Thursday 23 July 2009

From DNN to MVC?

The cloud9sites development is progressing steadily in my spare time. I have yet to push anything up to the web site as essentially these are the major pieces of the jigsaw that will change the site from an advert to a fully operational eCommerce application.

The 3 major components of this are the skin (or template) selection; the content capture and finally the domain name search. The idea is that a 3 stage wizard will be used to build the site - this is to counter all of the complex web site builders and Content Management Systems
that are targeted at web developers rather than end users.

1. The skin selection is using the ad-gallery Jquery plugin to spin through a selection of skin thumbnails showing the selected thumbnail in a larger window

2. The content entry is using the Jquery tabs as well as the FCKEditor plugin to give the WYSIWYG HTML editing.

3. I have written a web service wrapper for the domain tools API for the domain search feature

4. The last stage of the site wizard is to push the order into google checkout.

I now have a dilema. I have developed the wizard in ASP.NET 3.5 and JQuery with the style and plugins of JQuery UI.
Given that I am going to be offering a standard set of pages (Home, Contact, About) I
am now questioning whether or not a CMS is necessary (specifically Dot Net Nuke). Much of what I have been doing has being working "against the grain" of a CMS.

I will give this some thought, but my current idea is that an MVC/Jquery pairing could give me exactly what I need and more importantly allow me
to scale this by removing much of the overhead/noise that comes along with DNN. DNN is also proving to be slow. I also like the idea of the URL rewriting
in MVC and I plan to introduce some "Convention over Configuration" concepts so that the introduction of a new site can largely be driven by the
domain name (storing the site content in a folder specific to the domain name for example).

Thursday 9 July 2009

DNN Loosing links and building the store

Another late evening working on

As ever, getting the graphics up is pretty simple. Powerpoint is, beleive it or not, a great tool for creating all of the curved boxes, gradients and 3d buttons that you might ever want.

I have started working on navigation and have had some challenges getting my embedded URL's to save in the DNN Text/HTML editors. I was saving anchors/tags without text between the brackets. The text isn't needed as I am using CSS to replace the anchors with button images. DNN just sees the missing text as invalid and deletes the tag when the Source HTML is saved. The resolution is just to put a non printable character between the tags.

The major part of the site is the wizard and store front used to guide the user through the site building process. The first goal is simply to catch the required data (site template, payment options, site content).

Step 1: Template and Payment Option
I have used the DNN store module and specifically the Category Products selection to filter the product categories shown as part of the wizard. I have created two categories: Themes and Packages to hold the DNN skins and the payment options respectively. The theme images in the store module are taken from the thumbnails that come with the free downloaded skins. Nice and simple. The payment options are text only, so again very simple. The idea is that the user adds a theme and a payment option to the cart. Not slick, but a simple way to get up and running until I find (or develop) something better.

Step 2: Content
This is work in progress. I have just installed the Form Creation DNN Module from and this looks like it will do the job of giving me a form that will capture all of the fields that I need for the site; including uploading images. The main challenge with all of these tools seems to be getting consistency around the look and feel of the lables, titles and action buttons in line with my skin/theme.

Future challenges...

Step 3: Domain Search
I need to find an easy way to plug in a module that will find a domain name and, even better, suggest one based upon the company name.

Step 4: Collecting Payment
Paypal seems to be the lowest friction option, but for the first few sites I won't automatically collect payment, I just want to guage interest.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Cloud 9 Sites

I've not blogged for 6 months and perhaps it will be another 6 months before I blog again, but I intend to keep a record of my attempts to set up a hobby company on behalf of my wife to bring in some necessary background income.
I was recently introduced to the term "sitcom" by a friend - Single Income Two Children Onerous Mortgage: very appropriate.

The inspiration for this venture was the book the "4 hour work week" by Tim Ferris

In short I will be creating a web site targeted at the small/medium business. The product will be a tool for automating the creation of an entry level web site for the non technical user. I will use a collection of tools and technologies that I know (and some I don't) and a balance of licensed/open-source software. Cost is a factor, but following the mantra of Tim Ferris I will outsource (or buy in) where appropriate.

My efforts can be followed at

I am already well on my way to getting a site up and running based upon Dot Net Nuke, SQL Server and hosted on GoDaddy Windows Servers with .NET 3.5. The home/landing page is now in place and I am working on the store front aspects in the background.

There are many things that I have yet to solve, but that's what makes it interesting!

Cheers - Jon.