This is a big day for us, as it marks the debut, after many months of gestation, of our brand-spankin’-new website. In fact, this week I spent much of the time I would normally have spent agonizing over this blog post agonizing over the website. What should the structure be—which pages and subpages do we need? What should the color scheme be? Which pictures should go where? Which version of the Madroño Ranch logo should we use? And so on. I fell right down the rabbit hole, and I’m not sure I’ve fully emerged even now; this website will probably require some tinkering and tweaking for a while.
Actually, I’m sort of astonished that this day has finally arrived. Heather and I grew up in the Stone Age, when a chisel and a stone tablet were still the primary way to announce one’s presence to the world. (Here’s a picture of a creative writing class I took in college.) And while circumstances forced me to learn a little HTML as I made my unsteady way along what I laughingly call my “career path,” web design and construction is a kettle of fish of a different color. But in the twenty-first century it seems increasingly to be the case that if you don’t have a website you don’t really exist.
Fortunately, we were able to draw on the skills of Clint Hagen, the webmaster at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Clint very generously offered to help build the site, based on my vague explanations of what we envisioned, during his own time. There was a lot of trial and enormous amounts of error, all of it mine; I find it difficult to imagine what something I’m thinking about will actually look like on the screen, so frequently I’d ask Clint to do something, realize that it now looked terrible, and then immediately ask him to undo what he’d just done. God alone knows how many hours he put in on this project, and his patience was unfailing. Clint, I know it turned out to be much more of a pain than you had anticipated, but Heather and I are eternally grateful.
And, while I’m handing out the acknowledgments, I must mention our friends Shawn and Susanne Harrington of Austin’s Asterisk Group, the wonderfully talented designers who came up with our logo and other elements of our “visual identity system” (including that @#%& label for the bison meat, which turned out to be a real sticky wicket). Even though they would doubtless have designed a much more sophisticated and attractive website than this one, they very graciously agreed to review and comment on it before we officially announced it. (And in fact they deserve the credit for the site’s elegant color scheme, which we love; I had originally been thinking of a sort of beigeish-brown, which looked almost pink on some monitors, as the background.)
Then there was the issue of giving up the old version of our blog, which for the last year and a half or so has functioned as our de facto website—sort of a virtual toe in the very deep waters of the World Wide Web. We’d begun publishing Free Range: Food, Nature, Place, and More on Google’s Blogger software, and we’d gotten fond of it, or at least accustomed to its quirks. We’re using WordPress for the new site, however, and the prospect of migrating the blog from Blogger to WordPress was just a little scary. What if something went wrong? What if we didn’t like the new look as much as we liked the old look? Why did it have to be different?
Ah, there’s the rub. Different. In most respects I am by nature a fairly cautious person, I think. Or perhaps I’m just lazy. (Heather? Would you care to comment?) Whatever; I tend not to like change. My personal motto might be, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; and if it is broke, well, see how long you can get by without fixing it.”
So, yes, I’m proud of what we’ve come up with in terms of structure and design; I think it works reasonably well and looks reasonably good. But what will it really mean for us to inhabit this virtual space? We’re not sure yet. Most obviously, it means that people all around the country, or the world, will be able to find out about us and our plans for Madroño Ranch, and that’s a good thing. But it’s also frightening; rightly or wrongly, I feel like we’ll be taken more seriously now. We may even be expected to act like grownups. (If you think that shouldn’t be a major concern for people of our advanced years, I can only respond that you obviously don’t know us very well.) Plus we have to make sure that we update the site often enough to keep visitors interested, and that is a daunting task. Having to come up with a new blog post every week has just about maxed out our creativity; how in the world are we going to keep generating the kind of fresh content that will make for a vibrant, attractive website?
And, let’s face it, as websites go, this one isn’t all that fancy. It is completely devoid of bells, whistles, streaming video, shopping carts, or other interactive features. The photos are almost all just crappy snapshots we’ve taken ourselves. Some day, no doubt, we’ll look back on this and cringe at how amateurish it all is.
But that day, we hope, is far in the future. Right now, we’re proud of our new website, and we hope it marks a significant step in Madroño Ranch’s slow evolution from harebrained scheme to harebrained reality. We’re glad you found us on our new home, and we hope you’ll take the time to explore it (and bookmark it for future reference). We tried to put in lots of useful information and pretty pictures while keeping it fairly easy to navigate, but of course we don’t know how useful or pretty or easy to navigate other people will find it. If you have suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. (I’m putting Heather in charge of the redesign.) And, who knows, in another ten years or so, maybe we’ll be ready to try Twitter!