Bonnie Babes website now live

Deakin Uni was approached by Bonnie Babes a couple of months ago to assist with their web presence, which was quite dated. I’ve been working on a redesign using free and open source software. The key features are;

  • An easily updateable website using the WordPress personal publishing system
  • A custom theme for WordPress based on Bonnie Babes’ organisational colours
  • A number of freely available WordPress plugins including WP e-Commerce, SEO Tools, ShareThis and pageMash

It wasn’t all plain sailing however. The hosting platform (which is freely provided with thanks to Apex Hosting in Melbourne) is based on Windows and IIS. My use of WordPress has centred on a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) based platform, and I’ve certainly not used PHP much under IIS. The fact that this platform is in use has limited a number of the features of WordPress, so much so that it is likely that the site will be moved to an alternative hosting arrangement. They include;

  • Inability to use nice permalinks: Because IIS has no inbuilt mod_rewrite (one of the Apache modules that most hosting providers have installed), the pretty permalinks don’t work in IIS without a lot of kludging. While it is possible to get them to work using mod_rewrite alternatives for IIS, most hosting providers don’t have these installed by default – and they’re unlikely to install on request. WordPress have obviously come across difficulties with IIS and permalinks before – hence this article.
  • Inability to use cURL libraries: The cURL libraries in PHP are incredibly useful. They are also used by the WP e-Commerce plugin (which I was aiming to use to facilitate an online shop) as part of the checkout functionality. It wasn’t until I got to testing the checkout that PHP threw a fatal error 🙁
  • Inability to have WordPress in one directory, and make your blog another: This is related to the permalink issue, largely due to the fact that IIS does not support mod_rewrite or .htaccess without third party tools
  • Difficulty making certain files and directories writable: On a Linux system, you can easily use filesystem permissions to make a file or directory (to Linux they are the same thing) writable. Writable files and directories are used all throughout WordPress, for things like;
  • Sitemap generation
  • Storing of uploaded media such as images, word documents and pdfs
  • The ability to edit CSS and other design elements through the administration interface

So, where to from here? It’s likely that we’ll go with another hosting provider who provides a LAMP architecture..

Anam Cara House Geelong website now live

After many months of planning and collating content, the Anam Cara House Geelong website is now live. Many thanks to Diane Wright, Phil Virgona and Leah Hall for putting in several hours’ worth of content editing and testing 🙂

Anam Cara House is a Geelong based facility which provides respite services in a homelike environment to those suffering life limiting illness, and their families.

Check it out at

http://www.anamcarahousegeelong.org.au

Impressed with CiviCRM

As part of moving the technical maturity of both Anam Cara House Geelong and Bonnie Babes forward, I was investigating was free and / or open source software tools were available for volunteer and donor management. After a quick look around SourceForge and trying a couple of these out (eg iVolunteer), the best one available appears to be CiviCRM. This has a number of features including;

  • integration with both Drupal and Joomla
  • the ability to create groups within the contact database (for instance some donors are also volunteers, some volunteers are also members of the board of management)
  • the ability to integrate online paymen with CiviCRM so that online donations are tracked
  • event management – including the tracking of which contacts have participated or attended which events
  • relationship tracking  – including recording relationships between contacts (such as mother, brother etc)

There is also a live online demo of CiviCRM that is very useful for providing organisations with an overview, or in depth exploration of functionality – suitable for requirements elicitation.

The software also seems to have a lot of support and a mature development team behind it – which augers well for future improvement of CiviCRM.