Friday, March 4, 2011

Whew! Big Update

I've been slaving away all week to update the gallery section of my site. As much as I liked the last setup I eventually painted myself into a corner since it was so hard to update and reorganize. I really know nothing about the proper way to make a website so I mostly just guess and fiddle around until I achieve what I want, which usually means taking the long way around.

So! The gallery now has a completely new format that uses fancy effects and is very easy to update and edit. I've been meaning to do this for a while but just didn't have the time until this week. Believe it or not there were 60 some pieces of work that I needed to add, as well as info on my shows, press, and freelance jobs. Plus there was a lot of general housecleaning, including adding more content to the wallpaper page. (Yes, I have a wallpaper page.)

Please check it out and let me know what you think, feedback is appreciated so that I'll be able to work out all the bugs.

And in case anybody is interested in creating their own web gallery, here's some detailed info about what I did to achieve this feat:

I knew that I wanted some sort of automated galley-making program to do all the work for me, because after years of updating an html file manually the inconvenience was starting to keep me from updating regularly.
I had no idea exactly what kind of program I should use, so I started researching. I found that there are hundreds of gallery programs and scripts out there, but I had a very specific set of features in mind, so that made my search a lengthy one.
Finally I settled on Jalbum, a desktop program that basically lets you drag and drop your images and creates a gallery for you. The look of the gallery is based on the "skin" you choose, and after enough research I finally found a skin that made sense for everything I wanted it to do (image captions, doesn't use flash, etc.) The reason picking a skin is so hard is because some of them are very customizable and others are not, and you don't really know which is which until you try them out.
The one I picked was called "Matrix" which has a staggering amount of options. Most of my time this week was spent customizing every last aspect of the gallery. You wouldn't believe all the little things you have to consider when setting up a simple gallery, and how much back-and-forth it takes to make everything look and act how you want it to. Jalbum creates html files based on the options you pick and the predetermined settings of your skin's master control file, so I had to do a lot of custom coding in that file to get it to output html files that looked like the rest of my website.
Once you get past all the initial setup, the program is really amazing. You can change anything and everything you want, add and update as much as you please, and will it generate a directory containing your completed gallery in a minute or two. For someone who has been updating a site the way I have for the last ten years this program is like a magic trick that's too good to be true. It even uploads the gallery to your webspace for you, though I learned the hard way that it HAS to have its own sub-directory on your server to do this. Otherwise it looks at all your vital website files and says "Hmm, that's not part of my gallery...DELETE."
So while it's not for the faint of heart if you want to integrate it into an existing site, (there will be coding) Jalbum goes above and beyond what I expected to find, and it's even free! You can check it out here.

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