Good, Bad and Ugly - Web Design and Container Gardening

Reflection On the Creation of Web Sites - Why?

Every one of us has a different reason for creating a web presence and all of us have different tastes in what could be considered a good site. This determination hinges on looking at what is it about the Internet that interests you. Basically this boils down to what kind of site turns you on and what type of site would you like to create to display your interests. These considerations are foremost as you make your decisions in planning your Internet site while still looking at required web design skills. You will find, that when you are browsing on the internet, you almost automatically go to the kind of sites that interest you and fit into your agenda; check yourself and your browsing habits; ask yourself the questions, do you browse without a specific purpose or do you head for sites with specific information?

In my case, I am rather elderly and got interested in genealogy in the last decade or so. I decided that I needed to get a family tree laid on the web so that my descendants would have at least some idea about our family, or at least, the family starting with me and going back in time. It is up to the spouse to work with her half of the equation (with me helping on the necessary internet skills). It has turned out that my wife is better than I am at doing the necessary research (perhaps her BA degree and Masters in Meso-American Anthropology helps in that aspect). My BA in Biblical and Religious studies and Masters in Technical and Occupational Education didn't give me a lot of experience in basic research, although I am learning to do so rapidly.

My primary reason for taking a class in web design was to improve the aged and terrible web design skills I had from trying to put together web sites about 15 years ago using MS Front Page (ugh). In comparison, this Dreamweaver is a dream. Anyway, I have a project on the CAGenWeb site to work on and that will keep me busy in the foreseeable future.

The internet and web design are intriguing in that everything is so absolute, every dot and comma must be in the proper location when using HTML and even when using an advanced program such as Dreamweaver, thinking as well as keyboard dum dums will get one in big trouble. I am continually having to fix my dum dums as I progress through my class assignments while simultaneously achieving an ongoing learning curve.

In this reflection, I would like to point out some of my favorite sites such as:

Ancestry.com

Find-A-Grave

Fresno Library

Orthphoto

Hopefully, all of the links work in this venue and I will check them to make sure. I also like to garden so some of the gardening sites are helpful, but I usually Google them for the subject of the day, i.e. when to plant my fall veggies, but you might want to check out an interesting site at:

Global Buckets


Titles on Web Design, Genealogy and Gardening

The Official Guide to Ancestry.com
The Official Guide to Ancestry.com

A basic guide to get started on Ancestry.com, but runs out of steam after you are up and running. It is a good resource for the hard questions and helps one to get the proper lingo when talking to tech support.

 
The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers
The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and Other Containers

There are a few problems with the Global Buckets idea and this book can help solve them.

 

Reflection On How To Rate Web Pages and Sites?

There are many types and styles of web sites and their inclusive pages on the internet. A determination has to be made at how one should grade or rate various web pages. This could be consider a check off list on what constitutes a good web page and how one might go about doing the same, that is creating good web pages. Of course, there are many critical components and techniques that must be 'part and parcel' of all web pages, and it is the job of the creator to find out what they are! Everyone needs to have a minimum list of absolutes of their own, and one way to do so is to take a list at what is offered on the web, to look at web pages, and find some obvious must-have lists for web pages. There are also many books that can help the web designer which have basic must-have lists and most of them say the same thing over and over again. Some sites to look at would be:

The Webby Awards

Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design

Top 10 Guides for Home Page Design

Good Practice

After initially writing this article, I recently (August 2016) ran into a good article regarding the need for continual evaluation of web sites and pages to achieve maximum Search Engine exposure and to keep your links up-to-date (for reader happiness). The article can be found on Teacher tap and is entitled:

Evaluating Internet Resources

As I browsed the internet for the subject of this reflection, I "googled" the term “good website design” and got 317,000,000 returns on Google. After I had checked out about 10,000,000 of them, I felt that I had a good feel for what good web design CONSISTS of. I capitalize the word consist because I noticed a preponderance of words beginning with the letter “C” on many of the sites that I looked at. So, as a result and with a degree of naiveté, I decided that I would discuss the subject from the perspective of C words.

  • Consistency. When I look at a page and other pages on a site via the provided links, is it consistent and is the layout the same as I go from page to page; in other words, I do not want to waste my time trying to figure out the structure of each page? This could be described as constancy in organization; the fabric of the site is certain, has clarity, clearness and a congruous harmony from page to page.
  • Communication. Does the page faithfully provide the viewer with the desired information; most of us google the web for a reason, looking for something? Does the site that we look at provide an articulate answer to our search in a form that is acceptable to us? If not, then we typically navigate away from the page to somewhere else, where hopefully the answer to the need of the moment can be located. One of the tendencies of the internet, or at least Google in my experience, is to place about six advertisements at the top of the search results, many of which have no connection or a hidden agenda concerning the subject of my search. That is irritating to me and communicates irresponsibility (yes, even my favorite search engine is somewhat irresponsible). For instance, if I am looking for the history of a crosscut saw, I am not interested (at that point) in Amazon who is trying to sell me one, maybe later.
  • Cognition. Does the site meet my need to comprehend, capiche (1940s slang), dig (1960s slang), to understand the ‘whatever’. When my wife is working on her computer across the room, I hear the occasional ‘aha’ or ‘yeah’ meaning that she has had a successful Google event in her genealogy research. That is what the web is all about for many of us, a cognitive tool, to obtain data. I believe that various tools that are used on a website need to fit into my cognitive perspective, bells and whistles are nice if they add to the need of the moment, or, keep me on the page rather than quickly ‘clicking off’. The site needs to meet the cognitive abilities of the desired audience; I see many technology sites trying to sell equipment and/or software that seem to be only able to speak in technical language that is far above my technical knowledge bank, they are speaking to a very small audience in many cases and turn off everyone else (which may be purposeful). Technical writing is difficult.
  • Candor. Is the site ethical and can it be trusted for its integrity? Many of us tend to quickly get off a site when the honesty of the message is in doubt. Many sites try to suck the viewer in by ‘getting them there’ and then attracting their interest via various graphics, music, words; you might say that they try to grab you. Many times I find myself on a search and have wandered away from the original purpose of my search to such a degree that I cannot even remember what I was looking for in the first place. I like a site with veracity, one that I can trust when a friend, for example, says to one of my concrete statements, “Where did you get that information?”. The other synonyms that fit into the realm of candor are credibility and correctness which do not need explaining. A final ethical question that one might ask is it right to get a person on a page/site and not allow them to click off; I don’t know how it is done technologically (haven’t investigated the phenomena), but it is an invasion of a person’s rights and actually is pretty ignorant (IMHO) because the person who is stuck on the page is usually so mad about the event that they would never participate in whatever is the agenda for the page.
  • Competency. Does the site exhibit professionalism or was it obviously put together by an amateur or, even worse, by someone with a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda. For instance, my wife used to collect dolls, and one day when she was just beginning to use the internet, she placed the word ‘doll’ in a search engine. Every porno pervert in the internet world had the word 'doll', and it turned out, 'toy' in their keyword index. A loud ‘eek’ ensued and I had to explain to her that she had to be careful what words she used in her searches. I suppose that the perverts are competent, adept, capable, expert, etc. in getting their message out to the public, but they lack integrity, empathy in basic humanity, what I call Humanity 101. But, back to the main point, a site needs to exhibit an obvious display of whatever is necessary to keep the viewer on the site and returning at a later time; that can be done by means of the various tools that are available and by the message itself. Needless to say, grammar and spelling are very important displays of technical competence; many of us are poor spellers and need to look for the little “squigglies” under a word that indicate a spelling problem, a grammar problem, or just lack of understanding of the word on the part of the tools that are built into many of our word processing programs, our email programs or our browsers.

Anyway, my two cents worth . . .


Rating Web Sites

Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to (X)HTML, StyleSheets, and Web Graphics
Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to (X)HTML, StyleSheets, and Web Graphics

How to create multi-column CSS layouts with optimized graphic files and how to get your pages up on the Web.

 
The Web Designer's Idea Book, Vol. 2: More of the Best Themes, Trends and Styles in Website Design
The Web Designer's Idea Book, Vol. 2: More of the Best Themes, Trends and Styles in Website Design

The author has cataloged more than 5,000 sites on his website, and showcased in this book are the very best examples.

 
Build Your Own Web Site The Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 2nd Edition
Build Your Own Web Site The Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 2nd Edition

Contains more than 650 new websites arranged thematically, so you can easily find inspiration for your own website.

 
The Non-Designer's Web Book, 3rd Edition
The Non-Designer's Web Book, 3rd Edition

Full of creative ideas, useful techniques, and basic design principles that are essential to great Web design.

 
Web Design: A Beginner's Guide Second Edition
Web Design: A Beginner's Guide Second Edition

How to plan, design, and maintain dynamic web pages and sites.

 

Reflecting on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Website

There are many examples of websites that reflect the title of this reflection. Two of the listed below and it is obvious which is which. The question is, what drives the web designer in each case, what is going on that gives the person browsing the net the proper impression? Why is that? What is going on in these two pages that gives one an instant impression? Is it possible to put into words the problems with one and the solutions of the other, specifically in regard to the interface and navigation.

Back40 Design is an award-winning internet and graphic design firm offering advertising, web design and print services to assist you in effectively marketing your message. Website

THE BIG UGLY WEBSITE is exactly what the title indicates that it is, but there seems to be a purpose behind the ugly. The owner of the site obviously wanted to display sites that fit into the genre of bad and ugly, maybe he placed his sisters site on the list, lol.

In looking at the concerns of this reflection, the Back40 site is the simplest to use, the menu is very simple and takes the viewer directly to an intended link, it is easy to navigate if for no other reason than its intended simplicity; there is no fooling around or hidden agendas. On the other hand, The Ugly website loads quickly, but takes an immense amount of time to check out its non-obvious menu. The menu is there in the various links, but not obvious as being a menu of types; the menu seems to consist totally of external links, there does not appear to be any other internal pages and the intent of the site is questionable.

In this reflection, the Good is obviously the Back40 site which is good at doing its intended task, selling the principals of the site as being able to provide Website Design, E-Commerce Solutions, Javelin Content Management Systems, Hosting & Web Analytics, Search Engine Optimization, and Customer Service & Support. The site loads in about 8 seconds with outstanding sliding images representing past achievements. The front page is great at displaying the principals in the company and has a blurb about their goals and past achievements. There is a good contact link that provides a great sign-up form with a minimum of intrusion into private matters and a real telephone number in case I don't want to give them my email address or phone number. The only glitch that I picked up was the front page statement by Dave Miller, "We don't always do things perfect." Dave should have used the adverb "perfectly" rather than the adjective "perfect." Other than that, I found nothing that fitted into my imperfect knowledge of what constitutes a "good" website.

There is no bad, both sites do the intended job. And what is that job; to make a point or to push a product? One site wants to sell themselves to a particular audience and the other wants to display ugliness on the web, probably desiring to make a specific point about ugly design.

And the Ugly is obviously ugly as can be seen at the site, very ugly in fact, but it does have one major good point, it loads in about two seconds which means that I can get on and off the site in about 4 seconds. The site does make its point, the links that are provided are very ugly. If I by accident went to this site, I would rapidly move on; but in this case, I did take a look at many of the ugly sites. In various ways and forms, the ugly sites demonstrated every possible "no-no" regarding good web design. The site, though, that we are looking at is purposefully ugly although I cannot imagine anyone who would bother to produce such a site and spend time trying to keep it updated and with new sources of ugliness. I found some of the links to be non-responsive, there wasn't anyone out there, and I found other links that have had, somehow, an epiphany experience and they had cleaned up their site. These formerly ugly, sites were not that ugly. I saw spelling and grammar problems galore, lack of menus, links that didn't work, slow loaders, meaningless dribble with no connection to the so-called purpose of the site, weirdo sites that didn't seem to have a purpose or goal other than perhaps to just be there and to be ugly, the list goes on. In consideration of the five 'Cs" of my earlier reflection, I must state the following regarding the Ugly site:

  • Consistency: the site is consistently ugly, pushes the ugly agenda quite well, and is clear and congruent, that is if you like ugly. The only link that wasn't ugly was the pencil link, Brand Name Pencils.
  • Communication: the site communicates its intended message quite well, if you are interested in ugly sites, they are provided.
  • Cognition: the site provides me with a clear picture of what is ugly and what extremes some people will to to be ugly. For just plain weird, check out this site.
  • Candor: I don't know about the integrity of this website, I was able to take a look at many of the links with no problems, so, I guess the site is ethical although I question its reason for existence.
  • Competency: the competency level of the person who put together the site is probably high, he/she has provided the web with a 'definitive' concept of website ugliness. The whole site is done in Cascading Style Sheets which indicates, to me at this point, a fairly high degree of competence or a good program such as Dreamweaver.

Good and Bad Websites

Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 Student and Teacher Edition
Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 Student and Teacher Edition

This is the current edition of the Dreamweaver software. The price is good, I paid $150 for a student edition.

 
Son of Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design
Son of Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design

The author uses to the point insults to get the job done. He uses sayings such as:

"If the Bits Don't Flow, People Will Go."

"The Top's Gotta Pop or They're Not Gonna Stop."

and

TREMBLE at the horror that is Mystery Meat Navigation

RUN SCREAMING from splishy splashy Flashy pages...

 
Designing Web Usability
Designing Web Usability

The concern is for website usability and about how people get information.

 
How To Make Money From Your Website or Blog: From basics to money in five hours
How To Make Money From Your Website or Blog: From basics to money in five hours

The section, "What to do and what to avoid", answers a lot of questions about the good, bad and ugly.

 

Reflection on Web Surfers Not Reading All of the Text

When people surf the web, they usually don't read all of the text on any web site. They scan the text trying to find some related meaning for their purposed look at a specific site. Jakob Nielsen takes a look at this phenomena at How Users Read on the Web. In this article, Nielsen takes a look at 5 types of writing styles which are:

  • Promotional Writing
  • Concise Text
  • Scannable Layout
  • Objective Language,
  • Combined Version

As stated: people don't read and that goes for more than websites. I am a prime example of that failing, I read at an extremely high rate of speed, yet tend to skim-read and gloss over the material at hand. My 'totality' of any reading on the internet is directly related to the layout/subject of the site I am looking at. I find that the 'good' sites on the internet generally follow the tendencies of these following sites, below, to grab the reader and keep him/her (and me) on the site.

  • Promotional Writing: the site Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr is a good example. The site does a good job of promoting the current governor, is easy to read and interesting which leads to a complete perusal. And, the images are great.
  • Concise Text: the site Best Online Videos | Wimp.com is an excellent example of conciseness. The stated purpose is online videos and there is little else on the site. Some of the videos are very interesting.
  • Scannable Layout: the site National Register of Historic Places - Fresno, CA is scannable, not much to look at on the index page, but quickly takes one to a desired historical location via hyperlinks. It is also very concise.
  • Objective Language: the site Oregon Hikes - Steens Mountain displays very objective language, no hyperbole. A beautiful subject that could be easily promoted with flowery language such as "Steens Mountain is a wonderful example (to a geologist) of one of the largest single-fault block mountains in the world", but the site doesn't do so.
  • Combined Version: the Forestiere Underground Gardens site puts it all together promoting the site with concise text yet easy to scan with one link at the bottom of the home page. Very objective and telling it all, a great combination. A very interesting site even for a scan-reader such as myself. I find myself checking out the whole site.


100 Hikes/Travel Guide : Eastern Oregon
100 Hikes/Travel Guide : Eastern Oregon

Hiking Eastern Oregon in general with the Steen's Mountain hike being one of them. A beautiful location to visit.

 
The Forestiere Underground Garden, A Pictorial Journey
The Forestiere Underground Garden, A Pictorial Journey

An unbelievable underground garden in Fresno, CA.

 
Get to the Top on Google: Tips and Techniques to Get Your Site to the Top of the Search Engine Rankings -- and Stay There
Get to the Top on Google: Tips and Techniques to Get Your Site to the Top of the Search Engine Rankings -- and Stay There

Introduction to Search Engine Optimization, but the reader has to realize that SEO is in constant flux, what is good today will not work tomorrow. Good for the bookshelf as a primer and a resource in the area of terminology.

 

Reflection on Search Engine Optimization - Pulling in the Customers

There are many methods for developing and building a profitable website, banner ads to email campaigns, reportedly, are the most cost effective to getting results and also to getting better search engine positioning. The important thing about good search engine positioning is that the clicks on your site will ultimately produce revenue and will keep the largess rolling in as long as the high position is maintained. You may rise and fall in the ratings, but as long as you maintain the site, keep it up to date with current information, the fall will turn back into a rise. Name of the game.

One interesting read is Ten Steps To Higher Search Engine Positioning, and another is Search Engine Marketing.

Essentially, every site I looked at said almost the same thing, but in different words of course (if I had found a site written in Sanskrit it would have been the same). My goal in developing a website it to attract sales from online customers or traffic of another sort, then I need to be concerned with:

  1. Continually monitoring my position in the search engines. I need to check on my page rank with tools like Alexa and the Google Toolbar. I need to know where visitors are coming from and the search terms they're using to find my site. Many of the browsers have a page ranking extension on the toolbar that can be used to monitor ranking on any webpage on the screen.
  2. I need to be concerned with keywords, keywords, keywords, , , The keywords are found in every aspect of the site, the title, the page header, in the content, in the URL itself, the names of images, the meta tags, and any other location where there are words. But, too many keywords could identify me as a spammer, so I need to be cautious.
  3. I need to link back to myself with internal links to my archives. This can boost traffic to individual pages. The anchor text should be text search-engine-friendly.
  4. The site needs search engine friendly URLs, also. A URL such as "www.financingforyou/money_makers/sales" is much friendlier in attracting search engines than 'www.financingforyou/11989/s205a/ I made these URLS up, so do not click on them.
  5. Make sure that image descriptions reflect the photo and the purpose of the site. The site at Perfect Optimization states that it is a big plus for your site if you add an ALT tag to each image that is rich in keywords. Typical code would be: img src="images/services-pic.jpg" width="100" height="78" and ALT="XYZ company's website optimization services">
  6. Content, of course, is the primary factor in a website and after you attract the customer, you need to give them often up-dated material to look at, useful information about what you provide such as services, products, topics, etc. One very valuable tool in many cases is a blog and FAQs that actually answer questions and provide informative data.
  7. Social media distribution is something that many website gurus overlook. A blog could be an important part of this effort and it is necessary in this aspect to attempt to reach out to other websites and web presences to mutually stroke each others back by reaching out and cross linking each other. Social media marketing is exemplified in the current web environment by Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, U-Tube, Digg, and many others. The social side of the web is still in its infancy with a long ways to go. Lately we have seen Facebook take the lead away from MySpace and now Facebook is being challenged by Google Plus; no one can rest on their laurels in the cutthroat business of the web.
  8. Mutual link friendships need to be developed. Sites who are related or just plain friendly can be very beneficial in developing traffic to the site. These 'friends' should be monitored to make sure that they will not attract traffic that you do not want. Keep checking the cross links of this type to make sure that they are active.

Reflection On Attracting Search Engines and Money

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): An Hour a Day
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): An Hour a Day

Very detailed from the fundamentals of keywords and website analysis to paid advertising.

 
Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing
Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing

Lots of well organized data. If you like text, there is a section in each chapter with such; if you prefer images, there are plenty of images and diagrams, a great book for the serious web designer.

 
Search Engine Optimization For Dummies
Search Engine Optimization For Dummies

Another one of the great 'Dummy' books; full of knowledge and details in simple language.

 
SEO Results the Organic Way - Search Engine Optimization for Beginners
SEO Results the Organic Way - Search Engine Optimization for Beginners

If you have a website you need this book!!!! If you are a web designer, you need this book so that you can make more money offering this service to your clients.

 
Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets
Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets

This book is well researched with many footnotes, charts, and illustrative case studies that demonstrate the techniques presented.

 

How About the Genealogy?

I placed genealogy in the original title because I mentioned the subject in my reflections. My life has become very genealogical and in the not too distant future, I will become part of that select group, those who have departed this life.

And that group, those who have departed, is a smaller group than those who are alive on planet Earth right now. The number of people alive today just passed 7,000,000,000, that is 7 billion, the other day with the birth of a child in the Philippines. Now, I am willing to bet that that child was not the 7 billionth person, but was probably close.

Anyway, genealogy has become a big time interest in America and Europe today. Here in America we have an easier time of finding our ancestors than many of those elsewhere in the world. Can you imagine trying to find relatives who were shot and thrown into mass graves in Europe by the Soviets and the Nazis? Or, trying to find relatives who lived in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg or Dresden after the tragedies of World War II, or even those who died in a cave on island in the South Pacific? Here in America, we generally have an easier time in locating relatives, even relatives who died on the battlefields of the American Civil War, for example one of the 23,000 killed at Antietam on one day. I have found quite a few relatives who died in those battles who somehow were returned to their home state and buried with their families, quite a few.

Now that that is out of my craw, lets look at some of the various locations where we can place our family tree. Probably, foremost today in the family tree business is Ancestry.com, a site where you pay a fee to post your tree. They have the largest data banks and genealogical records available on the internet with the possible exception of the LDS folks in Utah and, I somehow think that they are closely connected. There are other fee sites, to numerous to name, but I can think of MyHeritage, among others. There are some free sites too, such as TribalPages, Geni, etc. Personally, I use Ancestry.com, but plan in the future when I have pretty well done all I can on my family tree to switch to a free site.

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Comments 4 comments

KwameG profile image

KwameG 5 years ago from MS

nice reflections and interesting list of sites


jacksson47 profile image

jacksson47 5 years ago from Reedley, CA Author

Thanks KwameG for the comment. What city are you from in good old MS. I did my masters at USM in Hattiesburg back in 94. Took classes during the summer for two years while on vacation from Kalifornia.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

It's great you are updating your skills and there's so much to learn on the web about building websites! If you feel comfortable with Dreamweaver, have a go at Wordpress websites, they make life a lot easier, especially with blogs and brochure sites (the type of sites we do for personal use, as opposed to company ones). Wordpress is really easy once you know how to use it and Dreamweaver can be used in conjunction with Wordpress to make amazing customised websites. I also use Studiopress for Wordpress as they have a good support system for any query and tutorials to help you get setup once Wordpress is installed.


jacksson47 profile image

jacksson47 2 years ago from Reedley, CA Author

Wow, thank you Suzanne. I already have a Family Genealogy Wordpress site, but I haven't spent much time on it and have not really learned how to use that wonderful website and all of its tools. I am amazed at some of the great sites that I visit who are using Wordpress. I don't know anything about Studiopress, but will check it out because of your prompting. I even have a book "Wordpress for Dummies", read it when I first started with Wordpress and put it on the shelf. Do you have a hub on either Wordpress or Studiopress, if not, might be a good one. Thanks again, John

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