Wandering Dev Diary #5: Keeping A Website
This was going to be about doing Spells of Old. Why I did them, how I do them, what’s coming after number four. Instead I want to talk a bit about this site and the constant learning process of it all.
Building A Website
The thing about building a website is that it is both accessible and easy these days. WordPress, Blogger, Wix, and more all offer you the ability to begin creating your own website. Often times there are free options. That is, of course, as long as you stay small, don’t need much control, and don’t care about your own personal URL. When it comes to building a site there are two camps or approaches, but when it comes down to it these only exist in so much as who you are and where you’re starting from. The first would be the full on planned approach. Having an idea of what you want, what you need, what the purpose is. Knowing what your “brand” is and what you hope to obtain from having a site. This is great but generally requires some experience either in building the site or in whatever business you’re approaching from.
The second is an approach a lot of people (myself included) will tell you to take. This is the “go for it” approach. Now, don’t take this too strongly and just go start making a website. Realize that its a continuing learning process. Talk to some people. Do some research. Keep reading and learn from me, because I said “screw it, I’m making a blog” and a week later had the original Notes of a Wandering Alchemist up. If you have a passion or an idea and you want to start writing about it and sharing about it, do it. but take advantage of those who have done the same. Even without any money you can get ahead just by doing research (and being ready to continuously learn).
Keeping Up With Articles
This is honestly one of the easiest and hardest things for me to do. Once upon a time I would write an article of some kind every week day. Realistically this was an update post, an actual article, an addition or note on home brew, three resources to check out, and then a link to a new podcast episode. It was a really great idea and I kept it up for months, keeping regular output and giving me decent goals each week. However, it was also pretty bad in many ways. There was a whole lot of posting and little substance. Fridays was a veritable share post, Wednesdays didn’t have anything real half the time, and Mondays just ended up being a mixed back of what I felt like talking about.
Over the months I have changed how often and how regularly I write articles and managed to achieve a, sort of, balance. It took some trial and error and admitting to myself when I couldn’t keep up with my own aspirations. If I had to share advice about it, that is the first thing I would say: recognize and accept your own limitations. Push them when you can, but when you cannot do not let it drag you down and do even less. I have had those moments. At this point though, I have figured out the things I want to write about and I have stopped pushing myself to write what I don’t or can’t. That is why you get the Libris Monstrum now, as well as this dev diary series. It is why Resources and re-skinning have been on hold.
Maintaining The Site Itself
This has been a huge learning curve for me. I started the site to be part of the RPG community and help bring that community together in various ways. I have reminded myself of that and put a larger focus on it in many ways. A big part of it is trying to do reviews for new, indie developers. I want to see and show them off. If I can get word out of any given one to just a handful more people than they had, well, that is a win for me. In order to do things like that, I needed to move away from Blogger and take fuller responsibility for my site. That is why the design changed, hosting changed, and more. But now I have a more complex and better system from which to work with and it all feels much more mine.
Those complexities add some stuff though. For example I now have more control over Pages and their hierarchies. At least more than I feel like I had. It helps keep more organized and allowed me a place for archives from the last site. Auto-sharing posts is another amazing thing I can now do, and it saves a ton of time. Creating tags and categories, having better drop down menus, and access to various plugins have also been amazing. However, in getting access to all this, getting it moved, and creating new things there are times when stuff is forgotten and left behind. There are times when something doesn’t come out right or when things mess up (like my contact forms last week).
It is a lot of work and that is why some things are continued to be delayed since I lost my job. Yes I have more time (job hunting isn’t quite as time-consuming as work once you get resumes sorted and such), but I have been spending it polishing this site. I have adjusted menus so that mobile users can find donation and info links better. I have tweaked menus and added pages to find things. Recently I made a guideline for review requests (which I never thought I would actually get enough of to need guidelines). The good thing is that the site and my presence appears to be growing. The bad thing is that I have add additions to make and hadn’t even finished polishing the new site from its inception. Archives have fallen behind, pages remain blank which shouldn’t, and other simple things I need to maintain. We’re getting there though.
This Wandering Dev Diary was sort of an insight to my thoughts of site building, but it is also a look at what I am trying to do. I want to solidify what this is, not just grow it. Today I finished archiving reviews and chapters from Cracks of the Rift. In doing so I realized I needed to better group reviews (and did). Those groups may change as the review number grows, but that’s OK. I also realized that the CotR chapters should have Next and Previous links at the end of each one. That is now on a list of site “upgrades” that I plan on doing over the next week. I took the time to go through the site and write down what else I needed to do. As I check each one off, this site will be improved, little by little. That’s the thing, there is always room for improvement so long as you take the time to do it.
So I hope this site continues being better. That the podcast keeps being better. That I can more aptly get out new things and better take care of Patrons and others who support us. That we continue to grow and be a part of the community. If you have any suggestions about the site layout, an archive that needed, a sidebar you would like to see, anything just let me know. I’m always looking to do better.