ByLanderSea is a WordPress-based blog-style site that I “inherited.” I met Debi Lander, the author of ByLanderSea, through my work with BCT Publishing and Automotive Traveler, for whom she occasionally acts as a contributing author of travel and automotive articles.
I include it here not only because the site has some great articles, but because the site uses a custom theme for WordPress. Most of my clients don’t choose to spend much on developing a site cosmetically, and are satisfied with a few changes to one of WordPress’ default themes. There are definitely good reasons to use a customized WordPress default theme (child theme), and I review those advantages with every client I build a WordPress-based site for, but sometimes, a client wants something in particular that a custom theme can give them.
If you decide to have me build your site, I’ll certainly review the pros and cons of a custom theme for WordPress–or any other open-source software–with you before you commit to the expense. I just want to make sure you know that the limits on customizing a theme, or using a custom theme, are only a matter of how much of your web development budget you want to commit to it.
This site also required the import of a number of blog entries from a Blogspot account. Blogspot is based on WordPress, and it is possible to export from Blogspot, then import into WordPress. If the Blogspot posts are complex, it can be a challenge, but it is possible for those who find the freedom and greater customization possibilities of having their own WordPress installation preferable to the simplicity of Blogspot.
This month, I was asked to migrate an ecommerce site to a new host, a new platform, and to split the site into ecommerce and blog sections, each on a separate hosting account and domain. This time, the client chose the template for both Zen Cart (my recommendation for the ecommerce side) and WordPress (the client’s choice for the blogging platform).
The main challenge to this job was the complexity of the organization of categories and products in the ecommerce section of the site. In order to populate the many categories, I wrote a series of PHP-based utilities. The images including watermarks and resizing to accommodate Zen Cart’s requirement for multiple image sizes were built using local Bash scripts and Imagemagick. Although the client had to pay for my time to produce the PHP utilites and the image processing scripts, they enjoyed a substantial net savings over having to use their employees’ time or mine to populate the store with their products.
Sometimes, it’s good to be a programmer.
The other programming project for Q-Logic involved producing a new application guide for them from the Zen Cart database of their products so they wouldn’t have to manually create one each time there was a product change. I used PHP, MySQL, and PDF to create the application guide which updates once a day via a cron job on the server and can be downloaded on the site.
A publishing company that I do a lot of work for typically has me build a new site for titles they are planning to launch. The sites provide a location for them to display information for potential investors that is easily accessible and, unlike printed materials, easy to update as plans change.
One such request was for an automotive electronics web site/on-line magazine called Connected Driver.
The project is in its infancy, and the future of the site and the on-line magazine are far from certain. Therefore, the client wanted the site to look professional, be easy to update as new material becomes available, but cost as little as possible. That made my choice easy. I built them a Joomla! site using a RocketTheme template. I designed the logo and tag line as part of the job. The magazine demo runs in the BCT Publishing Viewer, using a demonstration subscription model that I developed as part of the project.
There are a lot of shopping carts these days, but when called upon to build a full-functioned ecommerce site, I choose Zen Cart. It may not be the most user-friendly shopping cart solution out there, and the default templates leave a lot to be desired, but in terms of sheer functionality, security, payment methods, and shipping methods, I haven’t found anything better.
This month, I was asked to build an ecommerce site for a manufacturer of parts for classic Mercury Cougar and Ford Mustangs. The client also wanted a one-off site built to facilitate product development with his manufacturing contacts overseas.
I include these sites simply to show a basic Zen Cart site linked to a one-off site. A one-off site is often necessary to extend the functionality of an open-source site when the functions desired by the client can’t economically be included by modifying the open-source software.
TrackItWeb’s Invoice$ is another web-based, database-driven application that I built to meet one of my own needs. (You’re probably starting to see a trend here.) I was using a PC-based application (that shall remain nameless) to generate and mail invoices to my clients. I wanted to lose not only the PC-based application but also the necessity of snail-mailing copies of the invoices to my clients, who by now all have email.
Invoice$ is going to be subscription-based for now, but down the line I may switch it to a donation-based format. Read on to get all the marketing low-down.