Moving My Web

   Getting your stuff on the web can lead down many expensive dead ends, but I think I'm finally getting close to my ideal web interface after all these years. Here are some of the big hurdles, and how I got over them. But first, is anyone old enough to remember one of those first Mac ads back in the mid-'80's where a stern looking guy says "I use a Mac because it helps me do what I do best. And I don't do computers!" Remember him? Well, that guy is me. I never did DOS, and I don't want to learn HTML or CSS, as I said earlier. I have other things to do with my life.

   I could hire a web development company (that's what I once did) to build the Original Green site, the Katrina Cottages site, the New Urban Guild site, the Guild Foundation site, and the Mouzon Design site. At $5-10K per site, I'd be out enough money to buy a car or two. But that's not the worst of it. Every web developer I've ever worked with has been really nice. Two were even good friends. But every time I wanted to add something or change something, I had to go to them, get on their schedule, and then pay them to make the change. Both during initial site development and forever thereafter, it required more of my time (a lot more, actually) to have them get it exactly the way I wanted it than it would take me to just do it myself... If I had the proper tools. So going the conventional route of hiring someone is now out.

   So what are the tools? I used iWeb for years, and it was crucial to the development of the Original Green idea. Without it, the idea would likely still just a warm fuzzy in my mind. But with it, it's a cause with hopes of graduating into a movement, and it has thousands of supporters spread over every continent except maybe Antarctica. The Katrina Cottages site, meanwhile, has languished because it was built conventionally by an HTML guru in a way that is painful to modify as noted above. So it has not been modified since 2007. Yet it gets more hits than any other site I've got... By far. Imagine how much good we could have done with Katrina Cottages had I taken the time to rebuild it in iWeb years ago.

   But iWeb was never perfect. Its biggest Achilles heel was its unfriendliness to search engines. Simply put, it allowed novices to create beautiful sites better than any other tool, it was a pleasure to use, but then your site was unlikey to be found by Google. Original Green Blog posts, followed by dedicated adherents to the cause, normally get a few hundred readers. But posts on my Posterous blog frequently got a few thousand, even though I promoted my Posterous site less and they're more general in nature... presumably because Posterous is far more Googlicious.

   All that doesn't matter now, because Apple is essentially killing iWeb with neglect, and with the demise of MobileMe. After getting over the denial of losing iWeb, and then after a lengthy search and evaluation period, I settled on Sandvox as the web development tool with more of iWeb's strengths than any other current tool, but with other strengths where iWeb had weaknesses like strong SEO (search engine optimization) tools built right into Sandvox. There are a few other utilities and resources that round out Sandvox capabilities into a system that really works for me:

   CSSEdit is a nifty utility that let's me see the effects of changes I'm thinking of making in my Sandvox themes without having to know the underlying coding. At $25 or so, it paid for itself almost immediately.

   WebINK serves up a ton of fonts using an HTML thing known as "@font-face." It may sound like a juvenile insult, but it allows you to use the fonts you want without having to resort to "web-safe" fonts, most of which are dreadfully ugly and boring.

   Photoshop is essential for developing the graphics and modifying the photos. OK, so there are others, but Photoshop is the best.

   Once I create a graphic, I used to open it in Preview and re-save it. This strips out all the Photoshop baggage, leaving just the raw graphic, often saving half the file size (or more, for small images.) the smaller your graphics are (while still being beautiful - a balancing act) the faster your pages load. Or at least that's what I used to do... I just heard from my friend, WildTools developer Alfred Scott, that Photoshop has a setting where you can Save for Web and Devices. Right under Save As on the file menu. It does the same thing... so now I just save that way straight from Photoshop and skip the Preview step.

   PayPal lets me create Buy, Add to Cart, and Donate buttons so I don't need an often-expensive e-commerce module.

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press