Frustration gave way to creativity and the search for a new CMS for the site a few months ago. I was working with Nucleus , my former CMS product when I went to save my entry and wham, the all to common session time out error. Of course I had forgotten to save copy and paste out all my work, so a post I spent an hour working on was ashes in the wind.
This in addition to the fact that I am not a PHP programmer which Nucleus is written in gave way a number of issues that I didn’t want to live with. So I decided it was time for a change. This lead to a large number of new ideas spawning that have delayed the launch of the reload for a couple of months.
Creating a To Do List
I am not sure how many of you create lists, but I am a big list guy. A lot of times I don’t write them down but I am always visualizing things in lists. So my first logical step in getting things started was to create a to do list which consisted roughly of the following…
- Define requirements
- Find CMS to fit requirements
- Create design based on requirements
- HTML/CSS’ify it
- Convert Blog Data
With a logical list in place I was ready to move on.
One of the primary issues I had with Nucleus was that I didn’t have the knowledge to program against it. Being PHP based caused limitations to what I could make the software do. This started to get on my nerves as I began wanting to develop against other Web services API’s.
Posts & Pages
Nucleus natively only supported creating blog entries. They all looked felt and smelled like blog entries. I wanted the new product to have the ability to create blog entries in addition to being able to maintain regular informational pages. These would ideally have several differences.
Nucleus was beginning to become a SPAM abyss. I was cleaning up SPAM primarily on old posts daily. Usually 25+ from the overnight hours. This was even with Akismet enabled. The new product I wanted to have some Captcha validation to prevent some of the SPAM influx.
I was beginning to fight with the left side vertical navigation that I had been using. As I wanted to include more content into the top fold I was eating up a lot of valuable real estate in column one with nav. With the new design I wanted to move the nav to a short horizontal stripe at the top.
Finding a CMS
Finding an ASP.net CMS is not an easy task. It seems that most CMS/Blog developers seem to lean towards LAMP development. After doing a couple days of searching I did find two decent candidates.
The first product I came across was great. Community Server made by Telligent. This is a very cool product that was frankly more then what I needed but offered a cool interface and a ton of features. It’s used by some very prominent Web sites including Microsoft, MSNBC among others. Even better then that when I evaluated it a couple of months ago the product was pretty unrestricted for personal use. Since then they have released a new version that contains many new restrictions that I was not to excited about.
The next product and final product I could find that even seemed worth a look was ThinkJot . ThinkJot is a .Net based blog and article based solution that is run entirely via XML. This stuck out to me as I run this Web site on a shared hosting server at Lunar Pages, and we all know how reliable databases can be on shared hosting. So I now only rely on IIS staying alive on my Web server. The product is also open source which meant I could edit whatever I want to function however I want, which I have done a lot of. More on that later.
So I decided on ThinkJot, a relatively young product, but with some big potential.
Design – Keep or Toss
I really liked my old design. I liked the cleanliness of it, it functioned well, it was an overall pretty good design. I had it in my mind that I would keep the old design, migrate the site to the new product and no one would be wise to it. After adding pieces here and there the page began to look piece mealed together, and it became apparent pretty quickly that I needed a new look to help clean it up.
So I went back to my list and as I started started reviewing my requirements it became pretty apparent that I wouldn’t be able to keep that layout and so I started in on some design concepts. Keeping with my typical green I came up with a couple initial designs that were ok, but really didn’t stick out to me.
I decided to just go ahead and play with some different colors and came up with the current design and was sold almost immediately. Below are the other concepts including this one that I comped out.
So now I had the design. Time to create the HTML/CSS and scripts to make it run. More on that in part II of Reloaded.