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Three Reasons Your Website Sucks…and One Simple Way to Fix It

Aug 19, 2009 , ,

Website design can be a success or failure - does your website suck?Holy hell. Look at your website.

It sucks. No, seriously: it really sucks. The chrome off a Studebaker’s fender type of suckage. The kind that it took someone who knew just enough to be dangerous to achieve.

Houston: we have a crap website. That is confirmed.

The first reason your website sucks? I have no idea what it’s about or what your business does when I get to your homepage. I mean, thank god someone posted a bit.ly link on Twitter or else I never would have come here on my own. All I’m seeing is a boatload of words and a tiny stock image at the top of the screen. I could be reading a pamphlet for interstitial cystitis for all I know. It’s possible you’re in real estate because there’s a little picture of a house and your big, shiny mug all over the screen. Then again, you could be an animal shelter because all I see is pictures of a woman surrounded by dogs. Personally, I’m lost.

The second reason your website sucks? The search engines can’t find you. It’s pretty obvious that when you put your website together you felt that any ol’ words on the page will do. When I pull your site’s source code (go ahead, blink…I know you have no idea what I’m talking about), there’s no meta data, your pages are all named www.mywebsite.com/afbijkaf6^&()^%^#$, or everything on your site is in Flash (which is totally brutal for search engines and site vistiors alike). If Google can’t find you, good luck on generating traffic. Aren’t you glad you paid that cheap (or maybe not-so-cheap) web firm $249 for your site?

The third reason your website sucks?I have no idea what I’m supposed to do when I get to your homepage. Your site’s navigation is so confusing that I would probably be able to come up with a bipartisan-approved solution to the heath care question in this country before I can find your “Contact Us” page. That is, if you even have one. So, I quit. I’m going to work as a lobbyist for the American Medical Association because it’s an easier gig than trying to find anything on this digital abomination you call a website.

But there’s a simple way to fix all that ails you. And it’s called WordPress.

Not WordPress.com…I’m talkin’ WordPress.org. If you’re thinking about redirecting a WordPress.com-hosted blog to your own URL, I’ll issue you a pre-emptive bitch slap now and tell you to read Stop Being a WordPress Whore.

“But that’s for bloooooooooooooooooooooooooogs.”

Really?

RedheadWriting is powered by WordPress. So is RedheadedFury.com.

So are www.copyblogger.com

www.chrisbrogan.com

www.ourayicepark.com

Yup. All powered by WordPress.

The beauty of a self-hosted WordPress-powered website is that everything you need to be successful is available in a simple, easy-to-use, and FREE package! Just think: you can have the website you always dreamed of for your business (or blog, or whatever) and if you have opposable thumbs – YOU can manage your entire website yourself! Soup to nuts.

This blog is the first blog in a series that will cover WordPress as a tool for website development. Here are the topics of the next installments in this series:

Subscribe now via either a reader or email updates (look on the right hand side of this screen) and don’t miss the rest of this awesome series. I hate to see websites that suck and there’s really no reason for them. If you ever wondered about the power of WordPress, here’s your chance to learn the basics…and for FREE.

I never said I was easy, but WordPress is…and my advice is the right price.

28 comments
daddybriefs
daddybriefs

Thank you for such great advice.  My blog is really struggling but I just keep marching on! 

rypaci
rypaci

This is so helpful Thanks for informaton and ideas. keep posting .. thanks a lot  ..

Larry Herrin
Larry Herrin

@ Matt Meeks: Hi Matt! You said the following in a comment above: "Another huge problem I have with Wordpress as a CMS is that it forces you to fit your content to the template/theme of the site, which is backwards. Content is the most important component of any site, and I feel that in order to maximize the effectiveness of your site, you need to develop the content first and design the site to display that content in the most effective way possible." I totally agree with you on your point about content. But without belaboring the point too much, I believe that each page of a WordPress site, if built using the right theme (the Thesis theme springs to mind), can look very different and provide a webmaster with great design flexibility with hardly more than a few clicks in some checkboxes. Yet the site can retain the desired consistent overall look and feel (or NOT, come to think of it, if you're into that approach ). There's another free theme out there called Atahualpa (can be found on the WordPress.org site at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/atahualpa) which I've used with great success, and it's almost as flexible as Thesis is. And keep in mind that the previous paragraph is written by a guy who doesn't know jack about CSS or anything like that. :-)

Larry Herrin
Larry Herrin

@ Matt Meeks: Hi Matt! You said the following in a comment above: "Another huge problem I have with Wordpress as a CMS is that it forces you to fit your content to the template/theme of the site, which is backwards. Content is the most important component of any site, and I feel that in order to maximize the effectiveness of your site, you need to develop the content first and design the site to display that content in the most effective way possible." I totally agree with you on your point about content. But without belaboring the point too much, I believe that each page of a WordPress site, if built using the right theme (the Thesis theme springs to mind), can look very different and provide a webmaster with great design flexibility with hardly more than a few clicks in some checkboxes. Yet the site can retain the desired consistent overall look and feel (or NOT, come to think of it, if you're into that approach ). There's another free theme out there called Atahualpa (can be found on the WordPress.org site at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/atahualpa) which I've used with great success, and it's almost as flexible as Thesis is. And keep in mind that the previous paragraph is written by a guy who doesn't know jack about CSS or anything like that. :-)

Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson

In Response to OtherWebGuy… WordPress is great for sites with static web pages, blogs, and such. You can make your site more dynamic by adding RSS feeds (much easier in WordPress than by hand coding), a slideshow (also easy with WordPress plugins), a custom form, or with any other of the many add-ons there are for WordPress. You don’t have to use the blogging feature, and so you don’t have to end up with a blog site. The blogging feature is just a great tool that is popular these days. Publishing blog posts is essentially the same process as adding a page in WordPress. If you need to do more, like add a MLS search for a real estate site (The San Juan Realty Inc. site), or an ecommerce software package (The Ouray Ice Park site has one), those would be separate installs requiring separate software. With some coding magic, you can hardly notice that one page is totally different software from another. It does however complicate things when you start combining systems. Just like cooking dinner in more than one pot, requires more work. If you want to get “big” and have all sorts of things happening with your website, then you’ll need something heavier duty than WordPress or even a simple ecommerce software package. Likely, you'll have a team of designers, coders, and programmers working to build you something "special" that will have a very "big" and very "special" price tag to go along with it. WordPress is a better fit for smaller scale websites, that require a smaller scale price tag.

Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson

In Response to OtherWebGuy… WordPress is great for sites with static web pages, blogs, and such. You can make your site more dynamic by adding RSS feeds (much easier in WordPress than by hand coding), a slideshow (also easy with WordPress plugins), a custom form, or with any other of the many add-ons there are for WordPress. You don’t have to use the blogging feature, and so you don’t have to end up with a blog site. The blogging feature is just a great tool that is popular these days. Publishing blog posts is essentially the same process as adding a page in WordPress. If you need to do more, like add a MLS search for a real estate site (The San Juan Realty Inc. site), or an ecommerce software package (The Ouray Ice Park site has one), those would be separate installs requiring separate software. With some coding magic, you can hardly notice that one page is totally different software from another. It does however complicate things when you start combining systems. Just like cooking dinner in more than one pot, requires more work. If you want to get “big” and have all sorts of things happening with your website, then you’ll need something heavier duty than WordPress or even a simple ecommerce software package. Likely, you'll have a team of designers, coders, and programmers working to build you something "special" that will have a very "big" and very "special" price tag to go along with it. WordPress is a better fit for smaller scale websites, that require a smaller scale price tag.

Erik Boles
Erik Boles

@OtherWebGuy -- You are right, however, the sky really is the limit if you want to get crazy on customization. Look at http://revision3.com, that entire site is WP at the core, just insanely customized. If you need that kind of customization, there are a lot of better alternatives, like Drupal, Joomla, or, if you don't want it on your box. SquareSpace.com. That being said, I think that Erika's point here is this: You don't have to have a crappy looking website, and having one is the single most significant damage you will do to your personal or professional brand. If you have a terrible website and don't have time to transform to a real website or don't have the money to pay a designer, you can, in a matter of 2 hours, completely transform your site to a WP blog and move light years ahead of where you were previously. Erik Boles http://ErikBoles.com http://twitter.com/ErikBoles

Erik Boles
Erik Boles

@OtherWebGuy -- You are right, however, the sky really is the limit if you want to get crazy on customization. Look at http://revision3.com, that entire site is WP at the core, just insanely customized. If you need that kind of customization, there are a lot of better alternatives, like Drupal, Joomla, or, if you don't want it on your box. SquareSpace.com. That being said, I think that Erika's point here is this: You don't have to have a crappy looking website, and having one is the single most significant damage you will do to your personal or professional brand. If you have a terrible website and don't have time to transform to a real website or don't have the money to pay a designer, you can, in a matter of 2 hours, completely transform your site to a WP blog and move light years ahead of where you were previously. Erik Boles http://ErikBoles.com http://twitter.com/ErikBoles

Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson

Matt Meeks - In Response... I typically start with WordPress' default theme and then add/change a few DIV tags here and there, move around some PHP snippets, edit the stylesheet, and I can make just about anything I want to happen visually. Yes, this is not for amateurs unfamiliar with XHMTL / CSS and Photoshop, but creating a compelling site without these skills wouldn't happen anyway. I wouldn't recommend a business owner try and design their own site. It's just too much to learn in order to do a good job. Get someone to build it for you, then with a tool like WordPress, it's very easy for you to maintain, add pages or blog posts, etc.. Yes, themes will look like themes, but you've essentially skipped the whole design process anyway so what do you expect? Themes are great for someone who needs something quick and easy. Stuck in the System? Yes, whenever you use a system, be it WordPress, ecommerce software, or a theme, you're stuck with its parameters. Unless of course you want to get your hands dirty and edit them yourself. There is always going to be trade off. If you learn to work within the limitations, you can still do great things, and hopefully save yourself lots of time (read money) by doing so. Doing everything yourself is going to have its limitations too. Sure you can code your own CMS (Content Management System) to fit your every need, but it will take much longer. You can code each page yourself, but then your semi-computer literate clients won't be able to make their own changes. Then don't forget about testing and bug fixes! There's not a single right answer (in this case WordPress) for every solution, but I find WordPress to do the trick for the majority of the needs of a site owner. One the subject of content... Yes, I agree with you that content is important, like discussed in the popular book "Transcending CSS" by Andy Clarke. I have found that with a little template editing, I can get the content in order of how I want it, just like I would on a non-WordPress site. On a downside, yes you're limited by the coding of others, like with plug-ins and other add-ons. For me however, this trade off is worth it in the time saved by coding (then testing, then bug fixing...) them myself. Heck, the plug-in writers even update their own plug-ins regularly, something I wouldn't have time to do.

Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson

Matt Meeks - In Response... I typically start with WordPress' default theme and then add/change a few DIV tags here and there, move around some PHP snippets, edit the stylesheet, and I can make just about anything I want to happen visually. Yes, this is not for amateurs unfamiliar with XHMTL / CSS and Photoshop, but creating a compelling site without these skills wouldn't happen anyway. I wouldn't recommend a business owner try and design their own site. It's just too much to learn in order to do a good job. Get someone to build it for you, then with a tool like WordPress, it's very easy for you to maintain, add pages or blog posts, etc.. Yes, themes will look like themes, but you've essentially skipped the whole design process anyway so what do you expect? Themes are great for someone who needs something quick and easy. Stuck in the System? Yes, whenever you use a system, be it WordPress, ecommerce software, or a theme, you're stuck with its parameters. Unless of course you want to get your hands dirty and edit them yourself. There is always going to be trade off. If you learn to work within the limitations, you can still do great things, and hopefully save yourself lots of time (read money) by doing so. Doing everything yourself is going to have its limitations too. Sure you can code your own CMS (Content Management System) to fit your every need, but it will take much longer. You can code each page yourself, but then your semi-computer literate clients won't be able to make their own changes. Then don't forget about testing and bug fixes! There's not a single right answer (in this case WordPress) for every solution, but I find WordPress to do the trick for the majority of the needs of a site owner. One the subject of content... Yes, I agree with you that content is important, like discussed in the popular book "Transcending CSS" by Andy Clarke. I have found that with a little template editing, I can get the content in order of how I want it, just like I would on a non-WordPress site. On a downside, yes you're limited by the coding of others, like with plug-ins and other add-ons. For me however, this trade off is worth it in the time saved by coding (then testing, then bug fixing...) them myself. Heck, the plug-in writers even update their own plug-ins regularly, something I wouldn't have time to do.

Matt Bernier
Matt Bernier

I have personally worked on a bunch of sites that were not blog sites, which we built on WordPress. I have also worked on sites that use more traditional CMSs. WordPress was the easiest for my clients to pick up and run with. It also saved them time and money for me to build their site. With the benefit of the huge market of plugins both paid and free, as well as the entire community of true experts that are out there, you really can't beat WordPress.

Matt Bernier
Matt Bernier

I have personally worked on a bunch of sites that were not blog sites, which we built on WordPress. I have also worked on sites that use more traditional CMSs. WordPress was the easiest for my clients to pick up and run with. It also saved them time and money for me to build their site. With the benefit of the huge market of plugins both paid and free, as well as the entire community of true experts that are out there, you really can't beat WordPress.

Darwin
Darwin

Though, to your initial point: we're now accumulating WordPress installs that have clearly been put together by people who "knew just enough [about WordPress] to be dangerous." Yeah, it's great that we lost all the blinkin sh*t and neon, epilepsy-inducing design sensibility that consumer web publishing software gave us. We're making strides. Just as there are proportionally few people who can produce a broadcast-quality news show on their own the, the same is true for producing a competent, effective, commercial web site. At the end of the day, it comes down to content though. Garbage in, garbage out.

Darwin
Darwin

Though, to your initial point: we're now accumulating WordPress installs that have clearly been put together by people who "knew just enough [about WordPress] to be dangerous." Yeah, it's great that we lost all the blinkin sh*t and neon, epilepsy-inducing design sensibility that consumer web publishing software gave us. We're making strides. Just as there are proportionally few people who can produce a broadcast-quality news show on their own the, the same is true for producing a competent, effective, commercial web site. At the end of the day, it comes down to content though. Garbage in, garbage out.

Matt Meeks
Matt Meeks

I totally agree that content is vital, and it's something I've battled with clients on for just about every site I've ever designed/developed. I keep telling them that content is the most important component of their site, both for brand/messaging and for SEO, and that hiring a good copywriter who understands that and can write effective copy for the Web is more than worth the cost. Too many people think they can write, though, and they can be very difficult to convince.

Matt Meeks
Matt Meeks

I totally agree that content is vital, and it's something I've battled with clients on for just about every site I've ever designed/developed. I keep telling them that content is the most important component of their site, both for brand/messaging and for SEO, and that hiring a good copywriter who understands that and can write effective copy for the Web is more than worth the cost. Too many people think they can write, though, and they can be very difficult to convince.

Larry Aronson
Larry Aronson

Great little article. Wish I had written it. It's surprising how many people simply don't know, or willfully ignore the basics. I'm a big fan of Wordpress for Websites. It truly deserves to be called a "platform". Yes, customization can be problematic for "the average person," but the vast network of Wordpress developers and resources insures you can get help inexpensively. OtherWebGuy can visit my site at http://LarryAronson.com to see an example of a integrated Blog/Website. Thanks.

Larry Aronson
Larry Aronson

Great little article. Wish I had written it. It's surprising how many people simply don't know, or willfully ignore the basics. I'm a big fan of Wordpress for Websites. It truly deserves to be called a "platform". Yes, customization can be problematic for "the average person," but the vast network of Wordpress developers and resources insures you can get help inexpensively. OtherWebGuy can visit my site at http://LarryAronson.com to see an example of a integrated Blog/Website. Thanks.

Matt Meeks
Matt Meeks

I think Wordpress is a great tool (with limitations) for individuals. If you're a consultant or you want to start a site to promote your expertise in a certain area, or create a site about a hobby or interest (and perhaps generate some income via affiliate marketing), it's unbeatable. Perhaps even if you're just starting your own business and can't afford to hire a professional to design and develop your site. However, if you have an established company and create your own website using Wordpress, I think you're making a big mistake. First of all, Wordpress, while being pretty easy to get set up and running, is difficult to really customize. Sure, you can tweak the design and layout to a degree, but the average person won't have tools like Photoshop/Fireworks to create custom images, nor will they have the expertise to create images that look professional. In addition, unless you're a serious developer with lots of experience with Wordpress and/or other CMS applications (although Wordpress is more of a pseudo-CMS), CSS and XHTML, you'll find it difficult to customize the site beyond changing the header image and perhaps colors. Most people end up choosing a theme they like and just leaving it at that. Which is fine, but then your site LOOKS like a Wordpress theme. For individuals or new companies, this may be fine, but in today's world where consumers and clients are increasingly web and design savvy, they may likely recognize that theme, or even subconsciously realize that your site seems less professional than your competitor's site. Also, the quality of the code of your site is dependent on the quality of the Wordpress theme you choose, and that's pretty hit or miss. Another huge problem I have with Wordpress as a CMS is that it forces you to fit your content to the template/theme of the site, which is backwards. Content is the most important component of any site, and I feel that in order to maximize the effectiveness of your site, you need to develop the content first and design the site to display that content in the most effective way possible.

Matt Meeks
Matt Meeks

I think Wordpress is a great tool (with limitations) for individuals. If you're a consultant or you want to start a site to promote your expertise in a certain area, or create a site about a hobby or interest (and perhaps generate some income via affiliate marketing), it's unbeatable. Perhaps even if you're just starting your own business and can't afford to hire a professional to design and develop your site. However, if you have an established company and create your own website using Wordpress, I think you're making a big mistake. First of all, Wordpress, while being pretty easy to get set up and running, is difficult to really customize. Sure, you can tweak the design and layout to a degree, but the average person won't have tools like Photoshop/Fireworks to create custom images, nor will they have the expertise to create images that look professional. In addition, unless you're a serious developer with lots of experience with Wordpress and/or other CMS applications (although Wordpress is more of a pseudo-CMS), CSS and XHTML, you'll find it difficult to customize the site beyond changing the header image and perhaps colors. Most people end up choosing a theme they like and just leaving it at that. Which is fine, but then your site LOOKS like a Wordpress theme. For individuals or new companies, this may be fine, but in today's world where consumers and clients are increasingly web and design savvy, they may likely recognize that theme, or even subconsciously realize that your site seems less professional than your competitor's site. Also, the quality of the code of your site is dependent on the quality of the Wordpress theme you choose, and that's pretty hit or miss. Another huge problem I have with Wordpress as a CMS is that it forces you to fit your content to the template/theme of the site, which is backwards. Content is the most important component of any site, and I feel that in order to maximize the effectiveness of your site, you need to develop the content first and design the site to display that content in the most effective way possible.

OtherWebGuy
OtherWebGuy

I agree that Wordpress can be used for traditional types of Web sites rather than blogs, but, um, all of the sites to which you refer (with the exception of ouray ice park) are primarily blog sites. Just because you have three or four pages that are not part of your traditional blog does not make you a non-blog site. I wish you would have included better examples of traditional Web sites using Wordpress as a content management system, rather than just linking to blogs with other pages attached.

OtherWebGuy
OtherWebGuy

I agree that Wordpress can be used for traditional types of Web sites rather than blogs, but, um, all of the sites to which you refer (with the exception of ouray ice park) are primarily blog sites. Just because you have three or four pages that are not part of your traditional blog does not make you a non-blog site. I wish you would have included better examples of traditional Web sites using Wordpress as a content management system, rather than just linking to blogs with other pages attached.

The Redhead
The Redhead

@Darwin - Strides, indeed! There's no substitute for good content and I alluded to that in my post. Wonder why search engines can't find you? Not only that, but do you wonder why you have a 80%+ bounce rate and you can't convert clients? Yeah, your content sucks. Thanks for the inspiration - this will now be a 5 part series with a concluding piece on content. Thanks for stopping by!

The Redhead
The Redhead

@Darwin - Strides, indeed! There's no substitute for good content and I alluded to that in my post. Wonder why search engines can't find you? Not only that, but do you wonder why you have a 80%+ bounce rate and you can't convert clients? Yeah, your content sucks. Thanks for the inspiration - this will now be a 5 part series with a concluding piece on content. Thanks for stopping by!

The Redhead
The Redhead

@Matt Great points, and ones that Jason Nelson of Visual Adventures is going to discuss in his guest blog post coming up that covers CSS. You're right - WordPress powered sites aren't for everyone, and I agree completely - code quality is highly dependent on the theme you opt for. In the upcoming post covering themes, I'll discuss pros and cons of WordPress themes and those that consistently rise above when it comes to code quality. As well, content is hugely important - without it, you're either a pretty or ugly picture online. I'll be covering that in conjunction with theme and CSS considerations as well as from the plugin angle. Thanks for stopping by and for the great remarks.

The Redhead
The Redhead

@Matt Great points, and ones that Jason Nelson of Visual Adventures is going to discuss in his guest blog post coming up that covers CSS. You're right - WordPress powered sites aren't for everyone, and I agree completely - code quality is highly dependent on the theme you opt for. In the upcoming post covering themes, I'll discuss pros and cons of WordPress themes and those that consistently rise above when it comes to code quality. As well, content is hugely important - without it, you're either a pretty or ugly picture online. I'll be covering that in conjunction with theme and CSS considerations as well as from the plugin angle. Thanks for stopping by and for the great remarks.

The Redhead
The Redhead

@OtherWebGuy Thanks for your comment. In the posts following, there will be additional examples of more "traditional" sites powered by WordPress. The majority of my readers are familiar with the sites in the post, thus they were used as an example to show people that WordPress isn't just for straight "blog" sites. Rather, sites they know and visit frequently as well! Solid point, however, and one I've already taken into consideration. My guest blogger, Jason Nelson, will be covering that in-depth as well from a developer's standpoint. Here are some "traditional" samples to get you started and we'll look forward to hearing from Jason on additional examples: The Secret Garden Bed & Breakfast San Juan Realty, Inc.

The Redhead
The Redhead

@OtherWebGuy Thanks for your comment. In the posts following, there will be additional examples of more "traditional" sites powered by WordPress. The majority of my readers are familiar with the sites in the post, thus they were used as an example to show people that WordPress isn't just for straight "blog" sites. Rather, sites they know and visit frequently as well! Solid point, however, and one I've already taken into consideration. My guest blogger, Jason Nelson, will be covering that in-depth as well from a developer's standpoint. Here are some "traditional" samples to get you started and we'll look forward to hearing from Jason on additional examples: The Secret Garden Bed & Breakfast San Juan Realty, Inc.

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  3. [...] installment two in my WordPress Series will be published this Wednesday (catch installment one Three Reasons Your Website Sucks and One Simple Way to Fix It here), so if you haven’t subscribed, have a lookie-loo at the right hand side of this page [...]

  4. [...] installment one of this series (Three Reasons Your Website Sucks and One Simple Way to Fix It) garnered 16 comments and over 200 retweets. Damn. I guess you folks want me to write installment [...]

  5. [...] Website Design: Three Reasons Your Website Sucks and One Easy Fix | RedheadWriting redheadwriting.com/three-reasons-your-website-sucks-and-one-simple-way-to-fix-it – view page – cached Website design is tricky and there are many offenders, resulting in bad website design. Read for three reasons your design could improve and one easy solution. — From the page [...]

  6. [...] of Your Website Sucks, we’re rapping about WordPress plugins. By now, you’ve read about Three Reasons Your Website Sucks (and one simple fix), some awesome premium WordPress themes and the power that CSS brings to a WordPress-powered website [...]

  7. [...] ghetto websites and Angelfire rejects. It’s not expensive to have a solid website built (see Your Website Sucks) and whatever you spend will be worth it. Don’t walk into a Ferarri dealership asking what [...]

  8. [...] installment one of this series (Three Reasons Your Website Sucks and One Simple Way to Fix It) garnered 16 comments and over 200 retweets. Damn. I guess you folks want me to write installment [...]

  9. [...] of Your Website Sucks, we’re rapping about WordPress plugins. By now, you’ve read about Three Reasons Your Website Sucks (and one simple fix), some awesome premium WordPress themes and the power that CSS brings to a WordPress-powered website [...]

  10. [...] installment one of this series (Three Reasons Your Website Sucks and One Simple Way to Fix It) garnered 16 comments and over 200 retweets. Damn. I guess you folks want me to write installment [...]