I spent a few hours this weekend going over my website, Red Kite Creative, making some changes to improve readability and better show what I can do for clients. I haven’t really done this since the ‘new’ site went up about 15 months ago (not to the whole site, anyway)… it’s ironic that it’s hard to keep my own site up to date, as a web designer. Sigh.

So, I made some changes:

  • Cut back the text quite a bit on many pages, including the home page. I replaced blocks of text  with lists when possible, or put them into blockquotes to set them apart from regular paragraphs. Less wordy, more concise.
  • I removed the ugly little email newsletter sign up form from the top section of my site and moved it into the sidebar, above the fold. I redesigned it to be smaller, but with a big obvious ‘Sign Up’ button. Before it wasn’t so obvious, and I haven’t had a lot of registrations for my newsletter in the past.
  • I added information specifically about WordPress – WP is really becoming my platform of choice lately and I want to promote my skills. I added a block of content on the home page about it, and a brand new page just for WordPress.
  • Created a new services page; the old one was way too long.
  • Replaced the old services menu with a new one that always shows subpages.
  • Replaced the old ‘website makeovers’ page with a new redesign page – I’m using HighSlide to show before-and-after screenshots of redesigned sites.
  • Created a new page for custom portfolio and gallery design. I’m a landscape architect by education, and I work with a number of architects, designers, photographers and artists. I really love building imagery-focused sites and want to make this a more prominent part of my business. I showed a few example screenshots from some of my portfolio projects on this page, too.

I’m happier with the site now – it’s much cleaner-looking and there’s not as much reading required to get the point across. I hope prospective clients agree!

This is really great.

One of my clients, a consultant for whom I did a site that launched about 18 months ago, read a story about SEO in the Wall Street Journal and it lit a fire under him. Today we met and he told me about his plans to expand the value of his already informative web site.
This client is an internationally-known expert in his industry. He already has a nice resource section with a good representative sample of his extensive book collection on his web site – now he wants to expand that resource area to include the links he gathers, articles (his own and other useful writings he comes across), industry news, and a bookstore (I’ll be using an Amazon aStore to capture his library).

All these things, coupled with some SEO work, are great ideas. They’ll contribute to his credibility, will likely be useful to industry colleagues and his own clients, and will hopefully increase traffic to his site.

I’m so happy I have some clients like this that see the huge potential of their web sites and aren’t interested in stopping at a glorified brochure. My client is constantly involved in reshaping the boundaries of his own knowledge about his work, and now he will bring his own clients and colleagues into the loop, so to speak. It’ll be interesting work.

I’ve been using OptionCart as my shopping cart frontend for awhile – I’ve used it for two clients plus my own retail site.  It’s a frontend for Mal’s E-commerce, which I’ve used since 1998 and about which I have nothing but good comments.

These two work together much like ZenCart or X-Cart by itself, but OptionCart has an advantage for me as being totally based on PHP includes. I can drop a cart interface into any existing HTML or PHP-based site, there are no templates to create.

However, there are a lot of include files to edit. The first time I used it, for a site with about 500 photos for sale, it took me weeks and weeks to get the formatting done.  It’s all in tables (a disadvantage) and I’m a CSS user so that took some getting used to again.

The results looked really good, but I ate a good number of hours getting it the way I wanted it to look.

The second project I used it on was my retail site. Since I’d written down every procedure I used for editing and reformatting each included file, this one was easier – it probably took half the time of the first one, and looked as good.

Over the weekend I tackled the formatting of a site that’s just about ready to launch. I’d already installed OptionCart a few weeks earlier but had done no formatting. I sat down on Saturday morning to start on it, took a break to see a movie that afternoon, and finished it all up on Sunday night.

It looks really nice, and it took me, again, far less time. I think I’ve done it enough that I know where to look for what needs changing (there’s a lot of PHP code to wade through). 

I’m building my first X-Cart site now, so it will be interesting to see how the two compare. I know that X-Cart has many more features, but for most of clients, OptionCart is an inexpensive and very attractive package. Even more so that it’s becoming so easy for me to customize nicely.

I have a number of sites that I use for graphic inspiration. One of my favorites is Design Meltdown because it groups sites and examples by categories that make sense to me – Stripes; Retro; Super Clean; color usage and so on. There’s also a nice section on solutions and (Photoshop) tutorials. This is a good place to spend some time looking around…