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Out with the old......

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After nearly a year in the making, welcome, finally, to the new and improved 3photoshop website. If you’ve visited before, you should notice a considerable difference (and improvement) between the old site and the new. If it’s not apparent from the look and feel, then let me assure you, things behind the scene have not just been updated, but completely ripped out and rebuilt. Why would I do such a thing? For two (main) reasons! One, we now have a community instead of just a website, and two, it’s made it so much easier to update and maintain.

 
Here’s the deal-
 
Dreamweaver and YouTubeApproximately three years ago I spent a considerable amount of time learning how to use Adobe Dreamweaver. At the time I owned the Creative Suite, so along with the products I regularly use (Photoshop, Illustrator) I got to use Dreamweaver for ‘free’. I’d already started creating Photoshop video tutorials at that stage and hosting them on YouTube but it wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t a project I could call my own and the quality of the videos were comparatively poor; especially when I had an 800x600 video output in mind (at the time YouTube delivered 320x240). I decided the only way forward was to build a site of my own.
 
I registered the domain name and got myself some web space. If I needed to know something in Dreamweaver I taught myself using books and free online tutorials. I mastered the use of template files, table based content and a little bit of CSS for good measure. I put up a site and redesigned it about a year later. As time passed by, the way it was put together held me back from what I wanted to do with it; I wanted user interaction, forums, the ability to leave comments, maybe sign up for an account, all that kind of stuff, and the site I was running simply couldn’t accommodate that. If that dream were to become a reality, I would need to run a database driven site, complete with PHP and MYSQL.
 
Now let’s face it, Dreamweaver is fully capable of producing all of that but I was starting to hear about the rise and popularity of content management systems. Free, open source software with fully fledged communities writing and using it. I looked at a few but decided to go with Drupal which was generally described as the most powerful of them all, but with the steepest learning curve. To me, anything with a steep learning curve holds power and control even if it’s hard to learn at first. In October 2008 I set up a test site and started playing.
 
Apps for the iPhoneA content management system is literally just that, software that’s created in order to manage content. Drupal has a huge community of followers, many of whom write modules to add to drupals core functionality. Modules are analogous to apps for the iPhone, where as you can download a free currency converter app because the iPhone doesn’t come with one as standard, you can download a free Advanced Forum module to increase the functionality of Drupals built in one.
 
I originally planned to have the site live by January 2009 but it’s tough when you can only work on something in your spare time. At that stage I was only beginning to understand what nodes are, how taxonomy works and can be utilized, the difference between books, pages and stories; and how to administer blocks, themes and roles. I hadn’t even started to master some of the must-have modules that would help me present my content.
 
Views module in DrupalThe more I delved, the more I realised Drupal isn’t simply a subject but an entire discipline. It took months to get my head around some of the modules- Views, Panels and the Content Construction Kit (or CCK for short) which were all crucial to this site. CCK allowed me to add additional fields of data when creating a node (page). So as standard, all I had were a title and input field for my content; using CCK I was able to add in fields for a thumbnail, project files and the video display itself. Panels allowed me to take the fields of a node (page) and display them the way I wanted. Views gave me the ability to query the database and create lists, or even nodes (pages) based on the query. Views is the most amazing module of them all, and its creator Earl Miles deserves all the praise he gets.
 
Another learning curve has been community management. I've learnt a lot in the last year from being a moderator at PhotoshopForums.com, a community run by a good friend of mine, Patrick O'Keefe. Patrick has written a book called Managing Online Forums and I am using a template of his user guidelines (that he gives away free with the book) to form the guidelines for this site.
 
I could go on forever but I won’t! Suffice to say that the site due to go live in January 2009 kept getting pushed back, there’s no way I wanted to release it before it was at least in its beta stage (by which I mean, not necessarily perfect but workable and bug free). This weekend, I’m finally going to be able to do that.
 
FiefoxI had a few delays along the way, my hard drive failed a month or so ago and was away for repair for a while. It always proved as well that the little problems, the ones that should have been easy to remedy, were in fact the hardest ones to find a solution for. Take the ‘New Content Block’ in the left sidebar, I had to hand craft some CSS code to have the thumbnails and text display that close together. I’m too embarrassed to tell you how many hours of fiddling around it took me to get it right, even with Web Developer and Firebug installed to Firefox.
 
Well that’s pretty much it, I hope I managed to explain that in a way that doesn’t require advanced knowledge of Drupal, because it has been fun learning new things, and being part of a free, open source community.
 
I hope you like the site, it’s not finished yet but it’s 80% there!

 

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