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Collaborating on a New Website

UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA home page
I was especially happy to do the website because the stories told are important to me. One of the four subjects of the film is a man I have been mentoring since he arrived at the San Francisco airport four years ago, and I make a few brief appearances in the film, mostly as comic relief playing the porter.

What made this website different from a development point of view is that the clients were filmmakers. They’re filmmakers with excellent design sense and ideas of how they wanted the site to look… pretty exact ideas of how they wanted the site to look, in fact!

In our first meeting they had a mock-up of the design they were looking for, a site structure, and ideas for the content on their pages. Most of my clients rely on me to suggest what pages they need and what should be on them. Not filmmakers Tom Shepard and Jen Gilomen.

So, instead of coming up with possible layouts and content for client approval, my task was simplified. I just had to find a way to get the Avada WordPress template I often use to accommodate the client’s desires.

This work reinforced my suspicion that Avada is very flexible. It allowed me to do the layout, color palate, and even the font selection that the filmmakers wanted.

I also learned that filmmakers are right up there with architects in their concern that the website be a spectacular representation of their aesthetics and commitment to quality. They wanted each website page to be as carefully framed as the scenes in their movie. Is the font size too large? Is the image too dark? too light? How far apart should the letters be spaced?

Fortunately, these are kind and calm filmmakers. They worried with good humor and kindness.

And, I didn’t sigh too loudly when they deleted any visibility (Search Engine Optimization) elements… like putting the film title in the page headlines or reiterating the subject of the documentary often enough to clue Google in on what a page was about.

UNSETTLED Subjects Profile Picture

Their site represents the look and feel wanted by the filmmakers. Their iterative updates all focused on getting the pages cleaner, leaner, and completely uncluttered.

From my point of view, this was an easy job. The clients didn’t hem and haw about the look they wanted. They’ve got The Eye. And, they communicated what they wanted clearly.

What do you think? Check out the site and let me know.

And, be sure to see if the film is playing near you. See it!

By |2019-06-22T14:04:40-07:00June 22nd, 2019|Web Design|1 Comment

The Cobbler’s Children Get New Shoes


Original Ozdachs WebsiteOur business website looked great when it went live in 2002. It was modern, clean, quick-to-load, and full-featured. We did updates and edits throughout the years, but the basic layout and functionality was rooted in standards and technology of the early new century.

The original home page is shown on the right (and click on the picture to go to the actual old site).

But, we’re not in 2002 anymore. It was way past time to create an updated Ozdachs.biz, and we were happy to go live with a new look in early July.

Here are 4 major changes we made… and ones you should consider doing, if your site is 16, 10, or even 6 years old!

Responsive Design

Responsive design means that your site responds (displays) differently depending upon the layout and size of the user’s screen. Graphics will change size and columns will break differently depending on what type of device your visitor is using. Your pages will look different on desktops, tablets, and cell phones.

For some industries, over half of all website visitors are using their cellphones, so making pages that look look and work well on small screens is important.

Responsive design lets your web pages display on the phone without making the user scroll or manually resize the screen. Users like responsive sites a lot. They don’t like to have to scroll left and right to see what’s there.

  • Moreover, Google ranks sites that are NOT responsive lower in search results. If you’re hoping that new visitors will discover your site when they look up your keywords on Google, you need to have a responsive site.

 

Mobile Test Results for Ozdachs.biz

Want to see if your current site is responsive? 

And then see if the small formats are user-friendly: Use Google’s free testing tool.

Larger and More Complex Graphics

Fifteen years ago web designers had to worry about the size of photographs and functional code on their site because download speeds were low. Remember the hot technology of DSL? The top DSL speed  was 128 kilobits per second to 3 Megabits per second (Mbps). Big pictures, maybe 8 Megabits in size, could make your website take forever to display.

Most people now get 10, 20, 100, or even 1000 Mbs from their Internet Servic Provider!

Users and search engines still care about speed, and Google boosts your site in search results if it loads in a reasonable amount of time.  But, with speeds 100 faster than they were a few years ago, images can be larger and you can do some fancy displays with pictures and text.

You want larger photos and more interesting graphics — properly focused, they grab the attention of your visitors.

WordPress for Code Management

Initially all of Ozdachs’ sites were simple HTML sites with maybe some JavaScript written for navigation or simple image swapping. To publish a site or to make changes, you had to have a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG)  HTML authoring tool like FrontPage or Dreamweaver on your computer. You’d make your changes locally and then upload the HTML code to your hosting service.

Now, up to 30% of website are developed using the open source code management system WordPress. WordPress is constantly being updated and improved. Third parties are writing tons of plug-in applications to increase the functionality of WordPress sites. In addition, scads of developers have created templates that sit on top of WordPress and let you apply and extensively customize prefabricated websites and web pages.

WordPress sites live on the hosting service, not on any one person’s computer. With proper security, your developer or you can update your site content from anywhere with an Internet connection. You do your edits using a web browser. You go to your site, enter in your authoring credentials, and make your changes. There is no special software required on your computer.

WordPress originally was known for supporting blogs like this one. But, now entire sites are built on WordPress.

Ozdachs uses WordPress —and currently the Avada template — for most of its clients. The choices of looks and features which can be selected is rich. Our web design home page shows a selection of client sites, and all but one of them are WordPress sites using Avada.

Frankly, we couldn’t offer the range of looks and functions to our clients without relying on whiz-bang products from third parties. Developers and companies are producing more reasonably-priced tools for the WordPress platform than for any other offering. So, we are WordPress fans.

HTTPS Protocol

When your old site was created, chances are your hosting service only delivered pages to visitors using Hypertext Transport Protocol, and the site’s address in web browsers showed up as “http://www.yoursite.com”.

The standard now for websites is now Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure or HTTPS.  This means that your website’s connections with your visitors are encrypted and that your site has been verified as real by a third-party issuer of security certificates. Check out this discussion of what HTTPS is and why you want it.

Most of Ozdachs clients collect no sensitive data from their visitors. Getting a security certificate and delivering content by HTTPS might seem like overkill.

However, Google threatens to penalize all sites that are not HTTPS by displaying them lower in search engine results. And, also, some of your users will be reassured by seeing the padlock icon and a “Secure” indication in the browser’s address field when they use your site.

We decided to pay for a upgraded SSL certificate for our business site so visitors know we know the technology and understand that we can be trusted.

Check Out Our New Shoes

That’s it! Our four big changes:

    1. Responsive Design
    2. Larger and Complex Graphics
    3. WordPress Base
    4. HTTPS protocol

The leap from a 2002 look and a 2018 website is a big one.

We like the fancy look look of our new shoes.

Check out Ozdachs’ Internet Consulting business site, and let us know what you think and if you have any questions on what we’ve done.

Internet Consulting and Web Design New Site

By |2018-07-24T11:01:31-07:00July 15th, 2018|Tips and Resources, Web Design|0 Comments

The Dress’ Color and Your Website

Dress whose color people cannot agree on

Gold and White… or Blue and Black… this dress is one color for you and the other color for 50% of the population

This picture went viral when it was posted on Tumbler along with the question, “.. is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?” Everyone who viewed the dress thought that the question was silly.  For half of the people the answer was unequivocally gold and white. The other half were equally sure that the dress was blue and black.

Personally, I first saw it as gold and white.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could see anything else.  Then I came back from being in a dark room, and the picture had magically changed.  The dress was definitely blue and black.

There are great explanations of why different people see different colors.  I particularly like Wired‘s discussion of the science behind the different color perceptions.  They even analyze the strengths of the different hues in each part of the dress and come up with a “scientific” answer.

However, as a web designer, I don’t need a right or wrong, definitive color ruling. I don’t think there is a single correct answer.

The whole discussion illustrates one of the problems I explain to clients. You cannot control precisely what a visitor to your website will see.

The dress photograph shows that people simply perceive things differently.  The same swatch of color may look red to you and green to me.  The settings of our individual monitors may differ.  The background images on our monitors may contain different colors that affect our judgements.  Our room lighting may be lighter or darker, or more blue or yellow. Or, our minds just interpret colors differently.

All of these variables make it extremely difficult (i.e., impossible) to develop a web page that looks the same to all visitors.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot design a clean, clear site that 99% of visitors find pleasing.  It just means that sometimes you have to breathe deeply and give up the desire to control the entire user experience.

I have spent hours making minor color adjustments for some clients — architects and designers are particularly particular.  They get angry because a color that looked like a perfect blue on their office screens appears too purple when they get home.  I explain that the monitors’ settings, ambient lighting, and even the viewer’s mood disrupt a uniform experience.  Colors and looks on the Internet are not as controllable as they are on a printed page.  Often, the client acts like I am trying to shirk from a difficult, but possible, task!

So, I love the picture of dress.  If you cannot give up absolute control of the user experience on your site, I can always ask if you want me to use a gold and white combination like the one the dress. Or, is that a blue and black combo?!

By |2015-03-06T09:12:27-07:00March 6th, 2015|Web Design|0 Comments

Embracing The “M” Word

Yes, I maintain websites after I’ve designed them. Yes, I maintain websites designed by other people.

Apparently a lot web designers want to just that: design websites.  They don’t want to do minor changes or, God forbid, touch a site someone else originally created.

Many of the calls I get are from tired business owners who want to change some things in their site, but they don’t need — or want to pay for — a complete overhaul. They report problems finding someone who can help them.

Sometimes their original web designer has found a full-time graphics design job (a lot of web designers seem to be frustrated or underemployed graphic designers).  Other times the business owners report that their original designer doesn’t do maintenance.

I think we web designers have to be available to make changes and tweaks to our customers’ pages.  Phone numbers change, photos get outdated,  new products come out, business hours expand!  All of these updates belong on your website.

Sometimes the business owner needs more substantial changes. They want to add a video or a series of pages about new things they’re doing.  The owner wants to update their site, but they aren’t up for a total re-do!

I get asked to help with all sorts of websites, even sites created on WordPress or other platforms that supposedly allow non-technical users to update content. WordPress, Joomla, and proprietary systems by Wix, GoDaddy, and others all require some computer skills.  Although they do not require special software on your computer, these tools take time to learn and tame.  Many owners are too busy running their business to spend hours coming up to speed and implementing changes.  I am happy that they call me!

Doing maintenance may not be as fun as creating an eye-catching design from scratch. And, when I work on a site that someone else created, I have to adjust to whatever style that person had.  I also have to find out where they have put the images, layouts, and styles I’m being asked to use and modify.  And, of course, the original designer is never as organized and clear as I am!

Still, I am happy to do maintenance.  I have done one-time updates, and I have some clients whose sites I change several times a month like Theatre Rhinoceros, a San Francisco theater company.  I like making all of them reflect the owner’s current activities.

By |2014-10-07T15:40:50-07:00October 7th, 2014|Professional Services, Web Design|0 Comments

The Tale of Two Websites

Websites are worse than ties.  You can really tell when you’re looking at last year’s fashion.

It’s not just shifts in aesthetic whim.  Technology allows looks and functions that were not possbile earlier. For example, when people were on dial-up or slow DSL, websites had to have small pictures to minimize download time.  You still have to watch the speed of your website, but you can safely use pictures that are two or three or four times the size recommended back in 2004.

Then for a while sites had a boxed look with sidebars to get more information on the page. Now, navigation menus drop down from the top of the page, sliders rotate graphics featuring different topics, and there’s a more open feel.  Within a single page you’ll have a mixture of one-column, two-column, three-column or more-column layouts.  You’ll have tabs that when clicked will reveal paragraphs of descriptions, and you can incorporate bullet-points that expand when selected.

See what I mean.  I just redid a website for employment attorney Brian Hawes.  I used the same content in both sites, except for an updated picture of Brian and the addition of client testimonials.

Before

Home Page 2010

Home Page 2010

Visit the old website.

After

Homepage of employment attorney Brian Hawes in 2014

Home Page 2014

Visit the updated Employment Attorney Website.

The new site looks much cleaner, clearer, inviting, and 2014-ish! In addition, the new site is responsive, meaning the layout changes to better fit different screens such as smart phones, tablets, and traditional desktop computers.

Fortunately, updating a site using exising material doesn’t require that the business owner take new photos or dream up more content.  The same material can be transferred to the new look.

However, for the web designer a new site can take as much effort as putting up the site originally. Putting content into tabs, diving text into columns, or using the graphic quotation marks for testamonials requires more than simple cutting and pasting.

The designer will have to stage the site at a test location and then move it to the live location when it’s done. Plus, we have make sure that incoming links to old pages are good. Either we have to use the same page names in the new site (e.g., “lawyercontact.php“) or else redirect visitors to the new version of the page (e.g., “http://www.haweslawfirm.com/contact/“).

But, updating your site is important and worth the investment. You want your business to look modern. You want to tell the visitors about your services in an attractive way.

Go ahead. Tell them you’re ready to serve them in 2014.

By |2014-03-08T17:51:36-07:00March 8th, 2014|Web Design|0 Comments