Welcome to the new look website!
It is getting a thorough overhaul after a year or more of neglect. The previous website was missing crucial functions like a messageboard and a subscription feature, was laboriously hand-coded (by me) and was never easy to update. Given that the website is a very good medium for people to share information, the lack of ease has been a major obstacle to publishing contributions from visitors. The new setup takes a very big step towards making such contributions easy and towards ease of managing the website. (Once a few things get sorted out.)
The most sweeping change has been in the structure of the website. Where the previous version was made of individually-coded static pages, the new version is set up using a database that dynamically propagates changes through a central console. This dramatically reduces the time-consuming part of updating the website.
The next area of change focussed on the style of website. The semi-automated structures available (at no cost, with open source code and/or public licenses) come in two basic flavours: blogs and Content Management Systems (CMS). Of these, blogs are easy to set up, but have limited options and flexibility. On the other hand, while a CMS is very versatile, with features that include static web pages, blogs, galleries, discussion boards, e-commerce, calendar systems and more, they are also quite fiddly. In the end, the choice boiled down to a Drupal CMS or a WordPress blog.
I have set up a WordPress blog. WordPress have developed a variety of features that go beyond a simple blogging platform: static webpages, gallery and Paypal subscription/donation script among others. WordPress seem to combine the verstaility and ease-of-use that is needed for our website, and which is also easy for our locally-based webhost (Moseley Computer Consultants) to manage.
Setting up a blog should mean that anyone who signs up as a member of the Friends can also have a web account to post information on the blog. My intent is to make it possible to post by email, so that individual members can add their stories simply by sending a message. I am also hoping that there will be a secure area for people to discuss or subscribe to ongoing activities; an on-line meeting place of sorts. If this ease-of-use can be extended to images and map info, the website will become a much richer resource for the community of users and visitors.
What you see now is the basic setup, which will be modified both visually and functionally as resources become available. Once things have been firmly established there will be another post about the various features.
Addendum, 9 November
The renovation is not complete, but the basic structure is in place, so I am supplanting the old installation now, and will make further modifications as time permits.
Part of the justification for doing this now is so that visitors will see the kinds of work that still needs doing – and may be inspired to help out a bit. Various pages are currently blank, so contributions of text for those pages is one way of helping. Similarly, the Picasa web album can be built up with photos, the Document Archive might do with some PDF copies of newsletters and other documents, the History, Wildlife and Maps pages can do with a variety of materials.
Have a reccie, make some mental notes about what you’d like to see, and what you can add, then drop a line via the Committee Contacts page.