Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All new and shiny

I have now swapped over to the new hosting package for www.ciaops.com that I have been talking about of late. A bit early perhaps but I wanted to make sure it was all operational by the first of January.

Now, there is still plenty of work to do but the first step is always making the change. My previous design had the navigation menu on the right hand side of the screen much like my other recent web site upgrade (www.anzacsinfrance.com). I asked a few people their thoughts and they said that the perhaps the menu should go on the right. ‘I don’t like that’, was my initial reaction, ‘this is MY web site’, I thought. Wrong! I then remembered the whole reason I had gone down this refurbishment path. I was looking to create a web site that worked for visitors not for my own ego.

I swallowed my pride and decided that I needed to do some research. The first place I went to was probably one of the most popular sites on the Internet – Amazon. Guess what? Menus on the left. What about the BBC? Again, menus on the left. Wikipedia? Again, menus on the left. If I wasn’t finally convinced I found a tool form Google called Browser size.

According to the site:

Google Browser Size is a visualization of browser window sizes for people who visit Google. For example, the "90%" contour means that 90% of people visiting Google have their browser window open to at least this size or larger.

This is useful for ensuring that important parts of a page's user interface are visible by a wide audience. On the example page that you see when you first visit this site, there is a "donate now" button which falls within the 80% contour, meaning that 20% of users cannot see this button when they first visit the page. 20% is a significant number; knowing this fact would encourage the designer to move the button much higher in the page so it can be seen without scrolling.

So if I had my menus on the right of the page it was likely less people would have been seen them without scrolling. This would have meant they were less likely to stay and view the content, which is exactly what I don’t want.

Luckily with the new hosting tool, swapping the columns was a piece of cake and after doing this I must admit I liked the site better myself. This whole process goes to prove my earlier point about focusing on the reasons you have for doing something. I have some very specific goals for my web site going forward but what good is that if I ignore that when I go about implementation? Like derrrr, however it is very, very easy to overlook. I must now revisit some of my other projects and see if I’m making similar mistakes. Focus grasshopper, focus.

Another great set of tools to help me achieve my web site goals I have found is Google Webmaster Tools.
 
Once I have configured my sites in here I can see if they appear in Google and not only what search queries have resulted in my site being displayed but also how my sites raking in that query. There is a whole swag of tools available here that I need to fully explore but honestly, it is yet another way that Google is helping my business. Best of all, like most of Google’s stuff, Webmaster Tools is free. I once again see this a confirmation that Microsoft is falling behind in the battle to win hearts and minds in this ‘new economy’.

So I’m off to do some more fiddling and migrating of my web site www.ciaops.com. Stop by, have a look and let me know what you think as I’d really love to get feedback from some real visitors. Feel free to contact me via email (director@ciaops.com) with your thoughts.