The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Site News-New Welcome (Home) Page

First Image
This blog is the first of two blogs about some recent changes just completed on the site. The first you should have noticed by now if you came into the site via the Welcome (Home) Page. The Welcome page has a new look I’ll explain below. The other change is the addition of a new section in the Media Section called Favorite Foods, which will be covered in a later entry. This blog is more about how to use the site and is not talking about food tips, so if you are looking for that you’ll want to move along.

When I first made this site live in August of 2011, I sought some feedback on both the RapidWeaver forums and from folks whose opinions I value. One comment that came up a few times was that there was too much reading to be done on the Welcome Page. I did trim out some of the text, but I couldn’t think of a way to lose the text without loosing functionality. So in the back of my mind I wanted to do more to the Welcome page. But knowing and doing can be two different things and until a better solution came to mind I lived with the Welcome page as is.

From the beginning of the site I wanted to do a Favorite Foods section. At that time it wasn’t easy to do what I was looking to do in RapidWeaver. There is a very popular plug in for RapidWeaver called Stacks that you use to create a Stacks page type. The Stacks page type accepts other Stacks plug ins which allow you to do all kinds of layouts and custom features. In August of 2011 there was not a Stacks plug in to make a photo collage. Since I already had my hands full trying to migrate the old site from iWeb to RapidWeaver, I figured the Favorite Food section could wait.

Around the first of the year new version of Stacks, called Stacks 2, opened up a whole new world of creativity for the Stacks plug in designers. I checked again in January and still couldn’t find a plug in to do a plug in to do a photo collage with various sized images. I checked on the RapidWeaver user forums and still no luck. A few days ago I got an email regarding a new Stacks 2 plug in called Montage which allows you to create a photo collage with links, popups and other special effects. It sounded like the Favorite Foods section might finally become a reality. When I was testing out the Montage plugin it occurred to me this might be the solution for the too much text issue on the home page. You see an addition feature of the Montage plug in was you could have it display a caption when you moused over it. The photos themselves could serve as a link. These two items got me thinking that a photo montage of images related to navigating the various sections of the site could replace some of the written text on the Welcome Page.


By getting rid of most of the text and replacing them with photos, I feel the new home page (right) is more modern looking and visually appealing than the old home page (left). The trick is whether it is also easier to use.

The written sections on the home page consisted of a “Mission Statement” on the purpose of the site. Then there was a section explaining how I first got started in all of this. Lastly there was a section explaining how and where you might want to go on the site. I was not opposed to some of this verbiage going away. After thinking about it, I decided most all of it could go. I kept the two sentence “Mission Statement” could stay since it summed up what the site was about it, and because it was useful for search engines. The two paragraphs about how I got started was 8 years old now and I had written some blog entries on the same topic. I decided in the interest of visual cleanliness I could lose those two paragraphs entirely. Last but not least was the Getting Around Section - a bulleted list giving hints and tips about where to go on the site. My new realization was that I could use a montage instead and add some photos to replace all of the text Getting Around Text.

But what would these photos be? I decided fairly early on that these photos could represent the various portions of the site. In theory the Welcome page would be more modern looking and visually attractive than a bunch of text. The Montage plug in allows you to have a caption pop up when you mouse over the image. Additionally you could add a link to each image. So what I decided to do was have a series of images representing all of the major areas on the site. These images would be captioned with the name of the site area just like it was called out in the menu bar. Clicking on the image will bring you to that area of the site. I figured the images and collage would be more attractive than all of the text they replaced, they would be easier to use for most people (vs. the menu bar) and would look more modern. I think the new look is better, but I am not 100 percent happy with some of the details. Some of the images representing the back end pages: Links, Site Search, Indexes, Contact Me etc. aren’t working for me in some cases. Over time I will probably replace some of individual images, but I like the overall concept.

Since you as the end user of the site are the person the Welcome page is designed to help, it is important what you think. Let me know what you think of the new look and whether you feel the Welcome page is actually easier to use. The best way to do this it to use the
CONTACT ME form link right here, or found in the main menu bar or now in the collage in the main body of the home page.


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