Johnny's third-wife's dad's motor boat? Sure, if they want to catch the biggest and the best, they'll have a better shot with you(r dad) as their guide, but hell, they could have made this website themselves, so how do they know that you(r dad) is any good? You have to at least give an air of professionalism to be somewhat convincing and gain any business.

Moving on to code, which unsurprisingly doesn't validate, it's a veritable mess. You've got endless lines of worthless javascript, no CSS stylesheet, and a table-based layout. "Add this site as a bookmark"? It's 2006, man. If someone wants to add you, they will, because they know how, and if they don't know how, then do you really think they'll know how to find you after adding you using your link? Oh, dear lord. Guess what I just found? No, not a cockroach in my bed having mutant babies that are having babies. Something worse: the <blink> tag, the Unholy Grail of web development. If you do only one thing after reading this review, get rid of that tag and erase it from your HTML knowledge. The world says thank you.

If you read some of my previous reviews, I discuss the importance of learning CSS and applying it using the concept of design and code separation. You'll find that while the learning curve may be a bit steep, once you figure it out, you'll wonder why you ever did things the way you did them in the first place.

One last thing: your photo galleries. Photo galleries are wonderful things, as people love the mindless entertainment that flipping through pictures gives them. However, no one likes to see a daunting page of over 100 thumbnails that takes over five minutes to load. My suggestion would be a wonderful little concept called pagination. This is a lot easier if you have a database and some way to control some server code, but apparently you do not, so you may have to do it manually. While this is a pain-in-the-touchas (you say it like you have popcorn in your throat. Toucccchhhhas), it will greatly enhance user experience. Also, knock down your thumbnail images in quality so they don't take forever to load up. Somewhere around 4-8K should be fine.

Unfortunately, I've got nothin in terms of poetry today, so summary: design, design, code, design, fix them all and you'll be fine. Oh, well, there you go.