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My Website Optimization Journey - Part 3 - Speed

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Welcome to another exciting edition of “Making My Website Suck Less”. Since I started this journey to re-align my goals and bring my website back from the depths I had gone from beyond page 11 when searching for “web design” green bay wi” to somewhere around page 6 depending on the day and time.

Honestly, it's hard to know if my efforts are the reason for the improvement or the constant updates and changes these past weeks. I can tell you that before my second child was born, and before I neglected my website in favor of client projects and raising my children that generally, I would show up on the 2nd or 3rd page for the same search phrase. So regardless of how I got here I still have some work to do.

My Website Optimization Journey - Part 2 - Meta Tags

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In my last article I realized I had some issues with my website and taking my own advice I decided to act on them. I did that by first completing some pages that were either missing, unfinished, or didn't represent me or my capabilities properly. Today I am going to go through some meta tag issues.

Now, a reminder, that some of these steps might seem misplaced but in order to move forward I need to tackle some glaring issues now and move onto refining the website overall at a later date. It makes less sense to ignore the situation now until I believe the website is perfect, which it will never be. There is always room for improvement.

A Simple Responsive Skeleton

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When I first started to dabble with responsive design I looked at a lot of CSS frameworks. I was looking for something basic, lightweight, and easy to use in my CMS. I found that a lot of them required JavaScript or a CSS compiler to make the site work well on smaller devices and I wanted something that was mostly pure CSS.

Your Website Isn't Doing Its Job. Now What?

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A good portion of the time when I'm contacted to look at a website that's performing poorly the owner will have a tendency to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and start from scratch.

There are a lot sites that come across my screen with their fair share of issues; code that doesn’t follow web standards, JavaScript drop-down menus, unorganized content and more but I rarely, if ever throw everything away. Even with the worst search rankings, unless you're not listed at all, it's easier to lift up poor performing pages than it is to rank new ones without some help from existing content.

The Fold Does Not Exist...Not Really

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When I create a website home page I use it as a mapping tool. It should have just enough information to tell you what the page is about with links to other pages of the site for more information.

With so many pages indexed by search engines it stands to reason that any page can become the landing page and my projects are designed with that in mind. So to a degree the home page, while still important, caries much less weight alone than all the other pages as a whole.

Occasionally when I submit a home page design a client will approve it based on their idea that the visitor will see all the information fit within their screen. It's not until it becomes a web page that they realize this isn't necessarily the case and we have to have a conversation about the fold.

What Makes A Good Website

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When people find out I am a web developer, one of the first things website owners will ask me is if I have some time to  look at their site and see if it's any good. My follow up question to them is usually, "What do you mean?".

Most of the time when someone asks me to look at their site it's because it's not performing as well as they had hoped, for one reason or another and are trying to find a solution.

Looks comes up a lot. But the way a site looks really has nothing to do with how it performs. I have seen some rather poorly designed and unsavory sites do great things for their owners. I have also seen some really well designed sites perform very poorly.

There are some factors that determine whether a website is "good" or not. Let's go over them.

The Old Web Development Model Is Broken!

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It’s time to change the way we think about maintaining websites. As most often is the case, a client will call on me every few years and say "We need a new website". This often becomes an expensive and massive undertaking even on a small website because almost every aspect of the site is now outdated. Instead of making minor changes to the site I end up having to throw everything out and start over.

By encouraging this behavior of 'the four year silence' as I call it, I don’t feel I'm giving my clients the service they deserve or should expect from me. I feel that to truly maintain a website I should meet with clients every two or three months and here are some reasons why.