18.10.11

Four bloggings and a funeral... err website

Many years ago (April 2004 to be precise), I joined the Brighton and Hove Section of the Clarion Cycling Club and rather foolishly suggested they have a website, and guess who foolishly volunteered? So I produced a simple conventional website and updated it every fortnight, when our Captain would sent out the Circular outlining the next ride and including a report of the last ride. As people started buying digital cameras and sending me pictures, I set up a Flickr site so I wouldn't have to choose and process the photos for the website. Every other week I would update the website and manually archive the old ride reports and other sundry items.

The most important items were always the details of the forthcoming ride and the report of the last one. I was kicking myself, therefore, that I hadn't set it up as a blog! So, in January 2011 I bit the bullet and recreated the website as a Wordpress blog. The old website remains in cyberspace, as an archive. To move all the old posts into the blog would have been far too onerous.

Since then, in my semi-retirement, I've been helping various friends and acquaintances to get a web presence, if at all possible using blogs. Blogs can be easier than websites: they're easier to update, and you don't need to worry about hosting, ftp and all that jazz. So many times I've met people who have had a website designed for them by a friend-of-a-friend's daughter's boyfriend, only for them to disappear on a gap year when you need a telephone number changing. You are restricted in how you can customise them however. Just like you can't go to Primark and ask for a frock with different coloured buttons to the one on sale, so you have to put up with what the template offers. If you have exact specifications, you'll need a bespoke website and you'll have to pay someone if and when it needs updating.

The first guineapig was Hilary Ormesher who runs the trendy shop Appendage, in the North Laine. Initially we chose a Wordpress blog, but when the logo she'd had done didn't work as a banner, we switched to Blogger, which allowed any depth of banner. The hardest part of designing blogs, I've found is choosing the right template. Wordpress templates usually require an exact header size, eg 900 x 200 px. When Hilary first came round for a tutorial, she didn't know what a mouse was, but now (with the help of her son) she's happily doing updates and uploading images. I'm hands off now, which suits me - and the client.

I've also set up a blog for glass jewellery designer Annie McCabe. This too is a Wordpress blog but it was only when we'd uploaded a few postings that we discovered that the template we'd chosen (MistyLook) only displayed summaries - with no images - when a catagory or tag was selected, the basis for making the menu work. That was no good at all for something so visual, so we switched to Clean Home. (In case you've come across this problem, here is a list of ones that do and don't.) I also discovered that it is difficult to place images side by side, unless you invoke the complicated 'gallery' option. But there's often a way round these hurdles.

The fourth blog I set up recently was for my singing group, this time in Blogger. I'd sorted out and updated the static website of my singing teacher Udita and used that as the basis for the blog. Here the blog format is not ideal, as chronological postings like videos and audio files will appear scattered about the place. When we have a domain, I may well point it at the About page, and change the Home page (the actual blog part) to News.

Finally, a friend of a friend in London, wanted me to sort out her website, The White Chair. For some mysterious reason I've yet to fathom, she couldn't upload it to the host. She didn't even have the original html files, so I recreated the website, based on an InDesign file. Thankfully it was pretty simple, with few images and it's not the sort of site to need updating very often. It's for a funeral celebrant!

By the way, if you fancy having a go at designing your own blog or website, there's a brilliant book just out called How to design websites. It does exactly what it says on the cover.
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