Category Archives: Site Design

Tutorials, tips, and ideas for designing web sites.

MovieComments Site 2.0

One project that I recently completed was the relaunching of MovieComment. This is a website that I started in 2006 and which I let languish for over a year. The original intent was for me to provide the space for friends to write movie reviews, but for some reason, I could never persuade anyone to write anything down. Eventually I started to neglect the site as WebKeyDesign took most of my time and I also have a regular job that keeps me quite busy these days. Over the last couple of weeks, I took some time out and retrofitted the site with a new WordPress theme, added some content, made some minor improvements, and did a security audit to make sure the site was secure.

MovieComment.com Site

For the theme, I went with a theme called dsantuary. The theme had a nice layout and built-in advertisement placement, but I did not like the navigation bar at all. I ended up changing the navigation bar to something I came up myself. Other than this there were a few theme changes, here and there to make the site work. For example the graphic for the sidebar was not tall enough to accommodate a long enough sidebar. I had to create a new graphic for the sidebar. Once I got rid the navigation bar, I had to find a place for the Search form, since the original had it built into the navigation bar. Search was moved into the sidebar.

Plugins

While I will not list all the plugins that are setup on the site, the following plugins were added and configured for specific reasons and are worthy of consideration for most WordPress sites:

Since MovieComment was being relaunched, I needed to make sure that the content was going to be indexed properly and that it will show up correct on search engine sites. To start with good content needs meta tags. WordPress on its own does not really do a good job of providing this. For this you can try a plugin like All in One SEO Pack that tries to setup meta tags correctly for each page of your site. Once your content is meta tagged properly you will need to let search engines know your content is out there. The best way to do this is via a sitemap. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin does a good job of creating a sitemap automatically for you. Once you have Google XML Sitemaps setup go to Google Webmaster Tools to verify that Google has no problems reading your sitemap.

Security is important and I too have made the mistake of letting things slide and have paid the price for not keeping focused on security. Luckily now there are some good plugins to help with this. By installing Login LockDown and, WP Security Scan your WordPress site will be a little bit more secure and being more secure always helps webmasters sleep better.

Updating Older Web Sites

Most of the questions that I get from WebKeyDesign vistors have to do with upgrading or making modifications to current web sites. Perhaps you need to add a banner advertisement or image gallery, but in some instances the current site has been designed in WYSIWYG programs like Frontpage and Dreamweaver. These sites usually have a few things in common: they were designed back in 2001, look dated by today’s popular weblog sites, and do not rank very well on search engines.

Update Outdated HTML to XHTML

The best improvements for a typical site like this is to update the HTML code itself to XHTML. Transitional XHTML is a good target to aim for, but if you find that HTML 4 is still something you rather stick with, then the very least you can do is add a proper DOCTYPE and utilize CSS Stylesheets to clean up your HTML and make it easier for search engines to index your site.

To learn more about XHTML, I recommend Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards, which is a good introduction to what web standards are and how to begin to utilize XHTML.

Since the content does not need to be changed, just the code, make sure that for each page of content that you have proper meta tags filled out. The most important ones being the Title, Keywords, Description, and the Robots indexing meta tag. This will insure that the search engines have something to help them figure out what your content is about.

Web Site Marketing

Once your code is updated, the search engines will find it easier to index your site, but one of your other goals should be gaining a bigger audience of visitors. A short marketing campaign can help with the popularity issue. The first step is to advertise your site in three different ways. Sure you can advertise more, but you may not have the time to invest in a prolonged campaign.

The first thing to do is a word of mouth campaign. Just remind friends and people you meet that you have this cool web site and that they should visit it because such and such reasons. A good way of helping people remember your site is the old business card. Just have business cards with your web site address and slogan. Pass these cards out to your waiter, to your friends, to the guy waiting for his wife at the mall.

Small print publications are a great choice for web sites, if the publications fit your market. Try a couple of small advertisements and see if it draws anymore traffic than usual.

Next you need to market your site online. Consider buying an advertisement on another website, or possibly running a short term Adwords campaign.

As you market your site, make sure you monitor your stats. You want to have some way of monitoring your efforts to see what worked and what did not work. This will help you decide in the future what type of marketing is most appropiate to your site. You may find out that the most unlikely source of traffic may be free via search engines. Find out what is working and then add new content to your site based on what is driving traffic to your site. The important thing is that you need to keep monitoring your results and eventually you will have a more successful site without having to completely redo everything.