Web Retread Notes

Some notes on the website restructuring in progress.

Banners? We don’t need no blinking banners!

A bunch of 9rulesers have been making them, so I made mine. It’s kind of plain and doesn’t really say anything but it blinks like it’s 1995! Only here, though; my online breathren kindly suggested that it not blink like it’s the early days when that’s all we could do for fun. In these modern times, there’s a fine line between good taste and, well, blinking.

my site

New Site Pass 2In a case of the tail wagging the dog, I took the type from banner and used it as the logo. The kerning just looked so much better (compare to image on the right), and the blocky icons retain the “retro bitmap” look I was going for. A much more interesting contrast. Why the retro bitmap look, you ask? I’m old, okay? Makes me feel at home!

AdSense and Sensibility

After running AdSense for a week, I made a little bit of money. AdSense could actually pay for my site hosting, which is a small blessing. However, I’m finding them a wee bit irritating because, as Koray notes, the ads are pretty stupid about context sometimes, particularly if you tend to segue between a lot of subjects like I do in any given post. There’s a different kind of writing you need to do for AdSense and the AdSense audience, and I’m going to put that into a separate section of the blog as I continual to redefine its structure. I also feel cheap when I see them pop up…ruins the flow of reading, just like a commercial break does.

That doesn’t mean there’s not a place for them. While I stripped out the “leaderboard” text ads that were appearing on all the archive pages, I’ve left inline text blocks on selected bootylicious posts (for example, posts about toys I’ve acquired).

I’ve also placed a few Amazon associate links here and there for books I mention, but it feels a bit underhanded. And no one’s clicked on them. I do, however, have a few article ideas for themed booklists that could be useful click generators, such as one for an “interactive design school reading list”.

How to Kill Your Google Searches Overnight

I’ve been reorganizing my categories, shifting from a taxonomy based on personal discovery to one that makes public discovery easier. As a result, I have changed some category names and collapsed some. I wasn’t thinking ahead, and belated realized that all the Google indexes now are broken. Google has been slowly reindexing the site, but it’s the kind of tactical mistake I’ll be prepared for better next time.

I’ve also changed the page title of the blog from “David Seah – Better Living Through New Media” to just “David Seah”. The reason? More of each blog entry post title shows through on the Google search results page, which I think will help people find interesting articles more readily in a sea of links. I try to come up with good titles for original content (obviously, this post isn’t one of them).

One side benefit of renaming the page title at the same time as killing my tags is that I can actually track what Google has reindexed. When I do a search using the site: selector, it’s easy to see what’s newly indexed and what’s not. This gives me some insight in how frequently which links are scanned too, which suggests some link optimization strategies.

Ongoing Performance Issues

When I first started this blog, I frankencoded an image plugin called Lazy Image Layout (LZIL) to help manage my thumbnails and popup images automatically. It’s not particularly fancy, but it does automatically create thumbnails. However, it does not provide a way of purging the thumbnail files, which are stored on the host. I have to do that manually.

At the time, I wasn’t sure how to write a function that would delete files; the first time I tried it I bogged the server to a crawl and haven’t dared try since. Because of that, I decided to run PHP in CGI mode, under my own username, which would allow me to delete any files created by LZIL.

There’s a downside to this: Ordinarily PHP runs as the same user as the webserver (nobody) because it is an integrated code module. That makes it fast. As a CGI module, though, PHP runs as a separate program that must be loaded every time PHP is required. Basically, every page load. I suspected this would be slow as molasses, but the hosting guys seemed to think it wouldn’t make a huge difference. After a year of this, I’m seeing significant lag at certain times of the day and want to see if integrated PHP performance is better. Before I do that, I need to update LazyImage to do the file deletion tricks I need; I’ll probably grab the code from something like wp-cache, which seems to do a fine job of it.

CSS Bug Stomping

This has been a good reintroduction to the foibles of CSS. This time around some things are starting to make more sense…it’s funny how some time passing seems to help with absorption of material. I am feeling I could put together a pretty tight CSS base stylesheet in a day or so and not have to worry about it again. I probably can just find one from any of the fine CSS design sites, but I want the cleanest, easiest to maintain one. Not sure exactly where to find that, but it’s out there.

There’s one display problem on IE6, which I think is the dreaded “double-margin” bug. I also am not clear on the tricks or advantages of using em measurements in fonts. I’m not really worrying about it at the moment; will address it when I start the next phase.

UPDATE: Jan 20th 2006, adding a _float:none to the CSS for the right side seems to have at least made the right sidebar fit, but it’s rendering weirdly. But the banners fit now. The underscore hides the additional float directive from Firefox and other more compliant browsers, but IE executes it anyway. Stupid bugs that work for and against you.

Business Page

Lastly, I need to make my “business page”. There isn’t one, and it’s dumb that I don’t have one. I had a remarkable chat with a friend of mine in California who does the online marketing for a West Coast bank, and she gave me some great tips about “being open for business” in such a way that people like her can find, use, and refer people like me. The bank has open accounts with dozens of big agencies, but they still need freelancers for the small run-and-gun projects.

So that’s what’s going on right now. It’s an ongoing education!

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