The day of reckoning stands nigh, a month long battle against creatures made of CSS code and rhetorics is nearly over. A beast of code an speech lays beneath our feet, stomped into submission. In other words: Today is the day we have to deliver our finished product, our website and portfolio, to the exam office and get it graded.
It has been a quick semester for me, filled with both new knowledge and renovations of old. But in the end I think I’ve ended up with something good, something my own, something I couldn’t create without knowing what I know today. I’ve ended up with a website that may seem simple, but is moulded to my own liking and looks unique. In a few minutes I will do my last edit on the site and then leave it up to the powers that be to grant me a good grade (hint hint;)
I will use this last blog post to look back on what I’ve achieved on the site, how it looks now and what could happen with it in the future. Welcome to the epilogue and the prologue of Thomas does IT.
How does it look?
Ever since the beginning of this semester, I’ve wanted to build a website that is easy to the point of minimalistic, intuitive and fast. I decided that I did not need bells and whistles or some fancy theme with animations and so on. Those themes are, in my opinion, hard to maintain and even harder to edit without screwing it all up.
So I used the standard WordPress layout at the time, called TwentyEleven, and removed everything superfluous, leaving only the bare bones structure for me to work on. The header was made entirely black, marking my first change in the style structure of the WordPress site. I then decided that black and white would be my primary colours and made the rest of the background white.
I was told that, perhaps it was a bit boring and therefore experimented with gradient backgrounds, a simple way to create dynamics in a page. I ended up, by mistake, making a gradient black turning white just after the header, blending nicely into it. I liked it since it encapsulated the body of the site and I let it be.
One task was to create social media plugins to tie our sites and portfolios to that part of the Internet. I tried to do this while still keeping up the minimalistic design and ended up using some simple, while still colourful, buttons from Acurax that “popped” out of the background, exposing the social media alien I got living in me, the persona of the site. I also added social media sharing widgets at the top of all posts to encourage sharing, which is the most important feature of Social Media.
Of course these are only the biggest design changes I made to my site, all the rest can be seen in my changelog.
How does it work?
Since I did not use some exorbitant theme, my site works perfectly. Thomas Does IT works like IT should: Fast, intuitive and stable. There was several exercises highlighting our design choices, the structure of the site, and how well it played with the entire experience. One was an information structure analysis, where the site menu was recreated in shuffled post-it notes. These were then put in to order by a different person in the way he saw as the most intuitive way. I passed with nearly flying colours and received some nice tips on what I could do to make it even easier to navigate Thomas Does IT.
Another task was to analyse the visual design and layout of the site. How well it worked with the eye. Again the result was positive. The minimalistic design provided a clean interface which could be navigated around intuitively. There were minor flaws, such as quite small menu text, which I later implemented in my site. No site is ever perfect and therefore the striving towards that point demands constant rethinking.
Of course eloquence is an important part of any written, or spoken, message and a blog is no different. I was very pleased to discover that I was good enough at argumentation that one of my exercise essays was highlighted in class! This must show that I at least understand the basics on how to convey a message. I have, of course, been conscious in how the language of my site affects the visitor. This has been highlighted with the creation of an intro text that give pointers to where a newly arrived, first time, visitor should go to better understand who I am and what I’m writing about.
Lastly, no website is complete without being visible. The saviour is SEO, Search Engine Optimization. A tool that is a must to every web designer, I’ve found out. SEO helps Search engines, the backbones of finding information in today’s Internet, to better index you and assign search terms to your website and posts. I’ve gained, through that lecture, a better understanding of how search engines work and what internet sites must do to gain visibility amongst billions of other like them.
To do that I’ve added a SEO plugin that monitors and modifies my site so as to appear as visible as is possible for a small domain like mine. It analyzes every single post and gives pointers on how optimized it is and what I can do better. It also helps create an interface with the popular search engines and web page indexes of the world, which means that I should now exist on engines like Google, Bing and Alexa.
Does it look good and work well?
In the end it’s up to my teachers, censors and examinators to decide whether I’ve done a good job in this course, but if I should decide for myself, I think I did a good job for a first timer.
This was my first serious attempt at a website. I’ve had a WordPress site with its own domain before but I never got around to do anything with it. This course has given me the opportunity to finally delve into the world of web programming, and writing, to truly get a taste of what it’s like. It has been a great experience and I hope to continue using my site onwards.
The site itself works as it should, all pages and functions are running 5 by 5 and the design is very much like I imagined it. Does that mean it’s perfect? Absolutely not! there are quite possibly numerous bugs and a few that I’ve caught myself. One of them is the gradient background. While it looks great on the front page, it gets askew on any other page and slithers upwards, leaving the gradient to end way higher than it should. Some might call it a feature, like a curtain being pulled up, but it is a bug to me. A bug that, after numerous attempts and a panic attack sadly couldn’t fix.
Another fault on my site lies with the Facebook Share plugin. If you click on it it likes like it should, but the box that appears to let you modify the like text gets cut off and is unusable. It is an inexcusable bug that, sadly, I cannot fix either. I have tried everything in my power but due to the aforementioned time frame it was not possible to fix in time. But it does work.
In conclusion, I think I’ve created a smart little site which is easy to use and still doesn’t look too much like it just used a template. The navigation is flawless and all ground functions work like they should. Looking back, it has been a long ride. One with a lot of baby steps and some milesteps that all lead up to a site that I can call my own. A site that shows Thomas Does IT and it.
Thank you for reading, merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Thomas Bo Nielsen 17-12-2012