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Johnny Kauffman Deriding bad software so you don't have to!

For any of those in the Kansas City area, I recommend Coders For Charities as a great once-a-year event! It’s a weekend code-a-thon in which small, quickly-assembled teams of software engineers construct as much as possible for a charity in need. Contributors include anybody with relevant experience such as software developers and graphic designers. The projects seem to typically involve creating a website.

I personally was only available for about half of the total event, but I contributed to a new website for Truman Neurological Center: http://www.tnccommunity.com/

The goal of the project was a full-service website creation, including:

  1. Identifying technologies to use, depending on the need (our team identified WordPress as a viable solution)
  2. Registering for a web host fitting the requirements (in this case, free hosting donated from DiscountAsp.net)
  3. Theme selection and customization
  4. Website configuration and setup
  5. Assistance with content creation
  6. Retirement of previously-existing website

Achieving this in one weekend is quite the feat! Everyone did quite well to manage themselves and prioritize their time in order to get the most bang for their buck, which is of course is typically the same mentality that makes us valuable in our day jobs.

There were some technical considerations we identified resulting from our selection of Wordpress, which I would recommend weighing if you find yourself involved in a similar project:

  • Wordpress updates are a large driving factor. These include updates to wordpress core, themes, and plugins. It is imnportant to ensure that updates go smoothly for your new website owner.
  • To update/customize a base theme, use child themes. Do not modify a theme directly, or your theme changes will be lost at update time.
  • Use plugins sparingly. Adding to the obvious round peg + square hole technical considerations, some plugins are not updated frequently. Plugins, if not updated by the author, can be broken from core WordPress updates. Plugins that fail to update frequently can still be used with upgraded WordPress cores, but they will do so without a “guarantee” of it being functional. Be sure to consider these factors.
  • Limit the technical affinity required by your new website owner for their content updates. For example, your new website owner will have access to the flexibility of the HTML editor for all content updates, but this is likely going to be a last resort. The human-friendly WYSIWYG editor should be left capable for the vast majority of changes. Try to get hammer out your site CSS such that all DOM elements of a typical content update are automatically styled to their previously-identified preferences. Do not require the user to specify specific CSS classes or style attributes.

So not only did I get to help the good folks at Truman Neurological Center, but I also gained stronger understanding of proper website development. And the free soda was the icing on the cake! I will definitely return for Coders For Charities 2013!

Posted on Monday, March 26, 2012 3:46 AM | Back to top


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