Creating a photo website - part 4

Whoa, what gives? Yes, you are absolutely reading about a Wordpress-based photography site on a blog that is no longer based on Wordpress. I seemed to get a fair bit of traffic on my site from people wondering how to do this, so I am leaving these posts here for posterity. That said, the internet world has evolved quite a bit in the last four years, so I now use a system that is simpler in some ways, but immensely flexible. So read about this newer flat-file CMS approach as I document it over the next few months.

Version 1.0

So I decided to suck it up and learn html and css and all the other things you need to roll-your-own. But it was like being the person at the rear of the car trying to push it out of the mud. The car wasn’t going anywhere, and I was getting very muddy. I finally broke down and bought one of the “magic” software tools that promised to make website creation so easy a caveman could do it. I chose Adobe GoLive for no other reason except that it had a reputation among the online chattering classes as being more user-friendly than Dreamweaver. It was very graphical in nature, and I managed to cobble together a site that suited my design ideas a little better. Adding content was still a pain in the ass, because I essentially kept a complete copy of the website on my home computer and would drag and drop thumbnails onto each page and then try to make sure that they all linked to the proper full size image. Once that was done, I would upload all the changed files to the server, and hope I did not miss any links.

Was it usable? Yes. Was it attractive? Well, in a way. Functional was about as far as I would go. It had that same sturdy “damn-it, I’ll do it myself” esthetic that those flour-sack dresses had that you see in pictures from the Great Depression. Utilitarian, practical, and not much else. I learned a little about the ins and outs of creating and maintaining web sites - including making boneheaded mistakes like deleting the entire /html directory on my linux-hosted site (Note: not a good idea) .

What was good?

  • I did it myself
  • I did not have to pay someone else to do it
  • I learned something

What was bad?

  • I did it myself
  • It was sort of primitive - I mean, I like minimal sites for displaying art, but….
  • There were tons of beginner’s mistakes in it
  • As I learned more about html and css, it was clear that the code generated by GoLive was not that ‘efficient’
  • Updating galleries was a major PITA

Here is what the main page looked like: Clay Harmon Photo version 1.0

All in all, not too bad. It actually got recognized as “Website of the Month” by Black and White Photography magazine (the UK version). But what you don’t see is all the care and feeding it took to ensure that my thumbnail pages linked properly to the large photo pages. Adding content was not something done whimsically. And when I actually looked at the html code it generated, it was, well, ugly. It basically made tables. Now, I’m no expert html/css code jockey, but I had read enough to know that this approach can be hard to maintain, plus it is so 1998…

categories:  marketing, portfolio, presentation, web design