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Author Topic: New website from a template - good idea?
Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12395
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 02-11-2016 02:10 AM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've been feeling for about 5 years (at least) that our website needs a major upgrade, but we don't have the budget to hire a designer to build it from the ground up. It doesn't need to do e-commerce (we have an RTS portal for that).

I built our current site from scratch using Microsoft FrontPage. A couple of years ago, I purchased Adobe DreamWeaver with the intention of migrating over to that and building a new site, but I got pretty confused rapidly. So I backtracked and upgraded FrontPage to Microsoft ExpressionWeb, which is a little closer to my skill level, but haven't really had the time to start from scratch like I wanted to -- and I feel like something home-built will still turn out to be no better than we have now.

I found this site that offers website templates, from which I found this:

Sample website

... for $69.00. It's a DreamWeaver template.

So my question for you all is, does anyone have experience with using one of these things? Is it a huge nightmare to learn enough DreamWeaver to modify it? Or would I be completely in over my head?

I have a basic understanding of HTML but have never done my own coding. I don't know much about CSS or the languages and etc. that have come along in recent years.

I guess my real question is, should I take the plunge on this or should I bite the bullet and hire a pro?

At least if I take the plunge I'm only out the $69.00. But any advice or thoughts would be appreciated.

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Kenneth Wuepper
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 994
From: Saginaw, MI, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 02-11-2016 08:12 AM      Profile for Kenneth Wuepper   Email Kenneth Wuepper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hello Mike,

You could have more fun than at the casino for that $70.00.

Here is what our page looks like.

http://templetheatre.com/

It is maintained by our staff and although it loads pretty slowly it is not unlike your sample.
KEN

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Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1085
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 02-11-2016 10:45 AM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Microsoft ExpressionWeb V4 is free. I've been using FrontPage for many years and just downloaded the free V4. You may want to give it a shot before paying $69.00.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7966
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 02-11-2016 12:54 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Have you looked at Wordpress? That is what most non-web-developer types are using now. It is pretty easy to work with, especially if your hosting provider can give you a "canned" installation of it that is ready to go.

Assuming that your web site's primary function is to provide a place to post your showtimes, prices, directions, and maybe some pictures of your theatre, it should be pretty simple to set up and maintain.

There are plenty of themes, templates, and plugins available for free or at low cost.

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6410
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 02-11-2016 02:08 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If all you want is a "This is who we are and here is what we do" kind of website, templates are fine. A lot of templates like Wordpress or Joomla offer updateable content so you can do things like post events or movie schedules and stuff.

If you want a more customized website with personalized logos and stuff, you'll need to design your own or have somebody do it for you.

There's nothing wrong with templates. They just look "template-y."

But if you don't mind the template look, go for it. [Smile]

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2095
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 02-11-2016 04:31 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Mike, have you considered going to the local high school and hiring a student. I'm sure there are at least a few kids in your community who could knock something out for relatively little cost, and you keep your money local.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10677
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 02-12-2016 12:11 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really hate what has become of web sites lately. Any sense of proper graphic design is just plain dead with these things. Mobile is all to blame for it.

The need for making web pages "responsive" to fit a whole bunch of different devices is the problem. Phones, tablets, notebooks and regular desktop PCs all have displays that vary extremely in size, resolution, aspect ratio and screen orientation (vertical or horizontal). This is essentially a far worse and far more complicated geometry problem than what video authors faced trying to fit a CinemaScope movie into an old 4:3 TV set.

Basically modern "responsive" web pages can't have any sense of composition at all anymore because no fucking frame can be clearly defined. This shit stinks itself over into photography, illustration and graphic design. If you properly compose your image the "responsive" image frames might change their shape and crop your image in all sorts of stupid, unpredictable ways. Photos end up needing a lot more dead space around the subject and the subject needs to be centered in the frame. Rule of thirds? Golden Spiral? Kiss my ass.

And then there's all the coding. What a mess that has become.

Steve Jobs and co. successfully killed Flash, but replaced it with an even bigger mess, HTML5. Browser makers have adopted it in wildly inconsistent ways. HTML5 offers no performance benefits over Flash when using the same kinds of vector animations in SVG & Canvas objects.

If you want to try to maintain control over the look and composition of your web site, like have it look properly composed on a phone, tablet, PC, etc. You can create separate designs for each and trigger them using break points. BUT, that's a shit-ton of work to do, and you gotta include lots and lots of coding hacks so each tailored layout doesn't fall apart when brought up on older computers whose browsers haven't been updated in years.

A bunch of modern web site functions are heavily tied into JavaScript and JQuery. A web developer who is going to hand code his own web sites has to know those things. He also needs to know AJAX, PHP and a bunch of other shit.

Web design, or rather Web Development has turned into a very user-UNfriendly thing. Mobile complicated the situation even worse. That has forced damned near everyone except for those with lots of time on their hands and computer scientist levels of coding knowledge to just punt and go with the bland template crap.

Wordpress has taken over a huge amount of the web already. Lots of sites are done using Joomla and Drupal too.

I've been messing around with Adobe Muse. It will let you visually design a web site. They just released a new update that incorporates support for responsive layouts. The downside with Muse is the code it generates. There's no rhyme or reason to it, which can turn into a problem for search engine optimization. Muse users have to do a bunch of work within the program to aid SEO.

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Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1944
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 02-12-2016 03:16 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
On the other side of the issue, many (most?) websites really have no need to incorporate dancing fish and teddy bears singing Auld Lang Syne. If I want to see if Joe's Plumbing also services air conditioners I want a nice summary website: 'Joe's Plumbing. Phone Number. Address. We service air conditioners." Dandy. If I have to go through five pages of singing fish to find what I want to know, I'll probably give up before I get there.

It's the same sort of planning that as lots of roadside billboard advertising where a restaurant thinks they have to post their entire menu on the sign. Who's going to read that when they're ripping by at 60mph.

Some people who put their business names on the door of the truck. Dandy, until they use a font that's so fancy you can't read it, or a phone number that's so small you can't see it.

"Prettier" isn't always synonymous with better. I'm a believer in getting the information out there first and foremost. If it's pretty, fine. If it's not, oh well. The information is available.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2095
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 02-12-2016 03:34 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with you Frank. I think there is a reason for EVERY business to have a web site. But for many businesses it doesn't need to be much more than a digital business card, maybe with a simple contact form. In the case of an HVAC or similar business, they could add content such as basic trouble shooting or maintenance tips, but they don't need an elaborate site.

For businesses which have a need for something more elaborate - such as a movie theatre or a company selling products on-line, I prefer simple over flashy. Something where the information is presented in an easy to read and access format. Although Flash and Javascript elements are not necessarily a bad idea, I have seen too many examples where these elements are buggy or slow to load.

As for the complaint about mobile pages, the easiest solution is to have a mobile and desktop page. It only takes a few lines of code to create a page which scales to fit mobile devices. Then it's just a matter of creating a design which scales easily. It's also fairly simple to detect a mobile browser and automatically direct the user to the mobile site.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12395
From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 02-12-2016 06:35 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
So from reading the above (especially Bobby) I'm thinking maybe I should just stick with the status quo. Maybe make some of the existing pages wider - I think we're currently about 950 pixels wide, something like that.

My site has the most pertinent info on the front page (showtimes, contact, upcoming movie info) and if a person wants to dig deeper, there are pages for history, pictures, some statistics, old news articles and such. Of course the front page gets about 98% of the hits, and it's readable on a mobile device, so maybe I'll just leave well enough alone.

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Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1944
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 02-12-2016 08:02 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You might want to consider getting an app. I wrote an Android app for my theatre a couple of years ago and it has a few hundred users. A lot of people like it because you don't have to go to my website to find out what's playing. Load the app, click "what's playing", and there you go.

There are more hits in my server log on the "regular" what's playing page, but there are several hits every day on the app what's playing page so people are obviously using it. I put a QR code with the google play app url in a frame on the wall in my lobby and see lots of folks taking a picture of it so it does get attention.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10677
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 02-12-2016 09:05 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Frank Cox
On the other side of the issue, many (most?) websites really have no need to incorporate dancing fish and teddy bears singing Auld Lang Syne.
That's a dismissive judgment on what graphic design brings to the table in web development. There's a lot more to it than just dancing fish or some other superficial crap. Design is important in visually organizing the information in a more legible and more interesting way. It's isn't just about making things "look pretty." Color scheme, choice of type, use of white space and many other things play a part in what is a delicate balancing act.

The latest standards of CSS3 and HTML5 offer the potential for a web page to look almost as visually sophisticated as any high end magazine layout. There are still some limitations. For one thing it's a real pain to access special characters (such as alternate swashes, small caps, ligatures, etc.) in web fonts derived from pro-level OpenType fonts. Anyway, for all the design capability the latest HTML standards offer the whole responsive thing takes a giant shit on it. Hence all the canned template-driven web sites, most of which tap into the same few web fonts served up by Google.

If a web site looks plain as a bowl of cold oatmeal it will lose repeat visitors. They may choose to get the same information elsewhere, such as on Facebook or in some other walled garden of social media.

quote: Frank Cox
It's the same sort of planning that as lots of roadside billboard advertising where a restaurant thinks they have to post their entire menu on the sign. Who's going to read that when they're ripping by at 60mph.
Every medium in advertising and information display is different. Comparing billboards to web pages is about like comparing apples to car tires. Billboard advertising is primarily about reinforcing brand identity. The best billboard ads do indeed concentrate on legibility and keeping copy down to the bare minimum. Likewise really shitty billboards are put together like a phone book ad. However, the best billboard ads also boast effective graphic design. If they don't show off a visually compelling image car drivers are going to look right past them. Same thing goes for on premise signs. Plain looking signs and billboards are crap. Even worse, a bad design (including stark/plain design) can reflect badly on the business, making them look cheap or unprofessional.

quote: Justin Hamaker
As for the complaint about mobile pages, the easiest solution is to have a mobile and desktop page. It only takes a few lines of code to create a page which scales to fit mobile devices.
It's a little more complicated than that regardless of what tool is used, whether you're hand coding a web site, using a frame work with canned templates (like Wordpress), or more WYSIWYG editing tools like Dreamweaver or Muse. It can get pretty labor intensive if a site's pages have 3 or more break points.

One can't just use one single web page layout and liquid-flow it into every device. Specific choices have to be made on what content to show in each break point layout.

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

Posts: 1358
From: Waukee, IA
Registered: Dec 2004


 - posted 02-13-2016 07:27 AM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Mike's website, for reference

Our website, for reference

Ours is stupid simple and admittedly dated (mostly due to laziness), but it pulls up fine on every device I've ever tested it on and we've never had a complaint about it. Sure it looks hilarious on a 5k iMac, but it's still functional.

When I do get around to redesigning it, it'll be wider, but not much, and everything will still be fixed width. Our front page has more thought into it than you might imagine to keep things simple and easy to understand what's playing and where...the number one compaint we've had historically was that people confused what was playing at the Cameo vs the Drive-In or the since-closed Twin.

A single screen or small theatre group can still make a nice looking, fun site that people talk about with basic HTML. Creative content is the key. Our Drive-In Rules page gets comliments every weekend during drive-in season.

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Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1085
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 02-13-2016 11:39 AM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Mike: I think your site looks fine and widening it may certainly make it more appealing. One comment though, I think the collage of photos at the top of the page looks a little busy. You may want try removing them and see what you think.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2095
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 02-13-2016 04:09 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is my theatre's mobile page. It may be fairly utilitarian, but it is very functional. The page grabs the user's screen size and scales accordingly - including the size of the navigation graphics. Lakeport Cinema Mobile Page

I use includes so the parts of the page which do the work are the same on every page. And the content pages use variables to ensure everything is scaled to size. It only takes a few lines of code to accomplish this.

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