February 24th readings…

February 24th readings

            This week we looked at two websites, Leah’s and the CHNM site, comparing the work of one person over three weeks to the work of a team over a significantly longer period of time.

            Both sites followed the same basic layout, with topics laid out and links going to greater depth. Leah’s was, for the most part, two levels deep, counting the intro; the CHNM site, deeper. Leah’s was static, whereas the CHNM included video and audio components at various depths. Both were well-documented, with further sources suggested. Obviously, the CHNM site was the more attractive of the two because of the amount and diversity of labor put into it, but Leah’s site was well done and was easy to navigate. Certainly at this stage of the class I could not possibly compete with her effort, and any commentary I make is simply for the purposes of comparison, not a criticism. I’ve had Leah in a class, and I find her to be an extremely intelligent and capable historian. If I become half the historian she is, I’ll be pretty good.

            We dipped our toes into the waters of WordPress, breaking down the webpage into banners and bodies and sidebars and footers and comment forms and search forms and pie costs (what’s a pie cost? About eight bucks). We played around with the templates, altering parameters a little bit with the header, which allowed us to feel a little more comfortable with the program.

            Header images are taking up the bulk of my time right now, as I play around with getting regular images scanned in and then uploaded to a test site. I gotta say, altering the pixel size while still maintaining the message of the image that you want is a hell of a lot of work.

            The other part of the readings consisted of a couple of sites dedicated to developing the themes for your website. There is a lot of work involved, but also quite a bit of common sense threaded through it all. In the direct mail business, the design of the envelope has one primary purpose: to get you to open it and see what’s inside. So direct mailers will make the letter look like it’s a bill or from the IRS or make it look like you’ve won the lottery. Email scammers and virus programmers try to disguise their emails in much the same way. In each case, the goal is to get you to open their product.

            Website design is much the same thing- you want a person to move deeper into your site, and they’re not going to do that if you have a crappy image or a poorly designed first page. You want something interesting, intriguing, or attention-grabbing; ideally, something you’re passionate about will interest people a hell of a lot more than something that you feel you are forced to do. So the more I get into this, the more I can relate building a website to just plain old marketing- make it pretty and they will buy it and take it home with them.

          But the flip side is, if it’s a crappy product, they’ll never buy it again. So you have to have a compelling message to get return traffic to your site.

          Good content, good imaging, good times. That’s this week’s lesson.

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