Carolina Web Creations

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With all the popularity and hype about blogs these days, I figured it was time to join the ranks of the millions who have somehow found something creative, important, catchy and intelligent, to drop into a blog and share with a multitude of people who might be interested in reading.

I decided that I would share my most recent experience with a website conversion from a static site to a dynamic site.

I was given a project back in April 2009 to create some templates for a client who wanted to help streamline his current procedures for creating new web pages. His website features old gun catalog and manual reprints, and he has over 2,500 that he currently offers, with more added each month. The tedious task for adding new items to his site involved creating a page (no includes, mind you!) with a very basic navigation - sometimes located in different places on the page - and then going back through all of the other pages scattered throughout the site that might also feature this new item and add it. Of course, he had to weed through hundreds of snippets of code to find the proper insertion point for a "Marlin 1920" catalog. (ie: right between Lefever and National Arms)

I was excited to take on this task and eagerly set out on my journey to Cornell Publications to get a feel for the website. I completed a few templates for him, and quickly discovered that this was a prime candidate for a dynamic website. After a few phone calls and some reassuring conversations, Rob Mouat agreed to give me an opportunity to help him make his site all that it could -- and should -- be.

Being my first dip into the pool of database work, I was a bit apprehensive, to say the least, but I knew I needed to just let go and dive in. After all, that's the best way to learn, right? I'd entered about 250 items when I realized that I needed another field. So, back to the beginning I went. Good thing I caught that early on, huh? After about 500 items, I realized I needed to change the way I'd entered information into a field, AND add another field - Back to the beginning I go, again. I think I learned my lesson when I got about halfway through and realized that ... (yep, you guessed it) I needed one more field in order to make this all work - SIGH!

They say that repetition is the best way to learn something. I can guarantee you that repetition has caused one important step to be carved into the crevices of my brain. Perhaps it's something that seasoned developers learned from the very beginning, but being one who took a rather roundabout way of learning about the intricacies of web development, I must have missed it somewhere along the line. However, just for you, I will share it, and hopefully save you hours of frustration.

Map out your database ahead of time. Examine all the information that will be contained within the database. Stare at it for a day. Revisit the page that contains all of the pertinent information, and when you think you have it all straight, map it out one more time!

Nonetheless, the site is live. I survived the conversion (as did the site owner!) and am very pleased with how everything fell into place, despite having to re-enter a few hundred items a couple of times. It was an enormous learning experience for me, and I want to thank Rob Mouat for trusting me and for letting me have the opportunity to "strut my stuff" - it was a great leap of faith on his part, but in the end, it all came through beautifully.

I must give special thanks to Murray Summers of Great Web Sights for his enduring and never ending patience with me, and for sharing his amazing expertise in this world of web development. Thanks, Dad.


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