Monday, March 2, 2015

Changes

Nothing stays the same forever. Even Stonehenge and the Pyramids show their age.

When it comes to web sites, I'm generally not a fan of change.

More often than not, when a web site goes through a 'refresh', it's rarely an improvement. Stuff that was easy to find becomes impossible to find, stuff that should have clear links right on the home page becomes buried, making the user click repeatedly with growing frustration trying to find the thing that used to be right there.

Lately I've been prodded by my daughter Lauren to update the look, broaden the appeal, in a word, to 'refresh' the ScootCommute. Life on two wheels lends itself a little better to covering some of my other interests along with motorbikes. It's a subtle thing, but putting the emphasis on the blog's primary name, rather than the by-line, may lead to greater editorial freedom.

I followed with interest when Steve Williams went through a similar process, switching Scooter in the Sticks from Blogger to WordPress, and to a custom domain name. Steve is continuing to make changes, upping his game. Clearly making these kinds of changes isn't trivial. Getting the changes right, and by right I mean changes that most readers will appreciate, is a tall order.

I'm doing my homework, and taking baby steps. If you're the observant type (I'm not a particularly good observer), you'll see that the URL has changed. Hopefully it was more or less seamless, but some springs sprang loose all the same. I think everything has settled down now (crosses fingers).

Right now I'm looking at blogs to see what others are doing that I think works. My personal belief is that the container should enhance the content, not get in the way.

One ingredient is certainly fashion.

Often, fashion is what drives the changes to a website, and often the look is a killer look, but the functionality is also killer, the killjoy breed of assassin. The 1994 look based on primary colors, content in html tables, and Times Roman font for all text, is pretty much dead everywhere. Everywhere except RefDesk. The reputed go-to news and reference site Washington power brokers swore by has not evolved one little bit. Craigslist is another high-functioning dinosaur. Compare those sites to the Huffington Post which is the more modern graphic idiom. Then compare all of those to the TV network sites. RefDesk and Craigslist get more information into their dashboard home page using old-school web design than most other sites.

Don't expect this site to be emulating RefDesk or Craigslist any time soon.

Who knows, maybe there won't be change. But maybe there will.

Stay tuned.

24 comments:

  1. Personally, not a real fan of the graphic heavy sites such as the Huffington Post. Many times it just takes too long to load and I just close the tab and move on. It's not worth the trouble. I, for one, am glad that things like frames went away and flash is dying off. All that just seems like fluff that is put in to compensate for lack of content. And though I'm not a real fan of Google and Blogger, they don't seem to have the security issues that seems to plague Wordpress. Their architectures seems to have made them more vulnerable and their popularity has made them a target.

    Just expressing my opinion...

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. The container has to let the content take center stage, for better or worse.

      I like Blogger because it seems easier and more intuitive to build a community. Wordpress seems to have fewer feature to let that happen.

      Wordpress seems to ask more from the blogger in terms of setup and so on.

      I'll see if I can find a new template I like. The current one is OK, but there's lot of unused space and that seems a shame.

      Delete
  2. The decision to switch from Blogger to Wordpress took me a long time to make. In part due to sorting out my reasons for making the change, and partly due to the cost.

    In the end I decided I wanted:

    1. a more elegant presentation of content than I could manage in Blogger

    2. easier access to email marketing integrations with MailChimp or some other provider

    3. Ownership of my content. This was a big one. In Blogger they control the content and could turn you off in a blink.

    4. Cost. Costs money to host though this is negligible now. Costs money to buy a domain name but again incidental cost. The real cost comes in the migration which I determined I could not, or would not do myself. I was really fortunate to find someone who handled everything including redirects for all existing content, migration of 9000 comments, the works.

    I'm pleased to have made the transition and Wordpress offers me options if I need them.

    Concerning the security issues. I was concerned and almost dissuaded talking to our IT people where I work. They kept hammering the same tunes until I began to suspect they had read a lot but had no direct experience with WP. That turned out to be the case. While I'm no expert I've been impressed by the level of security tools you can integrate in WP. It's not there out of the box but can easily be hardened in myriad ways. But as Richard said, you may not want to bother and just let Google do the work.

    And it is work in the sense that if something goes wrong you are on your own. Fix it yourself or hire someone. So far no issues for me.

    And spam -- amazing how much spam there is. I use the Askimet plugin and it works wonderfully.

    All in all it's been kind of fun managing the blog. The challenge for me is to keep it simple and relevant for readers.

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    1. Steve thank you for that insight. I have always admired your blog. This blog at one point was very similar to yours which was my guide in setting the blog up.

      I the relatively low demands that Blogger asks of the blogger. It`s kind of 'set it and forget it'.

      To the extent that I plan to devote some real time learning new skills, I think it will be to exploit video much more and to do a better job of it. I have a laundry list of things to explore in that regard.

      Delete
  3. I had looked at SquareSpace as a hosting and CMS provider and, if you pay by the year, the domain registration is included. Easy to migrate an existing Blogger or WP blog including all comments but I couldn't justify the modest cost and I couldn't find authentication integration tools. But it was only the 2 week demo. And the ~$100-200 annual cost was another reason.

    My very first blog site was self hosted WP on my own Linux box and keeping up with all the updates felt like a half-time job. Literally, 50-100 thousand hacking attempts per week and this was 10-12 years ago. I then moved to a university hosted solution which made all that "someone else's problem" then to Blogger after the university decided that they no longer wanted to provide the free service to faculty and staff. The students ran their own system to avoid the whole who controls/owns the content question.

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    1. The whole content ownership thing can make one a little queazy, but in the end I don't think Google really wants to exploit our work much beyond hooking us as AdSense clients. And I have to say that they certainly aren't devoting much in the way of resources to get me going with that.

      That said, I was appalled to find, in bold print, in my Eagle Riders rental contract for the Florida Harley, an extremely long-winded clause, all in bold, transferring all ownership in all my intellectual property to Eagle Riders, including all my writings, photos, videos, etc., etc., without even the slightest pretext linking any of that to Eagle Riders, Harley-Davidson, the time I spent on the bike, nothing.

      They probably think they own my draft novel, and all my wedding pictures.

      What stupidity. Certainly not enforceable. Why do they bother with that kind of drivel? Who in their right mind would pay a lawyer to craft that clause? What lawyer worth her salt would draft that crap?

      Delete
  4. I haven't noticed any changes, but then I might not be that observant. Guess I'll have to keep checking in.

    I am not a fan of google or blogger, but it seems the easiest route for me after so many years of blogging in one spot. It has crossed Brad and my mind to merge our blogs into one with each as an administrator, but that is a whole other ball game.

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    1. I can easily see where sharing a home might be easy, but a blog, not so much :)

      Just kidding Brandy! Think of the world of possibilities a shared blog would open up!

      Delete
  5. I like blogger, easy to set up and use and reliable. My page looks like none other and all the elements are there from blogger.
    Combined with my iPad and Blogsy posting is easy, and using Picasa and my phone camera pictures are easy to post.
    Wordpress is monstrous complex and I have never seen the value added features that make it worth fighting the complexity.
    In the end I am uninterested in Twitter, Pinterest or emulating television. Ease of use, reliability and zero cost.
    A Gallic shrug of ze shoulders and I post what I like when I like from wherever I like. Zut alors!

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    1. Michael, I tried Blogsy, and another supposedly friendly Blogger app whose name I forget, and I'm currently using Blogger's own app on the iPad.

      The Blogger app is a good but very basic tool. It does a decent job of allowing me to draft and edit text, and to insert photos directly from the iPad photo gallery.

      The problem is that some formatting you can only do in the online Blogger editor, which does not play nice one bit with mobile Safari.

      Once I get to my PC or Mac to do the final editing, I find that there are formatting issues galore, because, for instance, the Blogger app and the Blogger online editor, refuse to treat carriage returns the same way. Plus somewhere, something has inserted very lengthy and completely unnecessary 'span' syntax with font commands and who knows what burdensome garbage, plus 'div' syntax for carriage returns, all of which screw up the formatting in a serious way. So inevitably the time I saved using the iPad app to compose the post, is lost ferreting out useless html paired tags and cleaning up the code.

      Some symptoms of the screwy formatting in a post caused elements in the sidebar to disappear. I think it was a fractured 'span' tag.

      Good grief. Simplicity can be hard to achieve.

      You seem to have it under control.

      And by the way, where did you get the Gallic shrug. British stiff upper lip I get, or Latin la vita e bella, but Zut alors?? Clearly you and I need to get together again over more cuban sandwiches and delve more deeply into your storied past.

      Delete
  6. I have blogs on Blogger and have others on a self-hosted WordPress platform. I've also done Blogger-to-WordPress conversions. Blogger is still the better option IMO, specifically because it offers free hosting, unlimited bandwidth, and has built-in antispam and database security. The professional Blogger templates offered on Themeforest are now so rich with design and capabilities that they rival WordPress.

    WordPress is still superior if you're looking for complex site capabilities and customization. It's still superior for SEO applications. But like I said, I've seen some Blogger templates out there with some amazing JQuery integrations and Parallax scrolling, that you'd swear you were looking at a WP site.

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    1. Steve, thanks for the tip. Now I need to find out what JQuery integrations and Parallax scrolling are. I'm concerned that I'll like them, and will find myself deep in the belly of the template's coding trying to emulate the look and feel.

      Delete
  7. Bring on the changes. I keep an unedited backup of my blog on Wordpress, but I am not too excited about it. But Steve has a point on content ownership, which made me think...
    The new blog/website title seems to be a promise of things to come...

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    1. Ah Sonja, you seem to know more than meets the eye.

      I'm not so worried about the content ownership issue.

      If I were Stephanie Yue, I might be more concerned, but not overly. I mention Stephanie because it wouldn't be a stretch at all for her ongoing mega trip to become a published tale, not to mention all the original artwork. Plus she already works with a publishing house.

      Delete
    2. You know, a hint here, a hint there.

      Stephanie is a talented artist, I hope she has protected her artwork against abuse...

      Doesn't she have a great life...? sigh... being young and free again... oh, one can dream.

      Delete
    3. If the gods are kind, I may meet up with Stephanie some time in June, somewhere in Vermont or Ontario.

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    4. On two wheels I reckon ;-)

      Delete
  8. By the way, thanks to all of you for such thoughtful remarks on the arcane bloggers' art.

    It's given me a lot of food for thought and clarified some ideas of changes I will consider seriously, and where to devote what little time I have for the blog.

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  9. Hi David, I'm glad to see that you are struggling with the same problems that I have. Only, you're right up there, while I've been working off-screen, so to speak. Look forward to seeing how the changes go, and look forward to joining the ranks of those who do. Ciao, Mike.

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    1. Hi Mike, thanks for dropping by :)

      It's going to take me a while. I have kind of an idea of what I'm looking for. I want more white, but something that shows photos nicely, ideally a slide carrousel in the header that's easy to manage, something that uses more of the screen space without being crammed, and it has to run in Blogger.

      It's a lot to ask, and so far I haven't managed to find a template that does the trick.

      If and when I find the recipe, I'll be happy to share it if it strikes other bloggers' fancy.

      Delete
    2. Oh, Mike, one other thing.

      Stephanie Yue is going to swing through our neck of the woods this summer, likely in June.

      Knowing a little about her preferences, having followed her blog, I wouldn't be surprised if she timed her trip to take in Americade in Lake George around June 1.

      She'll eventually be headed to Lubec Maine, the northeast corner of the US. She has already been to the other three corners of the lower 48.

      If at all possible, I plan to ride to meet up with her. It's likely that I'll have at least one other rider with me. Obviously the more the merrier.

      Maybe start chatting it up with the Portland gang, to see if here's any interest.

      It's way to early to make any kind of definite plans.

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    3. Wow! Wonderful! Count me in for the trip to Lubec. And, of course, our house is open to one and all. Lots of room on the couch and floor! And a good Italian breakfast into the bargain.
      Let me know the particulars soonest. Oh, and what's Steph's Blog, so I can contact and follow her fun.
      You may even mail me at mike@maine.rr.com so that I'm sure to get it as lately I'm not always at my computer. Second oh - please give my contact info to
      Steph, I'd be happy to hear from her.

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    4. Mike, there is a link to Stephanie's blog in the sidebar, and here is another link for good measure: click here.

      It's way too early to figure any of this out. Stephanie only set out on her return trip from southern California recently, and knowing her, she has a very ambitious itinerary in mind.

      Delete
  10. Oops. That's miket@maine.rr.com

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