The Butterflytent: websites done differently


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The story of the Butterflytent from Rupert Meese

What we are doing here.

As a Reiki and NLP practitioner I needed a website to promote my practice and give me a presence on the web. I wanted my website to attract clients. In order to do that I wanted a beautiful looking site that I could update easily. When I Googled Reiki or NLP in my area I wanted my website to appear. I wanted it to be affordable and easy to set-up. Simple. What I found was frustration. Nothing about the process was easy, some website providers did nothing to help my site appear in Google's searches, some charged extra, some made me use their name in my website address, some charged extra for allowing me to use my own name. Some gave me a choice of thousands of templates, thousands of questionable quality, hours of searching through mediocre templates to find one that I was satisfied with. I looked at many different ways of producing a website and even for me as a computer consultant of nearly 20 years experience it was confusing. Most website providers gave me no help with which images to use and as for what to write, only the most expensive custom web designs offered any help with the text. Of course, I understood why custom website design is expensive, many, many hours go into a great looking website. As a computer programmer and designer, though, I knew things could be better. Around the same time I discovered that my friends and colleges in NLP, Reiki, Homeopathy, and Psychotherapy had the same issues. Many well established practitioners did not even have a website. Despite feeling a certain disquiet and knowing that it's kind of essential, they talked about being thrown at the first hurdle, not knowing where to start, or at the second by being bamboozled with all the jargon and issues, or the third, fourth and fifth of what to say, what images to use and how to make the site look good.

What I wanted was something better than the best bits of each previous website service, from the free ones to the custom website designers. It slowly dawned on me that with my background in computers, design, communication and quality service, it was down to me to create just that service.

To be rhetorical for a moment "how would you do that?" I hear you ask! After all, it seems a bit of a tall order. The answer is by applying a few key principles learned from studying excellence in software design and which allow us to work comfortably with the most complex systems.

Principle number one is "use the best available existing technology".

I wanted the best looking websites and so I started with Apple. Apple computers simply do great design and that extends to iWeb, the tool that they provide on the Apple Mac for web design. Perhaps we could all own a Mac, and maybe the world of computers would be a better place for it. I certainly think so, but in truth not everyone does. More importantly there are some things (such as meta-data) missing from the sites generated by iWeb and that means that they don't work for us straight from the Mac. Still, iWeb is a great place to start for fantastic looking sites and so that's where all of the Butterflytent templates come from.

The ability to edit and maintain our websites online is key, and the next question was what technology to use to allow this to happen. After some hunting around the answer became obvious. There is a little known but rapidly growing Japanese computer language called Ruby. It is remarkable because it is designed right from the start for elegance. The idea being that having beautiful, elegant code helps to create beautiful elegant solutions. Yukihiro Matsumoto , the language's creator says that he is trying to make Ruby natural, in a way that mirrors life.

Building the engine behind the Butterflytent in Ruby has helped me to manage all the complexity of parsing and processing templates, image manipulation, database management and service creation in a way that keeps the user experience fresh and simple.

I have a passion for great design. Great design is where a product really serves the user, often in new and surprising ways and usually without even demanding that we notice, simply delivering that small sense of pleasure and ease as things just happen smoothly. I hope if you try the Butterflytent, that you'll find that in our service, and as you develop and use your website, the less aware that you are of the elegant and powerful Ruby engine running constantly to make this possible the better we will be working.

I hope you enjoy working with the Butterflytent.
Rupert Meese

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The Butterflytent is created and developed by Lightmind Ltd.

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