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!

Very happy to report that the new site for Loveland Habitat for Humanity launched this week. A pro bono project, I’ve been working closely with Habitat and Rob Advertising to ensure that the final result is easy to use (both for visitors and the Habitat staff that will be managing and editing the site), attractive, and focused on delivering the organization’s message with clarity.

I chose WordPress as the development platform because of its flexibility and low learning curve for the admin users. The new site integrates a custom theme, blog, Google events calendar, donation forms and Success Stories slideshow. WordPress will enable the Habitat staff to grow the website as needed in the future, and add new functionality without much fuss.

I’m also adding another custom WordPress site to the portfolio today, Front Range Factoring. FRF stretched my WordPress capabilities; the project’s intent at the beginning was adjusting a purchased theme for a live site, but in the interest of time and efficiency the client and I decided to create a new custom theme that would be easier for him to manage after relaunch.

Using the WP Framework  I worked with FRF to come up with a fresh design for his existing site. I incorporated a tabset plugin and column plugin for some of the internal pages, and learned how to add widgets wherever one might be needed in the page.

Finally, Kontour is the third new project going into the portfolio today. Kontour’s owner is a graphic designer and typographer, and she approached Red Kite to create a clean, well-commented XHTML/CSS template set that she could apply to the rest of her site redesign. I created a slideshow for the home page and a gallery template as well.

Today I’m working on the integration of the catalog application OptionCart in an XHTML/CSS site, for a client who sells BMW racing and performance car parts.

I’ve used OptionCart for quite a long time – we ran an online retail shop for 9 years and used OptionCart for the last 4 or 5. OC’s a front-end for Mal’s Ecommerce, another long-time vendor for us.

OC is nice because it’s easy to use and easy to drop into an existing website. We added sample categories, subcategories and 10 products last week, and that only took a minimal amount of time to set up. Today I’ve started on the actual integration – dropping in the PHP includes and customizing the look of the categories and products to match the rest of the site.

I wanted to have the current category name show up in the header section of the site, but OC didn’t provide a shortcode for that. No worries though, even with my rather limited experience in writing PHP, I figured out how to do it:

I created a div that I could position in the right place on the page, then put in some text that I want to surround the category name, which was a little snippet of PHP to display the variable  on screen:

Looks great! And only about 4 minutes to figure it out (don’t laugh, I’m not in any way a programmer).

I’ve been working on my hosting site redesign for a good part of the weekend. I wanted to launch it tonight and I’m so close to being done – everything looks fine in FF, Safari, Opera, and close enough in IE8.

However, the neat little jQuery login box is not working in IE7 and 6, and of course there are other problems with IE6. Not many, but just enough to cause a headache and a couple of hours of extra work. I’m so tempted to slap a ‘you’re using IE6 and you really need to upgrade to a modern browser’ label on the site. I’m not sure if I’m going to do that or not. But I’m really tempted.

I may finish it tomorrow night. I hope so. I’m going to just hide the login box in IE6/7 and replace it with a simple form. The other IE6 issues are positioning things and will take a little longer to work out (if I decide to go there at all).