Content manager eases CommunityNet web input

CommunityNet Aotearoa, a web-based support unit for community groups, based in the Department of Internal Affairs, has reformed its site based on Microsoft Content Management Server (CMS).

CommunityNet Aotearoa, a web-based support unit for community groups, based in the Department of Internal Affairs, has reformed its site based on Microsoft Content Management Server (CMS).

The organisation’s personnel gain the ability to enter information on the site themselves in html without having to submit everything to a central webmaster for page creation as they did under the old system, says Stephen Blyth, head of the CommunityNet effort.

The revised site, hosted by Intergen, was launched last month.

Local community organisations can enter news and job ad information, and CMS provides appropriate workflow and approval mechanisms for the publication process.

Much of the input, though, is done by local staff of the DIA’s community development group.

“We have 17 staff all round the country, and many of them are experts in particular areas, such as fundraising administration, employment and legal matters,” Blyth says.

They can now more easily keep the areas of the site offering advice on such matters up-to-date, he says.

Developing the new site framework has been “a really complex process, and there were challenges”, he says, not only technically, but in “articulating what we wanted” in terms suitable for CMS implementation.

“Some things you don’t completely understand until you use them,” he says. “In some areas, we had to learn experientially.”

There were difficulties with interfacing CMS to the style-sheet approach CommunityNet uses to format its web pages. Microsoft’s page creation tools produce “heavy” html, which takes a comparatively long time to load, he says.

“We wanted accessible pages,” adhering to government guidelines on ease of access for disabled users and those with low-speed connections. Ways were found of “slimming down” the pages.

As well as providing a framework for creation, CMS preserves the integrity of the links on the site, and notifies staff when a link to an external page returns an error.

If it had not been for Intergen’s hosting, CommunityNet would not have been able to afford CMS, Blyth says.

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