Before I go forward, I must warn you the bloodwolves have arrived at House Rabey yesterday and I’m feeling a leetle like the above image.
This week has been insane as I prep for an author’s lecture and Q & A at the college that I organized, getting started on one of my departments accreditation process (well there went holiday break!) and a whole other load of work and personal stuff. I haven’t had time to do much of anything and I’m thankful I took Friday off or else I would die from exhaustion. Good job, me!
Before ALA’s annual conference happened this summer, several people linked me to a conversation at a public librarian Facebook group that started out with asking about hooking up at the conference and the conversation, of course, degraded from there. I made my views fairly well known on the topic.
It took nearly 5 months after I started making the noise, and in ALA parlance that is ultra fast, but ALA FINALLY has a Code of Conduct in place. Huz-fucking-zah! Andromeda Yelton wrote up a really great piece on the whole process.
Since talking about my vag has become one of my favorite topics, here are other things going on this week in that area:
I massively updated the landing page for #libtechwomen/#libtechgender that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I’ve pulled everything I’ve written into one tidy location. If you have any links or suggestions you think I should add, let me know.
Yesterday I started out putting together an entry on the process and design of the site, only it turned into nearly 3100 wordy behemoth. I’ve split the entries into half, the first half concentrating on the backend, landing page and design thought, with the second half below getting more into the nitty gritty, process, and promotions.
Individual Entry Pages
For the individual entry pages, all of the previous design for the landing page is true plus with the added following:
Breadcrumbs – Located above the title and are crucial! I will not design a site without them and it is also good SEO and information architecture practices. I use Breadcrumb NavXT.
“Estimated reading time” in the byline metadata. General consensus of the internets said they liked this feature because it gives them time to pause to continue reading now or come back later. Plus I can be wooordy and days like today, you need to know how much time to invest. The plugin I use is Post Reading Time, which is customizable.
Share the love – I use unobtrusive small icons, no text, of print, email, and top social sharing sites via the Jetpack plugin. I also turned on the “follow me via Google+” option available in the same plugin. I also only selected social sites I personally use, hence why there is no LinkedIn.
Below the footer metadata are named links to previous post and after post
Next is the comments section, which I use Disqus plugin to handle that feature. Additionally, in the landing page version, comments are located at the top by the byline entry so readers can comment on the landing page instead of clicking to the full entry itself to do so.
I currently do not turn off comments on any of the content, so if you wanted to comment on an entry from 10 years ago, you could.
Individual Page pages
Since these are rarely updated and are static, the styling is a bit less structured:
I’ve turned off commenting and direct people to my contact page
Each page is either a top level page as a landing page for a project or a child page
SEO is also applied to all pages as I now create them
Breadcrumbs are also used on pages
The sidebar remains the same
Process and Promotion
Currently I write the day before it’s due and I almost never know ahead of time what I’m going to write. It literally is, some days, begins with a sentence and I’ll end up with 900 words an hour later.
I can write a 750 word entry, complete with formatting and editing, in about an hour.
I schedule the entries to post mid-morning ET the following day. I will also set up a tweet mid-afternoon with the same information
The initial posting format is: [blog] TITLE OF ENTRY short link EXPLANATION
Further promotion on Twitter will contain a slightly reworded version of the original to prevent going to Twitter jail
On the rare occasion, I’ll post a link to the entry more than twice in the same day
It is utterly important to me that I am available, findable, and read in a variety of mediums, hence the cross-promotion to major sites as well as some not so major ones in addition to the RSS and email feeds.
SEO is applied to all entries with descriptions and proper keywords to enhance findability
What’s currently powering my site:
Akismet – Spam blocker. Between this and Disqus, there has been almost no comment spam on this site.
All in One SEO – One of the definitive SEO plugins, easy to use and pretty customizable.
Breadcrumb NavXT – One of the better breadcrumb plugins, also easy to use and customize.
Broken Link Checker – The best client I found to scan the entire site, check links and report back errors. Especially useful as I add in the old content.
Disqus – I’ve been a long user of this commenting system for a number of reasons: It allows people to comment by logging in via any number of existing OAuth systems such as Facebook and Twitter without having to create an account at EPbaB. I also liked that you can consolidate all of your sites into one admin account.
Google XML Sitemaps If you are not practicing SEO, you should have a site map of your site for search engines to index. I really like this one.
iframe Plugin to allow the use of iframe HTML because sometimes old tags don’t go away, they just continue to be used.
Jetpack This plugin is produced by the makers of WordPress and contains some of the top features they implement on the wordpress.com site and made them available for self-hosted users. Frankly, this is by far the best plugin I use and while I know some despise it for a variety of reasons, as someone who just wants shit to work, it’s brilliant. Here are the features I use (and be mindful this is not ALL the features available):
Notifications – notifies of activity from wordpress.com users and sites on your site
Stats – One of the three analytics plugins I use
Publicize – The social arm of the plugin, it auto publishes to selected sites when you publish your entry as well as is the configuration for the Share the Love social sharing
Subscriptions – Subscribe by email
Sharing – See Publicize
Spelling and Grammar – Yes to the first, meh to the second. The grammar function is often wrong
Omnisearch – Search Every. Single. Page on your site, deeply, from within the dashboard
Contact form – So you say you have a message from your people to my people? This is where you go
Widget visibility – Control what pages / posts your widgets are on
Wp.me short links – Yep
Google+ Profile – See Publicize
Tiled galleries – If I ever feel the need, it is here
Shortcode embeds – Always important
Custom CSS – Sometimes designers do NOT know best. Also a lot of theme designers sell their “premium” themes based on the fact you can customize the CSS. Why bother to pay for something you can do for free?
Mobile theme – I know a lot of people don’t like this version, but I don’t see a problem with how it renders or allows navigation on my site. Works great!
Extra sidebar widgets – Always a necessity
WordPress.com Connect – Allows you to login to your sites using your WordPress.com login – which is more secure than just a username/password!
Enhanced distribution – There is no clear description to what this does exactly, but what the hell. It’s turned on.
Jason API – Also needed
List category posts – Another favorite! Allows you to post links to entries on any page/widget from specific categories or tags – automatically! Example of it being used, multiple times, on the To:Be Project page. Each section is its own tag getting updated automatically when I post with that tag appended.
Organize Series – A neat plugin that allows you to easily set up posts of the same subject to be easily read together without searching through the archives.
Post Reading Time – Displays the amount of time to read the entry, at 200 words a minute average.
Redirection – I currently have two or three domains, in addition to exitpursuedbyabear.net, that point to the this domain. In order to clean up old links from journals gone by, Redirection will take a link from biblyotheke.net/nameofentry and point it to the correct entry here without the use knowing!
Smart Archives Reloaded – Plugin behind my archives page, was the easiest way to generate the page in a simple to read format without getting overly complicated.
TablePress – Plugin to generate complicated tables, but I’m finding it easier to create them via pure HTML and CSS so I might ditch this at some point.
Word Stats – Secretly I’m a stats nerd and things like this get me wet. I disagree with some of its assessment on reading levels but I do like some of the other features like breaking down words per entry, or per month, or entire lifetime.
Other design tweaks, such as color schemes and CSS options tend to be in the muted areas, with a shocking color for contrast. I like my fonts to be readable, and I can spend hours on the right font combination, and easy to print. I haven’t yet found the perfect font yet, but I’m always looking.
This holiday season, since I have nearly a month off, I’m going to be setting up a home server version of the site and start building, I hope, a new and improved site layout and design to correct the little things I cannot get sorted in using child themes. Ideally, I’d like to build off an existing theme, but I’m thinking at this rate I’ll probably end up starting from the ground up and building my own.
If you have any plugin or theme suggestions, let me know! I’m always up for getting my website dirty!
Whenever I make a change to the site, whether design or adding or removing of something, the first person who usually asks me “Why?” is TheHusband. We were recently discussing the addition of my “Estimated reading time:” plugin I’ve now appended to the individual posts pages (he hates it, others seem to love it) and as I often seem to do some explaining for him, and at time for others, I figured this would make an excellent post on my design process. So here we are!
If you are interested in the back end, I run WordPress, using Nginx as my web server and MariaDB as the SQL server. The theme is a child theme of Mon Cahier. We currently host at Digital Ocean (managed by TheHusband) and in addition to WordPress and server best practices, the entire site is encrypted by SSL. We use StartSSL for all of our domains. If you want more details on how we got here, this is a post I wrote in April when we left Dreamhost for Digital Ocean. I have had several people ask if TheHusband is open to setting them up in a similar fashion and he is for a reasonable fee. If you are interested, please get in touch.
The overall experience of the site is based on the following factors
Content/writing is main focus
Minimalist in design, not overwhelmed by images/video/doodads
Easy to navigate
Basic info architecture and SEO best practices in place
People should be able to read me via coming to the page, via RSS, or subscribe to an email list
Features I would expect an online journal to have (archives, about page, easy way to contact) should be in also be in place
I’ve flipped between the child themes of two themes: Mon Cahier and Mog for the last several months and right now I am using Mon Cahier. I haven’t found a single column theme I love, so I’m sticking with two column, right sidebar for the moment. I’m a big believer in making it easy for my readers (and for me!) to find information on the site and I want people to meander about, so getting rid of some sort of sidebar navigation kills me.
The landing page experience is important to me and I’ve gone back and forth on having a header or not. I adore the hell out of picture of me age 1-2 attempting to use a phone, so it’s been the mainstay on business cards and domain headers for a few years. Mon Cahier includes built in social media links at the upper right hand corner of the header space, but the newest update doesn’t seem to play well with my child theme so I’m missing a few of the sites. This is also why I have a social media plugin in the right hand sidebar.
Below the header is my main navigation bar, which is also important to me as I wanted an easy way for people to navigate other content on the site. The big thing here is that I wanted it to be compact – I don’t want rows and rows of navigation, so having child navigation was a must. Here is how the menu is broken down
hello – My about page. Gives you a summary of who I am, a fairly recognizable picture of me, and other little tidbits.
projects – These are the project landing pages of a few things I keep on the site and acts as the default location for something that doesn’t fit quite anywhere else.
writing – break down of all, primarily fiction, writing including poetry, prose, works in progress, historical work, and at the bottom is listing of all blog posts I’ve written on the topic of writing and is updated on the fly.
archives The heart of the site – nearly every entry ever written by me, spanning across several previous incarnations over nearly two decades, all here at the site. Dating back to the late ’90s, it’s a Lisa wonderland of delight and amusement. When I talk about The Lisa Chronicles project, I’m talking about getting the archives back up which has been a slow process.
contact – Simply put, how to get in touch with me. While you’re more than welcome to reach out via social media, I found readers were more apt to fill out a form then send an email or tweet which I think is because of the anonymity of the form.
Below the main navigation bar is the two column set up – one for the content, and the other is the sidebar. Because I’m now writing daily, and not to overwhelm readers, I keep the most current entry on the front page. Two widgets in the sidebar help with previous content navigation: one showing the last five entries and the other showing the top pages on the site, updated from the last 24-48 hours.
The content column is built around these principles:
The title is taken from something out of context, for a long time they were from definitions of various things in the Icelandic sagas, sometimes obscure word definitions from the OED, song lyrics, and every once in a while, the title actually reflects what I’m talking about!1
Below the title is the date of publication and Mon Cahier main theme is overriding my removal of the byline addition, which isn’t needed here since I’m the only person writing.
Every entry in the current stylistic format:
[image sourced from Creative Commons]
This day in Lisa-Universe: Year, Year, Year
The images and the “This day in Lisa-Universe” are rather new editions within the last few months. I liked the idea of adding in an image from my collection or creative commons collection of something unusual or unexpected to go with the content. I also wanted people to be able to find content from the same day in previous years because I thought that would be a neat feature since I have so much.
The “Dear Internet” was not used in previous incarnations of my online journal, but I began to use it at the beginning of this one because I found a lot of conversational letters that I never published written to famous & fictional people, written as if we were the best of friends. I liked the idea of the juxtaposition of something old (a letter to a person) mixed with the new (the person is the Internet).
Footer metadata is found in the landing page entry such as categories and tags. Comment link and totals are located at the byline metadata at the top of the entry.
Below the footer metadata is a link to the previous entry. Since I have it set to show one entry at a time, if you wanted to read the previous entries in order, you would go entry by entry. I would recommend going to the archives and clicking on a month or year to get all of them on a single page instead.
Beginning in August 2013 I started using SEO, I use All in One SEO, like a reasonable adult and every entry and page from that point forward now has SEO best practices appended to it. Because the sheer amount of published entries (nearly 600!), as I come across older entries I need to edit for some reason, I’m applying SEO to them as well. I have no plans to go through and do all entries at this time.
Every entry has a proper category and at least one tag. Because I’ve moved around so much in my youth, I now append a city tag to all entries of the city I’m currently living in to easily find. So if you ever wondered why entries say “Grand Rapids” or “San Francisco” or “NoVa,” that is why.
For the sidebar, I wanted to make it clean and uncluttered. I currently do not plan on nor intend on having ads, but I may do a tip jar or a donation page later down the road when more of my fiction is up. I also stopped linking back to other people not because I don’t love them, but many were abandoning their sites or stopped writing or something else entirely. I wanted the sidebar to also be accessible on all pages and not just the landing page or just the individual entries.
Search – Non-negotiable. If you don’t have a search function on your site, I’m not going to stay and visit.
Social media links – A plugin called Simple Social Plugins, which uses pure CSS to do the design. I wanted something easily to configure and fairly robust. Simple Social does that pretty well and while it’s missing a few sites I’d like people to find me at, such as GoodReads, it does a good job of hitting the basics. It also includes email, which I’ve linked to my contact form, and a RSS option.
Blog subscription – Provided by the Jetpack plugin, allows people to subscribe to email version of the site and they get emailed the post every time I update.
Recent posts – Last five posts, in chronological order, that were published. This is configurable to as little or as many as you’d like.
Popular Posts – Current top five posts, based on stats from the last 24 – 48 hours. I like this as it shows how interests in various things change on the site.
Creative Commons license – I am Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported, which means the content here is free for you to use, along with attribution back to me, but is not available to be remixed and cannot be used for commercial purposes without my permission.
1. General SEO practice recommends you use keywords of your topic within the title and within the first few sentences of your piece for search bots. As you can see, I don’t do that but I do put in practice SEO description and keywords using a plugin, so all is not lost.