Renovating... Responsively

Thursday, April 23, 2015

After blowing the digital dust off the blog last week (this post), I found myself contemplating its appearance. I found it very....Meh. Deciding it was time for a face lift, I did some poking around on the net to see what kind of changes had occurred during my absence, and found [unsurprisingly] a technological avalanche of TMI. Even though I had managed to post on the blog (albeit inconsistently) over the past couple of years, it was unbelievably tedious and time consuming. Trying to visit various sites to keep up with ever-changing technology with a connection that functioned at the speed of slug was nigh impossible (not enough hours in the day, and all that). I was so sad to see Google Friend Connect was gone. I tried all the tricks I could find to make it show up, to no avail. Grr. I'm guessing this is their way of *cough*cough* encouraging people to sign up for Google+. Hmph. The biggest most pressing change, however, was something called "Responsive Design". Now if, like yours truly, you've been hiding  living under a rock for the past couple of years you may be thinking: Responsive Design? Eh? What's that you say? Here's the gist: Because people are  now pulling up digital content using a wide variety of devices, something needed to be done for web pages and blogs to "look right" no matter what you are using to view it (e.g. desktop, laptop, tablet, cell phone, etc.). This newer coding meant that web pages and blogs could now automatically resize and reorient themselves to fit devices of all shapes and sizes. If you're interested, you can read a more detailed article here. Google is in the process of reindexing their search results - it's expected to be completed this month, if it hasn't been already - and they are heavily prioritizing responsive sites.

Obviously, if I were going to implement any changes to the blog, it would make sense to start by switching to a responsive template. Of course Blogger, which was bought out by Google around 2003, does not yet offer this feature. Pretty sure there's a whopping dose of irony hiding in there somewhere...
Anyhoo, ever a fan of the DIY project, I developed delusions of grandeur - having built my own computer "back in the day" - after reading several articles on the subject and mistakenly assumed (we all know how THAT word breaks down) I could probably figure it out on my own. Well, HaHaHa and Ha. Wasn't I just all kinds of wrong. A smart person would, of course, think to create a practice blog before implementing any kind of sweeping changes. Did I do this? Silly you. Of course not! The result? A NON-responsive blog that can be summed up in three little words:
Fruit                    Basket                    Turnover 
This, in turn, generated mutterings along the lines of "Wait. What in the world is that doing there? Oh, good gravy! Where in the heck did my -- go? Uh-oh. What on earth? ARRGH!" After banging my head on the desk until I thought I might break something (namely, the desk), it occurred to me that I might need to find someone a little smarter than me to bail me out help.

Enter our heroine, code name: Carrie (Bwahahahaha *AHEM* sorry) who runs an Etsy shop called TrueYouTemplates. I had looked around online a little to get some kind of idea what was out there in the way of ready-made responsive templates, but I really didn't feel comfortable sending money to an unseen individual on a random website. Call me paranoid, but this is code we're talking about here don'tcha know. The stuff of hackers. I was in mid-ponder when it hit me. Wait a minute! What about Etsy? There are some pretty tech-savvy ladies on there; I remembered buying a customized banner with matching avatar from one when I opened my first shop. After scrolling through all kinds of themes with names like, Lipstick (ugh), Glamour Template (blech), Urban Living (yawn), Neon (meh), Boss Babe (wow, really?), Pink Moon (cute, but no) and the like, I was getting rather discouraged. Now there were a number of custom templates listed, but they were a little too pricey for someone on a duct tape and band-aid kind of budget. I was just about to give up, when I came across a theme called "Shabby Chic Pub" by True You Templates. Truth be told, I totally missed the pub part; my attention was caught by the rustic looking wood in the background. AHA - now that's what I'm talkin' about!

I'll be honest here and admit that the fact that the shop had not yet had a sale gave me a moment's pause, but then again she'd only been open for a few months and I knew exactly how tough that very first Etsy sale could be (been there, done that, skipped the T-shirt). After looking through her listings, I was impressed with both the friendly tone she set and the thoroughness of her descriptions, so I decided to send her a convo and go from there. Carrie was very friendly and sent me a link to her travel blog along with her response, which made me feel a whole lot more comfortable as it made her less of a stranger. The end result? I bought one, of course, and I LOVE IT! Not only did I get a fabulous responsive template and rockin' customer service, I made a new friend :o) What more could you possibly ask for? I'm still getting things together here, but with Carrie's patient help, I've gotten a lot done already.
Look! Look! Look! I even pulled it up on my Android phone and it works like a charm. I also tried it on an iPhone, two desktops, three laptops and a netbook, and it always displayed perfectly. The template automatically (magically?) adjusted the header and body to fit neatly within the confines of the different screens; perfectly centered and everything. Awesome. *Doin' the happy dance here* WHOOP! How about it? Tell me what you pulled it up on - how'd it look? What do you think? Do you like it? I'd love to know.

As always, thank you so much for reading this far and have a blessed week!

Ohhh, That Need for Speed...

Friday, April 17, 2015

So where'd ya go this time Jen??
     Of all my online doings, this blog is probably the thing I've missed the most. Although it was not my intention to literally drop out of site (again), it became an unfortunate side-effect of our ISP woes. Living in a somewhat rural area, our choices [years ago] were very limited when it came to internet service. Because we wanted a land line without the added expense of cable, we've been pretty much stuck with CenturyLink (and yep, I'm namin' names people). 
     Back in the day, their service was pretty darn good. I'd click on a page and it loaded just like it was supposed to. As the internet became more and more graphics intensive, however, we began to experience a definite reduction in speed. By the time of last year's post, it was taking an insane amount of time just to type a post (the preview window would hang up, my cursor would get stuck in one spot or disappear altogether, yadda-yadda). Uploading photos was awful. One by one, I gave up trying to accomplish things online in defeat. 
Fast Forward to a couple of weeks ago
      It occurred to me as I attempted to reply to an email at home (which took two hours and many repentable words to type and send one doggone message) that I had not revisited the land line/ISP conundrum for a couple of years. Habitual ruts do have their disadvantages, don't they? 
      Verizon's Hot Spot was still too limited (and pricey), however, TimeWarner (TWC) had started including a land line phone service in with some of their bundles. Hmmmm. Although it included cable, the price for all three services was only slightly higher than we were paying now for just two. One really, if you considered the utter uselessness of our internet. The big question was: Could we get it in our area? Yes, we could. *DingDingDingDing* Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Now I just had to convince DH (whose "ducttapeoughttadoit" mentality is: It doesn't effect me directly therefore it probably isn't really broken, so why would we need to fix it?) It took three days, four verbal dissertations, two heartfelt pleas and one rant (should've just started there, in retrospect ;o) to get him to finally agree to the change. (for some odd reason, the Twelve Days of Christmas song has suddenly popped into my mind - go figure). I am, therefore, proud to announce:

We have real Internet!

Some Perspective
     To give you an idea of just how bad it was, the state with the highest internet speed in the U.S. in 2014 was Virginia at 13.7mbps (I found a neat map here). Alaska came in dead last at 7mbps. My internet? Ha. It was supposed to be 6mbps; we were told to expect a minimum of 3mbps, but what we actually got was a pathetic 1.8mbps (when it wasn't raining, that is). Pages were loading in extreme slow-mo, and typing anything was a sight to [eventually] behold. I'd bang out a sentence, the cursor would disappear and after several seconds of waiting, the words would come up one letter at time. Made me crazed. 
      YouTube gave me frownie faces half the time when I tried to watch my crafting tutorials; we're talking regular videos here - anything HD wasn't happening at all. Adding insult to injury, my new[ish] computer was slowly hiccuping along as a result of our lousy connection. Windows updates (gotta love those, right?) took hours to download; sometimes days. Most programs now connect to the internet in the background, so if you have a poor connection your software will be adversely effected right along with your temper. Although TWC advertised speeds of 30mbps, I viewed that as an absolute impossibility. Shoot, I was having fantasies about 20mbps. 10, even. Do I hear 5? I am still reeling from the actuality: Would you believe we are getting a whopping 34mbps? Pages load  almost instantaneously (HD videos and everything!) and words actually appear as I type them. It's phenomenal. Colossal. Stupendous! 
Anyhoo, what now?
     Went on a bit more than intended here - this was supposed to be a coming soon paragraph - but I'm just SO excited to be back! *SQUEEEE* I have SO much to tell you guys! 
I am going to try really hard to get back into the swing of things over the next month or so. We're coming to the end of the school year which should, hopefully, free up some extra time for me (time seems to be in perpetually short supply, doesn't it?) I'm probably going to need a refresher course on which thing does what both here and on our site, but I'm hoping to get back into the swing of regular posts without hurting myself (and visiting everybody too - I've missed you!) Hopefully, I can give the blog a much-needed face lift and then try to tackle our sadly neglected website. My biggest challenge is probably going to be re-establishing the habit; not that I would ever forget anything, right? *facepalm*
As always, thanks for reading this far and have a blessed day!

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