Naturegeek's Weblog

Naturally Geeky ramblings about web design

Handy Flow Chart for people who don’t try stuff first

Dear Various Parents, Grandparents, Co-Workers, and other "not computer people": We don't magically know how to do everything in every program. When we help you, we're usually just doing this:


January 25, 2010 Posted by | Humor | Comments Off on Handy Flow Chart for people who don’t try stuff first

An Event Apart San Francisco 2009 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

My first An Event Apart!

An Event Apart San Francisco 2009 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

An Event Apart was amazing – this is between speakers – the conference was sold out. I was inspired and challenged, and humbled to be in the presence of so many great web designers.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Events | 1 Comment

Update on my project site

I’ve been working like a madwoman on the website I was going to use for my content management class project – the only thing is, I realized I needed to do way more work on it before converting it to WordPress. It was a legacy site, that lots of wonderful volunteer webmasters worked very hard on with what skills they had at the time – and boy have I been there. I should say, I’ve been THEM. I have left a few legacy sites in my wake as I’ve moved up from volunteer to free-lance semi-volunteer, and from learning by dabbling to actually taking classes, reading books and blogs and going to conferences. I know so much more now that I did when I was that volunteer webmaster muddling through, yet I realize now how VERY little I still know. I’m still dabbling, though much more effectively, at least.

Anyway, back to my “project” site – I’ve been going through all these old FrontPage generated pages and cleaning them up, separating content and style and behavior by adding stylesheets and javascript and php includes, making them all validate strict xhtml – it’s quite satisfying, actually. I’m also learning a ton by doing this. Like the joys of the .htaccess redirects – ha.

There is still much to be done, and as I’m doing it, I’m learning more about the site, the organization, and what the needs may be. It’s all good, but it wasn’t yet ripe for WordPress – or maybe I wasn’t. That, or another cms, Drupal? Joomla? Maybe even one I create, is definitely in the site’s future, but for now, I’m continuing to fiddle with it.

I just added an xml sitemap for Google and created a user sitemap. I really should work on the navigation – I’ve been working on the site’s architecture “under the hood” and now the menu needs to reflect that – it will be easy now that I have the navigation in a php include – only one page to edit!

The actual site is working pretty well now – the design is still pretty primitive, but I’ll work on prettying it up later 🙂

Here it is – comments, feedback, ideas appreciated:

December 3, 2009 Posted by | Learning Site Management | | 3 Comments

Third Annual Blue Beanie Day

Sheesh – I can’ believe I missed International Blue Beanie Day yet again! By only ONE DAY this time! I have my blue-beanied avatar all ready to go, and I keep missing it. Well. Every day is blue beanie day for those of us who try to design to web standards. Styling that bibliography page using an ordered list and cite tags really made me happy, and actually using a definition list for a glossary page – omg. It’s the little things, you know?

Here I am, in blue beanied glory, a day late, but not short on love for the standards:


Happy Belated Blue Beanie Day, Standardistas!

December 1, 2009 Posted by | Learning Site Management | | 2 Comments

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Yep – it’s time again for 24 ways, “the advent calendar for web geeks!”

That and AN EVENT APART IN SAN FRANCISCO!!!!!! Can I have a w00t from the congregation?

I can’t believe I get to meet Zeldman, “Beep” (aka Ethan Marcotte), Dave Shea, Andy Budd, Jared Spool, Eric Meyer, Jonathan Snook, Luke Wroblewski, and Jeff Veen, among others, IN PERSON! I either have books by the aforementioned web design gods, or follow them on Twitter, or regularly read their blogs, or all of the above! So exciting. And the topics look great, too!

I’ll report on An Event Apart here – it’s gonna be great. Wish you were coming, too!

December 1, 2009 Posted by | Events, WordPress Resources | , , , , , | 8 Comments

New Book Available: “Digging Into WordPress”

Two of my favorite web designers with super helpful blogs, Chris Coyier of CSS Tricks and Jeff Starr of Perishable Press, have just released their new collaboration! The book, “Digging Into WordPress,” is now available as a PDF download, and if you buy the PDF book now, you will be eligible for a “sweet discount” on the hard copy of the book when it comes out, plus receive updates free.

They’ve done a great job on this book, which covers setting up WordPress, anatomy of a WordPress theme, theme design and development, extending functionality including using WordPress as a CMS, working with RSS feeds, SEO, dealing with comments, and keeping your site “healthy.” I already followed both of these designers before they began their collaboration, and have found countless useful tutorials, code snippets, design ideas, and much more on both of their sites – I’ve relied on Perishable Press as a source for great unobtrusive javascript code, and on CSS-Tricks for all kinds of other useful tools for making valid, functional, and beautiful sites.

This book is bound to be a valuable reference to anyone who works with WordPress. Click here to visit Digging Into WordPress and buy the book!

November 12, 2009 Posted by | WordPress Resources | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Book Available: “Digging Into WordPress”


The best SEO for any site is using good, semantic code, having your most important content “front-loaded” (putting the main things you want both visitors and search engines to find in the headings and first sentences/paragraph(s) of the page), and creating an accessible site, which is good for users with visual, motor, or hearing impairments, but also for search engines. Meta tags with a good, accurate description and relevant keywords of course are helpful.

I don’t plan to implement any SEO on any of my sites until they are ready for “prime time” – right now they are in development, and I don’t want them to be found, so I’ve set them to not be indexed by Google. When I’m ready to go public with them, I’ll change that setting, and make sure my meta tags are good, but until then, I’m using best practices for semantic web, and also one of the first things I did when I set up my sites was set up better post titles (which will help them show up in searches as well as making more sense to readers). The standard plug-in that everyone seems to use is the All-in-One SEO Pack plug in, and I’ve downloaded and installed it, but I’m going to wait on activation, again, until I’m ready to go public with my sites.

My main project site is a local nonprofit, so SEO is not a big concern – although we do want people looking for what they have to offer to find them. I’ve started working on another site that is a business, and they currently come up first in searches and we want to keep it that way, so SEO will be very important. I’ll be looking at what keywords and description they are using in the meta tags and keeping (and possibly adding to) those, along with making the site more semantic and accessible.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Learning Site Management | Comments Off on SEO

Site Security

We  are learning about site security this week, and have been asked to share stories of websites we know of that got hacked – how it happened, how they fixed it. I’ve asked an acquaintance at the Mono Lake Committee to share what happened when their site was recently defaced, but other than that, and until I get the inside story on that, I really don’t know of any websites that were hacked, but I do know of an email account that got phished.

It was the webmaster email account of the site I used to be webmaster for – the new webmaster got phished. So embarrassing! I saw the email, and it was pretty obvious to me, but she had the flu and was barely keeping up with the email, and for some combination of those reasons and carelessness, she bit. It was a Yahoo! account, and we had tons of addresses saved in it (mainly to keep emails from going into the spam folder, but also for reference) and the phisher sent out emails to all the contacts saying the webmaster was stuck in Europe and needed money – it was obvious to everyone who got it that it was more phishing, but in the meanwhile, the webmaster was locked out of her email account, where job postings and events and all sorts of web updates came in daily. She had to frantically email everyone to not respond to the phishers, apologize, and set up a new email account for online forms, at the same time as working with Yahoo! to regain access to her account, change the password and lock out the hackers.

The annoying thing for me, as former webmaster, is she never changed all the emails on the website – even though she regained access to the Yahoo! account, she switched to a gmail account as they are so much better at filtering spam and phishing emails. But the old email account was on practically every page of the website! And it was not a dynamic site or even made with templates – each page was separate. However, all she had to do was a global find and replace in Dreamweaver – except it was more complicated than that as the emails on the site were disguised with Spam Vaccine, but it would have only taken a few passes to get all the old email addresses updates, and if it were me, I would have rather changed them all by hand than leave them on the site! Sloppy.

Of course that sloppiness is what got her phished in the first place.

Lesson: even if you are fairly tech savvy, you still need to “make haste slowly” to avoid making a fatal error.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | Learning Site Management | , , | 4 Comments

To Do List

I’m getting farther (further?) behind on my to do list, and I have no one to blame but myself. I started out on the right track, researching and learning the right way to customize a WordPress theme for use as a CMS – using frameworks, a relatively blank theme, and creating a child theme that imports most of the parent theme’s features but overrides some with customized functions and styles. I started on that path on my main site, but when I started my project site, for some reason I didn’t keep on that path – I fell for an attractive theme that was harder to customize, and started editing the theme’s functions and styles directly, so now my code is all mixed in and harder to update. Why did I do that? It’s like a bad relationship – it started out as just a fling, but now I’m fully involved. Well, it’s time to break up and start fresh, and this time I’m going to do it right!

Here’s my To Do list, and it’s just a start:

  • Make it work in the domain, not just the wordpress folder
  • Research which starter theme to switch to – I already started on Thematic, so I may stick with it, or I may try Sandbox or other good starter theme. My previous post on the starter theme article will be a good place to start!
  • Change to sandbox or thematic or other theme frameworkGet site structure and content in place – pretty easy, since I have that done, just need to get it done on the site
  • Get dropdown menus working – easy in Thematic – they are working on my main site.
  • Add some style – I’m good at CSS, but you wouldn’t know it! I need to add my own styles and also play around with Photoshop and create some custom backgrounds, banner, logo, icons, etc. for the new site. This is a pretty big project, so I may just try using wireframes to be placeholders for future graphics and images. But I can at least add some basic styles for now.
  • Continue researching and testing gallery plugins for images
  • Continue researching and testing event calendar plugins
  • Continue researching and testing role management
  • And work on security, too!

That’s a big list, but I just need to suck it up and get started on it! If getting the index to work in the root of the subdomain ( instead of the wordpress subfolder where I put a separate installation of wordpress, then I can just install wordpress in the root, or live with it in the subfolder, for now. This isn’t my actual client site, anyway, but a place for me to learn WordPress. In fact, maybe I’ll just skip that first “to do” and create a whole new subdomain and do yet another wordpress installation – it’s all good practice, anyway. And maybe I should just stick with Thematic, since I’ve already started learning it and it’s well documented and has a great community – Ian Stewart seems to have “written the book” on using child themes, anyway, so best to stay close to the source.

Okaaaay… that’s the first two checked off already, and using Thematic, it will be easy to check off a few more in no time! Ahhh… I feel better already 🙂

October 3, 2009 Posted by | Learning Site Management | , | Comments Off on To Do List

New Sitemap/flowchart generator

In the article “WordPress 2.8 Resources for Developers” I found out about SlickPlan, a free flowchart and sitemap generator, and so I thought I’d try it out, since my experiment with OmniGraffle (a few posts back) was not all that easy. This was super easy, and you can copy the html for your sitemap, and save the flowchart as a pdf! And did I mention it’s free? Pretty cool.

Here is a link to the flowchart on the SlickPlan website: Bristlecone CNPS

Here is a JPG of the PDF that SlickPlan generated:

site flowchart

Here is my sitemap (links don’t go anywhere – they are in the generated html from SlickPlan so you can replace # with the proper URLs):

Note that the 3rd sub-level categories may not necessarily be their own pages, but sub-categories on a page, depending on content.

This is a great free tool! Easy to use, generates useful code and images to share with clients, and did I mention it’s free?

September 30, 2009 Posted by | WordPress Resources | , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Sitemap/flowchart generator