Keeping an art site updated with fresh material takes time and effort which is hard to come by these days. I have not been attentive to Cher's art site the last 6 months and have been thinking about better ways of doing so. I maintain two community web sites and migrated those sites to the Wordpress platform late last year. Doing so dramatically reduced the amount of effort required to keep those sites updated. I figured the same approach could be used for Cher's site.
I had a couple of goals:
- Easier method of updating galleries
- Removal of flash galleries to enable mobile viewing and improve search engine optimization.
- Easier method of styling the site
I use Lightroom, and have for years, as my photographic catalog and post processing tool. Lightroom has a plugin architecture that allows all manner of crafty people to extend Lightroom capabilities. I've used SlideShow Pro for a few years to generate Cher's galleries. The only downside is I have to manually upload all of the generated files and the more interesting galleries are Flash-based which I want to eliminate. Also, it takes a good bit of work to get the styles in alignment with the web site.
I'm using the NextGen plugin for Wordpress to manage the galleries on the site. It is a powerful plugin and that in combination with a Lightroom export plugin designed for NextGen makes it super easy for me to select and then upload images to appropriate web site gallery with just a push of a button. Once the galleries have been set up and the display pages created then any image updates in the future takes no more than minutes to complete and it is all automated.
NextGen has full capabilities for displaying images from the NextGen galleries but they didn't not have the look or behavior I wanted for her site. I found a plugin called ScrollGallery that is designed to work with NextGen galleries that did the trick. Between the configuration options and the ability to hand tune the CSS used by ScrollGallery, I was able to get the gallery displays working within her gallery pages. ScrollGallery creates non-Flash galleries so these galleries can be viewed on an iPhone and other mobile devices.
There is a huge Wordpress theme industry out there and the number of themes available is truly mindboggling. With that said, there is a wide range of quality and capabilities available to you. Two primary needs I had was the ability to create custom menus and with a responsive design. Responsive design means the theme adapts to the display device or at least degrades in a manner that does not make the experience miserable on a small device such as an iPhone. This is probably where I spent most of my time, trying different themes, both free and purchasable. Oh, another consideration was the control you have over color. Cher's art which is typically shadow boxed in white looks best on a dark background. Many themes have limits on how much control you have over color, unless you want to crack open the CSS files and perform major surgery...
In the end I settled on a theme called Pilcrow which had a "dark" flavor which worked well. I did end up making some changes to the CSS to get better control over fonts and spacing of some elements but all in all, it worked pretty well out of the box.
There is a lot more I could talk about as there are a number of other plugins I use to help with search engine optimization, creation of RSS feeds via FeedBurner, security plugins to harden Wordpress against attacks, and I'll probably comment on those in an upcoming post. One note, it is amazing how often Wordpress sites are hit by nefarious people trying to gain access. If you use Wordpress, change the admin account name and put in a login lock plugin. I see 2 - 6 attempts to crack into those other two sites I maintain each day. Proper hardening of your site will protect you from those attempts.
Feel free to look around Cher's new site and if you see anything a bit off then please let her know via the Contact menu link. This roll out of the Wordpress platform for her site will allow her to keep content fresher so check back often to see what's going on!