Mike Allen's Blog

Doing Smarter Things With IT

On Upgrading to a New Website

I have a business web site at Mike Allen Systems, I had already done some design and content and was ready to add some more business content and improve the graphics.

In the design process I had gone back to basics and used HTML and CSS, using W3-CSS to give me a simple responsive layout. That was all good: basic, simple and responsive, so I’d ticked all those boxes. One area of technology I’d fudged slightly was the layout, I’d used HTML server side includes for my headers, footers and menu. All this with minimal JavaScript. The problem I now had was how make the web site easily extendable in order provide more business functions.

I have to admit that the moment I started writing HTML and steering away from JavaScript, I had set my direction. I’d just set up a WordPress site for a customer, and while I respect WordPress, I wasn’t going to go there for my own needs. I have some programing skills in C#, so I looked at Razor Pages . This wasn’t a simple choice, I tried various aspects of creating just Razor Pages with a Layout replacing the includes, that was the simple bit. Then I got into creating an ASP .NET Core 2 application, which I discovered gave me what I needed, particularly for form pages.

Converting my pages to a Razor project was simple and tested nicely on the desktop. I used SendGrid on my contact form, that is nice and clean to use. What I hadn’t really considered was how to deploy this fairly new technology. My current web host didn’t support ASP .NET Core 2 on my server. Bummer! I regrouped and deployed to Azure and that was OK. I looked at Custom URL and SSL on Azure and found that put me in a higher price range. I looked for a more suitable host.

Finding a good host has always been one of the trials for web sites. Sometimes and excellent host will be taken over and service will decline, and the opposite can happen and a host can dramatically improve services. I’ve been using Crazy Domains for years for domain registration. Years ago their support for the .NET I needed was limited, but I gave them a call to see if they supported Core 2, and they did. I deployed and was up and running straight away.

This was a fairly simple technology upgrade for a web site, but it still consumed time and effort. My take away is to always consider deployment up front as part of the planning process, in order to avoid obstacles in the path of successful completion. It’s also important to be flexible, so I did write a little JavaScript to power my quote engine.

In summary, don’t forget to plan, but don’t expect activities to progress as planned, there are a lot of components involved in a web site upgrade, so allow time for discovery of issues and remediation. I also found the upgrade led me to consider other issues, such as how I manage images, keywords and content, that is for future projects.

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