It’s difficult to type right now because I decided to run my bandsaw blade part of the way through my right middle finger Sunday afternoon. Thank goodness it was just the ¼” blade. I hate having to sand blood off a project.
I just went through a huge web site overhaul this week. It was a big decision to commit the time, but the results were worth the effort. When I started Appalachian Craftsmen last year, I needed to get an e-commerce site up rather quickly. I flashed back seven years ago when I spent a couple weeks hand coding my Closet Dreams web site and didn’t want to go through that again. So I went looking at options and found a neat web hosting company at www.pagebuzz.com. They had a quick and dirty solution with pre-made templates and a shopping cart that links to the major merchant accounts including PayPal. I had a fully operational e-commerce site up and running in a couple of days.
In the fall came my craft show business, DGM Woodworks. I just wanted a blog format so my existing and potential show customers could see what I’m doing and what new products are available. I signed up another host account on Pagebuzz to handle the content, but because they don’t have blog capabilities, it was a little tedious building a page for every entry. I just wasn’t happy with this process. I also was not fond of the template selections. They have a lot, but they all look too similar.
During this time I started playing with Blogger and Wordpress. I fell in love with the blogging software, and after using both for a while I decided that I preferred Wordpress. Blogger is a little simpler, but Wordpress is more powerful. The problem with the free Wordpress offering is that you cannot take advantage of the thousands of third-party templates and plugins that give you all the bells and whistles. The dedicated server-based version of Wordpress is needed to get to the next level. Fortunately, there are numerous hosting companies out there that provide Wordpress server based software. It’s included for free with the hosting account.
After searching through a dizzying array of hosting providers, I finally signed up with HostGator. It was just $9.95 per month, Linux-based, and came with Wordpress. I essentially did one click, and Wordpress was installed for me. I also got FTP and POP3 which I didn’t have at Pagebuzz. They also allow unlimited domain hosting so I can use the three domains I own on one server for one price. After Wordpress was installed, I pointed my domain at their servers, found some free template candidates from a web search, and I was up and running with DGM Woodworks. It was then just a matter of getting my content back up. I was previously running Google Analytics with all my sites, and as luck would have it, I found a Google Analytics plugin for Wordpress that I quickly installed on the site.
I decided that I wanted to move Appalachian Craftsmen over also. HostGator has a shopping cart and web building software. However, as with Pagebuzz, I couldn’t find a template that I liked. So one day I was searching the web for Wordpress plugins and I discovered an e-commerce plugin from http://www.instinct.co.nz. The plugin was free, but the shopping cart was $25. Ok, I’ll bite. It was everything they said it was.
Now, I can honestly say that this is not exactly a “plug and play” solution. Everything installed correctly, and without errors, but I had a couple small issues that I had to get their tech support involved in. Fortunately, they responded within 30 minutes to all my questions, and provided a solution for a few buggy issues. I was up and running in a day. It was long day, and I was mentally drained at the end of it. Of course. a little brown whiskey got me re-focused. I’m not a Linux person, and I had to dig deep to remember details from my UNIX days (It’s been a long time). I had to change the file permission on the folders to get my uploaded pictures to display. This was after I called my younger brother, who is a Linux person, for help. He promptly pointed out that I was either stupid or getting senile in my old age, then told me what the problem was. I also had to make some minor changes to some of the script files (PHP). I didn’t call him back on this one, because I figured I was stupid after all, and did a Google search for the answer.
One of the many features of Wordpress is the ability to control user comments. I have it set so that I have to approve all comments before they are posted. The system emails me every time I have a comment on a post. Two days after I went live, I started getting emails on comments that needed to be approved or denied. The comments were spam from Russia trying to post porn sites. They would not display until I approved them, but the 10 – 20 emails I was getting each day was a little aggravating. So off I went, looking for a solution, which presented itself as another plugin. After a 30 second install, I set it to black list all emails with a .ru (Russia), and I haven’t received a comment from those guys since.
Overall, I am very happy with the results. I love Wordpress and I now feel that I have a setup that is very easy to manage. I have all the statistical information feeding into Google Analytics so I can see the traffic and where it is coming from for both sites. I also installed another plugin the other day that gives me far more control over picture grouping than the Wordpress default one. Call it what you want, but Wordpress is a pretty flexible animal. Web or blog? Who cares as long as it works.
-- I don't make mistakes, only design changes....www.dgmwoodworks.com