Last year on this day I was putting the finishing touches on my newly-designed version of The Creative Cat, and my resident felines, as usual, had something to say about it.
“Mom’s been really b-o-o-r-r-r-r-i-i-n-n-g-g lately.”
“But we’re really catching up on our sleep.”
“That’s not so bad.”
So while they were piled up and sleeping all over my desk, while the lilacs came and went and the first nestlings were fledging, I finally finished a project I’d been working on for several months: moving The Creative Cat to a self-hosted site.
In the past year I’ve welcomed many new readers with the new platform, and in a year had over 100,000 visits—it took me three years to get to that number on the old site—and about four times that number either subscribing or reading via RSS feeds. I love knowing, each day, that I can share my stories, articles, art and images with so many people. Professionally, I’m glad to be able to spread my wings with myself as the customer in addition to the work I do for my commercial customers—that’s very important to keeping my overall body of work fresh and innovative, both commercially and personally.
This community has also shared many changes in my household and final illnesses and poignant feline losses. This site is dedicated to Namir, who appears in the header, and I well remember the hours of working on this redesign, first with Cookie on my lap, and then with Kelly. I appreciated the encouragement and condolences I received, and the comments of those who’ve visited since and found comfort and guidance in what I shared.
I’ve also been glad to more fully share my life as an artist, and truly enjoy communicating with the artists who follow me. In writing about my art I’ve also become more organized about the actual physical art, re-photographing and scanning pieces for presentation I’d done years ago, reconnecting with customers I haven’t talked to in years, and pulling my whole body of work together to create new things.
Below is a little bit about building the site, and my daily schedule of posts. Ironically, I’m now working on a new design with a new template since this one has been giving me little problems, especially in Internet Explorer, but for now, here’s where we are.
From the original site to the new
I had truly appreciated the carefree nature of blogging on a free-hosted WordPress site since January 2009, and still maintain four other free-hosted blogs for daily photos, merchandise, news and professional accomplishments.
I built my own first website in late 1996 and as a graphic designer I’ve been building websites since 1998. I’m one who can get happily bogged down in the details of coding and tinker forever, but when I decided to blog I wanted to focus on my writing and my art and not spend all day fine-tuning the details of my site. For The Creative Cat, with an overloaded schedule in 2009, I blissfully chose a template from the WordPress gallery and was on my way.
Over the years I changed templates a few times as I offered more and more and, in the background, learned more and more about CMS or content-managed sites as I’ve built and modified and managed sites for myself and others using WordPress software—also happily training my customers to be able to manage their own sites.
As my audience grew on The Creative Cat I began posting more often and posting more art and other images, and putting more time into creating merchandise from what I do and I found it really difficult to keep things organized on The Creative Cat. I couldn’t even find things when I know they are there somewhere, how can anyone else? I had also wanted to participate in some social networking activities that I hadn’t been able to without some of the functionality of a self-hosted site, like the blog hops.
After building a few other sites, I decided it was time for mine and took my time setting it up, planning to release it on my third anniversary in January 2012, but that was around the time I lost Cookie, so I held off until I was ready to focus on it again.
Guide to Daily Posts, Images and Articles on The Creative Cat
Each day I post throughout the day:
• An article in one of the topics below
• A Reprise (posted in a previous year), Archive (unpublished digital) or Vintage (unpublished film) Daily Photo
• A New Daily Photo (from that day)
• A Daily Sketch (from that day) or a Reprise (if I haven’t had a chance to do a new sketch); new Daily Sketch posts also include links to previous daily sketches from that date
To view a daily digest, click the date on the calendar in the right-hand column to bring up the archive of articles published on that day.
My weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!
Below are the categories that correspond with most of the topics above.
Helping Shelters and Rescues
Health and Welfare
Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Living Green With Pets
Creating With Cats
The Artist’s Life
You can also choose a category from the drop-down list on the home page for more choices.
A little tour of the features
I still have a few issues to resolve in the layout you see here, some spacing and formatting and a few other things that need a little assistance from the template designers like the ugly menu drop-downs that won’t stay formatted in a light color. But this template and all its varied pages allow me to display more up front with lots of little widgets and links so you can get to your favorite things quickly, plus it automatically translates into several dozen foreign languages as I discovered I have many readers from Europe and Asia, and it also automatically composes a version intended for any mobile device, from a phone to a tablet, and you can even get The Creative Cat on your Kindle!
I also won’t need to rely so much on sites to sell my things, like Etsy, as I do now, none of which are free, and are an extra profile to maintain along with everything else that needs to be done in a day and takes time away from petting cats. Customers have mentioned they don’t like to click somewhere else, and they want to purchase more directly from me. I’ll be able to offer things right from here using a PayPal button—would you like a print of my daily photo? Click and order!
You can review posts from the latest day or two in the slideshow at the top or the list of excerpted articles as you scroll down the front page.
When you click to see an individual post, all are now 1000 pixels wide with no need to click the image and see the enlarged version. You can use the menu or the “breadcrumbs” links directly beneath to navigate your way back to where you were. “Breadcrumbs” has a neat feature which lists all the steps you took to get to the page you are on, and it also lists the first category for the article so you can not only retrace your steps, but you can also take a detour to find other articles in the same category.
The carousel slider at the top of the home page has quick links to content categories, while the main menu has drop-downs that allow for even more specific categories, like finding all the photos of “In the Kitchen with Cookie” quickly.
Archive pages have just an image and excerpt so you can scan a list of headlines and a few words of text to find the article you are looking for.
And this template has several styles of galleries for image search and display, so both you and I will be able to find that one sketch of Kelly washing her toes that we know we saw last month or so…or did we.
I have more static pages with more content on this Creative Cat than before in answer to questions readers have had. I added more information about my education and background as a writer and as an artist, for instance, and, yes, I do plan to give a few art demonstrations here, now that I’m set up to be able to set up interactive slideshows and videos. I also included a page about my poetry with links to the poems and my recordings.
Eventually, I’ll also have galleries devoted to each of the cats you read about all the time so you can remember who is who and when. Thirty years and nearly 30 cats who’ve lived with me, plus several dozen more as fosters, I don’t expect anyone to keep that straight but me. That led to looking through old photos and scanning them, a time-consuming process that I don’t want to rush as I stroll down memory lane. I’ll set them up and post them as I pull things together.
Images and a few other things
Featured images make all the little thumbnails appear that you see all over this new site, from those with article excerpts to the ones in LinkWithin at the bottom of each article.
Another thing that didn’t transfer with the move was subscribers, so if you are subscribed to receive The Creative Cat in e-mail or in a reader, click the link in the right column of the main page to sign up through Feedburner or use the RSS button on the top bar. If you are on WordPress you can use the follow button on your header bar or at the bottom right of the screen.
And one thing I personally liked about WordPress blogs is the “like” button in each post. Sometimes I don’t have anything to say when I visit other blogs, but I want to let the author know I appreciate what they’ve posted and join others who’ve “liked” things without letting Facebook in on the act. So you can still “like” posts and go on your merry way. I appreciate every visit.
About the design
When I began this I actually wanted a fairly decorative site, lots of clever headlines and outlined boxes and cats and pastels in the background. But when I did my first draft it just looked crowded, busy and confusing with all the images I already have, so I removed all the decorations one by one and came back to a relatively plain and light-colored layout. I know that’s one of the things I’ll be fooling with, though, once I get more content in here. We’ll see, in the meantime, happy browsing, and suggestions are welcome!
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.