About two years ago, I had a go at commercial web site
design. I put a medium-sized ad in a London classified
ad paper. Nothing fancy: "Web designer seeks work
..." etc. This was expensive, about £500
for a month's run.
Got a few replies. Lesson number one: advertise where
clients of the calibre you want will see it. The clients
I got thought £300 was a lot for a web site. They
didn't want to pay web hosting. They wanted a lot of
bang for their buck. 'Mission creep' was a term I grew
to know and loathe.
This set me thinking: how could I give these people
all they could ever want, but not spend a lot of time
and money? Lately, I realised how.
So how can you get a full featured site up in a day?
1. Mambo Content Management System http://www.mambo.com
I wish I'd found this software a couple of years ago.
It's freeware. The default set-up allows people without
web design skills to update the site. It has a WYSIWYG
(What You See Is What You Get) option. This adds HTMLArea
code to text input form fields. Each HTML code input
box becomes a mini HTML editor.
If you can use Microsoft Word, you can add formatted
HTML code to the site.
To get it running you need to know how to install MySQL
databases, or have PHPMyAdmin as part of your web-hosting
You can add articles, edit them, send emails to members,
and be contacted by users.
The only criticisms I have of this software are:
1. The admin interface is confusing. It's all there,
just finding and using it is the problem!
2. You need to search around template sites to find
ones suited to your site purpose. I wanted simple, clean,
business ones. Most of those available seem to have
a fat graphic which covers half the screen. There are
more restrained ones out there.
These are minor gripes, compared to the relief of finding
what is essentially a web site in a box. It can be installed
in an hour, once you get familiar with it.
To add ecommerce to your site:
Oscommerce Shopping Cart http://www.oscommerce.com
Again, this is a full-featured, freeware software.
You can add lots of freeware 'plug-ins' to it, to get
a professional shopping cart.
Therein lies the danger. Some of these plug-ins require
altering or overwriting the default cart files. When
you try to upgrade the cart version later, you may 'break'
it, by overwriting a plug-in, thus creating errors.
The trick here is to only install plug-ins that add
files (rather than overwrite them) or that require minor
alterations to existing files.
What I do is download all the versions of the plug-in
type I need e.g. a WYSIWYG editor. I then choose the
one which has the least files, or which creates a new
directory for its files. If it requires that important
files be overwritten, or is complex, I chuck it.
Mambo and Oscommerce. Don't try to integrate them!
Hyperlink from one to the other. I've tried integrations
of other softwares, like PhpBB and PhpNuke. Fine, when
it works, but when you upgrade one or the other, arrgh!
*Keep databases separate*. If one goes skew-whiff,
then at least the other will still work. Same goes for
adding chat rooms and the like. If they're all running
off the one database, and that database becomes corrupted
It may offend your sense of tidiness for your visitors
to have to sign up twice at your site, but you'll thank
me for this sage advice later. Remember KISS is the
basic rule of computing (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).
About the author:
T. O' Donnell (http://www.tigertom.com)
is an ecommerce consultant and curmudgeon living in
London, UK. His latest project is an ebook on conservatories,
available at http://www.ttconservatories.co.uk.T. O'
Donnell freeware may be downloaded at http://www.ttfreeware.co.uk.