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Website changes and blog software

I have spent the good portion of the weekend moving our Travelog onto a different platform. The results can be found by clicking the link on the navigation bar, or here if you prefer. As of this moment, the content is almost exactly the same as what it was before the move, with just one important addition: I made public the overall Destinations Rating exercise that I have started putting together several weeks ago; it can be found by clicking “Destinations” link at the top of the new Travelog.

Please check it out and let me know what you think. I will also appreciate any bug reports – I don’t doubt that, in the true manner of a seasoned software developer, I have left bugs to be discovered during UAT 🙂

Anyone who is interested in an off-the-cuff comparison of two different blogging platforms, please read on.

This main blog, as well as old Travelog, utilize b2evolution software package. The platform is quite comprehensive in terms of available customizations and administrative options, but is occasionally quite cumbersome to use. Some of its quirks have always driven me nuts. For instance, every editing action results in a confirmation page, from which you then have to select your next action; so if your choice is to go back to where you were before, it results in one extra click (which can become quite excruciating if your broadband connection is crawling as it is). Or, when updating an old post that is no longer on the front page, there is no way to go directly to viewing it upon submitting changes; you have to execute a search for it first.

But overall, I got quite used to b2evolution capabilities, and enjoyed its balanced approach to customization (most all the changes that you’d ever need are made in a single template file; however, all building blocks are written with object-oriented programming in mind).

For the purposes of diversification and familiarization with another product, I selected a considerably more widely used WordPress as the target platform for Travelog. Right from the beginning, the aforementioned annoyances (and a few others) have gone away and several options that I was missing have become available. It does appear that administration capabilities are less extensive in WordPress, but I have not yet come across anything that I truly need that is not there. b2evolution allows multiple blogs to be run off a single installation, which WordPress does not, but I am starting to think that it would be cleaner to have a dedicated installation for each separate blog anyway.

WordPress’ theme customization is a bit more cumbersome, as you need to modify multiple files if you want homogenous look and feel. People who create WordPress themes normally do not bother with encapsulating common display sub-blocks, which means that less-than-ideal amount of copy-pasting is required.

The core API, though, is tremendous in its capacity and simplicity. Moreover, the online documentation for WordPress appears much more user-friendly than that of b2evolution, although I have no doubt that both are quite comprehensive.

Both the database structure and the php object tree appear more streamlined in WordPress. I can bet that there is a response time net gain because of that. While correcting cross-blog links, I have spent quite some time moving back and forth between blogs, and I swear that WordPress pages come up considerably quicker. (It’s possible that the problem is in widgets that I have on this blog).

Further on customization, I am not much of a designer type, so I rely on tweaking existing themes for my sites’ look and feel. I was always a bit disappointed with the small number of good themes available for b2evolution. Seriously, beyond what you see here, I know of just one or two more than basic themes that appeal to me to a degree. Surely, not all the themes in WordPress are to my liking either, but of the 1600 of so that are available, I came across a dozen or so that are intriguing.

To be perfectly honest, my requirement of having as little clutter and as much content space as possible rendered some of the theme possibilities mute, but the greater choice is there unquestionably.

The verdict must be pretty obvious to anyone who’s read thus far: I will soon be looking to move this blog onto the WordPress platform as well. The only thing that stops me right now is the absence of a ready migration tool (you can import almost anything into WordPress, but not b2evolution). With only 30+ articles in the Travelog, I managed to get by an RSS import for this exercise. But that still caused a lot of manual retouching afterwards, and it lost me all of the Travelog comments (of which there were but a handful, so not really a loss). I will have to write a full-blown database-to-database migration program myself, if I want to preserve all the bits and pieces of this much bigger blog. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Posted in Blogging

2 Comments

  1. Visitor

    Priviet Ilya,

    just came across your blog. You have done an amazing job providing a great detail of useful information for expats or future expats planning on moving to London! I know how difficult it can be to find honest and detailed perspectives on a variety of subjects on the Internet but you certainly give a great insight.

    Hope the bank of opportunities is still treating you well despite current market conditions.

    Keep up all the good work.

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