Rewriting web pages

I’m rewriting a couple of web pages.

This is what the current page looks like. (click on the image to see a larger version.)
screenshot pioneerloan

The people that own the website have been using this same basic script for years. It was first written by a guy who claimed to be an expert at online sales.

Does anyone else see the problem?

Here’s what I see.

    You’re selling something, right? So why would you put the product below the contact information?
    By putting the cute “click to call” buttons first on the page you’re assuming that a potential customer already knows about you and your product; in this case title loans.

But this company offers two different types of loans, under two different licenses.

    The first is an installment loan which combines interest and principle in each payment. At the end of seven months everything is paid at the end of contract. –Higher payments, but, paid off at the end of the contract.

    The other is a thirty day loan. Which, in the State of Nevada, means that the client can make interest only payments, with the principle and any other fees due in full at the end of the contract. –Lower monthly payments, with a balloon payment at the end of the contract.

These are very different types of loans with very different monthly payments. To my way of thinking, this important information, not something I would want pushed down the page.

As a potential client, I want to know what my options are. If they don’t tell me in the first few lines, I’ll hop in my car and drive to the nearest competitor. After all, they’re all the same aren’t they?

In a world where people expect instant gratification, if you don’t tell the potential customer/client what you’re selling, they lose patience and immediately start searching for someone who does.

As an even worse example, this same company had a car lot.
The website they had built was beautiful. It had bold colors and large hero images with a great sales pitch.
The problem was that there was nowhere to click for information and not a single alt or title tag on any of the images for Google to read.
If search engines have nothing but pretty pictures to look at they can’t index the site, leaving no way to find it without knowing the name of the company.
It sure was pretty, and would have made a wonderful full page ad in a glossy magazine. However, as a website it sucked.

I’ll get off my soapbox with this final reminder.
When writing for a website, tell the public what you’re selling and tell the search engines what they need to know to index the site.

Featured images and sizes

Featured images grab people’s attention, and may even get them to look at your latest and greatest shining bit of wisdom.

You can use your latest book cover (in which case I’m jealous) or a free image from Unsplash, because in an increasingly visual world, pictures help.

The problem starts when we just throw any old image on to our site without regard for size.

For instance the featured image for this post is png-24 at 1024 x 683 pixels.

While it resizes nicely, it weighs in at 1.3meg, which is a lot of data to move. Especially on a smartphone data plan or a slow connection.

And, can you imagine how slow your website will be if you have several of these trying to load at the same time?

So, here are a two examples that show the difference in size when you dumb them down just a little bit.
300-200 table
This image is png-8 dithered and 300 x 200px and is 133k.

200-147 table
And this last image is also png-8 200 x 147px and only 25k.

I don’t use a lot of images so, the WordPress “featured image” function is fine for an article attention getter.

The only thing I do is sometimes crop the image, resize it for use on the web, then upload it with a different name than the original. In this case I used the image size in the name.

While I use Adobe Photoshop for all most all my images, I’m about to go on social security, which means no money for a monthly rental fee. Fortunately, I have a work-around for that problem.

If you need to work with images and you don’t have a lot of money, Gimp does almost everything you might need. It’s available for Linux, OSX, and Windows, and best of all, it’s free. –Even starving writers can afford it.

–Climbing down off my soapbox and fading into the background.–

Inspiration for short stories

We were looking for inspiration when we decided to photograph things at random and use that.

This is a room where I’ve been replacing some flooring and installing a ceiling fan. Hence the wood scraps and wires.

As strange as it sounds coming from a guy, I wanted to make the bed and clean up the mess. But she vetoed the idea, she says the mess makes the room look lived in.

Lived in, by some homeless guy maybe.

At any rate, here are the two photos.

Cluttered room in sepia.
room in sepia
Possibly a low rent loft lived in by a musician. At least he has a window.

Same room, same clutter, image inverted.
inverted color in room
Through the eyes of a serial killer?

So here we have our inspiration. One room in sepia daylight, and one dolled up like a low budget special effect.

She sent them off to a former writing instructor who liked them. It seems that his poor defenseless students are about to be stuck with these two choices.

On the other hand, if you’re an aspiring writer and you can’t make a tale from any image, perhaps you should keep your day job.

For my part, I’m not sure I need inspiration, so much as to get my characters to cut to the chase and quit sounding like Marc Anthony in Julius Cesar.

Grammar checkers, observations, not reviews

I use grammar checkers and most of the time they provide the kick in the pants I need to stop being lazy.

I have Whitesmoke on this machine and the free version of Grammarly on my laptop. I paid for WhiteSmoke because I got a deal through PC Mag. -As I type, you can buy Whitesmoke premium lifetime for $99.

Grammarly also has periodic specials, but they are yearly subscription discounts. I’ve never seen any sort of lifetime deal.

I haven’t tried Ginger Page, but I have read good reviews. It’s currently available for $69 lifetime.

Basically, the two I use are just OK. Then again I never expected them to turn me into Hemingway.

I only have a couple of complaints:
First, and biggest, they are online only.

Second they have limits.
For instance, using WhiteSmoke With WordPress in the text screen it will make you nuts as it decides that HTML markup should be something other than what you want. I know it’s not an HTML editor, but shouldn’t “add to dictionary” work regardless? –The solution is to use it on the visual editor.
And WhiteSmoke restricts edits to no more than 3000 words at a time.(including spaces)

Grammarly isn’t quite so annoying and as long as I’m logged in, “add to dictionary works.” However, I’m using the free version, which is limited to the basic services.
Grammarly also says: In any 30-day period, you can check up to 300 documents or 150,000 words. In any 24-hour period, you can check up to 100 documents or 50,000 words. (I believe that includes spaces)

The most important thing; they are grammar checkers, not editors, and like most tools, they do what they were designed to do and nothing more.

But if you want something to do a quick run through of whatever you’re working on, checking for commas, spelling errors, and basic grammar, grab one. At the end of the day, they’ll save you a lot of drudgery.

Rejection letter number one

Well, I got my first rejection letter.

You know, I didn’t realize how much of my ego was tied up in that story.

The funny thing is that someone I ask for advice said it was the sweetest rejection letter she’d ever read. It turns out that she keeps all hers in a file. That way she can go through and reread them so she knows what each publisher wants. -Obviously she’s a lot more confident than I am.

In addition to the form letter, I received a list of things I had done wrong.

  • My character was so self-isolated that if he died nobody would notice. –What can I say? He has trust issues.
  • He lacked a sidekick. –Like I said, trust issues.
  • His girlfriend was a cute little horn-dog with nice tits, but no real backstory. Was she a hooker or a waitress? How did they meet?
  • His fence was one dimensional. There was no mention of how they met, and beyond growling about paying too much for things of questionable origin, he has all the personality of the drunk passed out in the bathroom.
  • And so on.

My manuscript was returned covered in red. –The only good to come from this is I can now read an editors’ markup without have to look it up.

It’s funny, I thought I had fixed everything they wanted, I was wrong. When I sent off a copy of the rejection letter to Celeste, she promised she wouldn’t laugh. She lied.

She did say my story has potential, because she likes both the main character and his girlfriend. She says if I fix it she’ll forgive me for starting it with a flashback. She also agrees with the publisher who said that even “that masked man” interacts with people. So I should “give the poor guy some friends.”

My guys a thief, he’s the anti-Robin hood. He lives out of a suitcase and doesn’t give a rats’ ass about the poor, or much of anybody else. He steals from the rich because they’re the ones with things worth stealing. He also moves around a lot. Something about not wanting to explain where his money comes from. I think he’s more afraid of the tax man than the police.

So now, as I try to fix a nearly impossible to-do list, I’m wondering who to submit it to next.

At her suggestion I’m going to break it up into at least two shorts, so the characters can develop actual personalities.

I think I’ll make him an American jew so I can use some of the Yiddish I know. Maybe I’ll make her a hooker with a drug habit. Yeah, I know. Way too cliche. But, she’ll end up a hooker, an ambitious drug dealer, a hit-man, or an agent with the IRS.