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Thread: Feedback Wanted for My Website

  1. #1
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Talking Feedback Wanted for My Website

    tl;dr version: what do you think of my website? Link: code.KevinWorkman.com

    Hey guys,

    As some of you might know, I have a growing collection of hobby programs on my website. Until pretty recently, that's been the type of ugly site we've all seen: a page with a gray background and an applet centered in the middle. After all, we're Java programmers, not web developers! Without getting off on too much of a tangent, I think that difference in skillsets is a major reason why flash overtook Java in simple online gaming- the websites of flash games just generally look better than the websites of Java games, because there is more of an overlap of skills between webdev and flash than webdev and Java.

    Anyway, in my own little attempt at remedying this, I've been working on improving the look of my website, and I've made some pretty major updates in the past couple days. I'm eventually hoping to spawn off a more commercial, more game-focused site with a pretty similar setup, but for now I'm using this as practice.

    But I'm still not a web developer or a designer- I might not be color blind, but I sure am color illiterate! So I'd love any feedback. Does anything look weird or not work? What does it look like on a phone, or on a mac browser? Screenshots would be helpful, but any input is definitely appreciated. What would you do differently? What is your overall impression?

    One thing I know I have to fix is cross-browser compatibility. It seems to work perfectly in firefox 7, and I thought I had fallbacks for IE, but for some reason it just looks terrible in IE. Does anybody with CSS knowledge know why that is?

    PS: I'm not really asking for feedback on the actual programs, just the website surrounding them, but I definitely appreciate feedback of any kind.
    PPS: If you've been to the site before, your browser might have an old version cached. If things look really weird, try refreshing.

    Thanks so much, I'm pretty lost in the web world, so I really appreciate anybody taking the time to look it over and check my sanity.
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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Sean4u's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Your web looks fine to me, but then the round-cornered rectangle in the middle looks a bit like wossis.com! I don't think I can help with web design...

    I find a lot of cross-browser issues go away if pages validate at validator.w3.org and I just ignore IE6. Your site looks fine in IE8.

  3. #3
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Thanks for taking a look! I appreciate it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    Your web looks fine to me, but then the round-cornered rectangle in the middle looks a bit like wossis.com!
    Hahaha I've never seen that site before, but you are not wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    I don't think I can help with web design...
    That's okay, I'm really terrible at it. You would not believe how long it took me to think "hmm, maybe I should make the buttons black". And it's amazing how much of a difference stuff like that makes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    I find a lot of cross-browser issues go away if pages validate at validator.w3.org and I just ignore IE6.
    Hahaha I just checked that out, and I have 44 errors. Thanks for the tip! Now I have to work through fixing these.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    Your site looks fine in IE8.
    I've been wrestling with IE since I first started playing around with having a site. I have it to a point where it doesn't look ridiculously broken, but there are a bunch of little issues that I notice. The font is different (and IMHO uglier), the rounded borders don't show up (they just show the regular square borders), the color change when you hover over the buttons doesn't happen, and the margins between the buttons on the main page are zero. It's like, every time I fix one thing, three other things break in IE! I guess I should download chrome to try that out as well...
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    Super Moderator copeg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Looks great in Firefox, the div wrapping in IE (aka Internet Exploder) is off. The W3 guidelines might fix some of it (eg an div wrapped inside a link). I like css, but when it comes to table layouts its a pain(css spec now has tables, but they aren't backwards compatible with older browsers). You might consider using tables to lay them out, or mess around with the css layout with some nested div's to get the look the way you want.

    Also consider - if your server has the capability and you aren't taking advantage of it now - using a dynamic language. It will make changes down the line much easier (for example you can change the footer/header/etc...on all pages by changing just a single file), and is a good opportunity to learn some web scripting.

    Looking good though. Its a cool resource, especially since you made the code available.

  5. #5
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Thanks copeg.

    Quote Originally Posted by copeg View Post
    Looks great in Firefox, the div wrapping in IE (aka Internet Exploder) is off. The W3 guidelines might fix some of it (eg an div wrapped inside a link). I like css, but when it comes to table layouts its a pain(css spec now has tables, but they aren't backwards compatible with older browsers). You might consider using tables to lay them out, or mess around with the css layout with some nested div's to get the look the way you want.
    Yeah, I really need to sit down and fight IE to the death to get this stuff pounded out. I had it working okay, but then I added a few things, which broke IE again, and I haven't had the motivation to continue the battle. But I know if I want to get more serious about it, making it work in IE is a priority.

    Quote Originally Posted by copeg View Post
    Also consider - if your server has the capability and you aren't taking advantage of it now - using a dynamic language. It will make changes down the line much easier (for example you can change the footer/header/etc...on all pages by changing just a single file), and is a good opportunity to learn some web scripting.
    I definitely plan on doing that, as this last update was a lesson in copy-paste tedium, and I only have about 25 pages total. I wanted to get a firmer grasp of html/css before I dove in, but I suppose there's no time like the present (especially because I'm at a point where I'd already see the benefits of a dynamic language).

    Quote Originally Posted by copeg View Post
    Looking good though. Its a cool resource, especially since you made the code available.
    Thanks much. I'm learning as I go, but I've got some pretty exciting (for me, anyway) plans in the works.
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    mmm.. coffee JavaPF's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Hey Kevin,

    As copeg said, it looks great in Firefox.
    I've just looked on my Mac and it looks good in Safari too.

    On the topic of dynamic languages, I have taught myself PHP over the years mainly because these forums are written in PHP. I had basic web design/HTML/CSS experience prior to this but the desire to delve deeper into the forum software forced me to learn it. I must say I am happy as PHP suits my needs perfectly. I use it for all my websites in varying degrees. The days of having to update 25+ html pages individually are long gone..

    I like your site and your programs as you know!
    I'm thinking of where I can link your site to give it as much exposure as possible..
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    Super Moderator Sean4u's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    They're static HTML files? Good job then for making it look consistent! Potentially a controversial question, I know - but why are we advising people to use PHP on Javaprogrammingforums.com? I make my webs with a totally static application server I wrote myself in Java because I deploy them on VPSes that only cost USDfew per month. I am dimly aware that there are other Java-based options for serving webs - why is nobody recommending them?

  8. #8
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Thanks for taking a look, JavaPF.

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    Hey Kevin,

    As copeg said, it looks great in Firefox.
    I've just looked on my Mac and it looks good in Safari too.
    That's good to hear! I'm open to criticisms to, I'm getting paranoid about not hearing many.

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    On the topic of dynamic languages, I have taught myself PHP over the years mainly because these forums are written in PHP. I had basic web design/HTML/CSS experience prior to this but the desire to delve deeper into the forum software forced me to learn it. I must say I am happy as PHP suits my needs perfectly. I use it for all my websites in varying degrees. The days of having to update 25+ html pages individually are long gone..
    Yeah, I'll have to look into PHP. I've heard a lot about it, but I never really played with it. I wanted to start branching out and learning stuff other than Java, so I guess this is one way to do that!

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    I like your site and your programs as you know!
    I'm thinking of where I can link your site to give it as much exposure as possible..
    Haha aww well thanks. Don't worry about linking to it, it's mostly just a personal site for practice, figuring out the best way to organize and deploy things. I might come to you to talk about buying some advertising space when I launch the other site, but that's down the road a little way still.
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  9. #9
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    They're static HTML files? Good job then for making it look consistent!
    Yeah, they're all static. I do a lot of copying and pasting, so thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    Potentially a controversial question, I know - but why are we advising people to use PHP on Javaprogrammingforums.com?
    That's a fair question. But the answer is that we don't only discuss Java options. For many things, Java is the best option, but for some things it's not, and it's good to know that. I'd love a Java option, but one of my goals has been to gain some knowledge breadth (vs my depth in Java), so I appreciate hearing about any options.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    I make my webs with a totally static application server I wrote myself in Java because I deploy them on VPSes that only cost USDfew per month. I am dimly aware that there are other Java-based options for serving webs - why is nobody recommending them?
    I honestly didn't really understand most of that, but I'm a real novice when it comes to web stuff. Would your solution translate well to my setup? Can I check out the site(s) you're talking about?

    I'm also dimly aware that there are Java server options, but I've never played with them. Are they useful for creating and serving up web pages? Like I said, I'm a real novice in this department.
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  10. #10
    mmm.. coffee JavaPF's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    Potentially a controversial question, I know - but why are we advising people to use PHP on Javaprogrammingforums.com? I make my webs with a totally static application server I wrote myself in Java because I deploy them on VPSes that only cost USDfew per month. I am dimly aware that there are other Java-based options for serving webs - why is nobody recommending them?
    haha I know I know..
    I went with PHP because a lot of my website scripts were already written in PHP and it was very popular.
    At the time, I was writing predominantly console based programs for a bank and the scope of Java on the web was still reasonably new to me.

    I have played around with JSP and do intend to write a site in Java in the future as it was interesting to hear that linkedin.com is 99% Java.

    I'd be interested to hear more of your experiences..
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  11. #11
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    I have played around with JSP and do intend to write a site in Java in the future as it was interesting to hear that linkedin.com is 99% Java.
    Wow, really??

    Almost all of my experience is with desktop Java. I hadn't even worked with applets until relatively recently. So I'd love to figure out the Java way to create a website!
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    mmm.. coffee JavaPF's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman
    Haha aww well thanks. Don't worry about linking to it, it's mostly just a personal site for practice, figuring out the best way to organize and deploy things. I might come to you to talk about buying some advertising space when I launch the other site, but that's down the road a little way still.
    I've put a small banner at the very bottom of the forums next to the codecall & java.net ones. Feel free to send me another image if you have one. The link will help your search engine ranking and I'm sure it will bring in some organic traffic.

    Have you signed up to Google webmaster tools/analytics? I'd recommend it. It's very useful to see whos coming into your site and from where.
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    KevinWorkman (September 29th, 2011)

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Would your solution translate well
    Maybe - but I wouldn't recommend my code to anyone! It was a project I started to get a mechanic's view of how the web worked. It got quite big and so I use it a lot. It has some 'issues' which probably need the whole thing to be refactored to solve, but from reading about Jetty, I suspect I'd end up with a bad simulation of Jetty. Perhaps we need a little tutorial on serving webs with Java?

    What I use for my webs requires that I extend a 'Response' class with a basic template for my site that gives it a consistent look-and-feel, and then I extend that class with others for different 'kinds' of pages. The 'content' areas are protected data members in the base classes, and I have a set of 'markup' classes that all extend a 'Block' class that supports creation of trees of HTML elements. It's not the most readable of ways of doing it, but it does force me to create valid X/HTML output. Here's a "Hello World" demo page:
    package spinneret.demo;
     
    import spinneret.http.*;
    import spinneret.markup.xhtml.*;
     
    public class HelloWorldXHTML extends XHTMLDocument
    {
      public void build() throws ResponseAbortedException
      {
        super.build();
        xhtmlTitle.add("Hello World demo");
        xhtmlBody.add(new Block("h1")).add("Hello, World");
      }
      public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception
      {
        WebServer ws = new WebServer();
        ws.setRequestToResponse(new RequestResponseMap()
         {
          public Response getResponse(Request r)
          {
            return new HelloWorldXHTML();
          }
         });
        ws.start();
      }
    }

    The world uses PHP because it's so easy to pick it up and so easy for hosting companies to deploy and support. Its popularity makes it cheap too. Then again, big companies use Java for their webs for a reason - I guess? I keep meaning to get up to speed on one of the Java containers that supports dynamic deployment (you have to kill + restart the JVM to apply an update on mine. It's security through being bloody awkward!). I hope there'll be a JPFer along soon who knows all about it to explain how it works.

    edit: just for reference, the Jetty Hello World:
    http://wiki.eclipse.org/Jetty/Tutori...oWorld_Example

    more edit: I have no idea, so maybe these will help anybody who might be considering a Java Web Server:
    http://www.coderanch.com/t/553607/Se...erver-learning
    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4...-http-requests
    Last edited by Sean4u; September 29th, 2011 at 04:08 PM. Reason: added moar links

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    I've put a small banner at the very bottom of the forums next to the codecall & java.net ones. Feel free to send me another image if you have one. The link will help your search engine ranking and I'm sure it will bring in some organic traffic.
    Wow, thanks so much! This will be a good test for the site I plan on launching in the medium-term future.

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaPF View Post
    Have you signed up to Google webmaster tools/analytics? I'd recommend it. It's very useful to see whos coming into your site and from where.
    I've played around with it on other sites, but never this one because I never really expected much traffic. Plus, the site host has some simple tools that tell me some basics- it was really fun to watch the Ludum Dare traffic a few weeks back, because it was such a big spike in traffic, haha.

    But it's mostly my own little playground where I can figure out what works and what doesn't. I think I have the basic html/css stuff reasonably down (down enough to get by, anyway), and I'm getting ready to move on to the next step- whether that's php or something more Java-centric, I'm not sure yet.

    Thanks again for everybody's input. I can be really lost when it comes to web development, so it's awesome to be able to talk through some of this stuff.
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  16. #15
    Crazy Cat Lady KevinWorkman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    Maybe - but I wouldn't recommend my code to anyone! It was a project I started to get a mechanic's view of how the web worked. It got quite big and so I use it a lot. It has some 'issues' which probably need the whole thing to be refactored to solve, but from reading about Jetty, I suspect I'd end up with a bad simulation of Jetty. Perhaps we need a little tutorial on serving webs with Java?

    What I use for my webs requires that I extend a 'Response' class with a basic template for my site that gives it a consistent look-and-feel, and then I extend that class with others for different 'kinds' of pages. The 'content' areas are protected data members in the base classes, and I have a set of 'markup' classes that all extend a 'Block' class that supports creation of trees of HTML elements. It's not the most readable of ways of doing it, but it does force me to create valid X/HTML output. Here's a "Hello World" demo page:
    package spinneret.demo;
     
    import spinneret.http.*;
    import spinneret.markup.xhtml.*;
     
    public class HelloWorldXHTML extends XHTMLDocument
    {
      public void build() throws ResponseAbortedException
      {
        super.build();
        xhtmlTitle.add("Hello World demo");
        xhtmlBody.add(new Block("h1")).add("Hello, World");
      }
      public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception
      {
        WebServer ws = new WebServer();
        ws.setRequestToResponse(new RequestResponseMap()
         {
          public Response getResponse(Request r)
          {
            return new HelloWorldXHTML();
          }
         });
        ws.start();
      }
    }
    That's really impressive. The web remains mostly a mystery to me. I've been hoping it was just a fad and I could fall back on my Swing knowledge when it died out, but it looks like it's here to stay.

    But yeah, I'm going to have to find some real dummy tutorials for a lot of these things- jetty, tomcat, jsp, etc, just to get a feel for what they even are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    The world uses PHP because it's so easy to pick it up and so easy for hosting companies to deploy and support. Its popularity makes it cheap too. Then again, big companies use Java for their webs for a reason - I guess? I keep meaning to get up to speed on one of the Java containers that supports dynamic deployment (you have to kill + restart the JVM to apply an update on mine. It's security through being bloody awkward!). I hope there'll be a JPFer along soon who knows all about it to explain how it works.
    Yeah, I don't see any Java options for my host (Host Gator), at least on my current setup, just php. I think there's an option to pay for a virtual server, but I haven't given it much thought until now.

    I guess I have to sit down and do some serious crunching of options, especially because down the road I plan on inviting other people to host their Java games on my site (not the one I have now, but something similar)- sort of an easy way to get away from the "gray background, applet in the middle" abyss without doing all this hard stuff. I have no idea what the best way to do that would be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    edit: just for reference, the Jetty Hello World:
    Jetty/Tutorial/Jetty HelloWorld - Eclipsepedia

    more edit: I have no idea, so maybe these will help anybody who might be considering a Java Web Server:
    What are the best web server for learning? (Servlets forum at JavaRanch)
    Best modern WebServer engine or framework on java for HTTP requests? - Stack Overflow
    I'm checking them out now, but my brain is starting to turn into mush over this stuff. Maybe I should make a big list and start filling in the blanks for everything.
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean4u View Post
    They're static HTML files? Good job then for making it look consistent! Potentially a controversial question, I know - but why are we advising people to use PHP on Javaprogrammingforums.com? I make my webs with a totally static application server I wrote myself in Java because I deploy them on VPSes that only cost USDfew per month. I am dimly aware that there are other Java-based options for serving webs - why is nobody recommending them?
    After some extensive novice googling, I've decided to attempt to use Tomcat and JSP. The basic tutorials fit into my head, and I can already begin formulating a plan of how things might be laid out. I'm pretty excited to work through the tutorials and get some basics converted. That'll be my project this weekend.

    That being said, one of the next steps I have to figure out is hosting. I'm looking into using the VPS service from my current host (host gator), but I'm wondering if you have any words of wisdom from your experience with VSPs?

    Also, does anybody else have any experience with Tomcat, JSP, hosting, or any of this stuff in general? I'm muddling through the dark, which is exciting, but I'm a little more cautious than my usual "try this and see what happens" since real money is involved, and I'm on a grad student budget to begin with.

    Thanks for all your help so far, and also thanks for giving me the idea in the first place. I pretty much just assumed my next step would be to learn PHP, but the pieces seem to be falling into place since you mentioned the more Java-centric options.
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    Super Moderator Sean4u's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    any words of wisdom from your experience with VSPs?
    I haven't tried again since the first awful time, but Java just didn't work on small VPSes on the OpenVZ/Virtuozzo platform, and it works flawlessly on Xen VPSes down to 64MB RAM. Although you can rent an unmanaged VPS for £5 per month or less, you might want to try out the experience for yourself on an old PC with Ubuntu (that's just the one I use at home and on VPSes) first. Once you get it to boot up, install openssh-server on it, and then disconnect the monitor (make sure it's networked ). There - that's a pretty realistic simulation, except with much more RAM, HDD, CPU and less latency. An 'unmanaged' Ubuntu VPS will give you a root password, ssh access and that's it - everything else is down to you. You'll have to install and configure your Java container, your mail server if you use one, your DB if you use one.

    I know nothing about rented Tomcat hosting, but I imagine it must exist. It would save you a huge amount of work (and potential trouble in the form of unwittingly providing hackers with a hackable platform). It might still be worth replicating a hosted JSP service at home first to see how awfully difficult to use it is before you commit to spending. There's a reason why PHP hosting is popular!

    If you do decide to go the VPS route, many VPS providers will let you try-before-you-buy. If you've set up your own working demo at home first, you should find it much easier to get a test site up on one of their VPSes. Performance varies *a lot*. I had cheap VPSes from big-name US/Canadian VPS providers that were cheap and reliable, but were painfully slooooow - only one virtual CPU available. By contrast, the servers I've had from XenSmart in the UK have been very fast (4 CPUs in top), but have had a few more outages (a few hours, like 1-3 per year - and some of that was caused by their expansion). Nocser's VPSes in Malaysia were good too, though I only had a quite unpopular application there.

    One last thing about Apache - it is a big, mature piece of software. Last time I set it up on a small VPS, it needed a few configuration tweaks to run:
    Getting Rid of A in LAMP for Your Low End VPS – Low End Box
    to the point where people use other webservers instead.

    If you're not going to splash out on something that's guaranteed to work (like proper JSP hosting - if such a thing exists), I would advise you to test your target platform at home first. If you haven't got an old PC with only 64/128/256M RAM in it, you could try using VirtualBox on your own PC - doing it that way also makes it easy to test performance with varying amounts of RAM.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Feedback Wanted for My Website

    Thanks for the feedback, Sean. I'm definitely planning on trying it out on a home computer first. I have to work my way up from nothing, so it should be interesting. I'll make sure to stock up on plenty of caffeine for the weekend!
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