Friday, December 30, 2005

Web of intrigue

The problem with knowing a little about web design is that the people who know nothing about web design think you know a lot about web design.

I know a little about web design. Therefore, the last five days of my life have been consumed with completely reworking the website here in Public Radioland. It's been made easier by our new developer/host, which has a pretty easy-to-use interface. But it's hard to get past the fact that I'm really just a guy that doesn't know exactly what he's doing, disguised as a guy who sort of knows what he's doing. Basically, I'm a 4.5 on the "Knows What He's Doing Scale", rather than the 6.0 that I purport to be.

My major problem is lacking the proper vocabulary. (Witness my earlier use of "developer/host", made necessary because I don't know exactly what to call them.) There's a lot of lingo in the web design business that doesn't often find its way into journalism, and as a result, I spend most of my time with our way-more-competent "Client Relations Specialist" trying to explain exactly what I'm trying to do, though he might as well be speaking Estonian to my English.

The current issue is trying to make sure that when people type in our URL, they get our new site, and not our old site. A pretty simple concept, made more complicated by the fact that we need to do something called "transferring domains to another registrar", and provide somethign called a "zone file" to our new, um, developer/host. Also, we need to change the name servers for each of our domains. Or something. I generally know what this all means - it means we're making sure that when people type in our URL, they get our new site, and not our old site. Besides that, I have no idea.

I brought these problems on myself, of course, by actually having experience creating the website at the former 19 Minutes headquarters. It was a pretty clunky corner of cyberspace, given that it took me the better part of two days to create the navigation buttons, and probably a week to create the program grid, given that I had to first figure out how to write tables using HTML. But it was a fun era of experimentation on the web - the site included a scan of a North Country Public Radio bumper sticker that someone found on a trail in Wyoming because a) they sent us the bumper sticker, and b) we had a scanner. We "streamed" audio of news stories, but in a way that was only slightly easier than if listeners had just called and had us read the stories to them over the phone. The website has long since been redesigned by people who really know what they're doing, but they made the mistake once of telling me how impressed they were that I had created such a relatively complex old website purely by grinding my way through it in HTML.

This only encouraged me.

So I've grinded my way through the new website, using a minimum of HTML, and it looks, in my estimation, not bad. It still takes me the better part of a day to create buttons (which is why I've, uh, reappropriated what few buttons I used from other places), and I'm thanking my lucky stars that someone else is responsible for the program grid.

But it doesn't look bad. And if the stars align right this afternoon, the new site may actually go live, and someone else might actually see it.

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