Hi guys. Oy, here's where I kinda wish I had two accounts: my epiguide account, and one just for me, the li'l writer of a webserial. Oh well. Anyway, here goes. Sorry in advance for the length.
I know 99.999999998% of the folks here on WFG use blogging or other CMS software to run their sites. Most got into the webfiction realm post-Wordpress, and followed the lead of the pathfinders by starting right off the bat and using this unbelievably flexible piece of free software--or others like it--to stake your claims on the web.
However. That was not my path. My webserial, About Schuyler Falls, was launched in 1997. Wordpress may have been a glint in someone's eye, but there had been no consummation, much less conception or birth. (Hmm. This analogy is getting a bit, um, labored.) Point being, I developed my site the ol' fashioned way, via static HTML, using either a plain text editor or Dreamweaver--or, most often, a combo of both.
It's a new century now. My last site redesign was in (blush) 2001. Yes, I'm a pro web designer, and my own site is woefully out of date. What can I say, the shoemaker's children always go barefoot! Anyway, with my new season about to launch, I'm finally doing a major and, if I do say so myself, rather splendid redesign of the site, which will likely coincide with the 16th anniversary in November. I wish I could launch it with the new season this spring, but time isn't on my side.
With (deep breath) 1.3 million words and more than 1000 separate pages, this is a massive site to maintain.
Here, at long last, is my question. As we all know, the vast majority of webfiction sites--hell, at this point, a significant plurality of all sites--are WP-based. For the past two years, I've been angsting my Hamlet-like brain about whether to make the leap into WP territory.
The thing is, I'm not sure whether the pain will be worth the gain. I mean, I know there are search engine advantages, and it would make future site redesigns easier, and searching / tagging would help readers too.
However, there are downsides, and that's why I've been going back and forth on this decision. The biggest is, well, did I mention 1000+ pages? (Each of my installments consists of anywhere from 5 - 22 scenes. Yes, 22! Nuts, huh?) Copying each of those over to WP seems like it would be a nightmare. (There are plugins that will help--HTML Import 2.0 being the most popular--and there are also companies to which I could outsource the job, if I wanted to pay upwards of $500 for the convenience.)
Second, there are certain navigation issues that concern me, such as the importance of popup windows (I use these for setting descriptions and character bios, which are currently accessible throughout the text so anyone reading can easily access a character's profile to refresh one's memory of who this person is) and giving my readers a choice of having each installment/episode broken up into separate scenes or read as a single printable page, which is what I have now. Again, I know there are some popup plugins that allow the former, and I think there are plugins that will allow the latter as well. But right now each scene is a separate HTML page. Do I import the entire episode as a single post and then break it up, or do I import each scene as a new post, and link them together via categories? These are the questions that daunt me.
I also don't want to cause more work for myself after the initial changeover, when it comes to posting my episodes on the web. My workflow is such that I write the drafts in Word, then copy my writing from Word to Dreamweaver. The text is automatically formatted correctly (e.g. italics and boldface copy over correctly as EM and STRONG codes). I have some experience with WP, and I know this formatting doesn't always happen when I've done the same with Wordpress. (I already have a "behind the scenes" blog for my serial's podcast, and I've customized blogs for clients. So I'm not daunted by WP.)
I should mention that I plan on going with responsive design (i.e. making sure the site adapts to mobile devices/smaller resolution as well as larger screens/resolutions) no matter which route I take, so that's not much of a concern either. I know there are frameworks and WP templates I can use to expedite this, but the same goes for my HTML redesign, and I've already got experience in switching to a responsive layout thanks to a few clients.
So the question finally boils down to: is such a switch worth it? Would such a vast changeover make sense? What are the real advantages of going to WP, bearing in mind that I have no fear of HTML (as I said, in addition to writing/editing, web design is one of my professions) so "easy inputting of text without worrying about code"--so often used as a blog selling point to novices--doesn't apply for me.
I know ability to coordinate with social media networks is certainly a hefty advantage; RSS is another (though both can be accomplished without a blog, WP does make them easier); searching the database and tagging posts are big plusses that are NOT possible with static HTML. Okay, I could create a search engine, but using a database would make this much easier. Is networking easier? I mean, I wouldn't be using Wordpress.com, I have my own site, so linking with other Wordpress.com sites isn't an issue. Still, people ARE used to blogs these days. They're pretty much understood now. So that's an advantage that WP has as well. (Though it's a minor issue that could be overcome. As long as my navigation is clear, the site is attractive, and the content captivating, I don't think readers generally care what skeleton lies beneath the flesh of a website.) But am I wrong? Will this help me gain new readers through some convenience I currently can't imagine?
So help convince me, please! I suppose I can launch the redesign in HTML and later switch to WP; it just seems to make sense to do both at once. So if you think I should make the change, tell me of the cool stuff I could be doing with WP (or heck, maybe another CMS like Drupal if that's your fancy) that I'm not thinking of. Pros? Cons? Suggestions if I go forward with this crazy scheme?
Do the upsides outweigh the possible downsides (the security maintenance issues, the frequent updates that might break my design, the overwhelming prospect of copying all those kabillion pages (and re-coding the character popups), and general relearning a workflow process I've gotten used to for 15 years)?
Sorry for the length of this post. Now you see why I've got 1.3 million words to deal with. I'd greatly appreciate any help and advice you guys can give me. I'm so tired of worrying about this, I just want to decide and feel I've made the right decision.