One of my old neighbours was the secretary for the TBBS charity. In 2006, TBBS benefited from a pro-bono website to communicate with everyone involved in the annual events. In classical IT fashion, this allowed cheap asynchronous communication, without congestion on phone-lines.

Goals of the website

To promote and educate the general public on the activities of the TBBS charity; to act as a point of contact for inbound and outbound communication; to provide an easy mechanism to advertise the carnival royalty photography (which was frequently bought for family members).

My activities towards the goals

  • Created a simple input mechanism to allow authorised individuals to edit and extend content. The required technical skills to update the website content is very small due to extensive supportive infrastructure;
  • Along with site owner create bright and cheerful branding without extending into tastelessness;
  • Simplified and supportive URL structure, concealing unimportant technical details;
  • Created a simple template driven page renderer, providing standardised look and feel. The HTML in the templates is hand crafted and is compatible with HTML 4.0.1 specs, and supported by CSS;
  • Performed correct use of SEO, as this was the first reference in Google results;
  • There was already a static website, administrated by an individual too busy to do content updates. The text from this formed the basis of the content, although the content was restructured to make it more usable;
  • Setup a ‘contact us’ page to the charity administration, so the general public could communicate (other than the published answer-phone service);
  • Following the standard for dynamic websites, user authentication, session support and logging, written inside PHP4;
  • Although not a significant asset, organised and redrew the artwork on the web-pages;

Technology Focus

I built a HTML4 and CSS based template system, with interactivity supported by PHP. The coding took place over three weekends and was very simple. Although I was trying for simple low overhead development, I felt uncomfortable without using objects and re-factored them into the project. The template pages where never exposed to users - either editors or the viewing public - but did look very similar to a Wiki markup. I had very cheap rates on a server, which didn't use Pear, so I was unable to just use standard libraries. The server did allow access to a SMTP gateway, which I integrated for the contact-us page.
To allow a more useful presence and allow news update for the charity, I spent the additional time to make the template system have editing capacity. This doubled my page count, but made the system considerably more useful. This stage required creation of SESSIONs and user logins. Details on the incomplete template system are available on the separate project page. This project page also includes a security analysis.
I attempted to convince the host administration to upgrade the PHP interpreter to include pspell, but failed. The tool would be considerably more useful with this feature. I had insufficient time to be able to use the CLI edition of said tool.
Due to the scale of the charity, there was only one or two content editors. I organised a self-signed SSL cert to encrypt SESSIONs used in the editing phase.

Actual outcomes

  • My friend/ client got a functional website; to agreed specification, gratis. He administrated it for eighteen months, then inertia killed the site. TBBS needed good communications as the laws on crowd safety had changed. The charity was having problems as the insurance on big events was stricter, and was not cheap.
  • I have another not quite complete rendering/processing library, and some more random photos.
  • Next time I do this I will use a better web-scraper tool to pull the words from the old site, it will reduce roll-out costs.