Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Great Update of 2018

I've been saying for a LONG time that I want to completely overhaul my website.

I sort of took a crack at starting it last year, in the summer sometime, and I started with my art page because I update that pretty frequently and it seemed like a pretty straightforward part of the site to begin with. I'm building each part of the site on its own subdomain so I can just point links from the main site to each wing after it's done, without knocking the existing website down or losing the ability to add new stuff while it's in flux.

But with the doodles page as one of the easier parts of my site to migrate, it's not particularly easy to choose the right format, decide whether to disinclude anything I initially included and vice versa, figure out how to make it easy to browse, etc. On top of that, I have to think about what I want out of an updated website. Why am I doing it?

Well, I've come up with this list.

1. I want it to be easier to add content. I spend a lot of time processing content and it gets really tiresome.

2. I want it to be easier to interact with for viewers. I would like people to be able to comment on content if they want to without me having to use a complex, clunky e-mail form that I then have to manually post the content on the site. (Yes, my sites really are that ancient.) The visual media like photo galleries and art are particularly unfriendly to browsing right now.

3. I want to prune some of the content that really shouldn't be online. There have been a few times in recent years where people said they "saw my site" and I cringe a little because I have no idea what they saw and whether they think it represents my current opinions or abilities. The drawings site has a section for childhood drawings, but even the stuff that's designed to be "current" is, in some cases, TWENTY YEARS OLD. (Yes, I've had a website for about twenty years, and most of what I learned about making websites was in the 1990s.)

So here's how I'm addressing these issues.

1. For the drawings page at least, I've selected themes that are friendly to gallery insertions. I just upload a bunch of pictures through drag-and-drop, and then . . . the site arranges them for me. I don't have to write the code to place the thumbnail images or manually link them or resize each photo so there's a miniature one to click. It will be WAY easier to add content.

2. Comments are native to the pages, so I don't have to do anything. (I may have to approve some comments, but that's necessary in an environment where any form that accepts input from users is open to being spammed.) It's very easy to get captions or more information by hovering over images or clicking through to see them full size.

3. Pruning takes time, so there's no alternative but to individually go through every piece of content and decide whether and how to display it. That said, it's kind of fun to revisit old stuff and to add some stuff I didn't realize I'd never shared, and I'm also making a "featured" gallery at the top so people can just go there to see the stuff I'm actually proud of.

When I get into organizing the huge clumps of writing I have on my site, I think it might be less visual and more oriented toward organization by tags. That way I can include pieces in multiple categories if I want, without having to update or repost copies of my pieces every place I want them to show up. There are many easy, modern ways to organize content, but it's just such a monumental job to dig through everything I've done in the last twenty years that I've kind of been too intimidated to do it.

So first I'm going to reorganize my existing pages and try to convert everything, and then I'll also start incorporating some stuff I've got scattered around the Internet: blog posts that deserve to be preserved, better resources, some galleries I didn't have before, updated links, and better inclusion of external content (like my book reviews, karaoke recordings, ukulele performances, YouTube videos, and social media that probably has a nice handy plugin to do stuff like share my latest tweets and Instagram posts). And I want to finish my heavy-duty autobiographical page (which currently stops at 2006!) and post up some pictures of my new living environment.

It's a lot of work, but it's mostly about organization. The content is there.

And I really like to organize. :)

Maybe I'll be done with the art page by the end of this week and I can show it off here.

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