Monday, August 27, 2007

Website Promotion, Internet Marketing and Blogging

Website Promotion, Internet Marketing and Blogging

This site was pretty helpful in making my site,, consistent in format when viewed in Explorer and Firefox. There was a real helpful post call 'No Margin for Error' that explained some of the differences in the 'default stylesheets' used by the browsers - heck, I didn't even think that a bowser has a default stylesheet!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

10framesasecond: Step 4 - some nice touches.

With the 2 main sections of my photog site complete, I wanted to put up some nice touches to give my clients a better user experience than what I've seen on some of my competitors. At this level (non-pro) most of the sites I've seen are really, really basic, usually using canned formats or 'site-building' software offered by the host providers. I thought the more I could do the separate myself from that, the better - And I'm a geek - so 'geek-on'.

First I put up a little 'About us' page that is pretty common but I was honest in the write up that this is a 'side-job' for me and a way to subsidize my hobby - so I didn't try blow myself up into some Pro photographer.
Next, I put up an events calendar that will show all my upcoming games and events that I will be shooting. Thanks to Google, this was about the simplest thing to implement on my site, just had to create a separate '10framesasecond' calendar in my Google account and setup the public sharing options in the 'Manage Calendars' section of Google Calendar. Once complete, Google provides a little snippet of code that you embed in your page and, Presto! you have a super versatile calendar on your page. Any changes I make on my Google homepage are automatically displayed on my site. These guys at Google are just too smart...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

10framesasecond: Step 3 - adding a blog page

Next thing I though would be good for the site is to add a little blog page that I could use to get the latest news out to visitors, like what new events have been posted, any promotions I'm running, etc. And if any of my clients are 'geeky' enough they could subscribe to an RSS feed of the page so they wouldn't have to check my page to see if anything is changed.
Wordpress software is part of the Linux server hosting package I picked up from While I have never used it before I had heard from more than one source that it's pretty powerful as far as what you could do with it and, key for me, is that you could design your own templates for it to give it your own unique look. This was just what I was looking for since I wanted the user experience to remain consistent throughout my site.
Installation was a snap GoDaddy's Metropolis application made it basically a click to install process and once it was installed on the server I just assigned it a URL, pointed my browser there boom, I had a blog!
Setting up the templates was a bit easier than Exposure Manager, it was obvious that wordpress is much more mature in the area of user customization than Exposure Manager. The Style.css file for word press is huge by comparison and the App is VERY customizable. Since I'm just using it for getting news out I didn't need all the functionality so I didn't bother working on comment sections or anything and just based my disign off the default template that was tweaked to use my Header, body, and footer background images and I was up and running.
As much as I like how super user friendly VOX and Blogger are, I can't help but think to move my family blog over to wordpress running on my server. I think security against obsolesence (or backruptcy) is what I'm paranoid of. I know Blogger is run by Google which I don't think is going to be going out of business anytime soon but I can't imagine what I'd do if I lost ten years worth of family memories due to some companies poor business decisions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

10framesasecond: Step 2 - integrating photos.

When I first started thinking about starting a website to sell photos I took during my kids sporting events, I thought it should be easy enough to create a site that I could host pictures organized into galleries and use some ruby on rails code or some of the canned photo server apps like 'coppermine' to tie it to a paypal shopping cart. I could then get orders and print them at the local Costco and make a better profit margin. Well, reality set in there was no way I was going to have the time to do all that now. Previous research I'd did on the pro photo hosting sites concluded that Exposure Manager is the best / most flexible to work with.
So I signed up and had a gallery loaded in about a half and hour. But I wasn't happy with the look - it didn't have the same 'feel' as my site so I used the template editor they provide and integrated my layout table and style sheet into the main templates and Whamo! You can barely tell you're being redirected to another site. I even mapped the URL so is still in the address bar when your actually on the exposure manager site. Pretty cool.
Overall, Exposure Manager lets you tweak quite a bit of the UI on the site through the use of Templates and Style Sheets but their interface is a bit weak - For instance, there are options to both create a new style sheet or edit an exsisting one but for templates, there is only a create option, so every time you need to make an edit, you first need to create a template then choose which one to edit. This leaves you with quite a few templates to delete after a template debugging session.
Another thing is they don't provide templates for all the areas of the site (like the shopping cart and the multi-selection product picker). A nit pick since the pages still used the color schemes setup through your stylesheets. I'm sure Exposure Manager will progress in this area, and it is workable as it stands right now - just not as polished as I'd like to see.

Took me about 2 hours to tweak the templates into something I could use. Lots of experimentation needed here as I didn't find there documentation on this very helpful.

Launching my photo site - Step 1 Setting up hosting

Okay, this has been put off for far too long. The first sporting event of the season is tomorrow and I don't even have my website setup yet. So today, I took the morning off of work and sat down to hack it out - how hard can it be? I've done webpages before.

First step get my hosting setup with Go Daddy. Of course since I'm in a rush I can't find any of their famous 30% off deals (the last one I had expired 7/31!) Oh well, I just used the 10% from the GB1 coupon code to give a little support to Cali and her podcast. A couple minutes to process the order and wham! I got a 100GB of server space crying for some content.

Fired up Illustrator CS3 and Dreamweaver and hacked out the framework of the site. Pretty bland right now but, I think it's a good foundation to build on. I tried using as much CSS as I could and I think I'm getting the hang of it and since I'm using a site wide stylesheet, it's really nice making global format changes by editing one file. - pretty cool.