Hello World

Posted by PH on March 22, 2009
Web Design

Welcome to the newly revamped paulhazel.com. Boy, did it need it, sitting here virtually untouched for six years: all I’d really done in the interim is remove pages. I hang my head in shame…

The Problem
To be fair, I had attempted two redesigns in the last couple of years, the first an all-css design, the second a full-on Flash showcase. Neither got anywhere near completion, and for two reasons. The first and obvious one: the lack of time. A full-on job, a PhD on the go, two young children. You get the picture. Secondly, and not so obviously, is the question of what format should the new site take? The big problem with paulhazel.com was that there was no pressing need to update it daily, even weekly—it had no raison d’être.

In the meantime I’d been keeping a blog called 3282 on blogger.com. An excellent service, and very easy to use, but having a very limited range of visual options. Also, because I had a lot of multimedia content on it, I found I also needed to maintain my own server space to keep it all on (which kind of defeated the purpose of having this so-called one-stop solution).

The Solution
To cut a long story short, then, the obvious way forward was to combine them in some way. I’d been mulling over my options for this when I got into a conversation with one of my third-year students, Rob Chalmers. Somehow finding time to do commercial web design work alongside his Major Project, he was waxing lyrical about the possibilities offered by WordPress.

Perfect: open source, powerful, and it would allow me to import the contents of 3282 more-or-less at the click of a button. I could keep my existing personal webspace and self-publish. Sure, I would totally lose the contents of the existing paulhazel.com site, but a) most of that was well past its sell-by date and b) I’d already started to put the good stuff onto 3282 anyway.


Doing It
Wordpress promises a “5-minute install.” Well, yes, it does only take about that long to download the .zip file, extract the contents and get it onto your server, but actually getting the thing up and running takes a good deal longer. You have to set up a database, get your WordPress install talking to the database, and, crucially, reset file access permissions to folders on your server (you’ll need to consult your web provider to get the correct UNIX codes). Thanks to Gaynor Thomas at SMU and Nick Byng at BPWEB for their help on this issue.

The documentation is certainly extensive, but I found it far from useful.  You find yourself getting sent from one page to another to another to another, without always finding exactly what you want. The best one-stop tutorial I found is Gav’s Guide.

Importing the content from 3282 was a doddle. I then went through every one of the 665 themes in the WordPress library and eventually settled on the one you see here, Big City by AOE media GmbH (which I’ve personalized a little). Compare this with Blogger’s 16 templates…

That’s when the work really began: changing the addresses of all the internal links, adding category definitions (which Blogger doesn’t use at all), and a whole slew of other minor formatting issues that had to be resolved for every single post. Of course I did it all wrong the first time—and the second time—and I had to trawl through every post at least three times.

It all took a lot longer than I thought but here we are, about six weeks later, live. I’m thrilled to be back in action—I’ve really missed blogging—and I’m delighted to have resolved the issues with my online presence. I feel I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what is possible with WordPress (which, despite my earlier comments about the documentation, I am very impressed with) and I’m looking forward to developing the site further. Hope you like it.


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5 Comments to Hello World

  • Hey Paul!
    Welcome to the wonderful world of WordPress. Great to see your site up and running. I’ve been using the self hosted WordPress engine for a couple of months and I love it. I have to say I had no problems at all with the Famous 5 Minute install. Database setup at 1&1 has been fine. No file permissions needed to be set here as I recall and all hunky dory. I use Dreamweaver for my design work so I’ve been FTP-ing with it too.
    I’ve tinker with themes a lot and my blog at myceredigion.co.uk is the a heavily pimped AAPNA theme.
    I’ve used the SANDBOX concept too for building from scratch which I recommend wholeheartedly.
    Anyway I can only agree about the time thing; no PHD here and only one child as you know but where does the time go?
    Good luck and see you soon.

  • Hi Paul,
    Thanks for coming to see me here, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

    The server thing: to be honest, it’s one thing I don’t know much about. I can only suggest that your provider has preset the access codes in a different way than mine. All I know is that whenever I want to edit one of the root .php files I have to go and change its access code manually and, from what I can gather, this doesn’t seem that unusual.

    The first time I went off fiddling about with them, I did manage to bring my whole site down. I am now suitably circumspect.

    Like your site: meaty.


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