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What do you think of my web site?

I'm in the midst of redesigning my web site, and I'd appreciate feedback from the JOS community.

I'm especially interested in hearing whether you think the site communicates either or both of "smart" and "gets things done"... this is JOS after all.

Your personal reaction is fine... I don't really need "if I were an HR droid working for a Fortune500 conglomerate I'd think blah blah blah" unless you actually ARE an HR droid. In which case I'm very interested in hearing about an HR droid that reads JOS and the company smart enough to hire such a person :-D

Thanks very much in advance for your comments, either on this thread or by email.

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Tuesday, September 30, 2003


If it were 1994 ...

Everyone's a critic
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I'm not an HR droid by far .. but first impression of your site is that it's of someone who "gets things done". Having said that, I personally don't like that original-Netscape-grey colour you have for the background, or the lack of fonts/style-sheets but then again I'm a sucker for nice-looking design :)

If you were going to leave your webpage with the design you have now (after all it loads quite quickly and certainly has a no-nonsense attitude to it), I'd at least shrink the column borders under 'Selected Software Accomplishments' because as it stands right now I can click a good 100 pixels to the left of the 'Tableau' or right of 'nCrypt' icons and still hit the link.

Good luck with the site .. I find it hard every time I need to re-design a person/company page :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The business card is cute, but I think that having the info in text format (where it can be selected and copied) is important.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

My first step is always to drop the URL into the validator.  If it doesn't validate, full stop.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's pretty good :-)

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

This is one of my favorite websites right now..

It's so beautiful I haven't really notice any of the words..

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Music. 0 of 4 stars.


Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Decide on one color to use, there are now at least 3 background colors used, gray, white and yellow.

One page uses the "Microsoft Office Animation Runtime", which is a complete no-no. Obscure plugins scares people away. Try to find some other way of visualizing what you need to. Use less obscure techniques; or make available a powerpint for download.

Clipart does look cheesy.

The links in the "Essays" section point to other html documents or PDFs. Make other formats than html show in the link, ie.  "Essay about this and that [PDF]".

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Reg, you're site covers the bases pretty well.  You highlight some previous projects, have easily accessible contact information, and showcase some essays on technology.  But you aren't conveying a professional appearance.

While you don't need to go all glitz and glamor with a flash site (I don't think that would help elucidate your work anyway), you do need to make your site a bit more hip so that it will gather enough attention and appear current enough to make people want to read it.

Currently your site looks like its suck in pre-1998.  I think this mostly has to do wih the slanted images and the grey background (and the "everything is a link and highlighted in blue and underlined" theme).  You can keep a simple template but refashion the information surrounding your work and really draw some positive vibes.

For startes I would separate your work from your essays into two pages.  On the work page I would have a link with a brief overview of the item side by side with a screenshot or some other information key (such as the picture of the PDA you have for nCrypt).  Only the title and the image should be links, the brief description should be plain text and broken into two or three paragraphs to aid comprehension.  The link would then take you, as it does now, to a details page. I suggest having more screen shots and several paragraphs describing the project.  Its important to convey how impressive this is.  Its not a resume listing constrained in its space, this is a portfolio meant to showcase your work.  So show it off.

On the essays page I would do a similar thing, have a chonological, or more likely, a categorized listing of essays, with dates, and a brief summary.  Let the reader get engaged.

Your business card idea is a good one, but having it on slanted text at a low resolution makes it difficult to read.  I would rather suggest that you use plain markup to create the text and have a link to a vCard with your information stored on it.  Show that you give that extra bit of thought to make it easy for people to contact you.

Additionally, a small photograph is not a bad idea if you think it helps people connect.  They can't see you so they're identifying with you by your site.  Make that connection a bit easier.

You need to take as much care with your site as you do with your projects.  After all, it represents you.

Best of luck, if you have code questions feel free to ask.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It has a pleasing simplicitly and is very quick to load but I agree with the others who mentioned valid HTML and the use of stylesheets. I do find that it looks a bit dated. And I don't like the grey background.

John Topley (
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I like the concept you are going with here.

* Anti-alias at least the Aware and CMS rotated images.
* Come up with something other than battle ship grey -- it won't affect your load speed at all, which is mainly taken up by the images.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Don't care for the look/feel -- but I like the content.  Write some more essay's when you get a chance. 

While I don't care for the aesthetics of the site, it certainly is easy to find what you are looking for.  A+ for ease of use.

I like content
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

So, are those ripped off BeOS icons or do they just look similar?

I agree with the 1994 person. Go find your designer friend and have him or her do it for you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Reginald, are you really looking for an HR droid to look at this? That is, is it intended to form part of a job application? If so, you need to work on it, because that's not clear.

As it stands, it looks like an amateurish marketing brochure for a small business. Is that what you are?

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Given the lack of immediate appeal, I had to force myself to click on each of the links to see what was behind them. You might consider adding teasers to the front page to spark some interest.

Big B
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

i liked the old layout better.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

it's really 1994.
gray background and stupid background noise.

Sometimes I checked your prev site, and it was much more better.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I missed the essays completely.  Didn't think to scroll down - and there wasn't any indication there was more stuff out of sight. The user shouldn't have to scroll unless they are reading an article.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I've seen your website before. 

+ I was curious about some of your work when I read your old site, which the new site features.
- That curiosity was spurred by reading your comments and articles, which the new site doesn't feature well.
- Info density is now way too low for me.
- Front page doesn't enough interest to click on something.
- There must be a better way to showcase your accomplishments.  I'm even curious, yet too bored to middle-click and open everything in tabs.
+ Definitely conveys smart/gets shiznit done.  In fact, some very good developers have bad websites.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Nice content but I really dont like the gray background. Use white or some other color.


Martin Schultz
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I would just hire a graphic designer.  Stick to what you are good at.  Writing software.  I have no shame in admiting that I am graphically inept, and farm out my design work.

joe blow
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

A personal site should convey some sense of your personality. Here is my own site (the one I use when I'm trying to get a graphic design job, not a programming job):

And here's a site that I developed for an actor/writer friend of mine:

I think both of these sites convey _personalities_.

If your site communicates your personality, I'm left with no choice but to assume that you are an actual robot.

Benji Smith
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

1. Why 3 columns?

2. The icons don't really explain to me what each product is as well as a short description might. Also, the description is a chance to add keywords to your site a search engine might pick up.

3. Clicking OUTSIDE the image/text brings up the link - not so great if the window isn't in focus and I just want to bring it in focus by clicking on the grey area without bringing something up.

4. The graphics background gray doesn't exactly match the page background gray.

Mark T A W .com
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I agree with Lou and MarkTAW's comments (in particular).

* Create a style sheet for the WHOLE site (including pages for essays). Select a font like Georgia or Tahoma (these are designed to be easy to read on screen).

* Abandon the 3 column layout for essays and presentations. Instead use an unordered list <ul>...</ul>.

* Put the essays and presentations above the projects.

* Make the project images the link, not the paragraph - <a ...><img ...></a> not <a ...><p>...</p></a>.

* Choose a more advanced DOCTYPE - HTML 4 Strict - and validate against it.

* The business card is too "cute" (and in general dump the clip arty icons) - replace it with a link to "Contact Details" and put these details in nice old plain text (remember then they'll be Google-able).

* An alternative for the projects section is to abandon the 3-column layout and put the descriptive text on the main (projects) page. Not sure about this, but I do feel there should be at least some textual description of the projects as part of the index/catalogue.

Walter Rumsby
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Thanks everyone who replied here and by email.

Yes, much of the new design sucks wind. I appreciate your candor in telling me so. But I can't advocate agile iterative software releases and then keep my site under wraps until it's perfect ;-)

With respect to the graphic artist idea, that's not something I wanted to consider until I have the basic information design done first. And yes, you and I are quite qualified to do that without an artist.

As for the HR droid question, no, HR persons are not my target audience. Besides, HR people just have one question: "do you have x years of J2EEand y years of RUP?" Those questions can always be answered with a resume in Word format, if you care to apply for a job with a company that uses a non-techncial person to screen applicants.

Okay, now to work on Beta 2... Thanks again!!!

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The icons for your essays, etc. don't make sense to me.  You got a pencil, a horn, and a globe.  What the heck do they mean.  I guess I can figure it out by clicking on one of each, but then the icons aren't really telling me anything as a first time visitor.

Looks like you've had some interesting projects.

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

In the top section of the home page, for each item (e.g. "nCrypt") I'd like to see the subtitle (e.g. "nCrypt provided strong encryption for personal digital assistants") on the first page: you're asking too much of me to be interested in the project given only the project's commercial code-name: why do I want to click and then go back, just find out what "Dharma" is?

In the 2nd section of the home page, I don't see the point of the icons. They're text-based articles, interesting to people who read text ... drop the icons and make the text on the home page more readable (e.g. a simple <ul>, or a <table>).

I liked your previous page better than this one.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's not really a graphic artist that you need, but a writer. Your message is all over the place.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

As for the HR droid question, no, HR persons are not my target audience. Besides, HR people just have one question: "do you have x years of J2EEand y years of RUP?" Those questions can always be answered with a resume in Word format, if you care to apply for a job with a company that uses a non-techncial person to screen applicants.

I'm afraid you're wrong.

An HR person's job is to find the most stellar, fantastic, exciting candidate to fill a position. Of course, they have to find people qualified for the position, so they ask the J2EE and RUP questions. But then, when they've weeded out the unqualified applicants, they're still left with a stack of twenty resumes.

That's where marketing comes in. You've already convinced them that you're qualified. Now you need to be able to sell yourself as the most exciting. The most flexible. The most innovative. The most adaptive. They want you to work on their database internals AND design the UI AND write the documentation? You can only convince them that you're the guy for the job if you can show that you're exciting, innovative, flexible, adaptive, blah blah blah.

And, yes, your resume website should include all of the information about your qualifications. But it should also give people the impression

Benji Smith
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

That's odd.

My last post got cut off in mid sentence.

I don't remember how I ended the post, but you get the idea:

...exciting, innovative, flexible, adaptive...

Benji Smith
Wednesday, October 1, 2003


Thanks for the interesting perspective. That has not been my experience with HR folks in the Toronto area. My web URL is on my business cards and my resume.

When I was looking for jobs I made a point of asking people whether they had been to the web site. Of course, my survey sample is only composed of people who called me for an interview. Who knows how many hated my old site and didn't contact me?

All but one of the HR people had not visited my old web site. Every one of the technical people had. So I decided that my site really should have had a more techncial bent. The old site had the essays and stuff well below the resume and personality profile stuff.

That being said, that's still not why I don't consider HR people my target audience. The real reason is that I'm not looking for a job at the moment.

But if I were looking for a job, and I ran into the one HR person who want to know about stuff above and beyond x years of J2EE, my guess is that (s)he would already have my resume in hand when (s)he reviews the web site.

The only people who have chastised me for not having an easy to download Word copy of my resume available are the dozen or so headhunters who are all cold contacting me for the same bank development job.

I may add more detail about each project, but then again I may not. If someone looks at it and says "smart, gets things done, but I really need to hear more about this web thingie with Scheme and Java" I suspect they will get in touch.

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

All but one of the HR people had not visited my old web site. Every one of the technical people had. So I decided that my site really should have had a more techncial bent. The old site had the essays and stuff well below the resume and personality profile stuff.

When I talk about an "HR" person, I'm just talking about "the person that will hire you". Whether that person works in a department called "Human Resources" or in one called "Core Development" really isn't all that relevant.

No matter who you're targeting, you need to communicate that you're exciting, innovative, flexible, and adaptive. To me, these are the components that make up the "smart" part of "smart. gets things done." And you can't convey that information just through content. You need to also consider presentation.

That's all I'm saying.

Benji Smith
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

well it was ok, but it was certainly no that is for sure

Bob Thomas
Thursday, April 29, 2004

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