It’s kind of a big day around here and not just because we can see the sun and it isn’t snowing for a change. Why are the corks popping about the house and the party favors distributed? This is the answer!
The new EddieSoft Photography site (link here) is now finished and released to the world. For the last 6 months at least, SmugMug (our chosen photography website provider) has been urging us to switch to their new framework. It took me awhile to get the first version up and running so going through that again didn’t really excite me. Kudos to their marketing team who managed to get a banner on my management portal nagging every day to get converted. This is the same banner that overrode my exit button whenever I looked at an image forcing me to use the back button on the browser – uber annoying but at least there was a workaround. The plan was to take on this project during the Christmas holidays but Project Chekov consumed all my free time instead. I put web work right up there with plumbing – only start when you have plenty of time and during Menards business hours. No matter how much you prepare, not matter how much you test and validate, Murphy is going to happen! Unlike plumbing, SmugMug did something quite awesome by allowing us to work on the new site without impacting the legacy site so our customers were not impacted in the least. Kudos for that feature but this did have an interesting side effect. If you wanted to have the legacy users see new content before the modified website was released, you had to be sure and use the legacy tools. This bit us when we created a new folder for a Dog Show Linda shot and it took us awhile to figure out why our customers couldn’t see it. Beyond that, the dual sites worked out quite well. For those not familiar with our legacy site, here is a screen cap of that.
That version also took awhile to get right but Linda wanted a more professional look to our business presence now that is getting orders on a regular basis. The main issue is that our legacy site was multi-purpose providing the engine behind this blog and any of our personal and family shots we wanted to share. We certainly didn’t want customers stumbling on these – ESPECIALLY the shots that enrich my non-photography blog entries since those can get a little edgy. Because of the heavy use of the site to host most of the 6+ years of blogging the biggest concern was breaking the links when we reorganized our galleries. Hat tip to SmugMug again for implementing a master identifier for the images. Even though the initial folder location is built into the external link, the image identifier is key into their database so as long as we used the proper link (which I did), any movement was transparent to the published link or in this case to anything referenced in the blog.
With that concern out of the way, it was on to figuring out the look and feel of the new site. Credit goes to Linda on this one. She scoured the internet and would send me samples of things she liked from the various templates she found. I just needed to figure out a way to implement that in the new SmugMug customization tools. Having done web programming in a former life, I can appreciate the difficulty in providing a flexible set of tools and templates that meets the needs of all their customers. Because of that experience, I am pretty accommodating of glitches and nuances encountered when trying to realize Linda’s concepts. For the most part everything went pretty easy. The master template was created with the preferred coloring and fonts and then started building all the individual links and required pages. The Home page was a piece of cake as well as the About, Pricing pages once the create pages feature was figured out – had to go into the organize area to make those new custom pages. The folder areas like the Browse, Portfolio, Dog Events, Portrait sessions etc. were slightly more difficult since I wanted a different look and feel beyond the standard template as well as hiding some of the folders. Once I broke them into separate customized folders instead of trying to use the master folder layout it went a lot better. Main problem was getting the thumbnails to look right and the order. After a bit of work those were all manipulated into a very close approximation of the original vision. All that was left was to figure out how to do the Blogging capabilities. Having used WordPress for a looong time I have expectations on how a blog toolset should work (LifeIntrigued is a breeze to manage thanks to that software). This is the area that SmugMug needs the most work. They really do not have a blog solution but rather a toolset to create pages that you can cobble into a blog. You literally have to create each blog entry from scratch – and an image section, add a text section, and this block and that block and eventually you have a page put together you can write your blog on. Hopefully they will improve this functionality in the future but with that said, let’s all welcome Linda to the wonderful world of blogging (link here).
I guess the biggest disappointment was the pre-built Contact page. Way too much time was spent trying to get that page to look right. Their pre-built page can be quickly added to your homepage link but it refused to inherit the overall site design master template. This prompted an online chat with the SmugMug Heroes who quickly informed me that page wasn’t customizable and recommended I build my own custom page – they confirmed my response that I was unable to make a page with the standard submit buttons and pre-filling of the user’s email address – why in the hell would they not allow you to do that!?! Who would want a contact page that didn’t match the rest of the site? Needless to say I left them with an enhancement request. The new contact page was created but forced to just give them the addresses to reach us rather than the customary email page.
Linda released the new website this morning! Take a look and let us know what you think. Best news of all is the LifeIntrigued blog had zero impact. Another project in the books.