would welcome criticism

  JWJ 20:53 24 Feb 2006
Locked

I am a new member having just been introduced to your forum by a visitor to my site.

I have been running my site for 15 months. It has grown from a couple of boring pages to nearly 40 boring pages. I have converted it from tables to layers and css (mostly) but, as with all conversions, they are never as tidy as getting it right in the first place.

So, I am at that point where I have decided to do a complete re-design so that I can start again with pretty much the same content, but hopefully creating a better end product in the light of all that I've learned in the last year or so.

Although I have formed some loose views on how I might design my new site, I would like to take onboard any problems, criticisms, issues, recommendations from as many people as care to visit and have a look.

My site is at click here and I'll be very grateful for any and all suggestions.

Thank you.

  IClaudio 00:23 25 Feb 2006

As you're redesigning the site, these onservations may be redundant!

First, there is a lot of content, which is good - I mean, good that there is a lot of it, and a lot of it is good.

A beginner's guide to Watercolours is a great idea and probably worth a whole site to itself, and your photographs are even better. But then you add a section on Northamptonshire History, a section on Silverstone race track; a lot of wonderful poetry is icing on the cake.... which I think begins to collapse through the sheer richness of what's on offer! There's enough material here for three or four seperate sites.

Actually, I'd think twice about the Humour section, I, like everyone else I know, get sent dozens of funny stories and jokes and whacky photographs and Powerpoint slideshows every day, and they really start to get irritating :(

I'd like to see a really clean Front Page, with the navigation cleaned up and just a few salient pointers to the really inteseting bits from your current site. And maybe a more interactive interface, such as, for example, a step-by-step painting, gradually building from a blank canvas to a finished work of art, with annotations along the way.

The Children's Orchestra is a fascinating idea and one I shall watch as you develop it... the picture looks very like the Hoffnung Orchestra, are you sure about the copyright angle? And, to nitpick, you have the string Basses labelled as 'Cellos.

Overall, a nice site - although I originally hated the parchment-like background, a very '80s feature, it grew on me, as it is quite relevant!

It's on my Favourites list now, and I'll be re-visiting it over the next few months, so good luck with it.

  Forum Editor 11:32 25 Feb 2006

and therein lies the rub, as they say .....you've packed it in.

Like many sites, yours has grown organically, and there's no sense of organisation. As a consequence it's a tiring experience, and is badly in need of a complete redesign, as you obviously realise.

My advice is to start with a pen and paper, and draw yourself a navigation tree. Start with the homepage at the top, and then draw in the sub-sections below - one for watercolours, one for humour, etc. from each sub-section can spring individual pages. The idea is that a visitor needs no more than two mouse clicks to reach any page on the site from the homepage, one click to a sub-section intro page and one click to any page from there.

It sounds an elementary exercise, and it is, but you will be surprised at how easy your redesign will become if you work like that. Once you've drawn the thing on paper go back to your software and start creating the blank pages. Then it's a simple matter to copy text across from the existing site onto the new pages. Insert your images, and you'll have the bare-bones of the new site. Finally comes the fun part of tweaking the new site into shape.

Try to work with a clean, consistent look - stick to no more than two (or at the very most three) font styles throughout the site, and experiment with backgrounds. My favourite is plain white - I think it works best in all but a small number of situations. Imagine that you're laying out the pages of a magazine, and that the visitor will be turning them, one after the other. That will help you to deliver a cohesive look - so that as a visitor clicks from one page to another there are no sudden jumps in style/colour/presentation-style.


A final word of advice (already mentioned by IClaudio)......one of the things which stamps a site as 'amateur' more than anything else is a 'humour' page. What you think is hilarious may leave many people cold - stick to general interest stuff and you'll keep people coming back. Avoid anything that winks,flashes,flickers, or is animated in any way. Don't have anything to do with hit-counters, either.

Good luck with the redesign, I'll look forward to seeing the new look when it's ready. Your content is what will make your site successful - you've already learnt the biggest golden rule of web-design.......content is king.

  JWJ 13:25 25 Feb 2006

Thank you for your comments and suggestions. Many of them are already in my mind but there are some new points here that I shall think seriously about. The humour is going. When I first started my site it was only paintings and I couldn't get the SE's to bring me many visitors. Jokes and ponderables were tossed in to provide SE fodder and it was a succesfull strategy ... within limits. Now I have produced much more of my own content I am less in need of the standard over-played poor jokes. That said, 'ponderables' is still one of my most succesful keywords and 'Software Design' has earned me several good forum back-links, so still some thought needed.

I intend to design a new way of showing my paintings more along the lines of a photogallery, expand the 'Beginners Art' section and bring in a 'Beginners Poetry' section.

The comments about the background are well received but, when dropping the tacky parchment look, I also wish to avoid taking on the seen-it-everywhere, boxy css look.

First off I need a pencil and paper :-)
Thanks again.

  DrScott 12:29 27 Feb 2006

So you've found your way from StatCounter to here? They're all a jolly useful bunch here and extraordinarily helpful as you've already seen - my website would be significantly poorer if it weren't for these fellows!

Good luck with your changes and keep posting here so we can see the updates :)

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