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Choosing the Right CMS

Submitted by Kady on July 21, 2015 - 12:52pm

Have you ever spent what feels like an eternity researching the correct tools for your organization, and just ended up feeling like it was just a big blur? Let us help you sort things out.

Features

Drupal

Drupal is an open-source CMS that can be customized to do nearly anything. It is powerful and modular (you can find a Drupal Module for almost anything), but does require significant developer knowledge to get started. It has a relatively steep learning curve compared to the other CMSes detailed here. However, it is a very common CMS with a large and helpful community support system.

WordPress

Wordpress is a very common CMS that, like Drupal, has many plugins to customize the site and a large support community. It's more user-friendly, but less customizable and powerful. Wordpress works best for blog-centered sites.

Raleigh chapter hosts littleBits event

Submitted by Kady on July 14, 2015 - 2:03pm

Saturday, July 11, marked the beginning of a brand new adventure for the Raleigh-Durham area. The first ever meeting of Raleigh littleBits chapter took place. People of all ages and disciplines explored the world of electronics in an open and open-source environment. The Triangle area, which has been referred to as the Silicon Valley of the East by Newsweek, is the perfect fit for a a littleBits chapter, where tech enthusiasts can gather and create.

The theme of this first event was part of a national littleBits campaign called the BitOlympics. The goal of this challenge is to create or modify an existing Olympic sport using the automation that littleBits provide. The session resulted in a wonderful degree of brainstorming. From the creation of a littleBit operated mini-skier (you can see his trial runs in this video ), to a littleBits powered ski lift cleverly designed by a chapter member in the third grade!

Includes: The Building Blocks of Code

Submitted by Kady on June 30, 2015 - 12:37pm

NationBuilder's webfiles are organized into various levels of .html files, each pulling in different pieces of the site at increasingly more granular levels.

The meta-level file is called "layout.html". This is the file that pulls in the Doctype information, and includes the head of the site, as well as the opening and closing body tags, and is used by nearly every forward-facing page template.

Within the layout.html file, other pieces of the site are pulled in from separate .html files via liquid "include statements". These statements appear as such in the code: {% include "filename" %}, where the "filename" is an html file saved elsewhere on the site. This system keeps the meta-level code neat and well organized.

NationBuilder has its own standard set of "Includes" which it uses in its default templates. You can access and modify those files by going to the "Theme" tab under "Pages". At the bottom of the default templates page is a list called, "Includes". One example of this is the code for the top navigation, which is called in via an include called "nav". Find that include statement in the layout.html file: {% include "nav"%}.

Breadcrumbs: Not for the birds.

Submitted by Kady on June 23, 2015 - 9:44am

In the vast world of the internet, it's easy to lose your way. One way to help your users stay grounded is to use breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs are a method of navigation that shows a user where they are on your site.

In NationBuilder, the breadcrumbs.html file controls the navigation within the site pages. It typically follows this format: page / subpage / sub-subpage. With the Buildy breadcrumbs.html, all of those page links are clickable - making site back-navigation more simple and intuitive.

Having site breadcrumbs is a good design practice, and is helpful for SEO.

Most of the popular platforms for website development have methods for implementing breadcrumbs. Resource links follow. Make sure you scroll past them to see a code snippet of our implementation of breadcrumbs in NationBuilder.

The Importance of CRMs

Submitted by Kady on June 18, 2015 - 11:11am

CRMs, or Customer Relationship Management platforms, are key elements of most organizations. A good CRM will help your organization to easily keep track of how supporters interact with you. You can track things like donations, in-kind donations, event attendance, volunteers, and other people who may interact with your organization, like direct clients.

Having a dedicated CRM will help your organization keep track of, segment, and target all of its contacts from one central location. This is a very important feature for any growing organization, as it allows you to target specific requests to specific groups of people relatively easily. It helps you find allies and supporters who may have inadvertently slipped between the cracks, and it facilitates mass communication via emailing. Having all of that information in one database, instead of spread across several, will cut down on duplicate data, duplication of effort, and general confusion, while improving organization and ease of access to data.

All About That Blog

Submitted by Kady on June 16, 2015 - 10:51am

What is a blog, and why does your website need one?

The word "blog", short for "weblog" derives from its early origins as an actual journal on places like livejournal and blogger. The use of the term is further confused by the fact that people use it to refer to the parts, as well as to the whole.

If you think of a blog as a journal or diary, the term blog refers to the whole book, while blog post (or simply post) refers to each entry. They can be used for any content that will need frequent updating, it needn't be a journal. Following is a brief overview of some basic blog-related tasks in NationBuilder.

Email - Less is More

Submitted by Jerimee on June 12, 2015 - 1:26pm

Effective organizations use email to communicate with their supporters in a way that is personal and engaging. Often, organizations seek to use complicated layouts for their email template, when simple is much better. Good email design is 99% invisible. You should not have to think about the design of your email messages; energy invested in designing email templates is more effectively spent on targeting and messaging. For most organizations a text only email will consistently outperform an email with graphics or layout elements such as columns.

The first thing to consider it that email templates aren't like print flyers, which look the same no matter where you see them. Each email client displays code slightly differently, meaning that the best way ensure that your emails look similar across email clients like Yahoo, Google and Outlook is to have as little code as possible, and keeping your mass emails simple and succinct will cut down on this possibility.

How's your Google Fu?

Submitted by Kady on June 9, 2015 - 11:40am
Pie Operators

A long, long time ago, on an internet vastly dissimilar from that we know today, a little company named Google came up with a new way of searching the web. Unlike other search engines of the time, their search portal was not cluttered with links to other places, or news stories, and you could not customize your experience to show only the spam content that was interesting to you.

It was just a box. A lovely text box in the middle of the page, beneath the vivid primary colors of the Google logo.

Nowadays, Google has become a proprietary eponym (a brand name that's been generalized... like Kleenex® or Rollerblade®.) for the more general "search the web."

But how good are your Google skills? Do you always find what you're Googling for? Did you know that there's more to the Google algorithms than just the search box?

This mythical antediluvian Google site also had a few tiny little text links, one of which was "Advanced Search." From there, you could access secret extra tools (like a spy!) to be more specific in your searches.

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