kitten   January 31, 2007

Things are coming along nicely, particularly now that I've discovered the joy of mp3gain. If you or someone you know happens to be in a band that plays the sort of music broadcast here, email me and we can talk about putting songs into the mix.

codelove
kitten   January 29, 2007

codelove. Toraton knows his machines.

Fortune.
kitten   January 8, 2007

I saw her smiling, nearly every day round seven in the evening, in the elevator of our building. I never knew much about her, really. Dark hair, dark eyes, and lived on the sixteenth floor, which meant she smiled as I left on the fourteenth. Not the bright and engaging smile of practiced cover girls, nor the vapid smile of overt cheeriness, but the kind that starts as a sort of lopsided grin, slowly expanding to show teeth, just before her customary "Hey, you," and my return of "Hey, yourself."

I never saw her in the mornings, either, which meant she must have left much earlier, or much later, than I did every day. Nor did we encounter each other much on the weekends, so I couldn't really speculate about her social life either -- never saw her with a boyfriend, or a girlfriend for that matter. Never saw her much at all, not in the lobby of the building, not in the laundromat, not in the leasing office, not in the parking lot.

Most of what I think I know about her, I made up. Maybe some of it was right.

Nearly every day, that coy smile, with her head tilted a bit down so her eyes angled up at me, was what let me know, finally, that I'd come home, and whether she flashed that smile of hers at anyone else, I will never know. Delusion though the thought is, I knew it was reserved for me alone. She may have smiled at others throughout the day, but the peculiarity of it, the emotion, that had to have been for me. Like an actress who can smile all day when the script calls for it, but there's something different in the way she does it off camera: "Hey, you."

Hey, yourself.

I could have called her by her actual name, which I eventually learned was Christine, but it wouldn't have seemed right, somehow. I never knew her last name. It wouldn't have been right to ask.

And then, one day, she wsan't there. And the next day, and the day after, until nearly a week had gone by. Maybe it was none of my business. I'm quite sure it wasn't. But I had to know, and so I went to the leasing office and asked, feeling like I was violating something, especially when I couldn't provide a last name, just a description and floor number.

And that's when I learned she'd moved. To where, I don't know, and why, I'll never learn. Maybe wherever she went, she found someone else to bestow her smile upon, but when she left, I felt like she took something of me with her, captured in that visage of curved lips.

Never knew her last name, or her favorite films, or if she liked chocolate, or got headaches, or what she wanted to do with her life, but in the elevator of our buliding, round seven in the evening nearly every day, I saw her smiling.

Not Another Teen Website.
kitten   January 6, 2007

Seems like every one of your friends has a website these days, doesn't it? If you're feeling left out of the fun and drama, it's easy to make a site of your own. And today, kitten will show you how. Gather round, kids, gather round.


Step One - Pick a Name
It doesn't matter that you haven't even figured out what you're going to do with the site yet -- hell, you don't even really know why you're making one at this point, other than to have one. So in that spirit, the first step is to pick a name before you do anything else.

Traditionally, site names have something to do with the nature of the site itself. Even mirrorshades.org and the walled city carry a certain cyberpunk elan to match the motif, but you're going to buck that entire trend and come up with a creative, cute name that reflects your creative, cute style. Fortunately, this is easy to do.

Your site should follow the pattern of adjective-noun, or adverb-noun, or adjective-adverb. . Hyphens are optional but highly encouraged. For example, your site name may be shes-lovely.net, so-emo.com, purple-rain.org, or gray-november.com. If your site name is taken by some unscrupulous charlatan, put the letter "x" on both sides, so you have xpurple-rainx.com for that seriously straight-edge chic.

Remember, the more nonsensical the better. shes-so.com? foggy-dreams.net? They don't mean anything, and that's exactly the effect you're after! Everyone will know how edgy and clever you are, especially when you abandon it after six months and it becomes another phishing portal site.

"But kitten," you say, "what about the top-level domain? Dot org, dot net, how do I choose?" Fear not. You see, back when the internet was in its struggling adolecence, and the web was just emerging onto the conciousness of the public, a bunch of boring nerds came up with the idea that TLDs should be used according to what sort of organization owned the site, so .com would be for companies, .net would be for network and infrastructure, .org would be for non-profit entities, .edu for schools, and so forth. But you know what? Screw that shit, that's what. Choose whatever the hell you like and who cares if it makes any sense?


Step Two - Making a Banner Graphic
This may well be the most crucial aspect to your foray into making websites. After all, this is what you really wanted to do, isn't it -- play with Photoshop until your eyes bleed and you've created a masterpiece, with which you can festoon the top of your page for all to behold. It's why you spend hours worrying about "brushes" and "blends" and "vectors". It is your raison d'etre, so let's get to it.

First, find a picture of a celebrity. You may want to find two or three so you can combine them into a collage of sorts. It doesn't really matter if the celebrity in question has absolutely nothing to do, whatso-freaking-ever, with your site, or does anything to enhance the mood and feel of the site -- just pick someone you like.

Crack out Photoshop and begin playing! Apply all kinds of filters, then carefully blur and smooth and smear and brush and cut and paste. Don't forget the funky background -- stars, glitter, or crosshatching is always popular. Get on forums and ask what new exciting plugins people used to make their graphics, or just go wild with whatever's on hand. Sooner or later you'll come up with something usable. If you've spent less than seven hours on your graphic, you aren't doing it right. More time should be spent on this aspect than any other.

Somewhere in this mishmash you'll want the site's name, too. Find a pretty caligraphic or script font, tone the contrast way down and try to match the color of the image, and type it in there. Don't worry about placement, because the goal is to make it both hard to see and in an illegible font, so no one's going to notice where you put it.


Step Three - The "layout"
The second-most important part of your site is what you're going to call the layout, even though you have only a rudimentary understanding of what the word means in graphic design. Nevertheless -- for these purposes, it means the overall presentation of the site -- where the menus are placed, what the background and foreground colors are, what color links will be, all borders and decorations, font choices and colors, and so forth.

It's a bewildering time for many, but I am here to guide you. Remember, you already have your awesome banner graphic, so put that at the top. Next, choose some colors that are relatively close to the colors in your banner, and use those as the foreground and background. It really is of little consequence how usable or readable those colors will end up being -- really, if you can get it as low-contrast as possible you're way ahead of the curve. Make people work to be able to read your dark gray text on a black background, dammit!

As for that, the font itself should be something tiny. Make it as utterly inscrutable as possiblie, in fact. It may be readable on your 1024x768 screen, and that's really all that matters -- everyone else can either go through the hassle of adjusting their screen resolution to match your personal style, or go fuck themselves. You'll tell them about it in the site requirements -- but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Menus can pretty much go anywhere. Most people put them on the top or off to one side, and that's fine. In fact, beause it's so obvious and common, it's what the majority of web users are accustomed to, and the first place they'll look for it. Because of that, being creative about it and putting it somewhere strange will confuse most visitors -- but don't worry about the possibility of them getting impatient and deciding it's not worth it. Your site is worth it! No matter how silly your navigation, no matter how well-concealed within layers of images you make it, they'll stay. They really want to. So feel free to go crazy and show off your artistic side. Remember, usability should never get in the way of your creative vision.

In that same vein, you should make links nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the text -- a very subtle underline will do, or perhaps make it just a mildly different shade than the rest of the text. Anything to keep people from being able to readily discern links from text, and you've done your job. However, you don't want to be a total jerk about it, so why not help them out by forcing their cursor to change into a cute question mark or crosshair when they manage, through blind groping and random movement, to hover over a link? True, their cursors already change by default when this happens, but they'll appreciate the extra effort you put into it. Really.

Finally, no matter how wide your site is, text itself should all be crammed into a thin strip no more than two hundred pixels wide. That way, it will make it seem like you have an awful lot to say, as people madly scroll after every five words.

The layout and usability of a site is such an important issue that major corporations and organizations have put hundreds of thousands of dollars and hours into researching the topic, developing focus groups, and experimenting to see what people look at and how they interact with site. Well-respected people in the industry, some of whom literally developed and defined the modern web as we know it, have written articles and specifications for standards, human interface guidelines, proper markup, and accessability. These recommendations have all been compiled and refined by an international consortium called w3c which lays out the standards of what browsers and sites should or shouldn't do. Thousands of people have made their living off optimizing sites for maximum usability, minimum annoyance, and getting to know what makes people come to, and stay at, a website.

Guess what? You know better than any of these loserr pinheads. Do whatever you want and at least you can say "I did it my way!"


Step Four - Content
Or, "Why This Site Was Made". Well, that's a tricky one, isn't it? You've already done all the hard work of making it pretty and creative, and now you're expected to actually have something to say, or some reason for people to bother coming to your site. Almost like it's not fair.

Don't despair, though. As with the rest of these steps, there are some easy-to-follow guidelines to help you figure out what to do.

Awesome sites -- like the one you're making -- generally have four or five menu options in addition to the front page. The front page can be a blog, but you shouldn't have more than a handful of entries -- maybe one or two irrelevent bits, a passing mention of how you need to blog more, and an announcement about your new layout, along with an invitation for all your friends -- I mean visitors -- to comment on how great it is. At the end of each entry, don't forget to "plug" those friends who commented! Throw 'em a link from your pagerank-one site there, and they'll be forever grateful.

Also on the front page, preferably on the side, it's important to have one or both of these features:

  • An "about" box. Include your name, age, city, and a handful of terse, one-or-two word descriptions or phrases about yourself. Include a tiny, nearly-invisible picture of yourself too, if you want.
  • A "tagboard" so your friends can stroke your ego about how much they love your site.

Right, on to the menu. You want to break this down, as mentioned, into four or five main components. Generally, these are as follows:

  • Me (or "author", "webmaster/mistress", or something along those lines) : This is where you expand on who you are. You can write in the first-person voice, but it's so much cooler to write in the third-person. Tell everyone about the fascinating details of your life, number of siblings, bands you enjoy, how much you love making websites. List things you like no matter how banal, and list things you dislike no matter how obvious. It's true that your site really has no following and the only people likely to stop by are people who already know you, but trust me -- everyone finds this really interesting.

  • Domain : Now's your chance to enlighten everyone on the engaging details of your website history. Everyone wants to know -- when did you purchase this name? What does it mean, if anything? How many times have you redesigned it? What other "domains" do you own? What celebrity is that in the banner? We all really care, and it's such interesting information, so tell us. Please.

  • Visitor (or "you", or "content") : This is where you put stuff that doesn't really go in your blog. The results of online quizzes you've taken, or "fifty random fact" lists are always good choices. You may want to include some "tutorials" to pad this section out. For those of you just beginning, "tutorials" are mostly-incorrect explanations of how to do mostly-useless tricks with HTML or Photoshop. Any sane person would go to a professional or educational site to learn this stuff, not some teenager who barely knows what they're doing, but it will make you look like you have a lot to offer. You can also throw in some graphics for people to download -- everyone loves those. Smilies, "blinkies", wallpapers, you name it. Doesn't even matter if you made them or not. If by some small chance you do legitimate artwork of some kind -- writing, poetry, painting, photography -- that can also go here. Just make sure it's hard to find, and always include disclaimers about how much you think it sucks, which is why you're putting it online for everyone to see.

  • Exits (or "links" or "loved") - Links to your friend's pages. No one's heard of these people and they have more or less the same nothing to say that you do, just with different graphics and layouts, but shit -- they're your friends, and you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

There you go, nothing to it. Now there are words on your site, so it's a proper site with a real purpose and reason for existing beyond the fact that you like screwing with Photoshop. Good work!


Step Five - Polish and Finish
You've come so far and you're almost done, but there are a few optional things you can do last-minute to really enhance the visitor's experience. For example, splash pages are great. Make another graphic -- nothing as fancy as your banner graphic, mind you -- and turn it into a link to the main part of your site. This will be the first thing anyone sees when they drop by, so help them out by putting the word "enter" somewhere in there so they know to click on it!

This is a good place to list "site requirements" too. It's not that hard to design a site that works in any browser at any resolution, but can you honestly be bothered to do all that tedious work and testing? Hell no -- it's best if you force everyone else to use the same settings you used. Therefore, this is where you list the settings and required browser abilities people will need. Tell them they'll need to run Internet Explorer at a specific resolution and specific window size, and it's not a bad idea to include things that every browser made since 1997 has supported, like frames or CSS. To demonstrate your quirky sense of humor, you can also throw in "Open Mind" or "Good Attitude" as the last item, as though the site won't work without those things. Trust me, everyone will think it's hilarious and clever.

It would be remiss of me not to mention defense in this section as well. If at any time you are criticized for any aspect of your site's design, how the site has no point, how the content is mindless, how the navigation is unusable, or anything else, really, you shouldn't try to learn from the advice. Instead, use one of these arguments:

  • "Well, it's my site and I'll do what I want. I made it for myself, not for anyone else!" This is perhaps the best argument, because no one will notice that you've put the site on the public internet, making it something other than "just for myself".
  • "Can't you say anything nice?" Also a good way to shut those critics up. The world exists to validate you and make you feel good, and you have to remind them that commentary which implies you did something wrong is unwelcome.
  • "I worked hard on this!" Many people work hard on things and still aren't very good at it, but that's not you. Your hard work deserves respect!
  • "Your site sucks too!" Remember, no one can touch you if you think they suck. Squelches 'em every time!

Well kids, there you go. Five easy steps to the website of your dreams, a showcase of how unique you are as an individual by copying what all your friends are doing. Go get 'em, tiger!