For the past ~6 months, I have been doing a couple electronic technology experiments. The first involves web design. For the past 8+ years, I have been using the same basic web page design. I used whatever the current iteration of FrontPage was to maintain it and built up a bunch of content. It was a useful site. (web.mnstate.edu/bodwin) I originally set up up using frames which I thought was great because it made it easy to use a consistent navigation menu and made it really easy to control the viewer’s experience. {Sometimes I get a little obsessed with control…} After this many years, I have gotten a little bored with my site, and a little bit of bloat and disorder had started to creep in, so I decided to do a major re-design. In browsing around for ideas and current standards/best practices, it quickly became clear that frames had fallen out of favor (I don’t know that they were ever really in favor…) because they were a little bloaty and did not lend themselves well to making easily accessible pages. I decided that I would try to make a very simple page with minimal architecture that would be lightning quick to load and navigate.

Now it’s 6-months later and I’m at a bit of an impasse. I’ve tried to make the page as simple as possible from a design standpoint, but it’s got a fair bit of content that I’m trying to organize in an orderly way. So far, I’ve just used CSS and HTML and the site is clean and simple. (www.drbodwin.com) But there’s a problem. Maintaining good, easy navigation is killing me. With my old frames page, the navigation frame was always reading a single file, so the navigation was consistent and maintaining it was simple. With my new, simple design, the navigation is embedded in each individual page. Once I got up to 10-15 pages, this became a pain in the ass. Every time I wanted to add a new feature, I had to go into each individual page and update the nav menu. I know there are some little scripting tricks to address this specific problem, but I was stubbornly trying to maintain the “purity” of my site. I was an idiot.

Now that I have stumbled through some of the dumb, noob mistakes, I’m ready to take the next step. Once the semester ends, I will devote some time to putting together a re-re-designed site that will be easy for visitors to navigate AND easy for me to maintain. I’m not going back to frames, but there has to be some middle ground. Right now, I feel as if I’m using a rock to hammer in a screw, I at least want to get to the point that I’m using a hammer.

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