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From My Life...

New Site Design (2000.12.15)

Yesterday I made my new Web site live.

It’s tough switching from one Web design to another. But it is necessary. After having this domain for four years (yup, December of 1996), I’ve learned a lot. And now this site has to change to what I’ve learned. And the old stuff has to go. It has to. Not only is it no longer being maintained, but it diverts visitors away from the real focus of this site—the real improvements of this site. So I’ve killed almost all of the old stuff. But I made sure not to lose anyone. The 404 message now displays inside of this site’s new design. That way whatever link they followed, the will still see the navigation structure of this site, and will be able to browse this new and improved version.

And it is improved. Not only to make the site easier for me to maintain, but it is (if all my plans work) more accessible. That has never really been a big concern for me in the past, but for some reason it has grown more into my mind in the past few months. Before I always considered this site my art site, my creativity site, my site where I would express myself. But I’ve grown to realize (even more so after adding this section, which itself began with my having some story ideas that I thought I could write here along with other stuff, but so far that hasn’t worked out so well) that the content of this site requests less art and more accessibility.

This site contains poetry. Sure I would like and love to make it visual, but poetry is words, words which themselves create the vision, the idea, the emotion. This site also contains jokes. Sigh, I never intended this site to be a “jokes” site. At the beginning I put all of my interests on this site. Poetry (mine), jokes, my favorite TV shows, my favorite bands, and even reviews of movies I’ve seen. So far, jokes have survived all the changes this site has gone through. Which is good. I once received an e-mail from someone who was at a temp job, was bored, and found my site. She said that she would read the poetry, and when it became too personal to her, she would jump over to the jokes section for a good laugh. I like that duality in my site and so I intend to keep it.

Now jokes are just words too (at least those on my site). They don’t need any art at all. And this section. Again, just words. I began to realize that—despite my desire to use this site for my (graphically) artistic creative outlet—this site’s contents are mostly just words, text. So, why not make it more accessible?

Well that’s what I tried awhile ago. I created four different versions of this site to accomplish that. A stale version which only contained structural markup. No style. No diversions. Pure content. A low version which would have style and a design, but would be minimal on the graphics for people who still have a slow connection. The medium version was what my site previously was. Multiple, randomly shown home pages; framed content; and a different style for each section. And finally a high section, where I would really put the poems to art. Large graphics of the poems in pop-up windows.

But that became a bitch to update. Especially this section. I finally made use of server side includes (SSI) so that I would only have to update the whatever section once and then it would affect all the four sections. Well this time I took that idea to the whole site. Use SSI to create the menu (so that if I’m adding a new section it will happen through out the site at once). Use JavaScript to write the style into the pages, that way users can use cookies to select what style they want to see this site in. And create a layout, although using some structural markup for the layout, but a layout that is not complex and could (hopefully) be interpreted by screen reading or non-visual browsers.

And that is what I have now created and made live. A better site, using what I’ve learned all along the way. And I had to kill the old stuff, but only because it would have kept visitors blind to this new and improved site.

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