Many of you may have read that the Laurel Home website is getting a much-needed facelift.
What does a facelift mean in terms of a website?
Well, I don’t want to bore you to tears or make your eyes glaze over.
Oh, I know that feeling.
I was a computerphobe 20 years ago. I know; how is that possible? It was new, and I was busy raising my kids and helping my interior design clients. I was resistant, is all.
However, in 2001, my wasband, a computer geek, made me a beautiful website. In those days, very few designers had a website. And if they did, they were primarily utilitarian with uninteresting fonts and color schemes better suited for plumbing parts.
Of course, we can’t have a maroon and charcoal gray with bold block letters. Those colors didn’t represent “me” or my aesthetic.
I loved that first website and have looked for a while trying to find a photo of the home page, but it came up dry.
I did find a pic of Cale, however, circa 2004. He would’ve been 14. :]
Years would go by, and nada.
Back then, we were pretty clueless; however, by 2010, I knew that a stagnant website in Google’s eyes was a dead website. Dead websites are the kiss of death. A poorly ranked website might be on page 50 in local searches. That will not bring in much business if one depends on the internet.
By 2011, and working harder than ever, I was feeling the frustration of not getting more business inquiries. It was surprising because the stats my server shared with me were the best I ever had.
And then, the unthinkable happened.
One night, in the summer of 2011, way too late, I looked at my website’s source code, looking for what, I’m not sure. Maybe it was intuition. The source code is the computer language that lets us see what we see.
Wanna see a little piece of my website’s code?
Okay, heads down. Please prepare for impact. ;]
Adorable, isn’t it?
Well, what happened, Laurel?
Oh sorry. When I opened up the source code, right at the top, I saw three URLs for athletic gear. Yes, what happened in plain English is my freaking site had been HACKED, and I had lost possession of it.
This is WHY my phone wasn’t ringing. Even though everything looked perfectly normal, from the front end, it was anything but. I did a google search for interior designers in Westchester County, going through at least 20 pages and nothing.
I felt sick to my stomach and, at 2:30 AM, started sobbing.
My wasband, asleep upstairs, heard me and inquired what was wrong.
I told him, and he rushed to his computer to take a look. He contacted the server, and within a day or two, we had gotten rid of the interlopers, and I was back in control of the site. However, the damage would take months to correct itself.
The HTML was on the wall. I desperately needed a new website. I knew through the grapevine that I needed a website on which I could make changes. It’s called a content management system.
I dabbled in the fall of 2011 with Blogger (A Google product) and Shopify, but I knew it wasn’t right, so I began to ask around. The one person who answered my query said:
“Well, I could charge you in order to help you, but I don’t really have the time. Besides, why should I teach you what you already know?”
I thanked her and said goodbye, but what I wanted to say was, “Well, bitch, I DON’T ALREADY KNOW, otherwise, I wouldn’t be inquiring.” Ironically, I found out years later that she had worked with my dear mentor, Eileen Lonergan. All she needed to say was, “Call Eileen.” But no. 2.5 years later, I found Eileen without this woman’s help.
But, I wanted to get going, and not knowing what to do, I looked at a website I loved, and in the footer, like my current site, it said ProPhoto with a link, so I clicked on it.
Once on the site, I watched a promotional video. Of course, they make it look effortless to make your DIY website. No developer or coding whatsoever. In fact, they give strict warnings not to muck with the code.
As the name implies, ProPhoto is designed primarily for photographers.
Of course, anyone can use the theme. You purchase Prophoto and upload it. Then you upload one of their add-on themes if you want to add more customizations. You have to connect with a server. They recommended Bluehost. Then, you acquire a wordpress.org website.
There are numerous options, but those in the know said that a self-hosted WordPress account was definitely the way to go.
Why not just do wordpress.com?
That is a great question. wordpress.com is not self-hosted. WordPress hosts your website/blog, and they also own it. You’re just renting space. But, they can evict you if they don’t like something you’re doing. And, if you strike it big perchance, it would not be a good move to have WordPress owning one’s website.
Anyway, I suffered through all of the uploading and did everything I was told to do. It wasn’t easy, but it was not impossible, either.
On my WordPress dashboard, I can access the ProPhoto customizer.
It is not very intuitive. For instance, “fonts” doesn’t control the fonts you see. That happens in Content Appearance. Luckily, most of this is set it and forget it.
I worked on the customizations for an entire weekend, and by Monday, I launched the Laurel Home website and wrote my first blog post.
In fact, the logo on your email is what the original site logo looked like for you subscribers.
This is why when I see someone with a “website coming soon!” message for months and months, I kind of roll my eyes. You can have a website up and running in a day or two.
And, that is how it all began in April 2012. Aww… I remember that raggedy font.
Over the years, I’ve been through a tremendous number of ups and countless downs with the Laurel Home website.
- The site has crashed dozens of times
- Images weren’t showing up.
- Caching issues.
- Mobile issues.
- That required a second theme… ProPhoto’s mobile-friendly version was not user-friendly.
Uh oh… I see several people in the back with their heads in their laps.
Please forgive me. I could write a novel about my little website and what we have been through. However, if you’re interested in learning how I got to where I am, please consider purchasing my guide I named Six Figure Income Blogger.
By 2017, I knew I needed a new theme. But, between Tim and me, there were illnesses, deaths, other projects, vacations, and something called Covid-19. All of that deterred that from happening.
Couldn’t I just hire someone to do EVERYTHING?
Yes, but then it would’ve gotten too complicated. It’s not enough to have only a pretty site. It has to function super well.
So, I’ve just made do. Before Eileen passed away late in 2018, her guy would patch things up, or I’d call Prophoto. In 2018, I began working with Tim. He took over when Eileen could no longer work.
However, in the last couple of years, numerous conflicts have arisen because of the antiquated theme, the separate, sometimes finicky mobile theme, and on and on… The handwriting was no longer on the wall; it was slapping me in the face!
I told Tim earlier this year, “I don’t care what it takes, we.are.doing.this!!! And, it needs to be done before the end of summer. He said, okay.
Tim is the most chill, cool dude on the planet and an amazing developer. However, he’s not a designer; most developers aren’t. Some people have super pretty sites, but they aren’t well coded, or they splinter off into another website. That’s a big No-no.
So, first came my part. I needed to give Tim a logo, the fonts, sizes, and colors.
I have no idea where I found the Laurel leaf. It was a photo that I turned into a watercolor. The logo font is Forum, and the tag line in teal is my sans serif font. You’ll see it in a sec.
Knowing myself and knowing that I could easily drive Tim or any developer to the brink, he told me he could make a clone of my ProPhoto site for me to experiment on.
I couldn’t do everything, but I could spend enough time obsessing so that Tim would be able to do his thing beginning last month.
However, finding the perfect font isn’t easy. (for me)
In addition, I am not about to pay thousands of dollars a year for a font that requires a license. There are hundreds of free or nearly free fonts, and I only need two. A serif font with embellishments and a sans serif font that is plainer.
The most reliable source of free fonts is Google Fonts. There I found my new sans serif font that I love.
I love that some letters do have a small embellishment, and I adore the combination of line weights in some of the letters. Of course, it’s also highly legible.
Still, I was struggling trying to find the right serif font.
And the serif font is the bulk of what you see on the Laurel Home Website.
Some fonts look great in regular text, but the italic version is awful. Actually, Times has one of the best fonts in italics, in my opinion. However, I’m sick of Times New Roman. I mean, it certainly gets the job done. It’s the peanut butter and jelly of typefaces.
But, I also wanted a better ampersand.
I know. Like who freaking cares?
No one but me. True. But, this website is my digital home. And since I only redo my website once every ten years, I think it’s okay to spend the time finding the best free or low-cost font.
Once I had exhausted every Google serif font, I found out on Font Squirrel that all Adobe fonts with a nominal monthly subscription are free to use any way one wants. I think it’s about 10 dollars a month for an Adobe Creative Cloud; I believe it’s called. Adobe was formerly known as Typekit.
There, I found my serif font.
PS Fournier is legible and looks great in all sizes. It also has a beautiful italic font and a cool ampersand. I think it feels both modern and classical. In fact, there’s a story around the original font which you can read here.
I didn’t know that PF Fournier was named after the originator, Pierre Simon Fournier, an 18th-century French typographer. It has been reissued and updated by Stephane Albez for TypoFondarie.
Below is the alphabet and numbers, along with my beautiful ampersand.
So, when are we going to see the new Laurel Home website?
Everything is about 98% finished on desktop, but we’re having a couple of struggles with mobile. Tim’s working them out. I expect the new site to launch around the 29th of August, the third anniversary of my mommy’s passing.
However, I am going to give you a little preview right now.
The basic structure of the site is going to be identical. That part ain’t broken, and I love it.
So, without further noise from me, here is part of a blog page.
Okay, Laurel, if you’re not using the Prophoto theme, what theme are you using?
Tim is using the Astra Pro Theme augmented by Elementor, a page builder, to allow for further customizations.
Back in 2017, I was going to use the Genesis but was underwhelmed with the limited choices. However, Genesis themes are lovely.
Thanks, Laurel; now what the hell is CACHING?
Gosh, you guys ask the best questions!
Okay, the best way to explain it is, let’s say there are 30,000 pages on this site. Yes, you heard right. Every image has its own page. Caching works to hold the 29,963 pages in a virtual binder. (The cache) Therefore, the site only has to download what’s new and everything else in the cache.
Then it, too, gets added to the cache. That way, the site loads way faster than if it had to retrieve all 30,000 pages every time someone jumped onto the site.
When it comes to websites, speed is imperative. And, other things like being mobile-friendly and font size.
I know that some of you may want Tim’s contact info. Please get in touch with me if you like– in October.
Tim’s going on vacay in about a month. That’s why we’re going live with this ASAP. We want to be able to iron out anything serious before he goes away. Of course, copious amounts of testing is going on this week before the site goes live.
The links are in the same gray color, but most, when hovered, as you can see above, will turn into the teal color.
What about Square Space, Laurel? I hear that it’s very easy to use and inexpensive.
I don’t recommend it, or Wix or Weebly. These platforms have a lot of limitations, and if you decide you need to migrate it to WordPress is going to be a major hassle. That translates to beaucoup bucks you’re going to have to shell out.
What about an updated ProPhoto website, Laurel?
Sure, please look into it. I do know there are some developers that specialize in using their themes which are beautiful. Or, you could learn to do it yourself. The new system is completely different. It’s now a drag & drop system.
If there are any other questions, please ask in the comments.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support. As you can see, the Laurel Home website is still “me.” Just me with a facelift, tummy tuck, and a new brain! haha!