Will "the Mighty" Strohl

WillStrohl.com Has a New and Improved Look

WillStrohl.com Blog Page Screen Shot I had been planning for a long, long time to update the design of my blog site.  Even though I consider myself a proficient skinner, I simply haven’t been able to find the time to return to it for my own projects.  Nearly all of my professional and personal time has been taken up recently with module development.  Through this, I have found that not only did I not have the time to build myself a new skin, I also have been getting a bit rusty at it.  Well, through the magic of networking at user group meetings, I was able to partner with someone to make this happen.

I mentioned the magic of networking at the user group meetings.  This is the truth.  User group meetings are rarely about the topic or speaker.  The most value I have ever seen come out of any meeting has come from the networking between members.  I have seen businesses get created, events get planned, projects get started, jobs get found, and more.  It’s an amazing thing, and it’s no secret – which is why I am completely at a loss for why some people don’t go to user group meetings.  Anyhow…

Who Built My Skin?

Ralph Williams, Jr. During one of these user group meetings, I mentioned the goals I had in my blog and some of the updates that I wanted to make to it.  Someone spoke up and said that they’d be willing to build my skin for me.  This person was Ralph Williams.  I am no stranger to Ralph.  He works at ArchitechSW as a skin designer, which are the same folks who created the Day of DotNetNuke® skin.  Well, I should be more accurate.  They are responsible for nearly all of the current branding of the Day of DotNetNuke®.  They designed the logo, the favicons, the skin, a press release kit, and more.  It was much more than I had expected.

ArchiTech Software

That wasn’t the end of my experience with ArchitechSW, I have since used them for some of my other projects.  They continue to not disappoint.

What’s New?

This new skin was built keeping three things in mind: pure CSS, search engine optimization (SEO), and sharing.  Even though I felt that my page load times were decent enough, page render times were still an issue.  By going the path of pure CSS, this would alleviate that issue, as well as increase cross browser compatibility and decrease design issues within the other elements on the site.  Furthermore, it would strengthen the ability for me to reuse design elements throughout.

Note that I didn’t say XHTML compliant.  This is because Google has revealed that they are not concerned about markup compliance. Therefore, I am concerned about rendering, and not compliance myself.

Search engine optimization is a concern for most bloggers, but as a blogger, there is rarely time or resources to devote to it.  Luckily, I was able to carve out time some to dedicate to it.  I have added sections in the footer of the page to increase the cross page linking and visibility for updates on the site.  Each part of the region is using live data to generate recent comments, most popular blog entries, and more, using only core DNN functionality.  This alone will end up contributing significantly to web traffic, page popularity, and blog subscribers.

When I said that I used existing DNN functionality, I simply reused data using the Reports Module and the database, or the XML Module and my RSS feeds.

WillStrohl.com Footer regions

The search element is not the Core DNN Search.  We all know that there is much work to be done before that’s completely useful.  So, we opted instead to use an AJAX enabled search that uses Google as its back-end.  I have a couple of usability issues left to deal with, but they will indeed be solved.

On every page, you are able to share the page through a large handful of avenues.  Just choose your preferred method in the top-right of every page.

Probably the most important update that was made was to make the URLs throughout my website even more SEO-friendly than they were.  I used PageBlaster to do this for some of my pages, but this module is not suited to easily manage dynamic URLs that are generated by modules, like the Blog Module.  So, while I am still using PageBlaster to perform some text replacement and compression, I am now using URL Master by Ifinity to perform all of my URL management.

What’s the benefit of that?  This allows me to use something like this:


Instead of:  http://www.willstrohl.com/Home.aspx or http://www.willstrohl.com/Home/tabid/36/Default.aspx or http://www.willstrohl.com/Default.aspx

I think you get the idea.  All non-preferred URLs will get 301’s to a single acceptable and SEO-friendly URL that’s also human-friendly, all the while preventing search engines from thinking I have multiple pages with duplicate content.  This has a massive SEO benefit!

I also made all of my list content available through XML feeds using the Form and List Module.  This duplicates the kind of set-up that the Links Module has, but I have complete control over the mark-up rendered using XSLT.  What lists, you ask?  Well, my blog roll, resources, open source projects, and previous speaking engagements.

There’s more, but I am not going to bore you with the minor details.

What’s Left?

There are a few CSS updates left to be made, and the search function needs a usability fix.  Aside from that, I am always looking for ways to update my site.  Let me know what you think!

What Modules Am I Using?

Blog Module, Feed Handler Module, Form and List Module, HTML/Text Module (CE), Injection Module, Lightbox Gallery Module, PageBlaster, Reports Module, Repository Module, Universal Tag Cloud, URL Master, and the XML Module.  (If you didn’t notice, I have links all over my site, yet I literally have 0 instances of the Links Module on my site.)

Only one of these modules are modified from its original release, and that’s the Blog Module.  I have added bookmark links to it, and changed the way it renders the page title.  This was done about a year ago though.

That’s about it.  So…  What do you think?

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