charles cramer

About the Website

When I put up my original website in 1999, I used Dreamweaver to create all the pages. I was also impressed with the website of a friend of mine, Jim Stimson, who had drop shadows around all his images. It turns out Dreamweaver can't do drop shadows, you have to do them yourself in Photoshop. I've made some Photoshop action scripts that automate the whole process of resizing, adding a little white border, some of the background pattern, and then the drop shadow. I think it helps give a slight 3D look to the pages.

My old website was "hard-wired", which means all the images had their own separate pages, which were then linked to the next and previous pages. Lots of work, and very hard to change. With this new website, I wanted to be able to have a changeable category for "new" images. Each change would involve a lot of re-wiring of the links and such, which would probably mean I would never update the site. Kind of like the last 8 years! (Although I did one update since 1999...)

After a few days work, I realized what I needed was a "dynamic" site. This is a completely different animal, something I knew nothing about...

One of my favorite learning tools is the website. For $25 a month, you get access to their thousands of little movies, explaining every piece of software under the sun. They have one on "Dreamweaver CS3: Beyond the Basics", which had a section on making dynamic sites. It looked so easy! Like in many things, once you get a little invested in an idea, it's hard to stop. This dynamic site design was quite an adventure, because there were times when I reached an impasse that I thought was unsolvable. With a dynamic site, you use PHP scripting language, a MYSQL database, and a home software server setup. Once I got some of that working, how could I stop?

I find this kind of work very enjoyable! Perhaps it's because I work most of the time with photography and music—two "art" forms. "Art" means there are no right answers. "Art" means it can always be better. "Art" can be very frustrating! With a php page, either it works or it doesn't, and I quite enjoy the little triumph in getting something to work, and not question if it could be better.

It took about three weeks to finish two pages! But, these are the dynamic pages and contain all the images. There's the "master" page, where you select what images to see. And the "detail" page, which is the separate browser window to show the large version of the image. Thanks to Tom Muck for creating wonderful Dreamweaver extensions that do what I had hoped to do with these pages.

I do the image layout and ordering in the wonderful iView Media Pro (which has since been bought by Microsoft, and is now called "Expressions Media"). It allows you to sort through and change the order of selected images, and remembers each sort. I then export a text list, which is imported into Filemaker Pro, where I add the titles and paths for the images. This is then exported into a dbase file, which is then imported into the Mysql database. This has the order, titles, and links to all the images. To change, reorder, remove, or add images, I just change this database table!  Now that it's much simpler to change, we'll see how often I actually change the thing...

I am also very happy with the new menu system you see at the top. You can create these drop-down menus directly in the Dreamweaver CS3, but I thought it was a little clunky. I discovered a superior system at OpenCube. This is the same menu used by Fedex and Adobe! It will work without any javascript, so you don't need to add secondary links for those who have turned off javascript in their browsers. It is also search engine friendly. I am delighted to be able to add links to lots of pages in a simple, yet elegant manner.

I include this information because people in the past have asked who did my website. When my failure to understand just how to "terminate a session variable" crashes the AT&T servers, you can blame me!