Development vs. Design – gladwell.com, etc.

What They’re Using

I suddenly found out that my new website for Malcolm Gladwell (on which I spent around sixty hours) has been replaced visually by something virtually the same as the old site from before I worked on it.  However, the new version still uses the WordPress structure I developed for its content and data.  My contributions include:

  • article categories and dating, to organize a post-archive of New Yorker articles
  • the addition of articles to cover the past two years
  • the organization of the site’s pages for book excerpts, etc.
  • content editing & formatting for all posts and pages
  • updated and corrected purchase-links
  • a browser favicon derived from Gladwell’s new book cover

However, given the nature of website “design” vs. “development,” almost no-one (other than you) is going to know that I had anything to do with it.

What’s No Longer There

A lot of people had told me that they really liked the look and improved functionality of my new design for the website.  My version had:

  • a thin, site-wide header-image showing Gladwell, plus highlighting his latest book and listing the other four
  • below the header (i.e., also site-wide), a custom menu with book-purchase locations and info-page-links for all five books
  • a sidebar widget with links to all article-types and a dated archive (again, site-wide)
  • a way for you to share any page or post to Facebook or Twitter (or to print or email it)
  • a biography right on the home page (the new design doesn’t have one at all)
  • the book covers and book-cover icons right on the homepage
  • a page of professional photographs (again, the new design doesn’t have any)
  • the capability of doing a site-wide search from wherever you are on it

Now, however, it’s gone, and no-one will ever see it.  To see a website I developed AND designed, please visit the Grand Philharmonic Choir.

The Need for Dynamic Content & User Interaction

All of the research about modern websites and the efficacy of online presence indicates that:  (1) your content must change reasonably often and (2) your visitors have to feel empowered to be able to do certain things.

1.

A website should include a blog, newsletter, or some other dynamic content that is updated at least a couple of times every month.  If you have a website plus Facebook, Twitter, and/or similar social-media accounts, then the content should be integrated so that your website’s new posts automatically appear on the other platforms.  An alternative would be to have things from the other platforms automatically appear on your website.  At the very least, you should provide basic links on your website to your social media pages.

2.

Site visitors should be able to share your posts to their own accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and/or similar social-networking sites.  In most cases, they should also be able to comment on your posts and pages.  Comments can be moderated (such as by an appointed lieutenant), in order to keep out all “trolls” and the vast majority of spam.  You can also choose not to allow comments on selected posts and pages.

Without dynamic content and at least some kind of basic possibility for user interaction, a return visit to a website is not very likely.

Technology Constantly Changes

Technology–especially internet technology–constantly changes.  From 1997 to 2013 (in addition to also being a Ph.D. in musicology, writer, musician, etc.), I have used and/or formally studied the following open-source and other website development technologies:

  • HTML
  • Dreamweaver
  • Expression Web
  • XHTML
  • CSS
  • ASP.NET
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • Drupal
  • Omeka
  • WordPress

I have also studied and/or used object-oriented programming (C#), object-oriented analysis & design, databases (SQL, including SQL Server) and used various additional content development tools for images, video, and so on.  Whatever the merits or outcome of my studies (GPA of 3.97 in 2009-10) and work (a number of significant web projects since 2010), I know that it is not a good idea in 2013 to design a website that looks and works almost entirely like it has for many years–and could have looked and worked in 1996.

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Self Employment Networking

Yesterday morning, I met some of my fellow participants in “SENG” (Self Employment Networking Group) at a workshop by Kelly Craft about social media.  There was a wide array of ventures, including visual arts, expressive arts, life coaching, digital assistance, HR consulting, and bookkeeping.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do website work for some of these people.  I gave a brief introduction to my previous business idea (OurMus.Net), to the website development projects I’ve done since then (for the Grand Philharmonic Choir and Malcolm Gladwell), and to what I’m doing now (Bowman’s Websites).  I handed out business cards to most of them and also got some of theirs.

Kelly’s presentation was useful.  However, I’m struggling with how to make use of my existing networks on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. (which include hundreds of academic and/or music people) while separating my business activities from my numerous posts about other topics.  I decided to make my website’s main page show only three posts, sticking the one introducing my business at the top and otherwise showing the two most recent ones.  That should keep the site reasonably well-organized, but also somewhat dynamic and changing.  However, I might change the underlying WordPress code so that the main page will only show posts categorized as “Bowman’s Websites.”  I also need to find a good WordPress plugin for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), to add a YouTube channel with things related to Bowman’s Websites, and to get people who visit this website and/or like the Facebook page (etc.) to give me some business and/or share the information with others.

I can choose to send every new post to my public Facebook page for Bowman’s Websites (my other Facebook posts are for “Friends” only), to my Twitter page (which will probably come to include a combination of business and non-business posts — thus more “freewheeling”), and/or to my LinkedIn profile (which I’ve refocused to be mostly about the business).  I changed my existing sidebar Facebook widget item to go the new business page and added one for LinkedIn.

On Thursday, I’ll be attending an Employment Ontario “job club,” so hopefully I’ll be able to do some more networking there, even though it mostly won’t involve self-employed people.