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Before I jump right into installing the Content Management Systems (CMS), I want to go through each one and explain the concepts behind them. This post may be boring to some of you but really needs to be explained. I hope this post will help you understand what each CMS does to support my site vision. I will also explain the services I am using for traffic analysis on this site along as the software I used to create this site.

The beauty of having a dynamic database driven website is that the design and content are separate. In old style static website design, the content is integrated with the design. This static approach had many downsides but mainly when you wanted to make a simple design change, you also risked changing information. Another big plus for database driven websites is that if you want to make a minor or major design change you can make it in one file and have it apply to the whole site. I remember oh too well the days of old when I wanted to make a minor change to a menu or style and had to copy and paste it onto every page of the site. This was a literal waste of time. This not only helped encourage smaller less complex sites, but it caused a lot of stress knowing that if I was not absolutely happy with my site in the early stages, I would have to end up redoing the whole site. Below is the software tools I used in creating this site. They are all free and I encourage you all to give them a shot.


 

CMS

WordPress is one of the largest CMS’s on the internet. Sure it has a few rivals, namely Joomla and Drupal, but with its ease-of-use and large user community, Wordpress is a smart choice for any web novice. When it comes down to it WordPress is truly a blog platform. For my site, having a blog is only a minor objective of my vision. Having a photo gallery is much more of an importance to my site at the moment. I have toyed with the default WordPress photo gallery, and to be frank, I was not impressed. I also spent some time trying to get the WordPress plugin Nextgen Gallery integrated in my Wordpress site. For a short time I was convinced that this plugin would be a good solution. However it did not provide all the options that I required.

One of my main requirements for a photo gallery was the ability to display the GPS geocode information and display my pictures on a map. I also wanted the option to display the EXIF data for each picture. Having these features supports my site’s vision statement, “to share”. With providing EXIF data people can see the settings I used to take a particular picture. In turn, this can help them replicate a similar picture or suggest I make some changes the next time I take a similar shot to improve my photography skills. Providing the GPS information, besides just being plain awesome, will also help people see on a map exactly where a picture was taken. Because I like to shoot nature and landscapes this may help people visit new locations.

Zenphoto is a CMS that provides superb photo handling and management. It has many options, some that I have not explored yet but look forward to in future post. I decided it would be the best choice for my photo gallery while WordPress would handle the rest of my site. Of course that is what lead to this series of posts, integrating the two. Zenphoto has some “blog” features, called ZenPage, but it is in the developments stage, while WordPress has that technology down to a science. So the current solution is to use the 2 seamlessly. I am sure in the near future one of the two will incorporate the other’s features and I will have a single CMS for my site. But for the time being I have to use both and face the challenge of doing so.

 


 

Analytics

In the last few years Analytics has really grown into it’s own industry. There are countless companies that offer analysis services to report who views your site, how long they are there, and their interaction while visiting. For my site I chose two services. One hosted locally and one third-party hosted on the web. I feel having two services will help in providing an accurate account of site statistics. I also have statistics available through my cPanel with BlueHost, but for the majority of site analysis I will not be using it.

Locally I will use the open-source analytics software Piwik. It truly is a full featured analytics solution that is supported by a large global community. However it has some limitations with customization, creating campaigns, and reporting certain information (like geographic location of visitors). The Advantage of Piwik is that it is continually growing and adding new features. Where it falls short of other analytic solutions today might not be so in the near future. However at the moment to pick up where Piwik falls short I am also using Google Analytics. Google Analytics is stored on their server and has both preset and fully customizable reporting. The only down side to this is sometimes it can cause page load issues while waiting for a response from the Google server. I believe utilizing the two is really a complete solution for general entry into learning site analytics. This is a topic I will explore in later posts.


 

Software

To create, edit, and test my site I used a couple free programs. I am a Mac user so most titles I used are Mac specific. I used MAMP as a local apache server to host my site locally before uploading it to the web. This is a crucial practice that everyone must do. Otherwise you will end up wasting a lot of time making a change, uploading to test the change, and then repeating that process. In some instances if you are with a hosting company that limits your monthly bandwidth, like GoDaddy, not testing locally will eat away bandwidth that should be dedicated to your visitors. It is always best to have the majority of coding and design done before uploading to the web. For PC solution I suggest XAMPP. It is basically the same thing as MAMP but for PCs.

I also used TextWrangler for all my coding. This is a great tool that allows simple line editing and has the intelligence to recognize php and html structure. For PC I suggest Notepad++ it is a similar program that will help with your coding.

So that is basically it. A couple free software programs, three free CMS’s, and an account with Google Analytics. I hope this helped explain all the software I used, and that you’ll need if you’re following along this tutorial.

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