2. Constructing a place online – building your commercial websites: SiteGrinder
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I have been using SiteGrinder since December of 2006 to build my websites since I saw another photographer’s website that was build using this tool. This is the most expensive investment in this blog post – the plug in costs $399.-, but it is very well worth it – it offers you incredible flexibility in how you design you’re website.
You design your site in Photoshop, a program that we are all very familiar with. SiteGrinder uses some very basic hints in your layers to understand what your intent is with a layer. It’s not complicated and their video tutorials are great. They’ve also just gone through a major redesign into their version 3.0 which lets you do some incredible stuff. They offer great webinars that explain everything from the basics of how to build your website to 2 hours on custom creation of forms and their functionality.
Building your own website allows you to get the design exactly like you want it, especially if you are integrating multiple services, like a photo e-commerce engine, a CRM service, a blog. The top menu bar is created in Photoshop and coded through the SiteGrinder plugin. (You can look at the home page here.) The one underneath is a PhotoShelter design, the product I use to distribute my images (more about that in tomorrow’s post), but you can take a look at the search page to compare the two.
See how close the designs are? There are some differences, but even if you click from one to the other you will not notice that you are now on a different website, yes it’s still mine, it’s branded with my logo and colors, but the e-commerce portion is farmed out. Site Grinder lets you do this. If you would take a predesigned template, you are limited to the changes the designer allowed you to make.
Another really important item for me is the integration of my CRM solution (see post on day 4) with my contact form on the website. SiteGrinder allows me to run the scripts necessary to integrate the form and the database (you must have a web hosting service that does not limit you to the scripts you are allowed to use, 1&1 lets you run your own scripts – so there is no issue there. You will have to get your hands a little dirty in coding here, but the CRM solution I use does a great job in teaching you how to integrate the forms with their service.
Let us know what web design plattform you use and why you think it’s good – I really like the fact that I can stay in Photoshop, a program we’re all really familiar with.