Tag Archives: maintenance

Focusing on Redo Posts for Now

For the next little while, I’ll be focusing primarily on redoing older posts instead of trying to come up with completely new content for Crooked Glasses.

Mainly, I want to bring all my posts up to par with my current writing/formatting style, but I also want to have more time to focus on my novel, which is about 70% complete and needs some TLC. I’m hoping that not having to generate completely new blog content every two weeks will give me the time I desperately need.

For now, redone posts will be featured every day as has been usual (1 per day except Sundays), but I might do a double-Redo week if I have enough brain energy. There are a LOT of “hidden gem” articles here at Crooked Glasses, and I’m doing my best to polish ’em up! 🙂

Crooked Glasses Turns 1 This Week!

On January 26th, 2012, it will have officially been one year since I began this blog.

Boy, CG, you’ve expanded and grown, gotten prettier and better-organized, and to date I haven’t missed a week of posts yet, despite all the random illnesses, occasional doctor visits, and wisdom teeth surgery.

I’m really proud of these accomplishments, possibly more than I should be. This is just the first time that I’ve actually stuck to consistently writing a blog for longer than a week, and it’s the first time I’ve been able to use and design around blogging software. xD

Why Did Crooked Glasses Succeed For So Long?

I think not writing about my life helps–my life isn’t that different from day to day, so just having a random blog/life category (Sunday in the Wild) helps me to post a couple big events from my life without me having to keep an online diary-style journal. I never could keep diaries offline unless they were about something specific, like love life or something, so I guess I was always meant to write a topic blog like this.

Also, scheduling posts, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of the reasons I love WordPress, even if designing around it has been a particular challenge for me. Now I can finally do a week of posts ahead of time, and at least appear to be an on-the-ball blogger. (Well, unless I have a random life-splitting headache like I did yesterday…urrrgh.) 😛

Where to Go from Here?

In the next year of Crooked Glasses’ life, I’d like to make it easier to browse by making category archives by title and/or tags only, as well as make the sidebar more about networking and the top navigation more about…well, navigating the blog. LOL!

I also plan to get a Twitter for this (yikes, what am I saying?!), mainly just to help others know when I’ve posted something new. (And if this Twitter goes well, I may instate one for my personal use, buuuuuut that’s a definite maybe. If there is such a thing. LOL)

And if I’m feeling REALLY productive, I may even make a fan page on Facebook. Yay, give me something else to do with my dialup access and forgetful self. xD

Spraying Your Site for Bugs

Ah, debugging–the most annoying part of web design, at least for me. Drives me nuts to upload a page I think is perfect, down to the last tag, and find instead that something within that lovely code has gone horribly awry. (Debugging this WordPress layout was especially annoying!)

And yet, if we’re going to be responsible web designers and webmasters, we have to check through everything we upload to make sure it’s exactly what we intended. From unintentional (and often funny) typos, to broken links and other bits of HTML, to an unintelligble wall of text with no formatting, and all the way to colors displaying terribly, we have to make sure our sites are displaying the way we intended!

Content Bugs

  • Typos
    Yes, we are all human and can make mistakes. That’s what causes typos in the first place, after all! Many’s the time I’ve meant to type “from” and typed “form” instead, or typed some horrible misplaced series of letters when my fingers got off the home keys. (But that’s the reason I got good at hitting the Backspace key at lightning speed.)

    When you go through your content, check for typos first, before you do anything else. Lots of misspellings makes your content look very amateurish and ill-written, even if you know exactly what you’re talking about, and it will give off the wrong vibe about your site. Even if your site is a personal site, you want it to be “dressed for success” in its content.

    If you’re not sure about the spelling of the word, you can check Dictionary.com to compare spelling. Also, for a quick fix, you can even type your spelling of the word into a search engine, which generally autocorrects your spelling with the infamous “Did you mean ____?” line at the top of the page.

  • Unattractive/Listless Phrasing
    While offhanded phrasing like “Meh, I don’t really care about this section/article/page, but whatever” may sound okay to you, it will definitely leave your viewing public wondering why THEY should care about your site. If even the creator can’t be bothered to care about this content, why should they? Make sure that you’re using phrasing that plays up the best parts of your site, so that it shows others why they should care about what you’ve written.

    Example: Instead of “This is the content, but it’s still under construction…meh,” you could try saying something like “This section is still under construction, but enjoy what is here so far–and keep checking back for updates!”

  • Half-Hearted Explanations
    Use clear and concise language, especially when you’re explaining something. (Yes, yes, I know, I should be following that myself…pardon my tendency toward verbosity, LOL!) If you’re writing informative articles, regular blog content, or anything on a site, always keep in mind that some people may not have an intimate knowledge of your subject matter.

    Use links to basic reference material if you don’t want to have to rehash all the most essential details, but do try to explain your content well enough so that even someone who is new to your topic can catch on. This will help make your site much more approachable, and might even interest your visitors in becoming more involved in your subject matter themselves!

Link Bugs

  • Broken Links
    As many links as I collect from all over the Internet, just as many of them end up broken over time. It is very, VERY hard to police your links page and keep up with all the broken links–it could end up being a full-time job in and of itself!

    To combat broken links, set aside a time each month to review each of the external links on your links page, content pages, etc. And don’t just rely on an automated link-checker; those will give you false positives on “parked” domains, or spammy domains that are more robot-generated than anything. Physically go through and click on every link to make sure the site you intended to link to is still there.

  • Mistyped Links
    Even if the site still exists, nobody is going to be able to follow your link if you type it like “http:www.thesite.com/” or “htp:/www.site.com/”. It’s easy to mistype stuff like this when you’re trying to assemble a page, especially in a hurry. If you click a link on your site that you KNOW for a fact exists and it doesn’t do anything, investigate how you typed the link–you might find the reason there.

Formatting Bugs

  • Lack of Headings/Subheadings
    When walls of text are not broken up by headings and subheadings, it doesn’t give anybody a reason to keep reading. Use these more boldly-formatted, summarizing lines to help your users find the information they need as quick as possible, and to draw their attention to the content itself.
  • Not a Paragraph Tag in Sight
    If you’ve formatted a big page of text using only one beginning p tag and one ending /p tag, it can lead to the “wall of unreadable text” phenomenon. Your awesome content will end up looking like a formless blob…trust me, I know. It’s best to break up your text into smaller paragraphs so that your users don’t look at it and get intimidated, even if you think your paragraphs look too small.
  • Text Size Too Small
    I will never understand why 8px font became appropriate for personal sites, but for a good long while, it was. Imagine font size from your visitor’s perspective–would you want to read long pages of text that look like “fine print” on some contract? If your content’s very important to your site, you want to make sure it’s readable, and not just with a magnifying glass.

    As a rule of thumb, I never go below 10px on any font size (not even Verdana), and usually not below 12px if I can help it. 14px helps some of those more cramped-looking fonts (like cursive or more elaborately-ornamented fonts) expand a little bit so they are easier to read, too.

Color/Design Bugs

  • Wrong Color Appears
    Colors, like links, are susceptible to being typed wrong or accidentally backspaced. If a color renders absolutely wrong on your page, check to make sure all 6 of the hexadecimal numbers or letters are in place. (Sometimes color will render as slightly different based on monitor color settings and what format you saved your images in…keep that in mind. PNGs and JPGs usually preserve more of the intended color in images across most browsers and computer monitors.)
  • Misbehaving Layout
    Divs, tables, sidebars, and navigation are all infamous for inexplicably messing up on certain pages. Check all of your pages to make sure they ALL display correctly–if you have a random layout error, it could be part of your content stretching the page out too far, for instance.

    Also, check widths and heights of various layout structure. For instance, when two divs which should float side-by-side instead stack one on top of the other, one of their widths is likely thrown off by something (either a measurement or something contained within the div itself).


Bugs on your site don’t have to be just server-side or script-related. Much of how visitors perceive our sites comes from what we ourselves put up on the site. Taking time to browse our own websites, page by page, can help us catch errors in content, design, layout, and links…plus, it helps us remember how it feels to BE a visitor!

Little Fixes and Big Fixes

I finally added the “Welcome” and “Home” links to the top-right navigation…I’d had the Welcome page ready for months, but just forgot to link to it, and the “Home” link was an oversight. At least it’s fixed now!

For the future of my blog, I’m considering just making one post visible on the opening page, and then allowing visitors to scroll somehow through the past week of posts. Also, I’d like a little About Me blurb on the side. But, until I figure out how to do all that, I’m going to let the sidebar alone. No need in poking the sleeping dragon just yet.

Also, in life news, I’m facing having my wisdom teeth removed…not looking forward to that. But it’s a “big fix” that needs to happen, otherwise I’ll be having trouble eating and talking without pain for the rest of my life. :/

Coming Up: “Glassics” Week!

To celebrate the summer (and give myself a week off from new posts), I’m introducing a week of posts known collectively as “Glassics”, or “Crooked Glasses Classics”. On Monday, there will be a review of all the web design posts I’ve done to date; on Tuesday, a review of all the commentary and philosophy posts I’ve done, and so on through Saturday.

I’m doing this not only for my own reference, but to re-expose new readers to some of my older posts, so that they can read and enjoy. I’ll also be going back through the older posts and updating them with pictures/illustrations and other media, since I now know how to incorporate such items into WordPress. (Some posts will also get some rewrites as necessary to be more informative and complete.)

I’m looking forward to Glassics Week–I hope you’ll stay tuned tomorrow for the Web Design Glassics!

Scheduling Posts Using WordPress

One of the things that first drew me to using WordPress is the ability to schedule posts. Since I had horrible 26.4 kbps dial-up internet at home when I started my blog in January 2011, I had to grab Internet time at libraries and coffee shops as I could. Thus, scheduling posts worked beautifully for me, enabling me to write posts at home and upload them for later publishing to keep my blog active. And now, even though I have fast internet at home, scheduling posts still works for me–I can work ahead and still space out my posts across days. Awesome!

How to Schedule Your Posts

When you’re on the Add New Post page of your WordPress Dashboard, look over to the right side of the screen. A module will be on display there (shown at left), with options to save your draft, discard what you’re working on, etc. One of the options reads “Publish immediately.”
You can click the “Edit” option beside the text “Publish immediately” to expand a form with text boxes (shown at left). This will allow you to change the post’s publish date and time.

When you first open the Scheduling option, the current date and time will be in the text boxes. In this screenshot, it was May 4th, close to 2:00 pm (WordPress has a 24-hour clock, so keep that in mind!)

Now, all you have to do is fill in the date and time you want your current post to appear!

I have deliberately highlighted the date and time text boxes to call attention to the changed publish date and time: May 16th, 2011, at 9:01 AM.

Click the white OK button, and the text in the box subtly changes to “Schedule for: May 16th, 2011, at 9:01,” as seen at left. (This is how my blog posts magically appear at the same time every day, whether I’m actually awake/at my computer or not–another great function of scheduling!)

Why Scheduling Posts is Awesome

  1. You can schedule dozens of entries well ahead of time. This is what I’ve done with my Friday link posts–I’ve scheduled them several weeks in advance, since they are easier posts to put together. This means less writing overall for each individual week.
  2. You can get around having limited Internet access or blogging time by scheduling the week’s posts in advance. I generally upload the coming week’s posts on Saturday or Sunday of each week, so I don’t have to worry about it during the week.
  3. You can have posts lined up for publishing even when you’re going on vacation or will otherwise be away from your computer. This is a good option if you want a week or two without having to worry about blogging, but you don’t want your blog to lie un-updated for all those days.
  4. You can post announcements ahead of time, right when they need to be posted (such as a warning an hour before an online contest closes, etc.). Timely updates ensure your visitors that the site is being watched and updated regularly, and is a great interactive tool.


WordPress makes it easy to do posts in advance, for whatever reason, with its Scheduling option. Try it out sometime–it’s certainly been a lifesaver for me!

The Difficulty of Pricing Design Services

Doing web design as a career and not just as an (expensive) hobby is something I’ve been tumbling about in my mind for quite some time now. Instead of watching money go down the drain every month for hosting, and every year for my domain name, why can’t I use my skills to monetize my sites?

But it’s a harder decision than that. There are, as I’ve unfortunately found out, many roadblocks to making a success of yourself in web design, not the least of which is the knowledge required to do it. But for those who wish to pursue it as a career, there’s one final hurdle to jump: how to price your design/development services?

Today’s article focuses on the 4 most important concerns any would-be designer/developer needs to figure out before jumping into a career:

#1: People need economical services, not exorbitant prices.

As much as you might think you’ve trimmed costs, somebody will always want the price lower. These days, most people can’t afford to pay a web designer/developer much money unless they are part of a corporation. You have to find the balance in pricing between “selling yourself too short” and “never getting any clients.”

I found this very difficult when I was trying to price my designing abilities. I generally overshot what most people wanted to pay for maintenance services, and undershot the original layout and development price. Finally, I took to writing it all out: what I valued my coding skills at, what I valued my graphic design work at, etc. I came up with a list of prices I could live with:

HTML/PHP Coding (Page Coding Structure)

  • Each Page of Content: $10.00
  • Main Page Layout Coding: $12.00

Graphic Design of Page (Visual Layout)

  • Each large image (layout pieces): $20.00
  • Each small image (icons, buttons): $10.00
  • Full layout (1 page, with images and appropriate coding): $35.00

Layout Mockups

  • Each mockup beyond the first: $7.00

Are these prices exorbitant or economical? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I have strong reasoning behind each of my prices. Given that it takes me about 30-45 minutes to put together a fully-debugged page of anything, and 45 minutes to an hour to make small images of any good quality, I reasoned that 10 bucks covered that time investment that I put into creating a quality product. I then scaled up the prices on large images, full layouts, etc., using these price baselines.

You’ll need to determine what your own prices will be for yourself, taking into account how much money you need to make and how low on prices you’re willing to go. Since I want to help individuals and maybe a few small start-up businesses, I wanted to make sure my prices would be accessible; your price reasoning and money goals may be different.

2. How much work do you want to put in?

When people say “I need a web designer,” they sometimes mean that they need a little HTML-driven personal site, and sometimes they mean that they need a huge database-driven multi-user site. You have to determine for yourself what kind of work you want to put in. If working for the “big guys” fires your engines, then by all means go for it! Just remember that it will be a LOT more work than likely any of your personal web design projects have been.

You also have to take your lifestyle and current available time into consideration. If you want big-money projects, but web design is only a side business for you, you will likely run into trouble trying to keep up your time commitments. Web design is one of those things that you can dip your toe into or dive in completely and still be okay; however, you have to take on the jobs that are sized for your time allotment.

For me, personally, I am not experienced enough yet in design to where I’m comfortable pitching my skills to corporations and the like; likely, they would not even look twice at somebody like me who’s completely self-taught in this field. I’m more comfortable working with individuals who need personal sites and perhaps small business sites because I simply don’t have the knowledge yet to do large-scale sites. Neither do I have the time allotment in my schedule as of yet to completely devote myself to a web design career–I have many different interests and am enjoying pursuing them all. Thus, smaller projects work better for me overall.

3. Do you do design, development, or both?

This is one of the huge stumbling blocks I found when first trying to decide on pricing my designs. Did I want to do just layouts, icons, and buttons, or did I want to do just HTML and PHP coding? Or, instead, did I want to offer both types of design services?

For people who do one or the other very well, you may be better off to go ahead and specialize in either the graphic design side or the coding side of web design/development. If you have wonderful visual design skills, then you might have a great career in web graphic design awaiting you. Conversely, if you’re a “code ninja” and can make sites that function beautifully with scripts and databases, you can easily specialize in web development with no problem.

Now, if you’re a designer like me with some skills in both web design and development, you’ll likely want to offer both design and development services, so as not to shut out clients. I don’t do awesome digital illustration, nor do I write my own super-sleek web applications, but I can write HTML/CSS and design a page. These skills are still marketable, regardless of the methods.

4. Don’t sell yourself short—make a contract!

When trying to figure out how to price design services, don’t let anything slide by for free. Some unscrupulous customers may want you to do more than you first bargained for, such as saying “Well, I thought icons and buttons would just come with the layout design–can you go ahead and make me some?”, or “Hey, can you add about 5 more pages? I just realized I need more pages about these other topics.”

That’s why I suggest making a contract beforehand, so that both you and the client know exactly what needs to be done and how much money it will cost. Getting the contract in unalterable writing, either on paper or in a PDF file, keeps anyone from falsifying the contract terms later. That way, if the client wants you to do something extra that’s not on the contract, you can simply refer to the document and say, “I’ll be glad to do this for you, but we’ll need to add this to the contract and re-total up the price.” Clients changing what they want done is okay–it’s just that you need to be compensated for extra time and effort investment.

5. Paid by the hour or by the project? I think it depends on the situation.

There’s a big debate in the web design world about whether you should be paid according to the number of hours you’ve worked on a project, or whether you should be paid according to the size of the project you did. I thought that I was solidly on the side of “by the project,” until I started trying to price services myself. Now, I think it depends on the type of work you’re doing.

For One-Time-Only Projects, Get Paid by the Project

If you’re doing a one-time-only design/development project–say, if a client wants a layout and coding to go with it–then I’d likely choose to get paid by the project. Since you’re not going to be doing ongoing maintenance, and assuming you’re going to complete the work in as quick a time as possible, asking for payment based on the number of images you made and the pages of code you created seems to be a better fit than asking to be paid based on hours you worked.

For Ongoing Projects, Get Paid by the Hour

However, for continuous maintenance job on a website, I’d personally get paid by the hour. Since you’re likely doing daily to weekly maintenance, you need to be compensated for that time you spend each day or each week. It’s not really a “project” in and of itself–it’s keeping up the quality of the project by checking in on it and making sure things are still current.

This is, however, a personal decision that each web designer has to make for himself or herself. These are simply my reasons for choosing which type of payment style works best for me.


If you want to do web design/development as a career, you need to consider methods of payment, client relations, type of work done, and contracts. This all goes into how you want to price your design services. I hope this article has helped jump-start your own thinking, and given you some food for thought!

Laying Out Your Page: When Pencil and Paper Trump Keyboard and Mouse

One of the best things I’ve ever tried when trying out a new web design was to get away from the computer entirely. (Sounds weird, but it actually worked for me.)

My First Paper Layout Mockup

I was still fairly new to web design back in 2004; I was entirely self-taught, and was desperately trying to come up with something just as original and cool as the awesome designs I’d seen my Internet friends do. Problem was, I couldn’t figure out how to do what they did–how could I make the text of my page appear in this little bitty box in the middle of a beautiful background picture, like theirs? I couldn’t make heads or tails of the page sources I looked at, either. It was all just expanses of wild code, tangled and insurmountable…my creative mind was absolutely flummoxed.

Finally, in exasperation, I pushed away from the computer, got a sheet of notebook paper from one of my college notebooks, and literally drew out a couple of designs with the closest writing instrument to hand–a pencil. I knew I wanted the background image to be wispy and pretty, and I wanted the text to “float” on top of the background image. Even with my (very) limited art skills, I got down what I wanted, enough to know that I would need a scrolling box for most of my content, since the “box,” whatever it was made of, would be small.

I found myself referring back to this rudimentary drawing over the next few days, as I searched the Internet for “text boxes” and “scrolling boxes” and whatever other terminology I could try. Finally, a tutorial defined what I wanted (a text box that could float over a background image) as something called an “iframe.” This, coupled with the iframe tutorials I looked up later, revolutionized the way I designed sites completely. I learned how to create the background image in the graphics program I had at the time (Photoshop Elements 2.0), and, armed with the code, I began to create my first iframes layouts.

If I had never done that little sketch, I would have never been able to figure out how to make my site both easily updatable and trendy with current web designs of the day. I also would not have figured out one of the key elements of my design style: the less a user has to scroll to see vital site information, the better. Sketching out what I wanted was the first step–it was a new way to approach the problem, which in turn helped me research and eventually innovate.

Paper Mockups: Still Using ‘Em!

I still resort to using paper mockups when it’s just too much trouble to try to Photoshop something together, especially something that I’m not even sure will work. Good ol’ pencil/pen and paper are faster to pull up than Photoshop, for sure, and it’s easier to direct a pen precisely around the page than to move a laptop mouse cursor to attempt drawing something. Plus, something about actually touching a physical pen to physical paper makes me get into a better “designing” mood, and I end up with a better, more carefree result.

This is a recent mockup I did, for a possible new layout for WithinMyWorld.org (click for larger pic in new window):


Not only do you get a sample of my horrendous handwriting (LOL), but you get to see a bit of the design process–I’ve mocked out where the sidebar and content will go, including RSS feeds, links, and affiliates, as well as possible image-map navigation, and a “pretty wavy background” that, for now, only exists in my imagination. 😀 Also, I included a couple of funny hints to myself, in the vein of “(maybe some fish?)” and “OMG BUBBLES!” 🙂 I think you have to have a sense of humor when you’re putting mockups together–it makes the process a lot easier to manage, at least for me.

Now You Try!

Try the website sketch idea when you’re stuck on a layout idea–it’s amazing what a pencil and paper can do in this day and age. You might just come up with something that you hadn’t thought of…like using hand-drawn bubbles as an image map. 🙂

Working on Getting Comments Activated

I’m in the process of learning how to build my own WordPress theme–what you’re looking at is my creation, but it’s unfortunately half-formed and parts of it still don’t operate correctly. :/ I apparently don’t have a head for all these technical terms–I feel sometimes like I’m about to understand, and then the concept slips away like an eel, and I’m left in the dark again.

One important part of this blog that I’m trying to get activated is comments. Once I get that rolling, I’ll be a lot more comfortable with the theme overall. Bear with me!