Did you know that Melbourne has the biggest Greek population outside of Greece? That’s why I was commissioned to design the Greek Care website by Fronditha, a charity in Victoria, Australia. The website, which launched this week, provides information and advice about the care of elderly Greek people.
The website was developed using the free and open source WordPress content management system to make it easy for non-web designers to publish and edit pages.
I’d like to tell you how that project was tackled, and how various plugins were installed to add extra functionality to the basic CMS.
The site publishes over 80 articles, specially written for health and social care professionals to help them understand Greek culture and attitudes and provide better care services. Topics are wide-ranging: providing palliative care; death and mourning; where to find recipes that clients will enjoy; making culturally appropriate assessments; favourite Greek games; and how to make a cup of Greek coffee. The site has audio clips to help professionals pronounce basic Greek phrases such as “would you like a blanket?” and “where do you have pain?”. There’s also a directory of Greek-speaking services in Victoria, Australia.
Why was WordPress chosen?
The content editors needed a simple tool to input a lot of articles and WordPress is easy to use, learn and teach. I’m also familiar with developing WordPress sites. Time and again I’ve heard from users and developers that they consider it to be the best match for small nonprofit organisations’ web publishing needs.
WordPress was installed almost immediately, so that there would be no delay in content editors publishing articles and arranging them in sections. They could input text while I was still designing the look and functionality of the site. The installation was quick and easy and it helped that the web host we’re using – WebCity – has particularly fast FTP transfers and a feature-rich hosting control panel.
Creating a WordPress theme
A graphic artist designed the banner at the top of the page and based on that design, I created a WordPress theme. I coded it from scratch rather than use a free, pre-made WordPress theme: those themes are great for blogs but we were going to use WordPress mainly as a CMS, not a blog. The only code I copied and pasted over was for the “loop”: the code that displays the content of each page.
The site was designed to be accessible, with standards-compliant HTML and CSS code.
Some pages – the home page, searchable directory, list of saints’ days – needed different or more complex functionality than the other pages – so they were created using page templates, a feature of WordPress I find particularly useful.
Keeping the website secret
We didn’t want anyone else to see the website while it was being designed so I installed Angsuman’s Authenticated WordPress Plugin which prevents viewing of the site unless you have a username and password.
Improving on WordPress’s rubbish search facility
I had to install the Search Everything plugin because by default WordPress doesn’t search pages, only posts. Then we tested the search facility and found that it brought up the right pages but wasn’t listing them in order of relevance. The Search Reloaded plugin fixed that problem.
A handy Site Map
Fronditha were concerned that the site had a complex structure and users might not find what they wanted. So once we’d fixed the search facility, we published a site map. That task was made easy by a plugin called Dagon Design SiteMap Generator.
Breadcrumbs help you navigate around a website but there’s no in-built feature in WordPress. One reason I like using WordPress is the variety of plugins that developers have built to add extra functionality and compensate for what’s missing. And sure enough, there’s a great plugin for breadcrumbs called Breadcrumbs NavXT.
We wanted to publish a searchable directory of Greek-speaking services in Victoria. We also wanted to have a list of Greek Saints’ days that was searchable, with upcoming dates listed on the home page. This isn’t something that WordPress was really built to do.
Two new custom-built MySQL databases had to be created. The content was uploaded to them from simple comma-separated text files which had been exported from an Access database and Excel spreadsheet. Then, within the WordPress theme, I created new page templates, using (relatively) simple PHP code to connect to the databases and display the appropriate data.
This could have been tackled in other, perhaps better ways. If, for example, we’d used Drupal instead of WordPress we could have stored page content, blog, directory entries and saints’ days in a single database and edited them through a common interface. But Drupal is substantially more complex and time-consuming to develop for than WordPress.
Google Analytics code was inserted into the theme’s footer so that Fronditha and myself can access those valuable website usage statistics.
It’s taken many months to put together and involved the hard work of content writers and editors, a graphic designer, data inputters, the project manager and myself. I’m happy see the Greek Care website go live at last becuase it should be a really useful and practical resource for care providers.