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Architecture in Fort Worth Said to be "Intimidating"


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#1 John T Roberts

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 05:16 PM

I have a friend, who is a cycling buddy and a member with me on a committee at Historic Fort Worth.  At HFW, we were discussing several issues relating to architecture and he stated that he didn't know what was happening.  After the meeting, I told him that it was all covered on the Fort Worth Forum and details about specific buildings were listed on the building pages.  He stated that the site was too intimidating to explore. 

 

Several years ago, I took some steps to simplify the layout of the site.   Obviously, that wasn't enough.  I ahave also heard this comment from others.  Have I been too ambitious in trying to cover the entire city?  How would you all suggest that I make the site easier to navigate?  Please be frank.  I look at this site to be as much yours as it is mine.



#2 Austin55

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 05:54 PM

When I'm looking through the pages I usually use the Ctrl+F keys to bring up a search on the page. Or if I don't know the name of the building I'll search a street. The Jack White photos can be especially hard to track down what you are looking for but I'm not really sure how to sort it better. 



#3 John T Roberts

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 06:24 PM

To me, the Google Search box at the bottom of the entry page, or the actual "Search" page works well for me.  I can search for an address and usually get the building.  If I don't know the street number, many times just the street will give me several choices and what I'm looking for is usually included. 

 

I think there is a problem with the way the Jack White Collection is set up.  It is difficult to find the photographs in it.  That page evolved as Jack sent me photographs.



#4 JBB

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 07:15 PM

I explored the site a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a long time - maybe more than a year.  One thing I think that might help is some sort of map key for each area, especially downtown.  You had one of those on the downtown page years ago or at least I think I remember that.  You could click on a property on the map and it went to the building page.  Maybe something could be integrated with a map from Google.  Just a suggestion.  I love the site's content and I don't think it's too big at all.



#5 John T Roberts

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 07:20 PM

The map has been on the list of "things to do" for quite some time.  The only problem is that I'm one person and I only work on the site in my spare time. 

 

I have been trying to add more buildings that don't have descriptions or update existing listings with new photographs.  Over the holidays, I spent many hours on the Northside and the Eastside to bring my collection of photos more in line with Downtown, the Cultural District, the Medical District, the Southside, and the Westside.  I have been trying to add more on the Northside due to the possible dramatic changes that may take place there soon.



#6 Doohickie

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 07:27 PM

A map key would be good.  So would a "short list" of most notable buildings.  It would give us on the forum a lively topic of discussion (name your top ten most significant buildings and why).  Maybe Top Ten, 11-50, 51-100 groups to give the neophytes an entry into the feel of Fort Worth architecture.  Maybe also most significant buildings of various styles/eras (art deco, modern, Victorian, etc.)

 

Maybe also have organized "walking tours" online so that people visiting from other cities can take in the city's history during a manageable walk or bike ride.


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#7 Austin55

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 07:56 PM

We could perhaps expand the development map I've made into a map with existing buildings. I've been turning completed projects white, and we've already got a base going. I would like a map to.

On a side note I'd love a thread to list top buildings. Would be a fun discussion and I love power ranking things.

#8 John T Roberts

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 08:11 PM

Years ago, I did put out a list of the top building pages.  I can't remember how much discussion or page visits it generated.  I will try to go back to look.  Also, this might be a way to integrate this information into the site's Facebook page.



#9 Doohickie

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 08:18 PM

Facebook integration is one way to keep the site current and accessible.


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#10 John T Roberts

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 08:23 PM

Let's try an experiment.  My next post on Architecture in Fort Worth's Facebook Page will be the Top 10 most visited buildings on the site for the year so far.  I will do that tonight.



#11 gdvanc

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 10:53 AM

I wouldn't say you've been too ambitious in covering the whole city because I think that's part of the value of your site. However, taking complicated, rich information and presenting it in a way that is easy for users of all backgrounds to navigate and sift through is the kind of thing some companies and organizations spend a lot of money trying to get right. Some still don't do it well. It's a lot for one guy doing it in his spare time to take on.

 

It might be difficult to do more than rearrange things with the pages being mostly static html. There are content management systems that can do some of the work for you once you've got them configured, but that would be something else to learn in your spare time. And moving everything over would take a lot of time. And that's less time you'll have for adding new information.

 

I guess my point is, do keep looking for ways to change the presentation but understand it's not an easy task. Be patient with yourself.

 

Given this is just a side gig, you've done a great job building all of this. It's better than a lot of professionally-designed websites I've run across.



#12 John T Roberts

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 11:56 AM

Thank you for the comments, Donnie.  I had thought several times about converting over to a dynamic format, but it was the learning curve and the amount of time involved that keeps me just heading down the path that I had already started.  If this was my job, it would be different. 

 

As for categorizing buildings by type, I have found that if I simply use the search feature and type in the style, it will bring up all of the pages in the site that have buildings of that style of architecture.  I do think the mapping feature would be a big plus.



#13 gdvanc

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 12:06 PM

One thing that would help searching for Jack White's photos would be to create an html page for each photo. On the oldftw.htm page, change the links to these new web pages that will contain the images. Add text (in the body or as metadata) to the pages that will be included in the Google search for the site. The words to include might be the name of the image, key phrases from the text in the image, names of buildings or landmarks in the image, etc. The page might also include links to other related images and to related forum topics.

 

 

-- Edit: and 'Previous Image' and 'Next Image' buttons/links to allow people to scroll through the images.



#14 John T Roberts

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 01:23 PM

I don't know if any of you noticed, but the Jack White Collection page is under the old website format.  This would be an opportunity to convert the page to the new format, in addition to the changes that Donnie mentioned.  I just wonder how long that would take to accomplish. 



#15 Fort Worthology

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 01:36 PM

That's a *great* point about the Jack White photos - since they're all just JPEGs with the text embedded in the photo itself, it's nearly impossible to find something in them if you only remember, say, a reference contained in a sentence in them, or something along those lines.

 

It'd be a lot of work, but parsing that text out into a webpage would make them so much more searchable.  There would be a lot of typing involved, though, since you can't copy & paste the text from the images.


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#16 John T Roberts

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 02:13 PM

Kevin, if I tackled the Jack White Collection, I wouldn't try to parse out all of the text that Jack wrote.  I would only set them up to where they could be more easily found by a Search Engine or within the site.  The one thing that I don't want to do with changes is to get burned out again.



#17 Fort Worthology

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 02:49 PM

Kevin, if I tackled the Jack White Collection, I wouldn't try to parse out all of the text that Jack wrote.  I would only set them up to where they could be more easily found by a Search Engine or within the site.  The one thing that I don't want to do with changes is to get burned out again.

 

I understand that completely, believe me.  :)

 

Maybe instead of parsing out all the text, just the important bits - building names, etc. - so that they're more searchable.


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#18 John T Roberts

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 02:59 PM

That's more or less what I was thinking.  It will still be a big undertaking.



#19 renamerusk

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 03:30 PM

Given this is just a side gig, you've done a great job building all of this. It's better than a lot of professionally-designed websites I've run across.

 

 JTR - I proudly second that!



#20 Austin55

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 03:36 PM

Can someone recommend a better program than Google Maps engine for perhaps making a map? I was going to use the existing development map, however Its rather limited in functionality, and I'm not sure that google will stay committed to it in the long run. 



#21 John T Roberts

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 03:41 PM

Austin, I haven't played around much with anything but Google Maps.  So, I probably can't help you.  As for the others, thanks again for the comments.  One thing I failed to mention (as I'm patting myself on the back) is this site has won several awards over the years and from time to time, it still wins them. 

 

This site started in 1997 as merely a listing of downtown buildings and it has grown from there.  The Fort Worth Forum started in 2000.  The site will be 18 years old in April and the forum will have been running for 15 years.



#22 Nitixope

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Posted 18 February 2015 - 01:41 PM

Hi John,

I’ve looked at your Architecture in Fort Worth page many many times, but never with critical eyes because I know it’s your life’s work and passion.  I went out there today after taking into consideration what you buddy said and put my critical glasses on (coming from a marketing and commercial construction world) and had a couple suggestions….

 

When you go to the homepage, there’s a ton of text.  In the marketing and web design world, people just don’t read text on websites like they would read a book especially on a homepage (the forum being an exception because it’s a discussion board).  My rule of thumb for a homepage is to use about 15% navigation structure, 15% caption and text and 70% images and graphics give or take.  People expect to see some high quality photos and navigation with only major headings and simple caption text.  My suggestion would be to keep your current website format, but reduce the amount of text on your homepage, update the background color to something light and neutral, make bigger buttons for your major categories (Downtown, Cultural District etc.) and consider adding a simple auto scrolling slideshow element where you can selectively feature some of your latest photograph additions and even some pictures of awards or other interesting things.  

 

For as long as I’ve been a part of the Forum, it has always been about the meat of the information for me but your “top navigation” is key to winning over the new visitor or novice reader.  In web design you should always put yourself in the shoes of the reader, especially someone who has never been to your site before.  Also, I know you’re a modest guy that don’t seek out attention, but have you considered doing a brief bio page for yourself as an “about us” to share your story, background a couple photos and the history of how this site came to be what it is today?  I think these are some minor face lift ideas that wouldn’t be as time consuming as tagging photos and doing interactive maps.  Like Donnie said, this is your spare time.

 

Hope this helps.



#23 John T Roberts

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Posted 18 February 2015 - 02:19 PM

Nitixope, I really appreciate the objective feedback.  This is also something that I could accomplish fairly easily and I could do it in parts.  My first opportunity to work on it will probably be on Sunday.  Mr. B.F. Maupin has provided me with some detailed history on a building in the Stock Yards that is already listed.  I have taken a recent photo of the building, so this will be an excellent opportunity to update the text and photograph of it.  The building is the New Worth Hotel/Stock Yards Lodge No. 1244.  It's also the building where the rear wall collapsed. 

 

After that, I have a building owner who has requested his building to be listed, but I will have to go out and take a photograph of it.  If I get this page up on Saturday, then Sunday, I will be free.  However, it is supposed to be 80 degrees on Saturday and I'm sure I will be riding bicycles in the morning.  I have to take another cycling friend to the Airport late on Saturday Afternoon.



#24 Nitixope

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 11:12 AM

John,

I asked my guy at work who is up-to-speed on these things, and if you were running HTML5, would suggest trying http://juicebox.net/ as a slideshow tool but I don't think will work with your site.

 

However, he said there is an alternate work around to that that would possible be worth trying for non-HTML5 sites. What you can do is to implament jQuery into the site. 

Here is the tutorial for how to install it: http://stackoverflow...stalling-jquery

After getting that to work.  Use this to make a slideshow.  He said to keep in mind that it doesn't have fine controls like moving back and forth or shuffling, but if you just want to have some flashy pictures scrolling through the homepage, this will be perfect: 
http://snook.ca/arch...query-slideshow

 

At some point down the road, you might want to consider switching over to a Wordpress site, but I fully understand the time commitment involved in making that happen, especially with the number of subpages that you have.



#25 John T Roberts

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 01:34 PM

Thanks for the tip.  I did take pictures of the building to be added to the site on Thursday.  However, I have not worked on the page for it, nor selected the actual photo that I'm going to use.  Also, with the front coming through, I did not ride this morning.  I have to take my friend to the airport at 4:30 this afternoon, so I'm betting that I won't get too much done today.  I will just have to wait to see.



#26 John T Roberts

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 04:17 PM

Well, I pulled a dumb stunt today.  I wasn't working on the index page, but I was correcting something, and deleted everything but the photograph of the skyline.  I had a backup, but it was corrupted, and I had other backups, but they were too old.  To make a long story short, all of the backups either didn't exist, were too old, or they were corrupted.  So, now I'm forced to redesign this page.  It's going to take a little bit to put some graphics up for each side of town, but I will work on it.  Temporarily, I have put some navigation text for the most popular, which are the basic sections of the site.  I will work on this during the upcoming week.  I'm probably going to call it quits for today.



#27 John T Roberts

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 06:14 PM

gdvance bailed me out.  He found the index page on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.  I had looked there, but I had trouble getting their site to bring mine up.  Anyway, it is fixed until I can start work to change the page.  Thank you, Donnie.



#28 David Love

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 07:51 AM

I think the site's navigation is well thought out and easy to get around. 

 

If I had to pick on "something" I'd have to say the color scheme is a bit dated, for some the orange on blue background may pose some issues due to the way those specific colors clash. 

 

For readability I like to use NYTimes.com as a good example of easy reading and layout, I think of FortWorthArchitecture.com as an old fashioned newspaper, maybe a parchment colored background with an easy to read font, Verdana perhaps with maybe a western style heading here and there? 


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#29 John T Roberts

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 02:54 PM

Thanks, David.  It might indeed be time for another redesign, but I haven't even finished converting the pages to the latest redesign.  I started that more than 10 years ago.  I guess I'm trying to do too many things with the site at one time.



#30 Russ Graham

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 03:52 PM

maybe a parchment colored background with an easy to read font, Verdana perhaps with maybe a western style heading here and there? 

 

 

When you put it that way, I love the current format! 



#31 John T Roberts

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 05:27 PM

The current version of the site already uses Verdana for the headings.



#32 John T Roberts

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 07:34 AM

I'm always looking at the NY Times.  I like their site, but it does look like a newspaper.  Another issue with making an overhaul of the site is that if I do it as I go along, there will be three types of pages on the site.  Some will be the very early layout, some will be the current layout, and others will be completely new. 



#33 johnfwd

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Posted 03 March 2015 - 08:06 AM

You probably are aware that you still can't access the Forum via the main site's URL address (and clicking on Forum)..  But I didn't know this and thought the site was under construction.  I'm here now only because of Google.



#34 John T Roberts

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 06:53 AM

Johnfwd, it's been fixed.  This was a result of the accidental loss of the initial page when I was trying to fix one little thing that was broken.  I had to recover the page and somehow some of the links became changed with extra code in the process.  My advice is to use the upper navigation bar under the banner of the page.  Those continued to work. 

 

When I have had a chance, I have been messing around with deleting the text and simplifying the index page.  So I haven't forgotten about all of the initial comments.



#35 johnfwd

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 12:32 PM

Thanks.  When I thought I couldn't access the Forum, I really did miss it, you know!



#36 John T Roberts

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Posted 13 March 2015 - 10:26 PM

I'm still playing around with the opening page.  I'm also playing around with a complete redesign of the site. I haven't made any decisions.



#37 John T Roberts

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Posted 03 June 2015 - 09:35 AM

I haven't been working on the redesign of the site, but I have been adding more building descriptions.  With that, I have been focusing on the Stockyards.



#38 John T Roberts

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 09:49 AM

I've made a slight change to the site.  I have relabeled the "Medical District" as the "Near Southside".  This is more in keeping with the neighborhood signs in the area and with the way the area is changing.  It's more than just a medical district.  The file names have not changed, just the heading and the page title that links to the building descriptions.



#39 Dismuke

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Posted 22 May 2016 - 04:43 PM

I've never found it to be intimidating.  Then again, that is a very subjective criticism.  What I find "intimidating" about a website or a publication might come perfectly easy to somebody else.

 

Here's my advice when it comes to any sort of "labor of love" type project - take all criticism and suggestions with a grain of salt unless what is being said quickly strikes you as valid and/or a good idea.

 

Everybody's a critic. It is impossible to please all people - so don't put yourself through the frustration of even trying. And no matter how clear you are in your writing somebody is going to read it the wrong way and get confused or perhaps even angry.  No matter how easy you try to make site navigation there are going to be some people who simply will not "get" it.

 

As for suggestions - good ideas are always a dime a dozen.  The challenge and the hard part is execution and bringing such ideas to fruition.  it is easy to throw out suggestions when somebody else has to do the work and/or find the time and money.

 

The single most important thing to ask yourself if you have a project such as this is what do YOU value, what do YOU wish to accomplish and what do you ENJOY doing?  For example, supposed what gets you excited  and what you look forward to doing is adding new content to the site whereas the data entry work of reformatting old content is something you find tedious. If that is the case, then you would probably be better off spending most of your time putting up new content even though you might agree that it would be desirable if the old stuff were reformatted.   If somebody REALLY thinks that a certain change would be a great idea and it is not something you have much time or desire to do, then maybe THEY need to step up and volunteer or make a financial contribution for you to hire somebody to do it.

 

Since you are the one who makes this site possible in the first place, that should be the filter that all ideas and suggestions should first pass through.  The single biggest danger to a labor of love project is when it is no longer enjoyable to the person who makes it possible.  To the degree that the project becomes a "chore" or a "duty" is the degree that the project is in jeopardy.

 

I am sure if I took a close enough look at the site I could come up with some ideas on how to improve it.   And, perhaps some of them will be good ones. But my overwhelming thought whenever I look through a site such as yours is gratitude that somebody took the time to do it in the first place.


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#40 John T Roberts

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Posted 22 May 2016 - 04:56 PM

Thanks.  I have asked this friend if he wants to join me when I'm out taking photographs for this site, and he has turned me down numerous times.






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