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About This Site


Developing My Own Website?

My content really isn't suited to social media like Facebook. I've tried free "groups" at sites like Yahoo. They are easy enough to use but limiting in what you can do with them. And I'm often not connected to the internet during the time I have to compose content. Finally, there are matters like the weird URLs you often end up with using those choices.

As an alternative, I recently took a hard look at content management and blogging software systems like WordPress and Joomla. While they are popular and powerful, they are not intuitive and they seem, to me, to require too much time to use for my kind of content.

In the end, it just seems more efficient for me to create content pages and updated menu lists when it suits me and then upload the completed material via FTP. And so, I choose to "roll my own".

My Objectives:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to maintain
  • Fast response
  • Reasonably attractive
Hosting:

Long ago I chose to purchase website hosting serivices and my own domain name. I did that through IX Web Hosting who offer free domain registration and reasonable cost (about $4.00/mo). The account was absurdly easy to set up and get going. I use their hosting plan called "Expert", with a two-year contract. The account included unlimited disk space, bandwidth and domains, a decent interface, tons of e-mail addresses, web mail, 24/7 support and one free domain registration.

I use Smart FTP for copying pages I create on my laptop up to my website. The software works great. Using simple drag and drop I can load single files or a whole website simply and quickly.

Page Editing:

I've done a tiny bit of hand coded HTML but wanted something easier and faster. I mainly use KompoZer, an open-source, WYSIWYG freeware package to produce some of my HTML. I also use CoffeeCup's Free HTML Editor much of the time and I supplement that with Notepad++ for editing structured text.

I've finally switched to using external CSS style sheets and PHP includes to simplify my site maintenance chores. On this site, one style sheet controls the overall look of all pages. The PHP is used to include a single menu file, in the form of an unordered list, across all pages on the site as well as a couple of other pieces of HTML. A second style sheet controls the behavior and appearance of the menu system. I was able to utilize free style sheets I found on the web so I didn't really have to learn too much about CSS to make it work for me.

Navigation:

I switched to a new menu system for this redo of the site. It is an attempt to enable the reader to get to any page on the site with a single click. That ideal may fall apart if the site eventually gets too big.

Because most of the site's content consists of extended naratives I also added "Previous-Page/Next-Page" links wherever they make sense. I makes a HUGE improvement for readers who want to move through the narratives. I wish there was an easy way to automate creating them but I haven't found a way to do so within my limited skill set. I did, at least, make a spreadsheet that calculated the actual link code. It helped speed along the rewrite process and reduced my tendency to make errors.

Pictures and Graphics:

I got into digital photography relatively early. Small is good as far as I'm concerned and I've used a succession of Canon's point-and-shoot cameras. While not perfect they do what I need and are almost always with me when I need them.

For picture editing I mostly use the free Microsoft Windows Live Photo Gallery for simple color corrections and cropping. For more advanced graphics, I use Corel's Paint Shop Pro.

Videos:

I started doing videos as a way to present photo recaps of our ski trips to our Nordic ski club, The Kick 'n Gliders. Starting out with Microsoft's MovieMaker, I quickly moved to the more capable Roxio product, VideoWave. That's the product I used to create the HD "Tin Tent Tour" video. Since that time I've moved on to the still more capable, and more stable, CyberLink product, PowerDirector.

Website Organization:

Setting up a rational system of folders on the site helps immensely to manage the hundreds of files that make up the site. There is a folder for each section of the site ... Bahamas Bound, Tin Tent Tour, etc. Every section folder contains its own index page and "pics" folder for all the graphics that are used in that section. I've tried very hard to not have multiple instances of any code or images. All files are named in ways that make their purpose/content easy to understand.

... and so ...

I'm on my own for the "reasonably attractive" part. I certainly have no special artistic design skills. I just hope that what I've done provides a good reading experience for you!

I'll certainly entertain your suggestions for tools and techniques!

Bill Stine