HuthPhoto 2008 Site

I got a message from John at the Wayne County Arts group and he’s been tasked with updating their web site. It had been created a while back in Adobe GoLive. He commented on liking my site (above) and so here’s what I said. This mostly applies to small organizations and self-employed folks like me. It also requires some interest in graphic design, or you can make a crazy-ugly site… and we really don’t need more of those, do we 😉

CSS Zen Garden 2 CSS Zen Garden 1
Here’s a good site about what’s possible with CSS, CSS Zen Garden. Both examples above have the exact same content, but use CSS to style them radically different. On the Zen Garden site, you can click to see for yourself all of the submitted CSS designs. It’s amazing. An example of CSS on this site is the design squares at the top left. Clicking on those change the background design, and could change the entire site if it was coded to do that.

I had used GoLive before I switched over to a CSS workflow. GoLive is gone and Dreamweaver is the current product from Adobe.

Now, those pages can be as beautiful or as ugly as the person’s skill. The two aspects are using a good graphic artist in the design and then someone who can make stuff happen via the options and coding (sorry if you already know that, just trying to be thorough). So to do it with Dreamweaver, you can work visually, not just hardcoding… drag images in and use the options/code to create links with images, etc. I’d guess that’s what was done with the county site.

RapidWeaver

The easier way is with CSS templating. I’m on Mac and use RapidWeaver.
You can create some really elegant pages, simply using template they have and that you can buy and add on.

It’s still possible to make a dull page, but you folks should have access to graphic designers that have worked enough on the web to steer you right. It’s more likely to create a site that looks like it’s from a template, so you have to fight that as well. BUT it’s easy to create a pretty powerful site quickly.
I suggest that young photographers look at lots of really great photos to learn what world-class work looks like. The same is true on the web. Search for sites that are in your industry and find the ones that are truly functional, useful and elegant. Then figure out how to steal (ah, I mean implement) those aspects of great sites into your site. Not making your site a rip off copy, but learning from what works and what is beautiful about the design and finding how that can work for you… just like in photography or your personal art!

I’d suggest that people use Dreamweaver because they are pros and want total control and all of the options. They should use CSS based solutions if they don’t want the hassle, or like me enjoy mixing tweaking the code with the ease of design.
Another CSS setup on the Mac is iWeb from Apple (free on every new Mac and wonderful).

There are other options… modifying a blog setup to be your web site (might not be as practical for an Arts site, but it could work, and could allow artists to write in now and then blog-style). Also there are just plain online templates you can buy and fill. One thing not to do is use Microsoft Frontpage if it still exists… it’s know to create nasty sites in many ways.

Oh, one final consideration. One that we bump into with our church web site… the way I create my site is great, but it’s hard to be modified by a group of people. Really it’s just meant for all changes to be made from the computer that created it (there are ways around this, but that’s for another show…). So if the goal is just to create a site that others will change on an ongoing basis, a CSS site sitting on your home computer might not be the best solution. If you are willing to make changes, (or willing to learn and implement the plug-in that allows changes to RapidWeaver sites via the web)… then you’d be OK.

Hopefully that’s a helpful walk through the web maze for anyone interested in creating their own site, or who wonders what tools I’m using to do my site and my blog.

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