What a week! Breaking our backs – and heads – to get VectorZine.com up, back and running again with new configuration and fresh content.

One Wrong Turn…

Ever heard people say for someone he “took one wrong turn” and look at the mess he’s in now? They might as well have been talking about us, designers, graphic artists and enthusiast behind the VectorZine project.

The Wrong Turn in our case has the name (and logo) which we aren’t going to mention, out of respect for developers and their work.

Suffice to say we opted to buy software that would power our portfolio and shop, that was meant to be used out-of-the-box (i.e. EASY) and last forever (meaning, once you buy it, you have it and that’s that, you don’t have to keep paying for stuff for eternity).

Sounds good, right? Anything that is EASY, FAST and FOREVER sounds just perfect, right?

Yeah, right.

Too Good to be True

The too-good-to-be-true deal had hidden pitfalls:

  • You get support (ticket system) and updates for a year. Once the year is up you are on your own. After that, if you happen to have problems with the software (and you will), you have to pay another $100 for another year of support and updates;
  • You quickly learn you don’t want updates though, because upgrades and updates (at least few each year), wipe your customization and design out. Even if you pay another $25 on top to have developers install updates for you, you end up having to re-design your site again with every update. So, in effect, you’ll be paying $100 a year just to have an unexpected problem with your software solved, perhaps only once a year;
  • The software you buy is independent from WordPress, WooCommerce and absolutely everything out there – open source stuff especially. In real life, this means your online business is always going to depend on a guy writing his own code in his dad’s cellar. It means you can’t hope to find answers to the issues that crop up, unless you keep paying $100 year-in and out, for as long as you want to keep your site operational;
  • In comparison to open source software, used by millions of people around the globe, tiny independent software developers have virtually no support system other than themselves. Their forums are deserted, there’s no one there to answer your questions. Compare that with WordPress: if you hit a snag, you just go to Google search, type in few keywords and dozens of articles, posts and forums discussing the very same issue from every angle pop out in an instant;
  • If you migrate your site to a better hosting plan, like cloud hosting, the software crashes. Unfortunately, that’s something no one tells you in advance. You learn that only after your site has crashed and you’re told to go back and remove your site from the cloud if you want to have it working again.

The Ordeal

Unaware this unique software cannot function on cloud hosting, we accepted the host’s (Bluehost) offer to migrate to the cloud. The site crashed and, after combing through our software documentation with a fine tooth comb, spending 5+ hours with Bluehost tech support, searching for answers and bellowing through an empty forum, contacted developer to get help.

There was no help. Not on cloud. Get back from that cloud and get updates, or your site is dead and buried.

What would you do?

A. Give up, let it die out, perhaps sell the (dysfunctional) leftovers;
B. Give in, step down from your cloud, pay $125, keep your obscure software and hope it won’t crash again next year;
C. Start over – from the very cloud you just climbed on?

C, of course. That’s exactly what we did.

Never.Give.Up.

O joy! A total overhaul. Starting from scratch, literally. Wiping everything clean, scrubbing the database, all the files and every last dot. A clean, frightfully clean slate.

If That’s How it’s Gonna Be

… we might as well improve the site in every way.

We started with fresh WordPress installation, as all good, functional and high-functioning web sites should. Added must-have plug-ins for security and efficiency (more on that later). Decided to go with uber-modern, absolutely stunning theme. Hooked up with the best open source e-commerce software, the best email marketing system and went to work on configuring and tying all the parts into a neat, handsome little bundle.

We’re now at the point of uploading images and files. Most of the grime-and-grit work is done, save for few loose ends here and there, but that’s the kind of stuff done on the fly.

The Right Turn

The list of improvements is quite long. Here are the most important ones:

  1. Using WordPress as an engine and almost equally popular open source e-commerce software – to mention 2 key elements of any online business – means VectorZine.com can be moved to ANY host and EVERY hosting plan in existence, without fear of losing a single html tag, let alone entire parts of site or the site itself. Because, of course, there is no hosting provider or hosting plan that can afford NOT to be fully compatible, perfectly in-sync with those two, at all times;
  2. VectorZine.com looks at least 10 times better than before;
  3. It also works much better than before. While we previously had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the way developers coded their software (with TONS of javascript, btw), all of us here at VectorZine are at home with WordPress, html, css and php. Knowing what you’re doing and how things can be done on your own web site is a wonderful thing;
  4. For the first time and FINALLY, VectorZine.com is responsive! Works beautifully on all devices, including mobile ones which, in and of itself, makes all the effort worthwhile;
  5. We can finally offer extended license in our shop, something many people inquired about, but we could never make work with the old software;
  6. Independence and security in knowing that any problem can be dealt with through the widest imaginable network of people using and working on the exact same platform, with the exact same software;
  7. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency: sorry guys, but no developer is irreplaceable;
  8. Revolution Slider! ‘nuf said (hours and hours of play too!);
  9. Proper, let me say that again: PROPER way to create subscriber’s list, send emails, newsletters and stay in touch with our subscribers;
  10. Freedom to configure, reconfigure and build parts and sections of the site we never dared dream of before, simply because we weren’t familiar with the software we had and didn’t dare experiment;
  11. Improved – safer, faster, more secure – Cloud hosting plan :))

The Crossroads Dilemma

All in all, this was a MAJOR learning curve: Choosing the seemingly easier, more convenient option in this case turned to be much more difficult road to travel.

Most of us will gladly pay to have it all ready and done. You just upload your images, enter titles, descriptions, keywords and prices and go design something new, go play, have some fun, don’t sweat a thing.

It turns out it wasn’t that simple.

When you pay to have other people do things for you, you will have to keep paying them to keep doing what you need them to do. You’ll also end up not knowing how to do things on your own. There’s a limit to which depending on another is acceptable.

The difficult choice, to create your site by yourself, using various parts, configuring each on its own and putting them together like a complex puzzle is, indeed, a lot of work. But the freedom, independence and know-how you gain is priceless. Beside saving you money, it saves you a lot of headache and a nervous breakdown here and there.

It’s an ancient piece of wisdom that says: don’t give me the fish to feed me, teach me how to fish instead!

Apparently, some of us have to re-learn it from time to time.