So I have finally accomplished the website overhaul and redesign I have been planning on doing since 2009 (!) Why did it take me nearly FOUR YEARS to do it (aside from procrastination, of course)?
I couldn’t find the right tool for what I wanted to do with my site design and images. But now I have found it: Catalyst on WordPress!
***Update*** Catalyst is no longer acquirable as a platform (though previous clients like myself are still supported) BUT it is available in most of its functions as a theme (Dynamic Website Builder) made by the same company: Cobalt Apps. But you need to install Genesis to utilize it.
I’m pretty computer savvy and I know some HTML, but I definitely don’t know enough to code a site from scratch or accomplish many of the custom image displays I envisioned for my website. So I was initially excited when I discovered the flexibility of WordPress back in 2009. (yes, I was late in the game, but I was literally living on a small island in Greece for several years that still had dial-up! …and probably still does, along with their medieval plumbing system, but I digress).
What really frustrated me though, was the relative inflexibility of even the Premium themes. They could do some things but not others, and vice versa – and especially when it comes to my art and design, I’m picky, particular, whatever you want to call it.
So I would browse themes, tinker around with them on the hidden back end of my site and ultimately end up disappointed. Combine this with 2 international moves (one to an even *smaller* island on the other side of the world with unreliable and expensive internet and finally, to Kauai) and I’m sure you can understand how 3 of those years passed with no real progress on my website. But when I noticed that my outdated site – which had always shown up on the first page of results with just my first name searched – was no longer even showing up several pages in with my first AND last name, I knew I had to do something urgently. (My guess is the Penguin finally poked my aging site’s eyes out!)
I hadn’t heard of “drag and drop” themes before, but I thought “wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just drag and drop things where I wanted them?” so I Googled it and found several options for this which I examined extensively. A great post by Chris Lema illuminated the differences for me, but his top choice at the time (Ultimatum) dropped off the map for support and people started complaining. His second choice (Headway) looked promising except for the fact that it was not only one of the most expensive, but you also had to renew your subscription annually. I tried getting more info from them on their “Blocks” system since you can’t truly take a test-drive (more like, sit in an arcade version) and you have to pay for so many extras. I wanted to know the details of what the basic package came with and asked them in several different ways, but I only received replies sending me to their “premium” blocks info section. Multiple times. So I was not only annoyed with the lack of detailed info available pre-subscription, but also with their pre-sales customer service.
Enter Catalyst. It’s not technically “drag and drop” but it offers ALL the flexibility I was hoping for with that concept! I have it installed with their Dynamik child theme and can tweak pretty much any aspect of my website without touching the code. (Though you can very easily alter the code in safe ways as well.) The support forums have absolutely incredible resources (one member created a series of 4 videos on how to do something someone asked in the forum, and just watching those videos helped my user understanding immensely). Eric Hamm, the guy who created it is very helpful and active in the forums. And aside from its awesomeness (in the true sense of the word), when you buy it you have a lifetime membership so you don’t have to renew or upgrade every year!
I don’t know about you, but I am a very value-conscious shopper. Whether I’m buying shoes, electronics, or an application, I’m not the kind of consumer that keeps America alive: I refuse to buy things that won’t last. I never buy on a whim (no matter how inexpensive something is — I absolutely hate waste), and I don’t own things I don’t use. Quality and Value are my perennial “must-haves.” (Don’t get me started on fashion – I still can’t fathom why people will wear something that makes them look terrible just because it’s in style!) So the point of that ramble is that Cobalt Apps is one of the best purchases I have made in a very long time.
And if you know me personally, you know I am an enthusiastic promoter of other people’s creative work, so Eric Hamm – though I doubt you’ll ever read this – thank you for your creative contributions to the web design world!
Who is someone you think deserves thanks for their creative work?