Learning points from creating a new Symbiostock website
As I mentioned earlier this week, I have been creating a new Symbiostock based personal stock agency for all my images. This was partly because the legacy theme is not being supported any longer and partly because I wanted to simplify my hosting arrangements. To illustrate the issue, someone bought a couple of images from my legacy site last night, I charged him, but the site didn’t send the email with links to the images. Not good…
Anyway, I thought it would be useful for any photographers following in my shoes if I noted down the lessons learned in the transition from old to new.
- Hosting. These stock sites are heavy on storage and also on processing when the images are uploaded. I have tried cheap shared hosting plans and you often get penalized (and capped) if you use too many resources. Because I want to do this professionally (and host all my sites in one place) I went for a VPS solution where you have guarantees of resources. After much research, I chose InMotion Hosting with their $29.95 a month VPS1000 package.
- Things you need to ask the hosting company to do:
- Enable Image Magick and the Imagick PHP applications. This is used to process the jpegs to produce different sized files and add watermarks etc. It uses a lot of resources when it runs, as you would expect
- Enable fileinfo on the server
- Make sure the Cron job that looks for new images and processes them runs properly – the developer of Symbiostock, Robin, had to investigate why my Cron jobs were not running properly and I believe he has some new code in Version 2 of the plugin.
- There was one other issue with my HTaccess that was preventing Image Magick from running properly. The hosting support people fixed that, but bear in mind as a potential issue.
- My approach. I wanted to maintain the same URL and page structure if I could. I’m not 100% sure that this will keep my current ranking in Google searches, but it should be the best way to try to maintain that. So I registered a new URL (ending in .net) and created my new site using that. In order to make sure the wordpress installation “knew its name”, I added define(‘WP_HOME’,’http://www.backyardstockphotos.net’);
define(‘WP_SITEURL’,’http://www.backyardstockphotos.net’); to my config-wp file in the root of my new wordpress site.
- Then I created the new site using the excellent documentation on the Symbiostock site.
- I bought the theme that is used to customize the look and feel of the site (Symbiostock Express) and used another of the documents to initially set up my site to mirror the demo site. Once you are there, it is easy to make further changes to meet your own needs.
- I then started the import of files from my old to new site. This is easy to do, and you can start and stop it at any time. I started with just 10 images and made sure I liked the look of all the pages and that purchasing worked OK. I decided to remove the requirement for gathering the address and phone number of a buyer using a technique that I describe on the Symbiostock forums although that might be built into Version 2 as well.
- The new site uses a slightly different folder structure to hold the images (and hence the URL for product pages is different), but if you edit Settings:Permalinks and in Product permalink base, click on Custom base and type “/image” there, you will get the same URL structure as the legacy site. I had to change the Common settings in permalinks to “post name” to complete the fix.
- Once things were to my liking, I started adding more and more files in each run. First 50, then 100, and at the end, 500 or so in one session. This takes perhaps 2 hours to transfer the files and another 8 hours or so to process the images on the new site, but you don’t need to be involved during that activity. Just start and stop the import process – all the rest is automatic. After about 3 days, I got all my images across (3600 or so).
- Finally, you can set the name servers in the DNS settings for your original URL to the ones that your new hosting company provides and also edit that config-wp file to change the URL to the old one. With my host I had to create an Add-on domain for the .com domain that references the same folder on the server as my .net domain. That should mean that your new site is now address by the old URL and the individual product URLs are the same as before.
At least, that is the theory… Here is the finished product: BackyardStockPhotos