Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To build a web site

Building a web site is harder than it sounds.  Technically, it's no harder than, say, writing a paragraph.  HTML has its own little set of grammar-like rules to follow, instructions that the browser interprets just as a reader interprets a semicolon or a question mark.  Then there are the non-grammatical standards; in writing, you can form every sentence in the same noun-verb-object structure, but you shouldn't.  In HTML, you can write it as one long line of text, but you shouldn't

I know the rules.  I've taught both crafts at the introductory level. 

Still, there's a difference between an essay that might have earned an A in my ENG101 class and the prose that Hemingway crafted.  I've seen some clever site design produced by students in the CMP401 (Intro to Web Design) class, but the same differentiation applies there. 

The hardest thing about the craft of web design is the same thing that's the hardest about the craft of writing: determining what's great.  Clearly, merely following the rules doesn't make it great.  It's said that a publisher told Mr. Heller that he wouldn't be successful with Catch-22, one of my favorite books of all time, because, "I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level."  Other great authors have been told their work is garbage; such stories are sadly quite numerous. 

It's in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

Back to the web design: admittedly, I took the easy way out with the web site yesterday.  I certainly had no desire to start from scratch!  Thus, I pulled up a Google window for free web site templates and clicked on buttons till I found one that was a) truly free for commercial applications, and b) looked kind of like what I wanted.  I downloaded the one I found, and then spent the next few hours editing HTML, adding text, formatting pictures to be the right size, and so on.  FTP'd (hell, if Google can be a verb, why not FTP?) it up to the server, and viola!  Complete web site, done in a few hours with no software other than Notepad and Firefox.  All thanks to my friends at Google and FreeWebDesign.com. 

I posted it to Facebook for all the world (at least, all my friends) to see, and predictably, the first comment I got was, "Very amateur for the design. Writing, as always is very good. Design blows."  Well, rain on my parade and call me doofus. 

Just as in writing, though, you have to take all feedback with a grain of salt.  While I was bandaging the exit wound from that one, I also linked the new site into a group I've been active with, the Indie Author Group.  These folks are actually doing what I want to do, for the most part, so their feedback was particularly valuable to me.  It was also mostly positive.  They gave me some great ideas and suggestions for going forward. 

I'm just glad I didn't quit and walk away from the site after the first bit of negative feedback.  That also applies to--yeah, you get it, I'm sure.  Time for a new metaphor? 

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