While I'm finishing my degrees in web design and web development, I've been working on a number of personal hobby sites to keep my skills sharp. Here, I've put them in order from newest to oldest. I always consider my projects works in progress, so some of these sites will change over time as I update them and refine their designs.
Free and Cheap Things To Do
I created this site as a final project for a class, choosing the theme because I had already planned to create a site about inexpensive entertainment ideas. I have more information that I would like to use to expand the site, and I'm also considering moving it to a new home because the hosting service I used doesn't allow for the use of PHP, and part of my vision for expanding the project includes the use of PHP and MySQL for organizing form data, particularly the placeholder form on the contact page. The sun logo in the corner of the header is animated.
Arizona Legends and Oddities
I created this project for a class, using pictures that I took myself from trips around Arizona. This was the very first site I ever created using Dreamweaver. I coded all of my previous projects by hand using text editors. I have in mind some additional material to add to this site.
Few web design students can resist the urge to make a website with an all-black background. It can be beautiful, seeing neon colors and bright white text glowing on a dark background. Plus, if you're reading at night, the black background feels less harsh on the eyes than a searing white background (a number of my fellow students have complained about this). In the beginning, I started writing this site to get all my black background urges out of the way so they wouldn't come out at a less convenient time. The Halloween theme seemed like a natural for the project, especially since I'd just bought a book about the history of Halloween.
Generally, I'm pleased with the colors I chose, although I do have a few changes in mind for this site. One thing that I'm most pleased about the color scheme is that I did manage to avoid the urge to put red text on a black background, typical rookie mistake for people who don't know anyone who is color blind. You can combine red and black in some ways with web design, but be careful, because one of the more common forms of color blindness is an inability to see the color red. The key in making text stand out on a screen is contrast between dark and light. Red appears "bright" to people with normal vision because it's a vivid color, not a light color, so there is actually less contrast between red and black than most people might think. To color blind people, all the vividness of red is gone, and red appears so dark and muted that it can be practically invisible on a black background. (There are different forms of color blindness, so individual results may vary. I use my father's form of color blindness as an example. As near as I can tell from his responses to color samples, red appears as something like a muted dark brown to him, and in some cases, is nearly identical to black.)
I started this project for a class, and I've continued working on it since. Part of the point of this site was to experiment with different types of graphics, which is why the different historical periods on the site have their own styles. I took all of the photographs on the site myself and created all of the backgrounds, buttons, and other graphics, using GIMP. I have plans to redo some of the graphics, particularly taking new photographs and replacing buttons and headers, and I also have more information to expand the site, possibly adding a couple more sections.
One of the design challenges associated with this site was creating game boards which users could print on their home computers so they could actually play the games. So far, what I've done has worked well enough, based on feedback from site users. A site user even showed me how he transferred one of my board designs onto wood (with my permission) to create a wooden playing board. However, I would like to further refine the designs of some of the boards.
I keep a couple of personal blogs, mostly about books that I've read, in order to keep my writing skills sharp and to try out different blogging/site creation platforms.
Forgotten Books and Stories
Wordpress is so popular that I believe that I couldn't resist trying it myself. I made a free Wordpress.com blog and then changed it to a paid account to see what the extra features were like. In some ways, I admit that I was disappointed by the extra features. I did not try the highest level of paid account because this is a hobby blog, not a business blog. However, I'm a little disappointed at the interface because I think it could be more user-friendly. I wouldn't call it difficult to use, but I think that Blogger offers more opportunnities for theme customization for free than Wordpress.com does for a paid account and is still easier to use. Wordpress.com also makes frequently adjustments to its format, which can be a mixed blessing. I like how they correct for some of the errors that I noticed when I first began to use it, such as the positioning errors with images. (At first, I kept having to code the alignment of images myself by hand because, if I made the selection of alignment from what they offered, the images would end up outside of the containers for blog posts. This error no longer happens now that they've switched to their block format.) However, I've noticed that Wordpress also changes features in ways that I don't like. For example, I prefered the format for displaying viewer stats that it originally used to the one that it uses now because it was easier to compare the numbers of likes on posts and it was easier to go straight to a page that a user had visited from the stats page. Since I regard my own sites as works in progress and subject to change, correction, or additions at any time, I can't really complain about Wordpress experimenting with different formats, and overall, I consider it a pretty good platform.
The theme of this blog/site is nostalgic children's books (no book on this site is newer than ten years old), but to make my site different from other book review blogs/sites, I decided to create a section called Books by Decade to both organize past posts and tie them to the events of the decades when they were first published. I've always loved history, so it wasn't difficult to list some of the major events of past decades, add some additional resource lists for each decade, and also try to put the lives of people born in each decade into perspective by discussing how old they would be at certain, major points in history. I wouldn't call this a scholarly historical analysis because this is still a hobby site and even the historical sections are peppered with my personal opinions. I have done scholarly writing before in college, but mainly, I was having fun with this. Since this site is mainly about my personal reviews, much of it is personal opinion. Another distinctive aspect of my blog/site is the Book Lists page which has books and series grouped by theme, including book lists for children's movies that were based on books. Across the top of the page, the main navigation provides pages of series books in particular genres. As with my other projects, this blog/site is always a work in progress, so there are lists and sections waiting to be added.
I decided to try Blogger so that I could compare it to my Wordpress.com site/blog. It was easy to get a Blogger blog because anyone who has a gmail account can have one for free. Between the two, Wordpress.com and Blogger, Blogger offers more options for customization with the free account. In order to change the CSS in Wordpress.com, you have to have a paid account, but Blogger allows CSS customization for free and is easy to use. However, I've been reading other criticism of Blogger since, which makes me wonder if I really want to do more with this blog or restart the blog elsewhere. I don't have much content posted right now, so that wouldn't be difficult, and I really only started this blog to study the way that Blogger functions in the first place. I think that the issue of content ownership might prove to be the deciding factor, but since I have so little content here right now, it's not an immediate issue, and before I rush to try something else, I have some other tinkering to do.
The theme of this blog/site is books, but adult books, not children's, like my other blog. I am a notorious book hoarder, and I have quite a lot of books on a variety of unusual topics. This blog is meant to showcase some of the more unusual parts of my collection.