Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

Web Thingies That Drive Me Nuts

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I love web design. That’s why I design my own websites. Well, also because I fervently believe in self-torture. It builds character. Everyone (as in most writers I talk to) has their own list of website design likes and dislikes. We need to think about such things so when we build our sites (or hire others to design them for us), we only drive our browsers nuts, not ourselves. Here are my website bugaboos:

  1. It should be spelled website. I don’t care that some dictionary says it’s Web site. I will never purposely spell Web site on my website (except I just did).
  2. I don’t understand tag clouds. What’s the purpose? To me, they look like someone threw up their vegetable soup. And the words that are bigger than the others? They look like they’re on an ego trip. I know tag clouds are (practically) the latest thing, but no way, no how, not ever (or at least until I change my mind) am I including a tag cloud on my blog.
  3. I can not abide moving navigation menus. You know, they hang on the side of a web page, and when you scroll down, the menu scrolls down, too? It’s a very clever idea. I liked it the first time I saw it. Then, as soon as I began scrolling, the moving menu creeped me out. The moving menu is far too Hitchcocky/Big Brother for me. It makes me feel like the computer screen’s alive, and we all know I have far too active an imagination to sleep comfortably after that. Honestly, moving menus can make me leave a website nearly as fast as…
  4. Music on websites. It drives me bonky. Whenever I vist a friend’s MySpace page, the first thing I do is shut off the music. I hereby vow that I will never ever ever install music on my MySpace page. I know the idea is that the song individualizes the page, but I find the songs make the pages take too long to load. And, well, I’m not one of those people who writes to music, so I don’t want to surf the ‘net to music, either. (Note, I rarely visit MySpace anymore, but when I did, the music most assuredly drove me nuts.) And music on real websites drives me nuts, too. I really, honestly don’t understand how browsers can focus on the words on the screen with music crowding up their brains.
  5. Animations… I can handle one or maybe two animations per page. Any more than that, and I start to get dizzy, no matter how cute or clever the animations are. I must say that I do like rollovers and remote rollovers and even animations that are somehow built into the web page banner and…this is very important…aren’t intrusive. However, give me more than one thing bouncing around, or, God forbid, following my cursor all over the page, and I don’t stick around very long. Especially when hearts or clover leafs or jack o’ lanterns start following my cursor around! I can’t get away from them! Drives me nuts!

I sometimes joke that I have adult ADD. I DO know I have HAWD (Hyper Active Website Disorder). Because there’s a commonality in my list of website don’ts. Too much visual or aural activity and I go nuts.

What are your website bugaboos? Oh, and “Writers Who Complain About Websites,” “Cindy’s Website,” and “Cindy” are not acceptable answers.

Cough, Cough, Hack, Hack

Monday, November 9th, 2009

No, I don’t have swine flu. Not even a cold. My computer’s been sick, however. More specifically, this blog. And it’s all my fault (I know, hard to believe). I got hacked!

Several weeks ago, I decided to edit my blog’s style sheet to make the blog titles smaller. For some reason, I can’t edit the style sheet from within the WordPress dashboard. It always says it’s not writable or something. I don’t know if this is because I installed the blog using Fantastico, or if it’s an idiosyncrasy of my website host. I have edited the style sheet previous to The Debacle. Successfully. However, this time, I missed a velly important step.

If you need to download your style sheet using a program like FileZilla (which is what I use – recommend it!), you need to change the permissions on your host. What are permissions, you ask? It’s a series of three numbers that essentially tells your host WHO (or, in the case of robots, WHAT) has access to your files. Who can tangle with them, so to speak. Who can screw them up. In other words, by changing the permissions so you can edit the file, you’re leaving yourself open to a security breach.

So…an intelligent person would change the permissions only as long as needed to edit the file and re-upload it. Then the intelligent person would change the permissions back to their previous state AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Now, I’m not saying I lack intelligence (although it could be argued…). However, several weeks ago, due to brain drain or too-much-to-do-itis, or what-have-you, when I uploaded my edited style sheet, I forgot to change the permissions back to their original state.

It took awhile for the hacking robots to find me (maybe it was a human, but I think it was a robot). Around the middle of October my domain emails suddenly stopped forwarding to my private email address, because my Internet Server Provider has blocked my domain addresses. This has happened before, and my host’s support staff usually gets it fixed within a couple of days. But this time it wasn’t fixing. I couldn’t figure out why.

Then, about ten days ago, I checked my domain webmail and discovered several emails from Google informing me that my website appeared to be a forgery of a U.S. banking institution and was trying to get browsers to input financial information. Everything looked okay on the site. I couldn’t see this forgery page, so what the heck was up?

I contacted the web designer who coded my blog for me when I couldn’t do it myself. She reminded me of the permissions angle. Yikes! This is when I discovered my own stupidity. I went into my blog files on my web host and did some sleuthing. I discovered a WordPress theme on my server that I could not see from within the WordPress dashboard. I asked my web contact about it, and she determined that it was the phishing page. She removed it and quarantined it, and just the other day I contacted Google to let them know all was fixed, so could they please remove the phishing notice some browsers get when they try to visit my blog?

I have no idea how long it will take to get the notice taken down. Whether you see the notice or not when you visit my blog seems to depend on your operating system (Windows or Mac) and your virus protection program. If you can read this post, then you’re not having an issue! However, some Mac users are getting 404 errors (page not found) when they try to visit my blog. Windows users of Trend Micro are getting warnings not to visit my blog and/or my site. Users of AVG and Norton’s don’t seem to have a problem visiting the blog. I’ve had one report from a McAfee user who does have a problem, and AOL users might have problems.

At this point, there’s nothing else I can do but wait for Google to take down the phishing notice. Meanwhile, I personally contacted my ISP and explained what I think happened to lead to them blocking my domain emails. Unfortunately, because of the hacking, the problem was too entrenched to get fixed over a tech phone call. They told me to contact my web host again and ask the host to get in touch with them. I did that, but, again, it’s a waiting game.

So let this be a lesson to you! If you do your own blog tweaking, for Pete’s sake, return the permissions to their original state as soon as possible afterward. Don’t take after Cindy, no matter how great the urge!


Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I’m obsessed with fonts. One of the reasons I could never be a professional web designer is that I waste (um, invest?) hours and hours of time searching for just the right font for a site. I love fonts! Can you imagine how my obsession would reflect on an hourly-basis invoice? I’d have to charge a flat rate for font research.

Of course, I might not be as obsessive about choosing fonts for other people. Choosing for myself, though…it’s a sickness.

I can’t begin to describe how many fonts I browsed for my site re-design (accomplished in May 2008 or thereabouts). I narrowed down to about 20 over a period of 6 hours or so of browsing and testing (not kidding), then narrowed down again from there. I think I remember choosing my Cindy Procter-King name font from a short-short-short list of 3. I wound up buying 3-5 fonts and then kept playing with them until I made my decision.

One of the fonts I didn’t choose for this site, I wound up using on Penny’s site. But my work doesn’t stop there. Because I often like to have a secondary, complementary font (the font on my buttons, for instance). Choosing one font is bad enough. Choosing two = triple the obsession.

I’ve yet to use two of the fonts I purchased when I redesigned this site and built Penny’s. But I don’t mind. Sometimes I go into my Fonts folder and gaze at them longingly, spinning new web designs around them in my mind.

My favorite site for buying fonts is My Fonts (no, they didn’t pay or ask me to say this). The site is easy to navigate, and once you choose a font to test you can type your name or other wording into a window, click, then see what the font might look like on your site. Easy-peasy!

At Fontifier, you can upload a sample of your handwriting and create your own personalized font! I haven’t tried this myself. I have crappy handwriting and know better than to unleash it on the world. It’s the fault of the elementary school I attended. For reasons that are not clear to me, they decided not to teach a few grades of us cursive writing. Instead, we learned “script.” I do believe an exchange teacher from Australia foisted this experiment upon us. “Script” was supposed to look like beautiful calligraphy, but in the hands of 8- and 9-year-olds, it looks like printing with checkmarks on the end (serifs). The result was that, even as a teenager, I didn’t know how to write. I printed. I still mainly print (when I want someone to be able to read what I’m writing). And I’m all over the map. I do two different types of E’s (capital and lower case), depending on my mood. Same with S’s. And F’s (lower case only).

I did have to teach myself to cursive write when I opened a bank account as a teen and they wanted a signature. I remember going with a friend who “signed” her name like straight up and down printing with tick marks at the end of each letter—at the age of 15. Not for me!

I have the worst signature in the world. YOU try signing Cindy Procter-King over and over and over and over and see what it winds up looking like.

I could be a doctor.

I blame my two summers as a meter maid. I learned to sign Cindy Procter without really looking at the pad (I was too busy darting the glares of annoyed drivers).

I blame my children. Eldest Son was such a rambunctious toddler that I didn’t dare take my eyes off him while signing checks in the grocery store or the bank (young mothers don’t realize how easy they have it with debit cards—no signing!). So my cursive handwriting grew worse and worse.

Dare I say I’m the only one who can read it? (Curiously, my critique partners blame me).

If anyone tries the Fontifier, let me know how it turns out.

(Yes, I do believe they began teaching cursive writing at my elementary school again after I left…fat lot of good it did me).

If Things Look a Bit Odd…

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

…around the blog, you can blame me! For months now, I’ve been meaning to edit my blog’s style sheet so I wouldn’t have to manually left-justify the posts or worry about how long my titles are (they were full justifying, so I always had to shorten them so they wouldn’t go onto two lines and look all weird), and so I could make the font for the titles a bit smaller. I managed to do both, but when I saved my changes in Notepad, my nicely spaced style sheet scrunched itself into one huge paragraph, and now I’m terrified of making things worse by trying to fix it myself. This mess is all behind the scenes, thank God.

From your end, if you don’t look closely, you might not be able to tell that while the blog titles are smaller, the “Leave a Reply” font, etc. is not. They should match! And, with the smaller title font (which I like – the big pink always bugged me a bit), I’m wondering if the body font of the posts now looks a bit too big. Opinions?

I’d planned to make changes to the sidebar, like moving the Newsletter sign-up box below my book covers, which might have required installing a plug-in, and I’d also planned to experiment with my block quotes. But then I inadvertently screwed up the style sheet’s formatting.

I’ll figure it out sooner or later. In the meantime, if you find my goofs offensive, close your eyes!

I Have a Well…

Friday, July 31st, 2009

And it needs refilling!

I worked incredibly hard on My Liege’s website last week, all over last weekend, and into the beginning of this week. I worked until my shoulders ached and my eyes crossed. And then I worked some more. I love web design, but I seem to lack the capacity to REMEMBER how to go about it. What’s up with that? So every time I attempt a massive update, or, heaven forbid, a re-design of one of my sites, I suffer massive aggravation. Sooner or later, when I’m having problems, it dawns on me—check the code! Check the Freaking Code! So I go to check the code and realize I have no clue what I’m looking for, so I need to re-learn it. THEN check the code.

This is why when writing friends and acquaintances ask if I want to design their site or maintain their site, I have to turn them down. I think I could become very proficient at web design if I did it every day. But my writing would suffer. I know that from experience.

I plan on refilling my well in a major way this weekend. Wish me many Zzzzzzzzzs.

Allie McBeagle will do her part:


“Walk! Walk, walk, walk! Take me on a walk!”


Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Happened upon Erin McCarthy’s website the other day. I’ve read several of her Bravas and am a fan of her voice. Noticed something cool on the website. Her designer has enabled “skinning.” That’s when the browser (as in person) has the ability to click a button to change website designs or “skins.” I thought that was very cool. Take a look and tell me what you think (McCarthy’s skinning options are under Mix it Up! below Contact Erin.) I’ve seen this done on blogs before, although usually not writer’s blogs. But I can’t remember seeing it on an author’s site before.

What are your thoughts? Should an author make up her mind and stick with one design? Do you like the option of changing the skin to suit your tastes? I’m asking because I design my own websites, and often I’m very torn between color combinations. Personally, I doubt I would go as far as to change designs completely—too much work on the design end for this puppy. Actually, I have no clue how to enable skinning, either. But on an aesthetic level, I thought it was pretty cool that Erin’s designer did this for her (that’s Liz Bemis of Bemis Promotions, by the way.)