Animal Weekly Back Online!

Hello Animal Lovers! has been my ‘pet’ no-pun intended project and labor of love since 2017. Before it even got started it has had several set-backs including:

Loss of a laptop hard drive loosing around 20,000 files from my computer – I think this occured somewhere around 2019.

Some of which were high quality article outlines I had developed for a long term content creation plan. Also lost in the laptop crisis where many lost photos that I will never get back. These unreplaceable treasures included many photos of cats and other special memories.

This was a major blow to my morale to say the least, AnimalWeekly and other web projects I was involved with suffered as things went to the back burner as I had to climb out of the trenches of loosing important documents and information both personal, as well as for

The 2nd major setback occured around 2020, when the graphics software I used to create the logo released a new more advanced release of their program. As a result of the complete foundational change to the software – which was rebuilt from the ground up, the new program was incompatible with the older graphics I had spent time developing.

If you’ve ever designed graphics online, you know how it goes – you get super comfortable figuring out how to update things and make the changes you need, how to optimize, where to find the tools and menus you need etc. Then when everything gets turned upside down it’s like loosing a safety blanket you had relied upon. Then you have the daunting task of learning and becoming proficient with the new software program, which takes time.

Sure you can hire someone to do the graphics work for you, but it’s just not the same as having the freedom of knowing how to make the changes yourself, make changes to sizing, pixel quality, combine with other images, make various creative images that require other modifications combined with text etc. I realize it’s not the worst thing in life to go through this change, but I just didn’t have the energy or time to deal with the image software issues at the time.

Again, my morale was really hindered from this experience, and again went to the wayside as I had been working a lot and just didn’t have the mental energy to face the mountain of learning the new software, and didn’t think I could really recreate the logo that was originally to be a quick sketch, yet turned into the logo I really felt was right for the identity of the website as time progressed.

As you can imagine, most quality websites requires at least some level of decent graphics, and it took time to become comfortable with the new graphics package. Fortunately my graphic design skills had significantly improved since the transition occured through a number of projects I had been blessed to be involved with, and just recently in late 2022 had a little time and decided to make an attempt to see if I could redesign something close to the old logo.

To my amazement, after reaching my new skill level I was able to make a near identical re-design of the logo. The original logo (which is used in the header presently – and for the forseable future) was a vector image, which I had strived to make perfectly semetrical at the time, yet the human eyeball can’t create a flawless circle, which is the defining shape of the head of ‘Oscar’ (a cat I used to know & love).

Since my skills had increased and I understood layers better I pasted the original logo on the graphic board, then used a partial transparent layer above it where I designed and adjusted a series of circles, ovals, along with other shapes and vector designs to rebuild the logo nearly identically. With that said, I wanted to keep the original Oscar around as he is part of the legacy of this website, so even though slightly less symetrical (almost undetectable to the eye), he remains, and the new logo is used for all other creatives.

Time for the 3rd major setback… Forward to late 2022 again… Around the time I had started playing around in my head the future of and the graphics etc I started having troubles with several of the websites I had designed – only to find my main website hosing platform had become infected with a terrible virus that destroyed several websites. Presumably this occured from a hacker accessing an outdated plugin. This server virus wiped out all of my websites, and the only ones that could be recovered were the ones I had backups for.

It was a major major defeat as I haven’t had a virus successfully hack one of my websites in many years. As a result, I didn’t really take my backups too seriously since I didn’t really expect something so malicious to happen. So I thank God I had backups of most of the websites, although several were lost.

When previous setbacks occured to this website, it completely devistated my motivation and took the wind out of my sails. This time, however, was different. I looked at it as a clean start with a clean slate. I had used the previous hosting account for like 11 years and had created a lot of messes with disorganized files, folder organizational structures and other issues as I didn’t really have a standard way to handle things when I was early in my web design experience.

One day I backed up my most important files, opened a new account – at a new hosting provider even, and began to rebuild my websites. Not all are recovered to this day, and a few may never be recovered. Many of my websites are for family, or a resume, or other interests I have and may someday build out, but one of my primary interests was this one.

So I uploaded a known ‘clean’, backup of this website from before the hack occured, and immediately dismantled all of the outdated plugins – including the theme – which became the final setback to mention in this post. Just before the end of 2022 was like the shell of a car in an assembly plant – just a chasis – no windows, no windshield, no seat, no stearing wheel, engine or tires – just a metal shell.

No graphics, no menus, no logos…

Regardless, the hacker was unable to take the most important thing from me – my backup copy. Even though after uploading the backup I immediately had to strip the website to it’s core, and changed it’s passwords, it still held the most valued pieces – the articles I wrote in the past.

The theme? So what’s the big deal? Well I was having trouble modifying the base template to look right on not just desktop computers, but on tablets, and most importantly mobile phones as well. There are ways to edit them separately using the CSS code, however, I can stumble though CSS but am by no means an expert, and didn’t have endless hours to re-code the CSS file even if I did want to fix these issues. I spent quite a bit of time at this point – many hours trying get it to look just right on all devices. This was pretty frustrating and depressing wondering if I was ever going to get this website back online after all the complications I’ve had with it to this point.

So while I like to design things to the extent that I can, is built with the ‘WordPress’ website package – who graciously offers the core softare package used on (that they spent millions devloping) to web designers like me to upload onto their own hosting account. WordPress powers over 43% of all websites in the world.

As a result, there are literally thousands of ‘templates’ that are pre-designed since most people aren’t professional web developers that code them from scratch. Instead there are countless unselfish developers that design them and provide them to the WordPress community to use on their websites for free. These templates are highly professional, designed by full time skilled web developers, and generally look far better than a normal person can design (better than I can for sure).

I had gone through hundreds of the templates as I am overly particular on finding something that looks ‘right’ that has the look and feel I’m searching for. Especially since this is my part time passion, and I finally had hope of taking this website seriously and bringing it to the next level. After finding about 20 or so templates that looked nice based on their appeal in the online mall of templates to select from I demo’ed them to see what they would look like.

The challenge with demo’ing templates is that there are so many options and capabilities that even after putting the template into demo mode it’s hard to fully understand what features an options it’s capable of without investing significant amounts of time trying to see if it is capable of being designed to look the way you want it to look, and if it has the features you want or need.

Without boring anyone further than I already may have, I was not able to find a template with the exact look I was hoping for. I was getting to the end of the list of templates I had hoped had some possibility to become the winner to be picked to be used for my baby –

Finally, it was starting to look pretty bland – either the template didn’t look right with columns, didn’t have the right banner options, didn’t have the right logo positioning I had hoped for, or spacing issues, and fonts were wrong, some didn’t look right on mobile or tables but looked great on a desktop computer (needs to look good on all 3) or just an unimpressive look without lots of work, or hacks to the CSS code etc.

Anyway, I was finally down to demo’ing like the last template or two, and finally I came upon this one – by the developer Alx. It had a very different, and smooth look – just the look I was looking for. It also uploaded my existing pages with minimal edits to the CSS code that is a major factor on the way websites appear. This template completely caught my attention and caught me off guard – it was a very different beautiful piece of coding art, and instantly looked great even while demo’ing it. I thought I better just recheck the few other contending templates as sometimes these templates become a blur when trying to choose one. It nearly instantly became the clear template winner, with no close 2nd place.

It should be noted that many of these contless templates I looked at weren’t bad templates – it’s just they weren’t right for what I was looking for and what my layout needs were for

After I chose the template I began to strike while the motivation was hot, and in a couple of weeks completely revamped AnimalWeekly into a robust website capable of sharing my story and experiences with those interested.

I didn’t expect this blog post to last so long – it’s been a long journey to get it to where it’s finally reached and I’m totally excited to see where it goes. I’ve learned the importance of planning website backups, graphics, and hard drive backups, as well as actually performing the boring softare updates that becoming available on the backend of websites to help protect against hacker vulnerabilities going forward.

It’s been a long journey but I’m looking forward to the future of and hope my experiences are helpful to you as well.

Randy /