When I initially mentioned this site during a conversation on the blog it was suggested to me that I might write down a recipe for the use of others who may wish to pursue a similar approach in creating a website that has a coherent user interface while using the facilities of three different platforms.
My client, Anne, is an intelligent and fairly computer literate hobbyist compiling her own site to share a personal passion with others. That passion revolved around the family histories and relationships of a particular group of colonial sugar growing families in the Caribbean during the 18th Century.
The relationships and history were to be displayed through the many family documents, paintings and a few photographs as well as family trees to explore the complex interpersonal relationships of a very complex period in history.
What is more, she wanted to explain the artifacts in a wider context and occasionally divert away from the central themes of the site to explore other interesting avenues. This later evolved into reviewing and recommending books and other sources and becoming a valuable resource for wider research herself (but I jump ahead as this was a consequence of the build and not a primary aim).
Omeka made perfect sense as a platform to organize and catalogue the series of documents, including original photographs and transcriptions (which were made by Anne herself) of fascinating wills and other legal contracts. The Dublin Core was new to her but she found it made perfect sense and, a couple of false starts, defined a set of categories that were consistent, flexible and logical.
As site designer though, I knew that Omeka alone was never going to satisfy her need for a flexible user friendly informational site since the blog plugin had long-since been abandoned and setting up a structure of static pages would become difficult for Anne to administer and update herself.
Wordpress is the current market leader in blogging software and was the clear choice. Not only is it easy to use for the non-technical, the huge community have provided a huge range of plugins to provide a degree of flexibility never imagined by its original creators.
The third element, PAF, was selected by Anne herself as she had used it before. After a bit of playing with the output files the free software produces, I concurred that it was a simple and sensible solution. Though there are better overall web based systems in this case the cost was perfect.
Putting the site together took some clear and logical thinking to keep everything integrated seamlessly yet technologically within discreet zones. This was essential because Worpress and Omeka have a lot of fun with URLs and their conversion for user friendliness.
Anne’s budget did not extend to price I would charge for writing a rock solid future proof set of instructions for the htaccess file rewrite rule-set. A simple solution was setting up a master slave relationship between the three applications. The terminology may not be strictly correct but it fits the website theme.
Wordpress was to be the master platform in the site’s root directory, Omeka and the PAF files were placed in their own subdirectories.
The next stage was to ensure a consistent user interface and here again the emphasis was on keeping administration simple for the client. To this end the choice of themes was the most critical element and using templates for Wordpress and Omeka that basically worked in the same manner was essential.
It is easy to get lost in the variety available on Wordpress but using the Omeka theme as the base soon cut the choice down to one or two that worked pretty much identically. Then it was down to working with the templates and employing my skills to make the match as near seamless as possible using CSS and a couple of tweaks to the code of both to ensure that the formats matched.
I pass over that stage in just a paragraph but, obviously, it took a good deal of time and effort working to get the fonts and looks matching as well as the banner graphics and other bits and bobs. The basic themes were adapted from “Thanks, Roy” in Omeka and “Cleanpress” in Wordpress though, as a clue to the starting point for the journey.
To integrate the PAF output files, I used the “Advanced Iframe” plugin for Wordpress and configured it to direct to the index page of the subdirectory where I had installed the genealogy files.
For the menus, there was no automated solution. For Wordpress, we used the Menumaker plugin and in Omeka the menu is updated through the theme options. Over time this has led to a discrepancy between the two but Anne has managed the process pretty well and is meticulous in checking her own work.
To make life a little easier for my client, I needed an easy way to upload the family histories into the PAF directory and that we achieved by using the “List Yo Files plugin” for Wordpress which I preconfigured to start at the correct location. This plugin enabled her to upload files from within the Wordpress administration interface in a manner that was already familiar rather than having to negotiate her way through FTP.
While, as I say, this is by no means a recipe I hope that it provides some useful information for those setting along a similar road.