Category Archives: Websites

Open Legend RPG: Redesigning the Data

Recently I stumbled upon a Kickstarter project called Open Legend RPG, an open source roleplaying game. The system is a labor of love that has been built over the last 4 years and was now ready to bring to a larger audience. The creators were raising money for printed additions, additional rulesets , and pre-made adventures, but the beauty of the system was that all the rules were online already; anyone could play it without spending a dime.

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graph of declining mobile errors of 15% after 2 weeks

Mobile-Friendly Redesign: You’re Already Late

On April 21, 2015, Google started demoting search rankings for websites that were not mobile-friendly. Prior to that date, I updated 11 of 12 websites I run. The big one, NovelRank, was going to take much longer and be much more complicated, so it missed the deadline.

Well, on September 1st, the redesign was completed and released. However, as you can see in the image above, the story still isn’t over. Even though it’s been 2 weeks since the redesign, Google took ~7 days to update to the new link structure (dropped .php) in search results. It also has only identified 15% of pages that previously had mobile errors as fixed. Needless to say, it’s going to be a few more weeks until the benefits (or rather, the removal of penalties) are actually reflected across the entire website in the eyes of the major search engines.

So be warned, that delay means that when you think you’re done, the search engines of the world may not see it that way for weeks after. You’re already behind, so don’t delay on getting your sites mobile-friendly. I personally love Bootstrap, if you want a recommendation for a responsive design framework.

Update: Sept 21, 2015

Mobile errors dropped dramatically, down to 89 total (8% of the original). So, after 3 weeks the vast majority of the mobile-friendly redesign was absorbed into Google’s knowledge of the site. I expect that by the end of the month the number will be zero or a single digit total.

Update: November 3, 2015

After seeing 5 pages with mobility issues for lingering pages not rechecked by Google’s crawler for the last month, the number is finally 0. For most sites it would have been done by the 1 month mark, but for a larger site (thousands or tens-of-thousands of pages like mine) it took 2 months to get a 100% seal of mobile approval.

The Life and Times of a Viral Internet Website:

Over 400,000 individuals have seen the website; the one-liner website that makes you laugh when it presents the unexpected. I’m talking about, a website I built in a stroke of genius frustration. There is a much more eloquent write-up of my reasoning for creating the website on The Atlantic, if you’re interested. As the Executive Producer of The Daily Show, Rory Albanese, said during the Political Humor 2.0 panel, sometimes what amuses the audience the most is as simple as a poop joke. was my poop joke.

What I wanted to add to the discussion was the background metrics and traffic trends that occurred for the website in the 7 days from creation on March 7th through the peak of its traffic 48 hours later. Hey look, a graph!

DefendRush Google Analytics
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Bicycle Group Rides – Launching

Over Labor Day weekend I finally launched a love website: It’s main purpose is to bring cyclists together by offering a central place to add or search for group bicycle rides. Why is it a love website? It doesn’t have a revenue stream, it just meets a need. Sure, that may sound tragic considering that, financially, I really need to focus on revenue streams, but I’ve found a lot of value in following what you are passionate about.

Do what you love and the money will follow

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Creating a Unique Advertising Campaign – M&M’s Made it Better Case Study

M&M's Candy in a Banana This weekend I launched a new website: M&M’s Made it Better. This site was conceived over a year ago based on a simple idea: M&M’s make me happy, and their effect is likely the same for others. So, I decided to create a simple advertising campaign that allowed me to: Practice photography with a light tent, design a creative yet simple concept, and spend as little money as possible. In total, I spent ~$40 for extra supplies.
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Custom Consulting Domain Landing Pages

Sometimes I hold back on purchasing domains until I’m ready to use them, and other times I’m more impulsive. Two domains purchased over a year ago were in the latter category, and the focus was on a consulting area of interest of mine: Price consulting. Inspired by reading Priceless by William Poundstone as well as Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, I wanted to bring a young art form (1985) to small businesses in the Denver/Boulder area. With that in mind, I needed to know which of these domains would be more beneficial. Both had the copy (i.e. written text) designed for their keywords, but the overall message is the same.

But why not use the same copy on both pages?
That makes search engines angry. The copy needs to be unique and avoid being labeled as duplicate content. It also allows me to test different wording and ideas.

What inspired the web-design?
My shower curtain. Let me be very clear: I’m a creative type, sure, but when it comes to visual artistry, I’m not an original. There are better people out there, and their ideas inspire my adaptations. This is my shower curtain. Now to see the design, these are the two websites:

The color scheme is from ColourLovers and the palette is called Funny Like the Moon. See? Better people, adapted.

Finally, I went ahead and did all the usual things: Added them to Bing, Yahoo, and Google’s webmaster tools, as well as installed analytics for tracking. Airline Schedule Horizon Notifications

For Memorial Day weekend, I launched flight schedule notifications a few days early (or late, depending on how you look at it). At this point, it’s fully functional as a notification site, and the only thing left is to setup the PayPal integration so that future customers can pay for priority notifications via email and SMS. To date, the project took 53 hours of coding.
Over those 53 hours, I built every line of HTML, CSS, Javascript (jQuery), and PHP by hand. I’ve also learned how to integrate with both SendGrid, email service API, and Twilio, SMS messaging API. I also explored building a website from the ground up with a focus on speed and performance, including an integration with Amazon S3 and Cloudfront (cloud-based content delivery network). I know that may sound like a lot of jargon, but it’s a lot of learning for me and a lot of progress. Until this point, I’ve never built a webpage layout completely from scratch. It’s amazing what ‘need’ will do to your skill set.
Now, I can’t say that I did it 100% by myself. One simple fact I learned was that the best lesson you can learn is understanding where your limits are and surrounding yourself with experts. Without the help of a great graphic designer friend, the centerpiece of the website would be lackluster (the large image at the top). So, I reached out and got exactly what the site needs.

To recap, here were the goals of this and all future web-designs:

  • The page loads in less than 2 seconds
  • Tell the user what the site does and what benefit it brings them within 6 seconds of them arriving on the home page
  • Present a call to action immediately on the home page
  • Build in a profitable business model from the beginning

Next stop, marketing. I’ll keep everyone posted on some of the avenues used to advertise the new service.

Update: June 2nd
An additional 8 hours, bringing the total up to 61 hours to completely launch (PayPal integration complete!). Phew!