Saturday, December 06, 2014

Espresso in Orange

Astoria, Oregon ~ December 6, 2014

Coming back from Starbucks and the AT&T Store in Warrenton. I'd already gone to Safeway and enjoyed the gorgeous change of the light after the rain stopped. A rainbow crossed the entire sky, but I'd been in a bad spot for any nice photos. This short scenario doen't mean much if you don't know my history. I will (perhaps) fill in later. Right now, suffice it to say I am getting better. I'm again stopping to take photos along the way even on a day when I didn't sleep well and my feet hurt.

My Web Page:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

When Creativity Bites Your Ass

I love it. One customer personalized her world 
by buying all green plastic animals.

As it turns out, running a web store is not for sissies. Between the information I got a few days ago from Lee's SEO guru relative Ben and the expensive hour I spent yesterday on the phone with the Big Commerce SEO Team counselor, I've got my work cut out for me - about 1,000 to 1,500 hours' worth as nearly as I can estimate if we do it right, or even almost right. Things have changed a lot in the Google universe in the last year and a half. I thought we were following the guidelines reasonably well, but they have gotten more and more specific, and I also missed the boat in a big way when I tried to personalize the site in a way that works for me but not for Google. I have a nice web store, and the only reason I care about these guidelines is that we need to do better than barely breaking even at the end of each month. With expectations of cheap prices and free shipping, there isn't much margin for profit. This means I have to increase volume. 

Sales volume has actually dropped significantly since opening the new store. It looks better, it works better, but it does not generate more income. The new web store has made a good start, but anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour's worth of tweaking per page could make all the difference. The thing that feels overwhelming is that there are about 1,700 pages to edit in multiple places!

It doesn't all have to be done overnight, and it certainly won't be, but let the tweaking begin. I'm working way too hard for the kind of returns I've been getting this year. My old web store used to come up within the first few places on page one of Google for almost every item, and the photos came up well, too. Many people found the store through the photo links. That just isn't so anymore, and I finally know why. I feel like a dinosaur learning about grass-fed vs. corn-fed beef. There are some technical things about how many keywords to use, which keywords, long-tailed or short-tailed, and where to put them (all requiring research for each product), but here's the thing that's bumming me out. I was thoroughly enjoying combining educational information and nice photos about real animals with the store animals, building something that I felt was valuable and was certainly fun for me. As it turns out, that's one of the things that's hurting our sales. 

Diluting information about stuffed animals, plastic animals, animal beaded keychains, and realistic animal painted pins with information about real animals doesn't cut it. (For example, Megalodon.) Reworking the pages will help. In the end, if we do everything right, helping to educate people about real animals and their conservation status, perhaps exciting someone to want to learn more, encouraging them to buy a plastic replica because they have learned something about the real animal, or just providing the opportunity to take home a better experience than simply purchasing a toy, the best we will achieve according to the experts is that this added enrichment "may not hurt us." Maybe things will look better to me once the sales improve, but today, yeah, I'm pretty bummed. Adding in the real animals and the real science has been a project of love and passion. And in a weird way, an aesthetic project as well. 

I understand what the search engines are looking for, but their algorithms have come up hard against my personal values. I am still more artist than businessperson, and I can see that this trait is hardwired in. Still, I'm making the mental adjustment today and moving forward with an Excel sheet that lists every page on the site. 

Soon I will be well enough to start working on real art projects again, and maybe this erstwhile aesthetic excursion won't matter so much to me. Or maybe it will.

My Web Page:

Friday, October 03, 2014

Tabula Rasa

Me in 1949

I've just started another site for real animals as an adjunct to the web store. I wanted the store to be educational, too, but It turns out Google gets confused when you combine real animals with fake ones, so it may be the best of both worlds to split them up and link back to the store. Yes, the sites look about the same, and I'm fine with that. I've just made a new menu for my personal chronology on my own site site. It will be pretty cool, but only the top line and 1996 are working so far, because that's all I've done. The web is nothing if not an exercise in evolution. I guess I needed more projects. Once the foundation is laid, I hope it will be like an easy-to-use scrapbook.

So far, I'm still happy using Weebly. I've had to simplify some ideas and think up a few work-arounds, but it usually turns out for the best. I'm still trying to see if I can put more than one image in a wrapped text block, or if I have to fake it like on this page. They have quite a library of free photos that come with your account. If you need others, you can use the $5.00-per-photo library if you need to. So far all of the pix on the new site and most of the headers on my personal site are from the free library. Some of them are really great.

My Web Page:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Working on 1996

April 22, 1996 ~ Gateway, Colorado
Photo by Marco Herranz

I've been having fun with Weebly making my new web site and figuring out how to make things work. Always, one of the hardest parts is figuring out menus, layouts, basic organization. That was going pretty well until I ran up against things Weebly is doing poorly or not at all. I almost want to go back to habd-building, but that is so slow and tedious. I will either find ways around the stumbling blocks by working with them more or (more likely) start simplifying - especially the internal menu pages. Ugh. I liked my design. I guess I don't know enough about what it does well (or not). It seems totally unable to use name codes to jump to certain parts of a page and I've designed pages where the "drag and drop" elements, don't.

Here's one page I do like - I think. I wanted to make the top listing clickable so you could jump down to the page sections, but the coding doesn't work that way. The galleries are easy, and that was something I especially wanted.

No, I think a different arrangement is needed - but not tonight.

My Web Page:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It Isn't "Jaws"

I'm building a new home on the Web. It's just started, so don't expect much content. I've chosen a visual theme, organized categories, and added a few paragraphs and a couple of galleries.

After a conversation on Facebook, consulting with my friend Andy the graphic artist/web site maker, reading reviews and customer love/hate discussions, and watching a few videos, I finally decided on Weebly. The test drive was easy and free, and I liked what the site could do (lots of things, but I especially wanted an easy way to build galleries). The one-hour video tutorial was excellent, although I picked up everything I needed to get a good start before watching it just by playing around for awhile. Weebly was so easy, I started adding final content even as I was experimenting. That's why, if you go there today, it's hard to tell what is experiment and what will stay. I threw in the site name, "Tapirgal's World," and I liked it. But then I had a problem. "Tapirgal's World" was the name of my personal blog, so the blog name would have to change. 

Believe it or not, I have just spent two days trying to come up with that new name (as I write this, the name is "Tapirgal's Journey." (I say that for when it changes again.) It is kind of a boring title, but for now it says what I mean. There is a fun book called, Now All We Need Is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way, wherein we learn that choosing the right title can take longer than writing the book. Would Jaws have become an international phenomenon and part of world culture if they had named it, Why A Lot of People were Afraid to Go in the Water One Summer? Apprently the name was finalized in about the last three seconds before the book went to press. Benchley and the editors had been batting around titles that nobody could agree on and basically nobody liked until they finally went with the one that everybody disliked the least, and the meeting-closer understatement was, "It doesn't matter, it will never sell, anyway."

My new title is not "Jaws," but it does say who I am (in a way), and what the blog is about. I guess you would have to read enough posts to know whether the journey is in interior or exterior space, but it's about both at different times, so that's fine. I had "Journal," but it felt wrong. It's amazing how many titles have felt wrong. The title. among other things, needs to remind me to record something now and then. I have not made many posts this year. The year has been overfilled with work due to building the new web store and training two new employees, In addition, these past four-plus years have been about some pretty intense recovery issues from parathyroid disease and the aftereffects of the surgical cure. The endocrine system is pretty interesting as well as having the ability to cause no end of emotional and physical trauma and make way too many doctors say "I don't know" and send a bill anyway. Fortunately, a big chunk of that part of the journey is beind me. Maybe I will write more about it later. One of the side effects of this whole "event" is that typing comes with consequences. Even dictating does.

I wanted to mention "Welcome to America," Lee's first post about his trip across the US with Sergio. I talk with them many times a day and Lee textx photos. I only wish I were well enough to join them. Maybe in another few months or a year I can do that much traveling - I hope! Also, thanks to Lee for helping me think about blog titles. Lee's Daily Adventure is about perfect.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sergio Arrives in Miami

Lee, Ready and Waiting

Sergio Gets through Customs 

They Found Each Other!

What an exciting day! Around noon Lee picked up my tapir friend and colleague of about 10 (?) years, Sergio, from the airport in Miami. Sergio is also the Tapir Preservation Fund's Vice President. In a day or two they will start their trip across the US to Oregon, where Sergio will visit for a few more weeks. We've never met in person, although Lee met with Sergio in Bogota for a couple of hours on his trip there. Cuban food - a good start! Facebook says I'm with them, but only in spirit. Hopefully both of them will be photoblogging the trip. I will share their posts. This should be fun.

First Stop, Cuban Food and Lots of Coke

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bye-Bye, Fossa

A Fossa in Madagascar
Photo by Lee Spangler

The problem with my digital world (a reflection of my real world) is that it has way too many branches to manage. I can't cut them off, but I can keep trying to organize them. Sometimes I feel like I've done that, then something falls apart, which is where I am now.

I'm still grateful for finding the book, Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher, because it shows me that I'm not wrong, I just have a different way of getting through my life. I should finish reading it.

The latest "catalyst" to put it positively, was the other day when I accidentally deleted about six pages on the website I was building to go along with my store (I've linked to the store, because I don't knoe whet will become of the actual SITE pages). The store platform works great as a store, but the method of building an attached website was not that good, so when I deleted those pages (deleted a top menu page and all of the pages under it went bye-bye as well, without any warning, such as "Six pages you worked very hard on will now be deleted. Are you sure you want to do this?"). I wish I could get text back, but it's gone. They were mostly about animals, but they were not item pages. As bad as I felt, I knew it was a signal to come up with another solution for non-store pages. I still have the photos, so I may try to partially reconstruct the pages when I figure out where to go with it. Joomla!? WordPress? Back to basic HTML? I don't mind working. I do hate being in the unknown zone for too long. Sometimes organizing is a bitch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why Animals?

Sorocaba Zoo, Sorocaba, Brazil ~ April 18, 2007

Whether it's a real animal or the idea of one, it is sometimes less lonely having them in your world than trying to relate to people. This seems to be a very old story for me.

My Web Page:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eocene Exhibit and Education

American Museum of Natural History, New York, Eocene Exhibit ~ 
May 5, 2009

When I have time, I'm still adding images from my photo archives to the pages of the store web site. In this case, the Eocene category page.

Sometimes I feel as though this work is just for my own fun, plus window dressing plus search engine optimization. I also know it can be educational, but sometimes I forget how much the educational aspect may be needed. This is a true story: 

The other day Lee was at Starbucks talking with a barista. She said she was attending community college and wanted to be a veterinary assistant. He asked about her interest in animals, and she said she loved all animals, large and small. He asked if she liked mammals, but she didn't know what the word meant. He mentioned primates and vertebrates, and got equally blank responses. Having gone through school in the 1950s and 1960s, I can't even imagine this lack of understanding about basic biology, but there's a lot I don't know about the way the world is today. I'm grateful that I had good teachers and the climate of the times valued learning. One thing I know for sure is that if visitors can learn something from my website, I'll feel that the "extra mile" I've enjoyed adding to the site  has been worth while.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Henodus is Back

Henodus, Triassic Turtle

Nothosaurus (False Lizard or False Reptile),
Triassic Semi-oceanic Creature

This morning Amy found the plastic Henodus I'd lost on the floor last night. It was the same color as the rug. I had been feeling inordinately out of sorts for losing it, because I was finally making progress with the giant pile of stuff that needed cataloguing and photographing before putting on the site. The Halloween items were all organized in a folder with their info and Lee was working on them. Next I'd taken on organizing and photographing the extinct sea creatures when Henodius went missing. And, I was really tired.

There is not much in the Triassic category right now, so it will be good to get these guys (and their friends) online finally.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Rocks

August 20, 2014 ~ Astoria, Oregon

Taken with my phone camera, toward the end of the day, this pic is a bit fuzzy. I normally carry the Canon, but Kent had borrowed it for a project. I'm trying to get out more now that it's doing less damage to walk a few yards or drive to someplace where I can take photos. What was amazing about today is that even after working on the web site all day I still wanted to walk to the bench, and when I did, my feet felt almost normal, not like I was walking in shoes filled with gravel. Even after I got home, the flatness in my feet stayed with me. 

This may be a first in a long time. The "rocks in the feet" sensation (and blood under my skin at the ends of my toes) still has not been explained, except as veins becoming tender and swelling up. Why is hard to say, but I've had this going on for over four years now, since June 2010, with a brief exception after my first parathyroid surgery in April 2012. Maybe the the change in thyroid medication is helping.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Adding Animals

Drake Park, Bend, Oregon ~ February 7, 2009
Canada Goose Photo by Sheryl Todd

Lee, Kevin, Amy, and I have all been working hard on the store site adding text. When I've had a chance I've been adding photos of real animals, which has been fun. I'm enjoying watching the site come alive as a place of learning and entertainment as well as a place to buy things. I've always wanted to add more of an artistic flavor, so I'm working on that this year also. Here's a smaller photo from the same day.