Practically Finished

 

Wow. It’s been three? four? years since I took the first step to move my website from HTML to WordPress. It’s been a journey.

First I hired a web design company to help set up the new site. That was a good decision at the beginning, but it went downhill after that. Most of what was set up was undone in later stages.

One of the things I wanted from a company was to convert my HTML pages to WP. But according to the web design guru, that wasn’t just an easy switch flip. I had to copy and paste EVERY page from HTML to WP. I try not to know how many pages there really are on this site, but it seems I saw a number between 2300 to 2500 pages at one time. That’s really no surprise, considering Jandy’s Reading Room has been around 16 years. I read and review more than 100 books a year – perhaps 150 per year. Each review has its own page. Then there are the reviews others contribute. There are the navigation pages. And a few other miscellaneous pages. It took a little over a year to get those into the WP format.

Next the site needed to be put together with navigation, etc. The designer set up custom fields and custom pages for me. But the custom fields didn’t work the way I wanted. I couldn’t use them to set up a page for navigation – for example using a custom field for authors to then be used to create an author’s navigation page. I tried to explain what I wanted. First he said it could be done, but when I provided details he said it couldn’t. I had to create all new navigation pages – with the links to the new pages, of course.

Most of my pages have an Amazon link to the book from the review. Many have links to the Better World Books used books site. The designer set up custom fields. But they couldn’t be automatically be inserted on each page the way I wanted. I had to go back to EVERY book review page and add the links. I finally kept the Amazon link on each page but put a generic BWB link in the right sidebar.

Then there was the star rating issue. I searched WP for different plug ins. Of the group, he recommended one that worked well. It did, too, until WP upgraded to a new version that it didn’t like. All of the ratings I carefully added to EVERY review page disappeared. I found another plug in, added it, and started all over again. Admittedly, this plug in works better and is more flexible.

We also have to consider my perfectionist streak. “Hmmm, I think this would look better.” So I’d have to change the pages that I had already completed. “That’s pretty cool – I like that plug in.” Repeat changes.

One of the enhancements I am most proud of is the series lists you’ll find in the right sidebar of books that are part of series. Those lists usually show all the books in the series (i.e. Anne Perry’s William Monk series) with links to the reviews of the books I’ve read. The books without reviews still appear in the list but don’t have a link. Someone visiting the site can see the books in the series (as of the last time I updated the series list, of course). When I started the conversion, the designer said there was no widget or plugin that could do what I wanted. Drupal had one, but not WP. But the last few WP version upgrades finally included a wonderful widget with that capability. Of course that meant I had to go to all those reviews and add the series widget coding. At least that didn’t include EVERY page…

There’s still one minor kink to work out. I’m having trouble with the OpenBook plug in you’ll find on older reviews. That’s next on my list.

The designer was supposed to help me transfer from the temporary server to the final WP hosting server. That didn’t really happen. Instead my deposit was now spent. I began to get stern emails to move the site because they needed the space. (You’ll notice I didn’t discuss the number of times the server went off line because they forgot someone was using it and they did an upgrade that didn’t include it…) Fortunately, my current host and WP had good help on that part. I was able to get it transferred. (I was proud of myself when that went smoothly.) Rather than purchase more designer time (per our original contract), I parted ways with the designer.

One caveat – I highly recommend if you decide to work with a web designer, choose someone who specializes in your type of site. The company I chose has a lot of corporate clients. While it is small itself (four employees at most), the sites it cares for are radically different from mine. I was very small potatoes for them, and after the initial few months, I was forgotten until I sent enough emails to get a question answered. I am not going to name the company, but if anyone were to ask for a recommendation, they would get a bad one from me.

So I’ve fixed all the visible elements, i.e. the star ratings, the book cover pictures, the front page showing what I’ve read recently in different genres, the series lists, and almost everything else I can think of. I’m feeling a little lost – this site upgrade has taken up a lot of spare time. What do I do now when I’m watching television?