booksandstories.com

May 2000 Review

Well, May was officially the start date for the booksandstories.com website. In reality, of course, I was working on the site from as far back as Christmas 1999. The story is long and painful, so I might as well tell you about it.

What's in a name?

I decided on booksandstories.com because this best described my site. I also had an eye on the search engines when I chose it, as the words "books and stories" feature quite often. I bought the domain name from NetNames.

Banks and ASP

If any of you were to decide to buy access to one of my stories (Heaven forbid!), then I would need a mechanism by which to do this. After some advice I chose WorldPay Direct. They provide the entire credit/debit card services. It costs me £125 plus tax a year, I get a couple of accounts, they do all the verifying and processing and stick what's left of your payment into a business account.

It sounds okay, but it took ages setting up. The hardest bit was sorting out how to give a purchaser the password for the book they wanted to buy. This leads me neatly into ASP.

Using Active Server Pages was the only way I could see of enabling me to restrict the access to some of my web pages. For those of you who don't know about ASP yet, it's quite simple, but complicated too. If you look closely at the path displayed on your browser when you move your mouse over the pay chapter links in the List page, you will see that these are .asp files, and not .html files. This is because they contain some ASP script that my web host server interrogates before giving you the page. If you have entered the password, you get to see it, if you haven't, it redirects you to the Order page. If you have bought access to one of my books, a bit of ASP checks the name of the book and gives you the correct password. If you get devious and copy one of the pages, or try and see the source code, the ASP bit remains hidden. Clever, isn't it? Of course, this only works if your host server can handle ASP. Because of this, my site is hosted by eWebcity (now Brinkster) in the USA.

Style

Sorting out the look and style of the site was relatively easy. I sort of knew what I wanted, but I discussed it with friends at the CRAL (Centre for Remote Access to Learning) centre in Bolton Institute where I work. The use of frames came up very early on. I felt that this would be better, as some of the book web pages would be very long, and it would be a long way to scroll down to find a back button! Anyway, putting all the buttons on one frame, with all the other pages appearing in the second frame helped to give the site more of a presence, and promotes the style I wanted.

Blue was chosen for most of the text because I thought blue on white would be gentler on the eye. I had thought about blue as a background, as is the case on the buttons page. The graphic designers at the CRAL centre would have been happier with this, as it sort of looked arty and nicer. Those of you who have seen my advert in Doctor Who Magazine will know what I mean. But in the end, I wanted people to be able to print out the books, so a white background was really the only way (imagine the cost in printing several hundred pages with an almost black background –or in colour– and you can see what I mean). To contrast with the blue, red was chosen for "booksandstories.com" (yellow in the advert –that's graphic designers for you!).

The open and closing books for the buttons, and the pile of books for the logo, more or less chose themselves. I wanted the books to open on the mouse over, and when clicked, and I always like the effect –daft, aren’t I? The logo was also used as a background.

The general idea was to maintain the same style throughout, and I think it works okay. It's most effective when you move into WorldPay's web pages. Without the frames, it would have looked like a completely different site.

Anyway, that was how it turned out looking the way it does.

Well, that's about it. May saw my site officially go on line. But getting a website up there is only the beginning, isn't it?

What do you think of it so far? Email me!

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