New Phone or Not New Phone

When it comes to cell phones, I’ve kept it simple. I only use my phone for calls (usually 3 or less per day) and the occasional text message (about 5 per week).

The problem is I like technology. I’ve been itching for a phone that will let me check my email, surf the web, maybe read a few articles. Do I need it? Probably not. But it would be nice to check my schedule while away from my computer. (Yes, I could do that with a paper planner, but then I’d need a bigger purse and I’m not willing to take that step.)

Here’s the next dilemma: what would I get if I were to change phones? I want to stay with Verizon because I’ve had the best luck getting service in patchy areas through them. Verizon doesn’t seem to have many phones I find appealing though.

The iPhone looks great, of course. It brings with it a high price tag and a non-Verizon provider. I’ve also read about troubles using it with a Windows computer. Since I use both Mac and Windows, that could potentially be problematic. It’s a nice gadget. Sleek with a vibrant screen. I’m just not ready for that financial commitment.

The Blackberry Pearl looks good, but again, it’s not offered by Verizon.

What’s a girl to do? Data plan or just web access? I want to keep costs down, both the initial investment and the monthly usage fees. I want a full keyboard so I don’t have to hit a key three times to produce one letter. I would like to be able to check my schedule and my email.

Perhaps I’m asking too much. Perhaps I should continue with my current phone. Any ideas?

Resources for Designing (or Redesigning) a Web Site

So you’ve been tasked with creating or redesigning a Web site. First you need a design, right? No!

Don’t worry. Many people are tempted to begin looking at designs right away. Before you can even get to that point, however, you should be putting together a plan. Your plan should include talking to your customers to understand their needs. (You are thinking about them, not just you, right?) You should also be taking this opportunity to determine what content you will and won’t include, and how to present it. When you’re ready to start laying it out, there should be sketches and wireframes long before you begin coding.

To help with your process, I’ve put together a list of resources that I have found particularly useful. You can find them on my Web Design Resources page.

I have included Web sites and books. They are good for those who are just starting out with a new Web site, as well as those that want to improve their existing sites. Most of them are written in plain, conversational English, so you don’t have to be a programmer to understand them. And no, they didn’t pay me to include them here. I regularly visit the sites on the list and I’ve actually read all of the books and keep them handy for easy reference. Hope you find some good ones. The comments area is active on that page, so if you have others to add, leave a note.

Enjoy!

Email Should Make Us More Productive, Not Less Interactive

I’m probably a rare Web/techie type. I don’t necessarily care about bigger, better, fancier Web sites. I want a simple site that acts as I expect it would without too many bells and whistles. After all, the Web is about quick information right? Get in, find what I need, get back out. Sure sometimes I can browse aimlessly on the Internet. Other times I’d rather not be attached to my computer screen.

I attack my email in the same manner: quickly. In fact, I tend to check my personal account only once or twice a week. (Did you just gasp?) Email is helpful for business. Not all business, but some business. It’s also useful for quick replies to family and friends. If I want to contact someone, though, email is not always my first thought. I’ll pick up the phone, maybe send a postcard. (For those born in the 1990s, a postcard is a paper rectangle with a picture on one side and blank on the other. You handwrite a note, address it, stamp it, and drop it in the real mail.)

U.S. Cellular’s Vice President, Jay Ellison, must feel the same way about our “advancements.” Last year, he instituted a policy whereby email between officemates is not allowed on Fridays. The alternative? Face-to-face discussions and phone calls. Employees are also encouraged to pick up the phone to contact clients on Fridays, rather than send email. Phone calls, even short ones, are more personal. (See Companies limit e-mail use to boost productivity for more on U.S. Cellular’s initiative.)

Technology has certainly made a lot of tasks in our daily lives easier. It’s also become a bit of an obsession to some. Yes, I fit this category sometimes, too. Particularly when faced with a new project.

The thing is, I’m interested in how technology can better my life, not become my life. I am all for simplifying. If that means sending an email, so be it. If email is complicating my to do list, then it’s not useful.

Random Useless Fun- Your Superhero Profile

Mondays are tough. I know what you’re thinking: thanks for stating the obvious. But you made it through and to bring a little more excitement to the least desirable day of the week, I give you Random Useless Fun Monday. Enjoy!

I admit it. I have been drawn in to the crazy that is Who Wants to be a Superhero? Grown adults running around in made up costumes to save the day under the guise of a self-created superhero identity. What more could you want out of a TV show?

For those of you that haven’t watched it (that’s probably most of you), contestants are whittled down each week to find the next superhero to be featured in a Stan Lee comic book. However, their missions are not always as they seem.

Basura was forced to leave after she failed to take interest in a woman who needed help finding her lost 10-year-old daughter. The prospective superhero told the frantic mother, “this is really hard, I’m in the middle of a mission.” How heroic. Unfortunately for Basura, this was a test. Oops. Obviously, she failed.

Since I’m not willing to don tights and a glitzy cape in the name of reality showbiz, I took an easier road. With a little assistance from BlogThings, I present you with my very own superhero identity. By the way, it’s Ms. Commander Blaze to you. Now, where did I park my super-sled?


Your Superhero Profile


Your Superhero Name is The Commander Blaze
Your Superpower is Technology
Your Weakness is Alcohol
Your Weapon is Your Gravity Foam
Your Mode of Transportation is Sled

What’s your Superhero Name?

Narrow Your Focus on Nature

Farrell’s Sunflower on Bumble BeeI simply had to share the link to a stunning photo that Farrell Kramer captured of a bumble bee on a sunflower. The color, clarity, and perspective are absolutely amazing. While you’re there, peruse some of his other photos in his blog. He has quite a hidden talent. Well, not anymore, the secret’s out. Sorry, Farrell!

Nature is one of those things that often goes ignored. Every once in a while I’m struck by something I’ll see while driving or even walking around. I try to hold these memories in my head, but let’s face it, there’s a lot swirling around in there. I need to learn to start carrying a camera with me like Farrell, or Deb Owen (see her sunset post). Sometimes I remember to tote one along, but why not carry it everyday, just in case?

With all of our scientific advancements, the constant barrage of marketing along our streets, and the distracting lights and sounds of our technology, nature is still finding a way to just be. The narrow frame of a camera might be the perfect piece of technology to help us focus in on the more peaceful aspects of our surroundings.

Too much of a good thing is still too much

You’ll be seeing a few changes here in the coming weeks. As I’ve struggled to balance work, family, personal web projects, and life in general, I’ve decided to simplify.

I have been maintaining two blogs, Life After Web and On a lighter note…, and I love them both. The problem is, it’s too much. When I don’t have a new post, my guilt is compounded doubly. The time has come to consolidate.

After weighing the pros and cons of each blog, the software behind it, and my plans for the future, I’ve decided to stick with the URL used here, which is https://sherrileigh.wordpress.com. However, the title will change to Life After Web. After all, both sites are about life and the web. The two terms are rather intertwined for me, a web project manager.

I have imported all of my posts from the old Life After Web site, so you will see them in the archives here.

You may be wondering what you will find here with this shift. It’s about living in a time where the lines between the Internet and real life are blurred. It’s about maintaining your positive human traits like kindness and serenity. It’s about building an online presence that complements your reality, rather than replacing it. It’s about finding random inspiration in a hectic world. Where the paradox of “virtual reality” has become an everyday term, this is Life After Web.

Create an Effective Web Site, Part 3 of 3: You have a site, now what?

This is part 3 of 3 in a series about creating effective Web sites. In part 1, we discussed planning that should take place before you even begin building your site. In part 2, we talked about drafting your content. Today in part 3, we tackle what to do when you have a site.

Just because you have a Web site doesn’t mean you’re done. This is no time to sit back and relax. Users will not find you just because you bought a URL and slapped up a few pages. You have to promote it and you have to think about the search engines.

Think local: There are many ways to promote your Web site. Start by including your URL on all of your marketing pieces, such as business cards, brochures, and mailers. Ask your customers if you can have their email address to notify them when your site goes live.

Think larger: Join online discussions about your area of expertise. Blogs and forums abound. Undoubtedly, someone has posted a question that you can answer.

Don’t forget those search engines: First, search engines will only find you if they know about you, so submit your site addresses to all major search engines. Most likely, the majority of your traffic will come from search engines, so you will want to make sure that you have the right keywords to help people find you. The search engines will regularly “crawl” your site to find out what is on it. They will look for the keywords and phrases you used to determine what your site is about. To make sure you come up in the listings, be sure to include terms that your customers and prospective clients will be looking for.

For more information about search engines, I highly recommend Search Engine Guide. That Jennifer Laycock is one smart woman.

If you did your planning, you should have a great site which will travel by word of mouth. Visit your own Web site frequently to make sure that your content is still relevant and to add new content where it makes sense.

Above all, enjoy it! The Web is a fascinating world.

Update 8/27/07: Part 1, Part 2

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