for more articles
Fast Web Design For
The Skint Webmaster
|About two years
ago, I had a go at commercial web site design. I put a
medium-sized ad in a London classified ad paper. Nothing fancy:
"Web designer seeks work ..." etc. This was expensive, about
£500 for a month's run.
Got a few replies. Lesson number one: advertise where clients of the calibre
you want will see it. The clients I got thought £300 was a lot
for a web site. They didn't want to pay web hosting. They wanted
a lot of bang for their buck. 'Mission creep' was a term I grew
to know and loathe.
This set me thinking: how could I give these people all they could ever
want, but not spend a lot of time and money? Lately, I realised
So how can you get a full featured site up in a day? Easy (ish!).
1. Mambo Content Management System http://www.mambo.com
I wish I'd found this software a couple of years ago. It's freeware. The
default set-up allows people without web design skills to update
the site. It has a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
option. This adds HTMLArea code to text input form fields. Each
HTML code input box becomes a mini HTML editor.
If you can use Microsoft Word, you can add formatted HTML code to the site.
To get it running you need to know how to install MySQL databases, or have
PHPMyAdmin as part of your web-hosting package.
You can add articles, edit them, send emails to members, and be contacted by
The only criticisms I have of this software are:
1. The admin interface is confusing. It's all there, just finding and using
it is the problem!
2. You need to search around template sites to find ones suited to your site
purpose. I wanted simple, clean, business ones. Most of those
available seem to have a fat graphic which covers half the
screen. There are more restrained ones out there.
These are minor gripes, compared to the relief of finding what is
essentially a web site in a box. It can be installed in an hour,
once you get familiar with it.
To add ecommerce to your site:
Oscommerce Shopping Cart http://www.oscommerce.com
Again, this is a full-featured, freeware software. You can add lots of
freeware 'plug-ins' to it, to get a professional shopping cart.
Therein lies the danger. Some of these plug-ins require altering or
overwriting the default cart files. When you try to upgrade the
cart version later, you may 'break' it, by overwriting a
plug-in, thus creating errors.
The trick here is to only install plug-ins that add files (rather than
overwrite them) or that require minor alterations to existing
What I do is download all the versions of the plug-in type I need e.g. a
WYSIWYG editor. I then choose the one which has the least files,
or which creates a new directory for its files. If it requires
that important files be overwritten, or is complex, I chuck it.
Mambo and Oscommerce. Don't try to integrate them! Hyperlink from one to the
other. I've tried integrations of other softwares, like PhpBB
and PhpNuke. Fine, when it works, but when you upgrade one or
the other, arrgh!
*Keep databases separate*. If one goes skew-whiff, then at least the other
will still work. Same goes for adding chat rooms and the like.
If they're all running off the one database, and that database
becomes corrupted ...
It may offend your sense of tidiness for your visitors to have to sign up
twice at your site, but you'll thank me for this sage advice
later. Remember KISS is the basic rule of computing (Keep It
About the author:
T. O' Donnell (
http://www.tigertom.com) is an ecommerce consultant and
curmudgeon living in London, UK. His latest project is an ebook
on conservatories, available at
http://www.ttconservatories.co.uk.T. O' Donnell freeware may
be downloaded at