“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’ve been piled up and sleeping all over my desk, while the lilacs have come and gone and the first nestlings are fledging, I’ve finally finished a project I’ve been working on for several months: moving The Creative Cat to a self-hosted site!
I’ve truly appreciated the carefree nature of blogging on a free-hosted WordPress site since January 2009. As a graphic designer I’ve been building websites since 1998 and I’m one who can get happily bogged down in the details of coding, 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 as I’ve been known to do. I blissfully chose a template from the WordPress gallery and was on my way. Over the years I’ve changed templates a few times as I’ve 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 others’ sites.
As my audience has grown I’m both posting more often and posting more art and other images, and putting more time into creating merchandise from what I do and it’s been really difficult to keep things organized on The Creative Cat. I can’t even find things when I know they are there somewhere, how can anyone else? I’ve also wanted to participate in some social networking activities that I haven’t been able to without some of the functionality of a self-hosted site.
I’ve been feeling a little stifled by the constraints of templates and free hosting in sharing my work effectively too. Of course, we creative types don’t like to feel stifled! Reading more and more and experimenting with templates and coding, I’ve actually had this project in the works for months, waiting for the time to spend a few intense days on it…
Of course, to have the time for something you need to make the time. While I’d rather spend a lovely late spring weekend out in my garden or out on the trail or in my studio painting, I also have two customer websites coming up that will demand knowledge I haven’t yet put to the test. As practice, I decided to create a new Creative Cat!
A little tour of the new site
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, and I do tend to continuously play around with designs so things will change as time goes on. 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!
All the posts and comments from the existing Creative Cat are now here, but I will be leaving the existing one in place, who knows, probably forever if I know how I get around to things. But there are a few other reasons for that I’ll out line below.
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
The one thing that held this up was not so much the design and organizing all the content I wanted to include as it was those images mentioned a while back. When I transferred the blog contents everything but the images came over. While the images still show up in the articles, they didn’t populate the image library that is part of a site like this, so they’re…not really here, they are still back at the other Creative Cat.
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. I have to upload and re-link, in some cases replace, each image in each article in order for them to work with that functionality. That’s why only a few dozen articles have featured images and you see the same articles coming up on LinkWithin.
Do you have any idea how many images I have on The Creative Cat? Needless to say, this will take some time, but it’s valuable because I don’t want that older content to be lost.
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. 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!