Category Archives: Web and Web Design

Topics related to Web Sites and Web Site Design

Website Design With WordPress And Photocrati

I’ver been working with the WordPress program and the theme/template from Photocrati for a couple of weeks now and I have what I think is a very passable site. So far, I have been able to finalize the Main Menu System, the Major Galleries, the About Me pages, the Equipment and Techniques page, the Contact page, and I’ve made starts on the Print Sales page, and the Shopping Cart system. That seems pretty good as I didn’t have a clue as to how this whole thing worked when I began.

OK. So, it was not a walk in the park! No, not a simple or even an easy task at all. The learning curve is very steep for a beginner and though I have extensive computer skills to back me up, including being a former programmer and applications developer, it was/is still difficult. It would have been far worse if I didn’t have some skills. Mine are obviously outmoded now, but I won’t get into all of that right now.

I mentioned before that I had a great deal of difficulty familiarizing my self with the database product that is used to manage the site – MySQL. It is still a thing of great mystery to me. Short of going out and buying or finding books that teach me the whole PHP language, the database construction and its syntax, I have really been on my own. I didn’t go into learning an entire new set of programs or the language that runs them as I truly expected some relatively easy to follow instructions somewhere either on the Hosting Site, or on the WordPress site, or failing those venues, on the Photocrati site (at least as it relates to their product.) Not very much information was provided at all.

Not, at least, information that would be useful to me as a beginner. Very probably, the information that I was able to find would have been much more understandable for one who has been through most of this before. But, that is not who I am!

I have to say, to be completely fair, the Photocrati – Themes for Photographers site does provide a good deal of information. There are videos that can be accessed both at their site and on YouTube. There are FAQs and a Member’s Area as well, but the information does not go into the details that are necessary for a full understanding of the product or its operation. It is a beautiful product, and the results that can be achieved using it are nothing short of wondrous, but it does take a level of knowledge that I don’t believe is posessed by the average beginner to website building. I don’t know, maybe I expect too much! But I am a person who likes things to be made crystal-clear, particularly if a product is aimed at beginners.

Special Note: On Thursday, March 6, I contacted Photocrati for some help via their email system. I was having trouble with an eCommerce gallery (which is one of the galleries that Photocrati builds easily and quickly, usually without a hitch at all.) Drew, from Photocrati got back in touch with me after looking at my site and suggested a fix right away. It was something that I thought I had tried before but which didn’t work (actually, I hadn’t tried it, only thought I did since I had tried so many other things.) He was 100% correct and, not only that but he got back to me in less than 15 minutes with that correction! I couldn’t be happier!

Drew also told me that the Help System is undergoing a complete rebuild as they have been holding off on that prior to making some major changes in their templates. So far, it is going into place bit-by-bit and should soon be more helpful than I have indicated in these pages. UUUURHHA!

Rather Long Aside
I also have to be fair to the people who work and maintain the WordPress software. These people provide an incredible piece of Free software that does great things right out of the box (or the air, as it happens) and they do so out of personal dedication and because they can! I can’t!

I have been ranting about the difficulty that I find using all of the products mentioned here, but without them, I would still be stuck with my old site (which was OK for what it is, but really is very, very basic as it was a first website and I was really a clueless beginner when I built it). If you would like to see just what a really clueless web author, using some pretty great and Free tools can produce, it is here: This Beautiful World

OK, so having said that, I have to say that the people at the WordPress Site certainly have an extensive support base which includes installation, lessons, troubleshooting, forums and a host of other helpful information that is there just to assist those like myself.

If I find it dense and difficult, well that is my problem. But, the more I work in the system, the more I understand and the more helpful the material which they provide becomes.
End of the Aside

But muddling along, however, experimenting with different methods, trying things over and over, eventually does bring one to a decent understanding as to how all of these products, programs, and languages work. And, a very capable and complete site can eventually be built and implemented.

One very good thing is that WordPress installs faultlessy with my host’s One-Button-Install, and the very first (really, the only) thing that is produced is a very competent and feature-rich Blogging site. And, of course, that mystery-of-mysteries, the My-SQL database. After that, there are numerous free themes/templates that one can use to flesh-out the basic site – these come with the WordPress installation. Other templates are available free or for reasonable prices from third-party developers. You can find them on the web by searching for WordPress Templates.

There is also what amounts to an almost uncountable number of plug-ins that can accomplish almost any task or implement almost any feature that one could desire in a site. Some charge for the plug-ins – these are written by third-party-developers who are in business, after all – so that is quite understandable, but a good many are free. For the most part, the free ones are somewhat limited versions of the Pro level products, but they are useful “as is” and the pro versions generally simply add features not present in the free versions, and some may come with more support from the authors.

These are very easy to find, install, activate, and test. They are also easy to delete when and if they don’t work out or if they fail to do exactly what one wants to accomplish in using them.

Though some of these plug-ins are simplicity itself to setup and use, others take a level of understanding that is akin to that of figuring out the whole WordPress-SQL-Theme/Template system in the first place. Most of the instructions, when there are any, are not written for beginners but for those who have some experience in website administration at the very least. Still “. . . Perseverance Pays,” as the I Ching tells us!

Play around with this stuff long enough, try as many different approaches as you can think of, go to the authors for as much support as you can get, and you will come up with a site that is pretty, fast, capable, informative, and feature rich. It is probably not as difficult as I am making it sound here. It might just be a case of my being too close to it all – but that is how one builds a website.

And if you can’t build a website structure-by-structure, page-by-page, then you probably should go ahead and fork over the bucks to a professional web developer because, if not, you either won’t get one built, or you’ll have something that is a candidate for The 25 Worst WebSites Ever!

Getting to Know . . . Photocrati!

Since I am just beginning to use the Photocrati Themes For Photographers, I am not really in a position to do an in-depth review of the themes or, really, to discuss their ease-of-use. Instead, this short piece will simply talk about first impressions. I think that is fair. When I have gone much deeper into the use of the theme, I will be able to say much more about it, give meaningful criticism – good or bad, as the case may be – and, ideally, make recommendations regarding the product.

First, in case anyone reading this page would like to see the product, the company, their glowing words, and the fine work they turn out, their URL is Photocrati – Themes For Photographers!.

I have to say, the theme and the different combinations of design that can be accomplished is really quite staggering. Using the one theme which the company provides allows well over (or at least) 60 different looks/styles of design. This, along with the many customizable features (which are easily selectable from the interface) or which can be custom coded if you are so inclined, gives what might be an infinite number of different sites that one could create.

But, is it simple? Well, I have to say, it depends!

If you are an absolute neophyte at web building, then it is not simple in the least. If you know a little bit, you can get by, particularly if you are a fast learner and don’t mind experimenting and doing things over-and-over until you get it right. The latter is my style. I did look at the instructions for the Quick Set Up and tried to get them going but found that there is some assumption of knowing more than I do. Eventually, I got the Quick Set Up site building instructions to work up a fairly good looking basic site. I also did some viewing of video tutorials and reading which has been only just a little helpful, really. These limitations are strictly my own, your milage may vary, as the saying goes!

If you have pretty fair knowledge of web-building techniques using WYSIWYG or template driven design products, you’ll cruise! If you are an all-out whizz at writing HTML and designing web-sites, then you probably don’t want or need this product except to save a great deal of time!

Depending on when you are reading this piece, you might be looking at the very early starts that I’ve made. I suspect that, as I become more able to use the product, my site will evolve and, I hope, it will be a good-looking and easy one to use. Speaking of my getting more able to use the product, I have found that it gets easier and easier to do the things that I want, once I have figured out the basics of the WordPress system and the Photocrati themes. For my skill level, however, this figuring-out the basics has been a pretty steep climb. But, as I remember from perusing the I-Ching back in the 60’s, “Perseverence Pays!”

I will say that anyone who is looking for a really flexible template/theme product which can (in the right hands) produce a truly beautiful and useful site, should take a good look at the Photocrati product. It is relatively inexpensive at $79.00 with full support and all updates for 1 year from the purchase date.

That last does not mean that, when the year is up, you can’t continue to use the product because you can! And, you can use it for an unlimited number of sites either personal or for others (as far as I know.) If you want to be sure of more support, it is $39.00 for an additional year.

Furthermore, you don’t have to show their logo or any reference to their product in the completed site! I think the company is pretty liberal in their terms considering that the new business model calls for renting out software. If you don’t pay up at the conclusion of your term, you are summarily cut off! More and more companies (from editing software, to virus protection and more,) are moving in that direction, so it is refreshing to find one that still gives a person a fair deal.

OK. So, till I get more inspiration to review this product further, and depending on how great a site I manage to develop using it, I’ll leave it at that and say “Goodnight All!” KDR

On MySQL

Getting the site up, which means installing wordpress, has not been easy so far. There is a great deal more to know that I had to learn at my old site. I have had to use the MySQL database sytem and it is like no database that I have used before.

I used to be a programmer and applications developer in a corporation that I established and ran. I primarily wrote such business programs as Inventory Control, Accounting Software, Human Resources, Back-End Systems for an Automotive Customer Retention system,  Video Rental Systems, and Chiropractic Office Management Programs.

I used fourth-generation programs and their database products – which were,  at first,  dBase, then FoxBase and FoxBase Pro.   I also utilitzed Clarion which was a fully compilable program environment while the others had to utilize a run-time module and only became compilable in the last versions that I saw before retiring from that business.

Those databases were very straight-forward in their commands and the syntax of their language was easily readable and understandable. It was almost English with a lot of punctuation thrown in.

The same cannot be said of MySQL! Not by a long shot. It is dense with syntax and will require a great deal of study on my part if I am to utilize its power in even a very small way.   I cannot say that the Host Site has provided sufficient tools to make the job easier (but I have not fully investigated the matter.)   What I have seen is that it seems to have a very steep learning curve – and this is to accomplish even the simplest tasks.

I spent at least 1 1/2 hours in online chat with a support staff person last evening trying to log into the database, establish new passwords, and make an administrator record.

Granted,  I had to wait around 10 or so minutes for each question to be answered, and then it was answered as if each word cost the host service money,  which made things all the more difficult but I did accomplish my tasks.

The next job is to install the template system that I have decided upon and purchased. I couldn’t see the benefit of using any of the hosts’ freely provided templates which are primarily blogging site software templates – such as the one that I am using right now (at the time of writing this piece). By the time you might be reading it, I will probably have my Gallery site up and running.  I have in mind a complete gallery system with online sales capabilities,  slide-shows and multiple portfolios. That, obviously, will be my next project – building the web site.

I have purchased a product from a company which makes Photographer Specific templates that are customizable in over 60 different ways.  I’ll be working with it over the next weeks and hope that it provides everything that I need or want. It promises to do so and is backed with a 30 day money back gaurantee. It is also supported and upgraded for a period of 1 year from purchase.

It comes from Photocrati (I’ll publish the URL in future blogs but first, I want to get started with it so that I can also review it here.)

Stay tuned in (if anyone is watching, that is) and I’ll have more to say and more to show in the near future.

On Installing WordPress

This is the first use of  WordPress®  for me. I have determined that the Flickr gallery/sharing system is no longer an ideal solution for showing my photography since their interface has been undergoing so very many changes recently.

Because of this, I have decided that I need my own site and it must be more accessable than the site I’ve been using,   This Beautiful World  which uses the Flickr content and the  Fluid-R Gallery®  (a very beautiful and rich, third-party theme).

But,  Flickr®  has instituted so many changes that most third-party software programmers cannot keep abreast of them all and, consequently, their software cannot keep up.

These changes have made it very unwieldy, almost impossible to navigate with the justified page view (which was instituted, I assume, in order to make the system more enjoyable for those using tablets and smart phones.)

The company (Yahoo) has decided that they would do away with the Pro account and offer everyone unlimited storage, and unlimited loads but would put advertisements into their pages. Pro accounts will continue until they are timed-out, and then revert to these advertising-driven-free-accounts.

The current iteration of the program is unwieldy, and very prone to errors (bugs) which the company is aware of and which it attemtpts to fix.  But the company is not responsive either to the needs of the administers of the groups, which are the heart and soul of Flickr and which have made it what it was (before these massive changes occured,) or to its exhibitors.

Of course, companies are driven to produce the most profit possible and Yahoo is no exception. But, in their haste to make Flickr profitable (above the subscription prices of the many thousands if not millions, of Pro account holders) they are losing some of the very best photographers who were the reason that most people used and viewed their system.

I have determined that I must publish my own gallery and sales site. The site will be under construction for an indeterminate time but this first blog post is its introduction and I hope that the site will quickly follow.

I intend to purchase a template system and institute my site using the WordPress software. I hope that the learning curve is not too steep and that my gallery/site will be up soon.

Please check back in a week or two and see if I have made progress and please contact me about any problems/design errors or compliments if you have any. I will put up contact information shortly. In the meantime, you can write of any problems, or just let me know how you like/dislike the new site, in the comment box below! Thanks for your interest and your visit.

Thanks for visiting, Kevin Renz