Moving and redecorating

After 10 years, I've finally done something that I've been putting off for a long time - I moved this entire site onto a new backend. This may not sound like much, but I knew it was going to be a really painful process so I put off doing it for as long as possible. When I started writing FehrTrade.com back in 2006, I set it all up on a great open source blogging platform called TextPattern, and for a few years it suited my needs well. But the web has evolved massively in the past ten years, and unfortunately, the contributors to TextPattern have not, and even doing seemingly simple things like tagging required a bunch of coding knowledge and a lot of crossing of fingers. Don't even think about social network integrations - they barely existed when the site was created! I kept coming up against limitations in what I could actually do with the site, and eventually I realised I'd have to move everything over to a different backend in order to keep the site going at all (let's not even talk about the security holes!).

New website

After 10 years, I’ve finally done something that I’ve been putting off for a long time – I moved this entire site onto a new backend. This may not sound like much, but I knew it was going to be a really painful process so I put off doing it for as long as possible.

When I started writing FehrTrade.com back in 2006, I set it all up on a great open source blogging platform called TextPattern, and for a few years it suited my needs well. But the web has evolved massively in the past ten years, and unfortunately, the contributors to TextPattern have not, and even doing seemingly simple things like tagging required a bunch of coding knowledge and a lot of crossing of fingers. Don’t even think about social network integrations – they barely existed when the site was created! I kept coming up against limitations in what I could actually do with the site, and eventually I realised I’d have to move everything over to a different backend in order to keep the site going at all (let’s not even talk about the security holes!).

So over the bank holiday weekend, I resolved to just Get It Done. Those four days involved a LOT of swearing, my site being moved to 3(!) different servers on my webhost in order to find one that could support the various version needs of both the old and new platform, finding a way to export and then reimport over one thousand posts(!) and how to deal with my legacy of over 10,000 images(!). And this was even before I got to the usual stuff that makes building a site a headache like choosing themes, widgets, plugins, editing CSS, and the like.

I knew it was going to be painful, and it was actually even more painful than that. Over the long weekend, I’d wake up every morning to find hours of my work had been undone by a variety of technical reasons. It was humbling. But at the end of that weekend, I had most of the server-side and data parts done, and thanks to the coding-fu of a good friend, we could pull in all the tags from the old posts, too. Over the last 2-3 weeks I’ve been whittling away at my To-Do list, and I’ve finally called it D-O-N-E and switched on all the .htaccess redirects from all the bits of www.fehrtrade.com (old platform) to blog.fehrtrade.com (new platform).

Things should be as smooth as possible for you if you’re reading this over RSS or in a weekly email digest – I’ve kept the images in old posts to be in the same place so they’ll still work, too. The one sticking point is that the post ID (that number in the URL) in the new platform uses a different schema, so trying to redirect individual posts on the old platform to the new one resulted in being shown the wrong post. Barring my going through over 1,000 posts and reassigned different post IDs, the best solution was to automatically search for the post title and display that. So if you’re following links from older posts and you’re shown a search results screen, that’s why!

The only real loss at the moment is that the comments from all the posts couldn’t be imported into the new platform. I got in touch with the people who created the import script, and they’re working on a solution for comments. As soon as they do, I can update the old posts to add the comments back onto them (I’ve got them saved in the right format off the old site). So the historic comments WILL be coming back as soon as the importing script supports them.

There are still a few little CSS/display quirks here and there I’d like to improve, but the site should hopefully be a ton better for you guys to read, comment, and share – and much, much better for me to maintain and add to, too. Blogging was definitely becoming a chore with the old platform, but normal service should be returning now that I’m done putting all my usual sewing and blogging time into the site migration!

So if you normally read in a feed reader or email program, come on over to the new site and say hello in the comments! Let me know what you think, and if there’s anything in your particular device or browser that looks weird (I’ve tested it on all the major stuff but it’s impossible to check all the combinations!).

12 Comments

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  1. 1
    ro

    I do like the new layout, and also found it interesting to read about the technical details. Thanks for sharing! It’s fun to see how people who focus on the details in their craft also transfer those skills over to technology. I teach undergraduates geophysics and am continually reinforced in my belief that the ones who do some sort of craft do better at programming and data analysis than those who have not.

    • 2
      melissa

      Thanks! Ultimately most people don’t realise that coding/developing is a very creative activity! I actually did a lot of coding back in university and have always worked in tech, and only come to sewing after that. I even used to build my own computers before I got sick of messing with drivers and tiny screwdrivers! 😉

  2. 4
    Lisa B

    Congratulations on tackling such a massive job! I normally read in feedly and click through when I want to see larger photos, etc.

  3. 5
    Susan Perzanowski

    Still don’t understand the technical stuff, but I love the results! It is definitely easier to navigate and read, and even easier to add a comment. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Fehrtrade is my favorite sewing blog/site! Great job, Melissa. Looking forward to many more years of Fehrtrade posts.

  4. 6
    erniek3

    I wish the developers of the website for my job were more crafty. Clarity for the user seems to be very low on their priority lists, and ease of use for me working with it lower still.

    It is an art, and you have a beauty in the works here.

  5. 7
    Tanya

    Hi, this is looking really, really good. You’re quite amazing and your blog is just great. Congratulations and thanks for all your work on it.

  6. 8
    Kelli

    Looks great. I did try some of your links on the download page (I wanted to see what a fascinator was!) but all the links took me back to the home page…so not sure if I’m screwing up (very real possibility) or there’s a hiccup. Just FYI.

  7. 11
    Ellie

    I typically view on a Samsung Tab 4 Nook (android platform) and the site crashes my tab and internet every time I try to view it requiring me to reboot my tablet. I can see it just fine on my desktop, windows 10, but it just pulls up a green screen on my windows phone, Windows 8, without loading the actual “meat” of the site. I like the way it looks on my desktop though! There are always growing pains no matter what you are doing. Looks good and keep up the good work. I love visiting your blog.

    • 12
      melissa

      oh no! Thanks for letting me know – I’ve tested it on as many platforms as I could, but I’ve not got access to any Nooks or Windows 8 devices (it’s fine on all the Android devices in the test suite at work). I’m so sorry you can’t see the site – I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to track down the source of the problem, but you can subscribe to my posts over RSS (http://blog.fehrtrade.com/feed/) or by email (I realise you can’t see the signup form, so let me know and I can manually subscribe you if you’d like).

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