Re-designing my web site and blog – the starting point

While I’m still exploring different approaches to the design and implementation of my new web site, I’ll post about digital photography on the existing web site and use this one for notes about the development of the new site – please acccept my apologies for the fact that this means that at present the content does not match the heading!

I’ve been developing and implementing small web sites for around 20 years now, but I do this really to be able to present material on the web, rather than to produce ‘pretty’ or ‘technically advanced’ web sites. Indeed, I’m rather unimpressed by some web sites which seem to be slow and awkward to use, not least because the designers seemed more interested interested in the appearance than the content and usuability.

When I started, you used Windows Notepad or something similar to create the pages – there were no graphical tools. I used Frontpage for quite a while, and found it quite effective and intuitive, but as HTML developed, and more facilities became available, Fontpage became rather limiting, and trying to create pages with some of the new features using only a text editor seemed very hard work. I have downloaded Dreamweaver for evaluation a couple of times, but it seemed awkward to use, and is certainly expensive.

In looking for a cheap facility for creating reasonably attractive web pages I decided to use Apple’s iWeb. This is OK to a point, but I find it very slow to publish material this way, and it is a ‘black-box’ approach, so one does not have much control over how it does things, and it can be awkward to link in external material. I really prefer to more in control of things. I’ve only used it for my own web pages (, but I’m not comfortable with having those pages (or at least some of them) handled in a way that I don’t feel in control of.

What I have found quite effective for creating a front page of a site is Blogger – it is relatively simple to edit the default pages to provide relevant links to other pages, and maintain news in the form of a blog on the main front page. The links point to pages created using simple editting tools, or using, for example, the photo page generator in Lightroom.

What I really wanted was to be able to keep some of the aspects of what I have created with iWeb, but with more control over the site, the pages and the blogging facilities (up till now I have put a simple link on my web site to a blog which is implemented in Blogger).

So I’m now exploring some alternatives for the design of my own web pages, and perhaps also the Friends of Priory Park web site, which I still manage. I’m really looking for something that is easy to use but which gives me the opportunity to enhance the sites in some quite minor ways, and have decent control over how they perform. The three main contenders at present are:

1. Develop around Blogger (easy to use, can be tailored fairly easily, though with some limitations, as it is primarily intended for blogging).

2. WordPress – which is what I’m using here – very similar strengths and weaknesses as far as I can see at this early stage to Blogger. My initial impression is that it isn’t as easy to use, and that it isn’t as easy to make the simple modifications to the themes that I can achieve with Blogger, though perhaps ultimately it might provide more flexibility.

3. Drupal. This is still rather an unknown for me, as it seems to involve more work to be able to test it (I have installed Mysql and Apache on my main file server, and both seem to be working, but I have still to sort out PHP and then Drupal itself).

An additional complication is that Virginmedia, my ISP, do not seem to provide any support for things like Mysql, PHP etc, so I would need to find another host if I used these facilities, and this involves extra cost, at least in the case of Drupal.

More news to follow, I hope.



About Mike Hessey

I'm a BOF (Boring Old Fellow) and MOS (Miserable Old Soul) whose main interests are photography, cycling, walking and computers. Regrettably recent problems with my legs, back and heart have reduced the cycling and walking.
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