website building…strangely satisfying.

I’ll summarise this long post, its a selection of some of my ventures into website building and design, the satisfaction you feel when you’ve made something work ‘it’s aliiiivee!!!’ and the frustration at the sheer volume of complicated software available, and the ‘stuff’ that goes into making it work.
a rundown of some of the things I’ve learnt about, and how they made me feel along the way!

In short, if you’re not interested in web design, or what I’ve been up to doing mine…go look at the pretty pictures on flickr or something and skip this post!

my my…whoever thought this would be so…well, hard!

I’ve been spending the last few weeks wrapping my brain around some things I never wanted to learn,I am not a computer programmer, I know nothing about coding and ‘stuff’ and I never had any real desire to build my own website.

Well, at college I felt that it would help my grade, and I’m certain it did, professional practice module, they loved that I’d not just researched making a website, but actually bought the domain and made it, it was live and it ‘worked’, it had an online shop, galleries, about page and alot of the usual stuff, alas, mrsite does have its limitations.  So many I couldn’t possibly list, but the list of features of the new site on the discussions page on my facebook will give you a clue.

The desire not to pay some web designer lots of money to make me something that still wasn’t right,and that I couldn’t update easily myself,  leaves just me really.

So the search began, for something that wasn’t mrsite, and I could customise myself, maintain myself and preferably, at not too high a cost. The options are quite a few,  zencart,  oscommerce, eclime and cubecart some of the main contenders, add to this magento, joomla with virtuemart and my head was spinning.

Even just looking at the joomla interface had me gibbering ‘whu, whu, whats a one of those when its at home?! runaway!’

Eclime had me virtually in tears, its got the potential to be great, but its quite new and there are some ginourmous bugs in the system that I’m not clever enough to work out.maybe in a year or so the brainy amongst the web people will have worked some of these out.

So, cubecart, its been around ages, its got two huge support forums and its open source and free, which means, with a couple of teeny limitations of license stuff, I can do whatever I please with it in terms of the way it looks and works…well I could if I was an expert programmer!

but, I’m finding it strangely satisfying…I’ve been lurking round the cubecart forums, finding hacks tweaks and mods…for those of you new to these terms (as I was about a month ago…) these are useful little changes in code and add ons that you can use for your (cubecart) website. some of them require you to change a setting on a file, some a name,or add one line of code, but most require you to upload new files, install them on your server, and then park new bits of code in another file already on the server, sometimes multiple bits of code. perhaps you might find this scary, messing around in the innards of your website…but strangely I’m not…maybe its because I know actually nothing about how these bits of code work, and there I am happily chopping out bits here and pasting in bits there…

The most satisfying bit is when some of these bits start to actually work on your site…I recently changed an annoying box on my shopping cart page, it was a box where you could enter the code of another item you wanted to add to your cart…who on earth is going to know the code??? so, I went searching, and I found a little bit of code to change and lo and behold I now have a button that says ‘continue shopping’, which takes you back to the main shop page, but leaves the items in your basket…you’d think this would be a standard thing that just comes with the software…er, no, it doesnt actually.

I think the thing about that is, well the software I’m using is free. and so far, all the mods hacks tweaks changes and additions I’ve made have been free. at first I thought it wouldn’t bother me to have to pay for some things here and there, now I’m wondering just how far I can go with this for free? (except moving my domain name and web-hosting)

I do like a challenge don’t I?

I havn’t written any of my own code, I’ve only modified what’s already there, and added bits from wherever to suit, I’ve learnt a bit about iframes and css, php and javascript,and started to piece together something I like, something that works.

I’m really pleased with myself when I’ve successfully installed one of these mods, because I feel like someone who knows as little as me just shouldn’t be able to do this! and even when I install it and it doesn’t work…I’ve even been able to go back and fix it…I’m starting to scare myself now…perhaps I’m turning into a geek after all…

so, overall, I’ve cried, runaway, come back tried again, thought maybe mrsite wasn’t so bad after all, then rapidly changed my mind,I’ve been thrilled by a button I’ve put in and clicked and it works!I’ve had my head feel like its going to explode on more than one occasion…but, when you see my new site…I hope you’ll agree, it was worth it!

oh, I’ll take the opportunity here to thank those kind people on the forums, who share their tips and fixes, and who write and modify code and share it with people like me, who perhaps shouldn’t really be let loose on their own website, but who just had to try it anyway! Thankyou Cubecart forum-ers!!


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