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User Journal

Journal Journal: Please Critique My New Web Design 2

Please critique my website's new design. You can post your comments in reply to this journal or email them to michael@geometricvisions.com.

I just completed the first phase of what will be a two-phase redesign of the website I use for my creative activities - music, writing, art and photography. I'm taking the site a lot more seriously than I used to, as I'm working hard at making a career change from software engineering to music. My site is:

My work so far focusses primarily on improving brand-name recognition of my stage name: Michael David Crawford. I include my middle name to avoid confusion with a famous actor who is also named Michael Crawford. Just in the last three months, analysis of my log files tells me that people are starting to find my site by entering my stage name into search engines. I want to encourage that.

It's a lot better than it was, but could still be improved. I'll do the second phase of the redesign after your critique. I also emailed all my friends and family about it, and will be asking for comments at Kuro5hin, where I'm a prominent member, as well as at Webforumz.

The site will be at a new domain when I roll out the second phase: michaeldavidcrawford.com. I'll put a redirect at the old domain so old links work, and (hopefully) so I can preserve my search engine position. My current domain is named after my first piano album, Geometric Visions, but I hope to have many albums someday.

All but four of the sixty-eight pages are XHTML 1.0 Strict. Two are transitional, because of a Google search form and a web ring navigation pane. Two of the pages are XHTML+RDFa; I had to do some hacking to get the RDFa pages to validate while still working in Internet Explorer. (The RDFa is used for Creative Commons license metadata - I've been placing a lot of my work under CC licenses.)

Internet Explorer also required a javascript hack to support captions inside of the frames I've placed around all the images; the hack replaces the frame's div with a one-cell table. Otherwise the frame would stick to the right and left sides of the window. My CSS and all but one of my pages are valid. The one invalid page is my custom 404 page, and it's because of the Google search form. The AdSense Terms and Conditions don't allow me to alter their markup, so I'm forced to be invalid if I use AdSense for Search!

I'd like advice as to how I could best place an AdSense for Search form on every page - but I won't actually do so until Google revises their markup so it's valid. I've had some conversations with AdSense support about it; I think it will happen but probably not soon.

There are just two tables on the whole site: the alternating left-right index on my homepage is a two-column table, as well as the web ring navigation pane on my telescope making page. I realize I could implement the homepage index as a bunch of divs, but the current implementation seems to make more sense to me, as well as being more reliable for older browsers.

I plan to add more items to the navigation in phase two. To provide the needed real estate, I'm going to replace my explicit email address with just the word "Contact". It will still be an email link, but will be spam-protected by implementing it in javascript. The Contact link will lead to a contact form page if you have Javascript disabled.

I'll be making my site fully accessible, as well as improving SEO in phase two. I have some experience with SEO but I'm by no means an expert. All the pages that I've worked to optimize so far have meta description tags, but most others don't.

My music pages will be reorganized, with my main music page being replaced with a bio, some photographs, and links to all the other music pages. My album Geometric Visions will be placed in a subdirectory (music/geometric-visions). Each of my new albums will have their own page. I'll also place my sheet music on its own page.

There's not much content on the drawing, painting and photography pages yet, but I'm finding that the few images I do have are getting a lot of referrals from image search engines. I'll be adding a lot of photos in the coming weeks. I won't be able to add my other drawings and paintings until I can get them out of storage on the opposite coast, which won't be for a long time.

I have a print-specific stylesheet. It hides the navigation, and makes links look like regular text. On most of the pages that use it, it adds a header to hardcopies explaining where the original can be found online. Try a Print Preview of this page for an example.

I didn't think of it until just now, but the printing code for phase two will keep my logo on hardcopies, while hiding the rest of the header. The print logo will have a white background - the screen logo has a gray background to match the body color; I don't use transparency because it's a PNG, and old Explorer versions don't render PNG transparency correctly.

The navigation in phase two will be implemented as Server-Side Includes; the current navigation was pasted into every single page. Having five websites, I've done site-wide navigation changes the hard way so many times that I finally decided to get help on how to do it the easy way.

Well that beats the subject completely to death . Thanks for your help!

-- Mike

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Way of the White Hat SEO

New: AdSense Tips and Tricks that aren't what you expect, or "Earn High by Playing it Clean".

It's how I'm able to earn half my income through advertising published in articles I wrote for my website, whose traffic I built to over a hundred thousand hits of month over a period of seven years. As I write this, my resume and homepage are Google's #1 and #2 hits for software consultant.

I didn't resort to anything underhanded to build my site. Instead I built traffic and search rank by writing articles such as my programming tips.

I never intended to make any money directly from my website though; instead, I published the articles as a way to attract potential clients. Sometimes someone who came to read one would follow up with a sales inquiry. It's worked very well for me: I stayed working throughout the downturn, and these days I have to turn away clients.

CheeseburgerBrown called my article "The Way of the White Hat SEO".


-- Mike

User Journal

Journal Journal: Help Me to Help the Mentally Ill

I have received many emails from people who read Living with Schizoaffective Disorder. I get mail from the mentally ill, their friends, their family, from mental health specialists, and those studying to become one. Overwhelmingly their email tells me that they found my article helpful.

Many tell me that my article is the only material they've found that helps them understand what schizoaffective disorder is really like. Most of the web pages about it, and most books, consist only of terse clinical descriptions.

More than a few have told me that they thought no one else experienced what they did. My article helped them to understand that they are not alone. They told me that my article gave them hope.

But my article is not helping as many as it could. My web server logs tell me that about 2000 people access one or another of its pages each month. I estimate that only about 300 of them read the entire article. That's not very many, considering that there are about two million schizophrenics, two million manic depressives, and a million schizoaffectives in the US alone, and far more worldwide.

You can help me to help the mentally ill by linking to my article from your website, weblog, or from message boards. It would also help to email the link to anyone you think might enjoy or benefit from my article.

Not only would some follow your link, but your link would help my article rank higher in the search engines. My log files tell me that most who read my article find it in the search engines, by searching for "schizoaffective disorder", or one of the symptoms: "depression", "mania", "paranoia", "hallucinations" or "dissociation".

My article ranks well for some keywords but not for others. It's google's #7 hit for "schizoaffective disorder", but only #77 for "paranoia". The #1 hit for paranoia is the CDDA Paranoia Homepage, an open source application for extracting audio data from CDs, which has nothing to do with this symptom of mental illness.

You should know that I am committed never to run advertising in the article. I do have ads on some of my other pages. My psychiatrists suggested that I should offer advertising exposure to the manufacturers of psychiatric drugs, but I think that would be wrong. Many of those who read my article are impressionable and vulnerable. Their ability to think critically is often impaired. It would be inappropriate to advertise to them from an article I wrote to help them.

Thanks for your help.



Journal Journal: Geometric Visions

While most of you know me from my work as a software consultant, I am also an artist and musician. Examples of my music, photography, drawing and painting can be found at www.geometricvisions.com.

Notably, you can download the MP3s for the complete album of me playing my piano compositions:

I expect to make Ogg Vorbis format available soon as well.

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