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July 11, 2004

There Be Dragons Here

Posted by Mike on July 11, 2004 9:58 PM

Once upon a time, I was the boss of a site that pulled in 500,000 page views a day and had a readership that was alternately devoted, fanatical, and vile depending on how well you'd stuck to their orthodoxies on a given day. Only once did I ever feel like any of them turned on me. It was not a bad gig.

The sites I work on these days have a significantly smaller readership, and they're much more quiet about their reading. It's an odd month when I hear from any of them. In fact, I have to go over to my old site, where my writing for my new sites is periodically linked, to read what people are saying. Like:

OMG! If you are even thinking about reading this article, then you've already wasted too much time on it. It is garbage!

I don't know what kind of traffic we do here. My obsessive compulsive statistic tracking makes it hard to figure out how many people are coming through all the parts of the site: the wiki, gallery, other gallery, blog, and some side projects all get their own stats pages, and I'm far too lazy to go around adding it all up, or cleaning up my slovenly virtual domains long enough to create an extra log (maybe I will now that I've confessed). But Puddingtime proper has a running average of about 400 visits a day on a good day, and a little more than 10,000 visits a month. My stats package tells me the average visitor comes back once or twice.

Of the non-returns, here's what most of them came here for this month:

Last month it was more of the same, though this month is odd in being one of the first in which "pudding" hasn't been in the top ten inbound Google queries.

Anyhow, I'm laying all that out (especially the numbers) to make the point that I'm much more pleased and grateful for the relative few who come through here. On the old, big site, we used to swing for the bleachers, hoping to get a slashdotting (so we could laugh at how puny the Slashdot effect was becoming and to get an extra 10,000 or so page views). Here, I'm just happy when the referer log tells me we've appeared in a blogroll somewhere even though we don't know the person who put us there.

I'm also laying all that out so no one takes it wrong when I say I now officially hate Web design and consider myself in completely over my head on the matter, and I'm seriously thinking it's time to figure out how far back we can roll the design to something like "Movable Type Classic" without everything becoming too unwieldy.

Three times in the last week, I've been reminded that there's always a browser out there that will break something, even if it's a relatively new browser. I don't even want to name names because I've been dealing with assorted Web browser oddnesses for a while now and I've learned the value of humble silence.

We're not supposed to be about the design here. We're supposed to be about the content. For the record, I admire Gruber's minimal cool, Phil's "well-engineered stuff under basic presentation" contentment, Nate's "riff on the essentials," and b!X's dense but open look. I also admire Ed waiting for months and months and months to change anything at all.

I look at what they've all done and I think "Why am I putting this three column lipstick on this mule?" Except Puddingtime isn't a mule. She's just fine. She's also overdressed, and it's driving me to distraction. Like Mal says to Kaylee: "You'd look like a sheep walking around on its hind legs."

Speaking of Mal and Kaylee:



So I think it's time to delve into the renormalization of Puddingtime. Probably keep the colors and the cowgirl, but the rest... oh... hell hath no wrath like me deciding it's time to get clean and orderly again.

And just to make the point, in case you're one of the three people who's written to say "How come this looks wrong?": Thanks for taking the time to write. Thank you for visiting. This is me in a fit of frustrated perfectionism handing the design driving over to the experts.