Technical Solutions – Part Two

MotherboardA month ago I decided I was going to resolve the technical problems I was having on my website.  The fundamental problem was that my calendar function had stopped working; a secondary problem was my songlist would no longer display.  Both of these problems are traceable to changes made in SQL accessing by my previous Host provider.  Additionally, I began having problems with Host provider service so I had decided to change providers as well.  For the future, I wanted to be able to add enhancements myself, without the need for specialized web support.  I can now say this problem is solved, let me know if you think I am right.

I somewhat naively launched into selecting an open source content management system (CMS) as opposed to higher level open source “web development” software.  I did a needs analysis and feature weighted compare on available products and selected one that demonstrated:

  1. Short “learn to publish” time.  My target was something I could start-up in a week because I didn’t want to become a programmer.
  2. A CMS that offered tools that I would need for a music site.  Must haves were: ease of adding and editing content (I had been using an HTML editor for changes and all formating), mp3 players, download purchase functions, and on-line purchasing via Paypal.  Nice to haves were: picture display and management, social network linkages, and video display.  I preferred to leverage Flickr and YouTube for picture and video; the idea was to one-source reference info from these sites.

After short research and some consulting advise from Tom Miller (reference listed resources), I selected Joomla as the open source CMS as a ‘best fit’ for my needs.  I selected HostGator as a service provider, being particularly drawn to their Green or sustainable business model to exclusively use wind power and to re-invest company profits into energy credits.  This is particularly cool for this industry as servers use a lot of power. They have more features to their hosting service that make administering the site much easier, something I am becoming comfortable doing.  Interestingly, though this provider is much larger than my prior service, response to “service tickets” to resolve technical problems has been excellent.  I’ll circle back to the “service tickets” later

I definitely needed help getting on-board at the host provider.  Remember I said I didn’t want to become a programmer?  Well, I had to learn how to setup the host and the available HTL file transfer.  I now have a simple file exchange shortcut.  I setup passwords for others and I downloaded Joomla to the site in just a few keystrokes.  In less than three days I had copied all my prior content into the site.  This process took a little longer than I expected because I reformatted my news and tips archives into individual articles.  Joomla organizes content into Sections, Categories, and Articles.  Once content is in this format, there are multiple choices on how the content is presented within a menu structure (separate from content structure).  My biggest obstacle was to not use HTML.  Joomla is designed to do most formatting using an editor plug-in and to add and format pictures using the “image” button.  HostGator’s control menu has tools to re-size pictures or convert formats as needed.  No need to get your hand dirty with HTML, I learned the hard way.

Because the transfer process took only 3 days, I changed my plan about transferring my legacy site.  I didn’t need to do this if I could get the new site on-line in less than a month.  I began “enhancing” the new site with a new look and feel.  I obtained a “free” template for the site that provides the ‘configuration’ seen on all web pages.I then launched into adding Modules, extensions, and plug-ins to provide the enhanced features I was looking for.  Along the way and with some good consulting advice, I re-evaluated my “Call to Action” message, revised the site menu names (for clarity), adding items to take advantage of Joomla’s menu nesting features.    I updated & reformatted existing content and created content for my recently launched commercial recording studio.  I comprised on my songlist, now listing over 1,000 songs.  I picked the styles of music I play and then listed just a few songs for each style.  A question my be, “What songs do you sing?”, which may be best answered by “Which ones don’t you want me to sing?”  Sometimes instrumentals provide the right atmosphere.

I discovered Customer Relationship Management (CMS) tools are available in Joomla, some are non-commercial (free).  This is something I did not identify in my initial work scope but this tool has been added to the initial launch.  You will see in the “Register for Free Stuff” Login that a menu is provided to determine customer needs and delivery timing, helping me manage next steps.  I am excited about this tool because users can now control how they prefer to get information on coming gigs, music, or news.

Regarding service tickets, I had a fair share of problems enabling software add-ons.  Generally, they are easy to learn to load.  Each add-on requires unique needs to get running.  HostGator has good security but as a result, many features would not run until a ‘ticket’ was made to ‘whitelist’ the application, ie, authorize the software to communicate.  The enhancement process has taken about another 32 hours, 8 were spent on transferring and adapting my legacy site graphics.  There is plenty left to do; I want to get my animated navigation bar running now in Joomla.  This requires some programming skills PHP, I’ll take my time.  I am sure there will be multiple revisions from this initial launch, but I think the new site is ready for service.

Let me know what you think.

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