Archive for the ‘web design’ Category

Tail Wagging the Dog – Part Two…Getting even more fancy

March 8, 2009

As I started to write out my talk – I started to get excited about some other options that we are working on for our own site which might be good ideas for other SLDOs…

IPhone Design – With more of our members addicted to their Iphones, Blackberries and Treos, we need to adapt our webpage to their needs.  This is still in the early production stage, but I\’m hopefully that by this summer – we will have a decent facsimile to roll out.  One easy option that I just found out about is Intersquash but your website needs an RSS feed.

RSS Feed – RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. If you have a my yahoo page that has various items on it that you customized – you have already participated in an RSS feed. Basically it\’s a code written into a webpage or blog that lets the aggregator know when you have updated it and pushes it forward to those who have subscribed to those updates. If you have ever seen this image on a page  – it means this page has RSS available. I can see that having our calendar of events and the newsletter be an RSS compatible.

Content Aggregator – We have done this already – Top Network – our web guru, set up a news feed for all of the legal news aggregators which then sits on our site.  If a member wanted the latest legal news – that member would direct their homepage to be the WDTL news site – good marketing, if I can brag for a minute.

Wikis If you have ever visited Wikipedia (I think my children get all of their school information here – oh brother), you have visited a wiki.  Basically a wiki is a multi-contibutor webpage or blog.   A wiki is more collaborative than most blogs and can have a lot of contributors.  I’ve been a little slow to adapt this to our website because I’m not quite sure I want a written piece of information that is discoverable out there by the other side.  So this is in the works but for what application – I’m not quite sure yet.  I want our members to be more collaborative and more interactive, but I also don’t want to have to produce it in a legal situation.  It probably wouldn’t be covered under attorney/client privilege.

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The Tail Wagging the Dog – Creating the Plug In & Extras for the Website

March 8, 2009

When asked to give this speech – the one that I’ve decided to blog and then do the PowerPoint for – yeah – that one – several of the other EDs asked me to talk about the backend of the website.  Backend – I mean the ugly little code and databases that each of us need to make our website interactive for our members.  This is where it can get a little complicated – and you will probably need to have paid help in developing this part of your web presence.  I don’t mean to give a plug for our web host & all round awesome backup help – but Topnetwork has been a great part of why our members have used the website so extensively.  Also – apparently I push him to create better programming since I’m so demanding.

Before launching a new website or reworking your current site -survey your members.  Surveymonkey.com is an awesome little site that allows a cheap and easy way to survey members whether it’s a 3 question survey for a seminar or a 50 question membership survey.  (I wouldn’t go over 50 questions ever – no-one has that kind of time).  This is how we discovered our members like the little networking events, wanted a brief bank (although they haven’t used it yet) and LOVE the list serve.

So – they asked for it and we built the website for them – one little problem…our tracking statistics for the site doesn’t work, so I don’t know really where people are going (more on that problem later on marketing), so as to our website – who knows where people are landing.

Brief Bank – we have one that members can contribute to, and if someone offers up a brief – I put it in.  Do people use it?  Nope – they continue to ask for the same briefs from the list server.  It’s a long slow learning curve.

List Server(s) – Members love it – it’s one of their favorite things about their membership.  We have an expert witness list serve and a general list serve (for those questions who don’t fit in the section list serves or expert witness list serve).  I know some SLDOs have captured the list serve, but at this time, we have decided not to capture it.  The answers are sent to the inquirer – not to the whole list serve – so just having the question on a database seemed kind of lopsided.  One downside is that everyone gets put on the list serve when they join and have to take themselves off – which can mean a lot of technical support on our part.

Member Directory – Apparently – and I say apparently because it happened before WDTL was foolish to hire me – we stopped printing the membership directory and put it all online.  This confuses the heck out of some of the less technical of our members and they still call me and have me look up other members online for them – but for the most part it has been a good thing.  We were green before our time.  When you visit our site, wdtl.org and go to member services, the membership directory is right there.  This is run from the main database that not only runs our member directory – but is also the back end for registration as well.

Online Registration – this was my first project as the ED for this crowd.  I can’t tell you how much easier it has made my life.  Attendees for seminars can either send me a check and I’ll enter them online or they can register themselves online via a credit card – which is then emailed to our accountant through a secure site.  This saves countless amount of time and effort to track payments and let’s me see in real time how many people are at each event.

Resources for the Uninspired or Busy Web Designer

March 7, 2009

When I started to learn web design back in the dark ages of the interweb – in 1995 – we had to do it all via the lovely program of Notepad and I had to learn HTML by hand, which is frankly – a very good way to learn to code things.  I also try to explain to my children (who are teenagers) that I learned to code BASIC on a computer the size of our fridge at a terminal with my coat on because the room was kept cold so the computer wouldn’t overheat – yep – I’m the same age as the dinosaurs and cave people.  Then came lovely WYSIWYG programs that did the HTML for you – it was pretty much just a word processing program – but you still should have known your code because you often had to write a lot of the back end stuff yourself and now……now – you can either pay a designer or get a CMS system – depending on your preference.  

I, in my very humble opinion as a current freelance web designer will recommend a CMS system for novices who want to have control over being able to edit the content on the fly.  My SLDO contracts with our host for a CMS system – and it has its benefits and detriments.

Benefits:

  • So easy,  it’s even hard for me to mess it up
  • I can manage it any where at any time – I just log in and edit away
  • The look and feel of the site is guaranteed to be the same no matter how many pages I add

Detriments

  • It’s not Mac friendly – and since we’re a Mac office – I can sometimes screw up the code and have to back to a PC to fix it.
  • I can’t access the source code – so I can’t change the keywords or title of the page for SEO purposes
  • Someone else writes the CSS code – so if I want to play with the look and feel of fonts or navigation – it’s a process

If I was going to build a SLDO site from scratch – I would approach it different – in fact – I would use a system like WordPress here.  Find a host, download the software and then launch.  It has been recommended by other web designers for other clients.  For more information, click on wordpress.org/.  

There are tons of places around the web that give tutorials or templates – here are some that I’ve run across in my research

What has been most helpful in my search for this type of solution is talking to other women techies & developers – they don’t mind dumb questions.  If you get into this – do a search on Digital Eve in your area – it’s a great listserve for this type of support.

Pet Peeves about Web Pages

March 6, 2009

I can’t give hints about web design unless I let you into some of my pet peeves – and I would LOVE to hear about yours as well.

If you ever have 5 minutes to kill and want to be entertained by some of the worst webpages out there – go to webpagesthatsuck.com.  As my southern ED friends have encouraged me to soften any blow – Bless their little hearts – those webpages – they do suck…probably beyond anyone’s imagination.  Go to the site, look around and promise not to emulate any of those tactics.

Ok – pet peeves (and I have been guilty of these things as well – so I’m not claiming innocence)

  1. Splash Pages or Flash opening pages…maybe I’m just ADD – but I do not have the patience to wait while your splash page opens and I get to wait along with a cute little flashing dog that tells me how long this is going to be..nope – moving on.
  2. Click on the logo page – nope, I’m not going to…next vendor
  3. Audio without my permission.  I hate going to a webpage and have Taylor Swift’s latest start blaring.  Not that I am against Taylor – I just choose to listen to music while I work or while I surf and I’d rather pick my own.  Worse is when the music or noises are just loud and I’m trying to be discrete, i.e. Christmas shopping while my kids are in the room.  They know immediately where I am by the stupid noise – don’t do this to me.
  4. Flashing animations on a page – Yes, Yahoo – I am talking to you.  I hate reading my email while an ad with a dancing girl is going on on the left of the page – it’s annoying, it’s stupid and it gives me a headache and makes me avoid my Yahoo account.  Why would you scare of visitors or keep them away from the content with a dancing ad?
  5. Pages that aren’t complete or under construction – If the content isn’t there – don’t link to that page.  You can tell people that more content will be there in the future if you need to have a place holder, but I think not linking is the kindest of all.
  6. Yicky Backgrounds & Neon Fonts – I know you love flowers or rainbow gradients but for my old eye’s sake – don’t make them your background.  Think zen – think simple – think one color for the background and one or two colors for fonts – and make sure they are readable.  Make sure there is plenty of contrast between text and background for those of us who have a hard time reading neon on neon – I’m weird that way.

Basics of Good Web Design

March 6, 2009

This should have probably been the first post – but I’m working my way backwards through my presentation for the upcoming DRI SLDO ED meeting (enough initials for anyone?)…so here goes – my highly opinionated version of good webdesign (to be followed by my pet peeves of modern & not so modern web design).

  1. Easy Navigation – Before you even start to build a page – please, for everyone’s sake, draw out your navigation either in a diagram or hierarchy format and play with it, move it around.  I usually write each page out on a sticky note, put it on a large piece of paper and then I have various novices to the site or to the subject come and tell me where they would go.  You are going to be very bored with this after a while – but it will save you a lot of hair pulling out later.
  2. Consistency of Design – nothing is more horrid than going to a front page and then the design elements don’t carry forward to the other pages.  Pick a look and stick to it all.  You wouldn’t change the logo for organization on every printed piece, so why would you change it for every different page on your web?  Top that all off – it irritates me – and as my fellow ED’s will tell you – I’m not pretty when irritated.
  3. Quick on the Draw – how many times have you been to a website and it takes FOREVER to load?  Do you stick around?  Probably not. Make it fast loading is a good website – which means graphics should be clean & small, code should be clean and minimize the multimedia.
  4. Short Attention Span Theatre – The best advice I ever got for web design when I worked for a dotcom was that people have gotten used to webpages being succinct because we have evolved into having short attention spans, thanks to all of our various devices that demand our attention constantly….thus writing for the web should be snappy and short.  Messages should be clear and to the point…and so I’ll stop right now with this topic.  You get the picture.

See – web design isn’t that hard – just stick to these 4 points.

Another Look at Title Tags

March 6, 2009

I realized after I wrote the whole blog on SEO for the lazy – that I forgot to really emphasize the importance of a Title tag….that little thing that goes on the top of each page in the browser.  I used to be especially lax about making sure the title page was appropriate and pithy because I just didn’t get how important it is – well….it is important.  More than just making each page look individually different and giving a good description – it will also help the various robots & spiders of web search engines find and categorize the page.  Smack on my own forehead and back to re-titling the pages I was working on…