EricDSnider.com turned 18 this past July, which is fairly old for a website. No surprise it needed a facelift. And now, finally — only several years after realizing the need for it — we’ve delivered a spiffy upgrade. We’re now a WordPress-powered site. What were we before? To answer that question is to explain why it took so long to switch.
I registered EricDSnider.com on July 11, 1998, and used my rudimentary knowledge of simple HTML to make a basic, ugly site. My brother Jeff, seeking to build his skills as a web developer, took the site on as a project in 2000 and started adding new functions and features. This was his lab for learning how to do web stuff.
Over the next several years, Jeff built the site little by little, Frankenstein-style, albeit with less grave-robbing. There were many design changes, but the most important improvements were on the backend — the Content Management System, as they call it nowadays. For example, instead of having to create a permanent page for each movie review basically from scratch, Jeff built a template where I just had to enter the information into the appropriate fields (review text, grade, rating, runtime, etc.) and it would create the page for me.
This, you will notice, is what WordPress and other CMS’s do. They make it easy to build pages, to divide them into categories and sub-categories, to change or update them without having to upload a new file. Jeff had built his own CMS, and it worked just dandy for our purposes.
The problem was that since Jeff had built it himself, that meant he was also the only one who could fix or upgrade it. Any new bells and/or whistles I wanted to add, he was the one who had to build them. (My brother Lane also learned at some point, and helped out for a spell. My third brother and my two sisters never lifted a finger.) In order to make me more self-reliant, we sought to transfer EricDSnider.com to a platform like WordPress, meant for do-it-yourself web publishers who don’t necessarily know “coding” and “programming” and “things.”
The problem then was that since our existing system was a byzantine maze of homemade code that only Jeff understood, it wasn’t easy to adapt it to WordPress. Frankenstein had jury-rigged his monster, attaching muscles with staples and passing off two footballs as lungs. To make the monster into a normal human, Jeff had to get the Normal Human CMS to understand that a football was our version of a lung, and to put it where the lungs go. And he had to do it in a way that would work for the 5,000 or so reviews, columns, and blog posts we needed to transfer.
That’s why it took awhile. I don’t really know what he did, but Jeff wrote some code and added some customizations to WordPress that would allow us to copy the old site over without having to re-post everything manually. I’m told there were some frustrating setbacks during this process, not the least of which was my nagging him, I’m sure.
And now it’s done! More or less. We’re still tweaking things. We’re adding pictures and tags to everything, which will take some time. My super-old stuff, like the stuff I wrote in high school, will return. I’m also going to post a few hundred pieces written for other websites — my “Eric’s Bad Movies” and “Re-Views” columns, various funny things I wrote for Film.com and Cinematical, and so on.
So here we are! I’m excited about the new, improved look and the many options that are now readily available that previously would have required Jeff to make something new. Please pardon our dust over the next little while as we get everything up and running. And many thanks to Jeff for being my poorly paid webmaster for 16 years and my even more poorly paid brother for longer than that. Both jobs are over now, thanks!
(P.S. Many of you are much more experienced with WordPress than I am. If something on the site looks wonky and you know how to fix it, feel free to shoot me an email.)