Sunday, November 25, 2007

Web Site Development Headaches

Someone once commented that my website looked like something out of the early 90's, and of course they were right. It's a hodge podge of blogspot for this, my blog, smugmug for my images because it could move images around painlessly which my prev. flash template site couldn't do and is friendlier to a variety of screen sizes, and some very basic pages developed with an html generator Called WebDesign from Rage.

With my rheumatoid arthritis slowing me down and the book finished and winter coming, it seemed like a good time to start working on a real website. I have been checking out various template sites from clicpic to various web designers. It looked like I was looking at $2000 for a commercially developed site, a lot less for a template but without the flexibility, and that left using Dreamweaver to build it myself.

I realized this was no walk in the park, but over three years I wrote my own medical office software including clinical notes, appointments, lab, documents and so on, all together more than 150,000 lines of code, so you'd think that I could put together a website.

I picked up "Dreamweaver For Dummies" and started reading. Part way through the book I thought it might be time to get Dreamweaver and went to the Adobe site - $1000! (UPDATE: Chuck has correctly pointed out that this was he price for a package, Dreamweaver itself is $399).

I went back to my reading, thinking I'd at least have a better idea of what I am looking at whether by myself or getting it commercially. I also had a look again at Webdesign to see if it could do what I needed, all be it without the sophistication of Dreamweaver.

I was aware that with hundreds of images and wanting to avoid fixed size templates, I would really need a database of images. Turns out that means I have to learn SQL, oh and PHP or such. I'd also need XML and CSS, and don't forget Java. In the old days if I learned this many languages, someone would give me a degree for the effort.

This is starting to look downright arcane.

I'm curious to hear how others have solved this problem.

16 comments:

Tim Gray said...

Once you want to do commerce, the whole perspective changes and (depending if you actually generate revenue from the site) you'd probably be better served with by a consultant. Lightroom has all the Database I need and churns out decent galleries. I've just switched from JAlbum. My home page is basically just a way to navigate to the specific galleries. www.timgrayphotography.com pretty primitive, but simple and easy to maintain.

Tom Husband said...

I've been thinking about using one of the open source CMS programs out there for a photo site. I've looked at Joomla and Drupal but am thinking I might use Wordpress. I think with a few tweaks (famous last words) you can make it into a decent CMS with a static home page. We have a simple travel blog now on Wordpress but I read more and more that folks are using WP as Content Management Software.

Dreamweaver is out of my league. I've used Net Objects Fusion before but think it might be a little behind the times now.

Anyway I'd be interested in what you come up with.

Regards,

Tom
http://california-travels.com/

chuck kimmelre said...

George,

Dreamweaver is "only" $399US from what I can find on the Adobe website. Not cheap, but definitely not $1000. Perhaps you were looking at one of the suites?

I did my site in Dreamweaver, but kept it so simple it would have been easy to do in almost any package. I made the decision to stick with straight HTML rather than use PHP, MySQL, or Flash. One, it keeps it simpler. Two, I could do it myself with no learning curve.

The next iteration I work on will be designed with CSS so that I can make design changes on ALL pages with one simple code change. I just hafta learn how!

Whatever you do, George. Keep it simple.

George Barr said...

Chuck is absolutely right - I had found the lowest price "package" but in fact Dreamweaver on it's own is $399, making it substantially more practical.

match grun said...

I'm thinking of doing the same thing for a web site. I am trying to decide between Flash (using SimpleViewer) and AJAX (using Lightbox) for display of pages. These are both template systems that use XML files to describe images in a catalog.

For shopping cart, you can always link to a site that offers a hosted cart - take a look at shopify.com for that.

Alternatively, you could used ZenCart; this has templates that allow you to create a catalog of images with minimal coding.

Hope the above gives you some ideas.

Although I am a software developer in a company doing web based deployment of applications, I want to do the simplest web site that does not require custom coding.

I have used Dreamweaver in the past. However, as a software developer I have never liked it. I think it is more suited for use by a web designer. You also need a lot of horsepower and memory to get started.

Joe Lipka said...

I did my own website. I enrolled at a local community college course on web design to learn Dreamweaver. At that point, I became a "student" and was eligible to purchase software with an academic discount. The $399 US dropped to less than $100.

Learning Dreamweaver is not a real big deal. Most of it is drag and drop. The two hurdles that you have to overcome are image preparation and functionality. You seem to have the image preparation down pretty good from just looking at your blog. The functionality is the tough part. You have to decide what you want your web site to do and how viewers navigate through the site. This is not computer work at all, but logic and thought.

Shaun O'Boyle said...

George, it depends on what you want to do with your site, do you have a site you like and want to model yours after? Do you want search capabilities? e-commerce capabilities?
I use dreamweaver for my site design and maintenance, but it's a pretty simple site, no dynamic content, no php or mysysql databases. The most sophisticated elements I have on my pages are tables and html links. But I think this is for the best, pages load fast (considering the image sizes), and html pages will get crawled by the search engines so people can find you if you use a lot of text with your photographs, and this is more difficult to have done if you have a dynamic database driven site. You will need more computer horsepower if you go database driven since each page is generated on the fly. Dreamweaver is pretty easy to use for basic page creation, but can get pretty sophisticated if you need it to.

doonster said...

Kjell Andersen (of the lentic blog) has been playing with pdf presentations.

I'd be tempted to go with a mix of basic CSS, HTML and pdf galleries. Simple, cheap and effective. Too much modern web design is style over content, IMO.

Greg said...

George,

I went through the same struggles that you are facing right now (about two years ago). I have tried many different software packages and services but always found a few things that restricted me or made me do more work than I would expect. Currently I use SmugMug as well but find it really hard to do what I want ...you can see my website at latoga.com.

One of my frustration is that there are multiple places that I want to share my photos at, but I don't want to have to upload them multiple times.

I have been in the process of solving this problem for the past year...by creating my own photo sharing and management service. FocalPower will start limited alpha testing in the next few weeks of our professional grade photo hosting and management system. While this won't solve your problem of building a website (yet) it will solve your problem of hosting images and give you more flexibility that the majority of the services out there.

More information will be coming soon on the website and blog. Let me know (via website) if you want to know more about the alpha...

Jakub said...

Flash page is the worst You can get. Probably it will look good on Your machine, but only there.
I usually ignore flash pages, because they are taking only 1/3 of my monitor space, couldn't make fonts bigger, copy a part of text, or reccomend a photo to a friend by sending him a direct link to it.
I ma an IT specialist and people with IT knowledge disregard flash. If You want to change Your website I recommend You to look into CSS/HTML solutions. It is not an coincidence that google has choosen it.

match said...

Here is another site that offers website templates.

http://allwebcodesign.com/setup/cool-2.htm

Sue Jenkins said...

To reiterate what Joe Lipka said, if you can prove you have taken a class (even a 1 day seminar) within the past 3-6 months, then you might qualify to purchase "Educationally discounted software" from a licenced vendor like JourneyEd.com or nubscc.com for around $195.

As the author of "Dreamweaver For Dummies All-in-One Desk Reference" I thoroughly enjoy building websites with Dreamweaver. On the other hand, if you need CMS and don't know PHP or other programming languages, WordPress + tweaking might be the roubust solution you are seeking.

Visit the Luckychair Blog at http://www.luckychair.com/wordpress/

Best,
Sue Jenkins
Web Designer, Author, and Software Instructor
Luckychair.com

Dave said...

George -

I believe you use a Mac, right? Take a look at RapidWeaver and see if it'll fit your needs.

thechrisproject said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thechrisproject said...

I started a reply, but it got long, so I posted it on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Write Up!
ZenCart Flash Website Templates