I woke up early this afternoon and discussed my design progress with Helaine. The site was just not looking right and I was considering throwing it all away–three full days of work. Unfortunately, it was becoming obvious more work wouldn’t fix my problems.
“I know that’s what you want to do,” she said. She didn’t encourage me to restart, but she didn’t discourage me either.
I bit the bullet and opened Putty, my SSH client. Putty resembles an old school terminal screen–black and white with no graphics. It’s powerful because Putty allows me to control the remote server. The commands are short and powerful. You can accidentally do a lot of damage with Putty!
mv site old_site
With that cryptic command three days of work was moved to the Internet equivalent of a railroad siding. Everything was intact but now out-of-the-way. I then created a new site directory, a new database and reinstalled a fresh copy of WordPress. It didn’t take more than ten minutes to have a fresh website.
Fresh and empty.
Last night I found Mimbo, a WordPress theme. I download a copy and activated it. These website condiments are small and download in a few seconds. Now I had the makings of a website.
Mimbo is touted as a ‘magazine’ theme. It isn’t made for blogging even though WordPress is primarily blogging software. It ‘ages’ entries in various categories independently of each other. It has room for an unbloglike ‘sticky’ entry which will remain prominently displayed even as new content slips beneath it.
Designing a website is conceptual. You need to think about how each piece will relate and interact with all the others. That is the part I was most confident about. It’s good to be naive!
By late afternoon the site was coming together nicely. Mimbo took care of most of my presentation worries. I customized its look. The polka dots at the top of this entry are part of the site’s background. Amazingly the pages look good! My main concern from the previous iteration was gone.
Now I was ready to install the key component of this site–the ability for users to create the content destined for the home page. The plugin didn’t work. It literally did nothing. I poured over forums and the sparse documentation that came with it.
The real shortcoming of free software isn’t how it works but how you learn to use it. Those who write software are seldom adept at telling others how to use it. I suspect a huge percentage of the best stuff in software is never used because no one knows it’s there.
I opened Putty again and made some changes to the inner workings of my web server. It was only a few lines of code–really someone else’s work cut and pasted. Immediately the plugin worked! My submission form was live.
I started to add dummy content to the site. These are entries that contain nonsense text. It looks like English but actually has no real words which might distract you. Online “Lorem generators” provide this stuff!
It only looks like Latin! It’s gibberish.
Tonight I showed the incomplete site to a few friends. Most seemed suitably impressed.
It’s getting close. The next few dozen steps are cosmetic. Stylesheets will be tweaked. Some underlying HTML code will have to be reworked. In my dreams this doesn’t take long. In reality who knows?
Sometime in the next few days I’ll be asking for your help. In order for this site to go live it will need lots of user generated content. I’ll save the specifics for later.
This is a little one-man-band website. I take that back. It’s a one-woman-band website because it’s my wife’s and she will administer it.
It will not cure cancer. It will not compete with Yahoo! or Google. It has potential.