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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Thank you in advance for your time and any assistance you may provide.

    A little background info: I work for a metro Boston area public school system as a member of a four person technology department supporting a ridiculous number of computers/users for the city. I have been given the task to redesign the main website for our school system which has technology that is above par in comparison to the most of the school systems in MA; although I would assume many of the student's home PCs aren't as advanced.


    My goal is to create a website that is basically an informative directory that provides an basic overview of each school in the city and links to the pre-existing websites for each school. It has been requested that I use MS FrontPage to design the site as a few school administrators, who are intermediate-level computer users, will need to be able to update some info on the site. I have created a couple websites using FrontPage a few years back in college that were decent which incorporated basic animation, but have not done much design beyond that. I do pick things up very quickly and plan on trying to implement Cascading Style Sheets as I have heard good things about the design style. I need a site that will load quick and uniform on new and old computers.

    I figured it would be a good idea to ask advice from some professionals before I go out and waste precious time making dumb mistakes when I could have just asked.

    So here's some ideas I'm thinking about, I would truly appreciate it if you could please let me know any suggestions or recommendations you may know that could help provide a simple, smart, efficient, or effective solution:

    1. I need to design/provide a secure area where teacher/administrators can upload newsletters, documents, etc that can be downloaded by students and parents at home.

    2. I need to design/provide a calendar that shows PTO meetings, etc (a main system-wide calendar and one for each seperate school) that can be updated by administrators and school principals from home... Is this something that is hard to design? I did see another school that had calendars that started with www.calmerge.com that looked good, and i'm wondering it if was outsourced... as I am working for public schools if it was a service, I would need to find something that is free or close to it... are there any easy templates or solutions for something like this?

    3. I would like to display a rolling marquee that shows important announcements such as school snow day closings on the main index page, but I don't want it to take forever to load on a computer that may be 200MHz with 64Mb of RAM connected over a 56K telephone line... is this possible?

    4. I would like to put a faded picture of some of the schools integrated into the background behind the text... I am pretty good with photoshop, but what would be the best way to make the image load quickest... is there a preferred file format I should save the picture in before I try to incorporate it into the page?

    5. I plan on learning and designing using CSS, do you recommend this design method? I have to use FrontPage and have heard there is a way to modify its code to make pages load quicker... does anyone have any knowledge of this?


    Well, that's it... sounds pretty easy, right? (yeah, right!) Thanks for lasting this far through all my ramblings... any ideas you can provide, I would honestly greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you... very much.

    Happy Holidays!

    - Dave

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  3. #2
    Senior Member jbagley's Avatar
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    Hi Dave, looks like you have quite a complex website that you need built. What programming languages do you know? PHP, Java, ASP? The way I see it you going to probably design it in PHP with mySQL as the DB and Apache as the server. why you might ask? They all free.

    As for Frontpage...If you are forced to then you have no choice, but if there is a glimmer of hope for change, DO IT!

    As for others updating the site, if the site was designed completely dynamic, then they would never have to *edit* the site, only update and modify the content...

  4. #3
    Senior Member Physt's Avatar
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    Yes.. CSS is the most accessable, fastest loading, future friendly design method.. You can create truly beautiful sites using it.. I recommend you go to www.w3schools.com and go through the CSS course there.. It doesn't take that long and it is very useful..

    The picture of the school behind the text should be a gif.. Unless you want to vectorize it you could save it as a png which would load faster, and you could give it an interesting look that way...

    Most of the functionality you listed can be easilly achieved using premade scripts at www.hotscripts.com .. You must be sure you're server has PHP/MYSQL in most cases.. You could also use a text-file for that stuff.. The PHP/MYSQL method ensures that the teachers don't need to be advanced web designers to edit stuff ..

    I'll look around for a good, free calandar script for you..

    Hope this helps

    Patrick
    www.controlalternate.com - Web resources and free templates. www.chaosconcepts.net - Custom web and graphic design.
    www.blog.chaosconcepts.net - My Blog

  5. #4
    WDF Staff Wired's Avatar
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    I'd look into pre-existing CMS (Content Management System) kits, as a lot of them already do all of the functionality that you need. You also wouldn't have to use Front Page, as 99% of all modifications concerning information on a CMS can be changed in the web based admin section.

    Check out http://www.opensourcecms.com
    This site was created with one goal in mind. To give you the opportunity to "try out" some of the best php/mysql based free and open source software systems in the world. You are welcome to be the administrator of any site here, allowing you to decide which system best suits your needs.

    The administrator username and password is given for every system and each system is deleted and re-installed every two hours. This allows you to to add and delete content, change the way things look, basically be the admin of any system here without fear of breaking anything.

    At the upper left hand side of your screen you will see a clock that is counting down. What it shows is how much time is left in this two hour demo window. Once the clock hits 00:00:00, opensourceCMS.com will shut down and the demos will be completely refreshed. This takes about 5 minutes, and afterwards opensourceCMS.com will re-activate and the demo's will appear as fresh installations ready to be demo'ed again.
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  6. #5
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    I personally would never agree to creating and maintaining a
    site where others had the permission to go in and make changes.
    Would you rather have them give you changes to make, or would
    you rather spend ten times more effort in fixing the damaged
    HTML or broken links they create?

    You should use a management systems where others can log-in
    on a web page and make changes to a paragraph ... like a
    news item. Maybe they would also be able to add a link to
    a list that YOU administer.

    Nobody except yourself should be able to actually enter the
    web space and change files on your site.

    Like other posts here ... don't use MS FrontPage if you have
    any say in the matter. Offer an online management system where
    registered users (like the school administration people) can
    log-in and alter data files that YOU alone administer.

    Learn CSS, PHP/MySQL ...

    It sounds like you have a big plate in front of you ...
    you had better do some research before you agree to it :cheeky:


  7. #6
    WDF Staff Wired's Avatar
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    I don't think he can refuse

    He'd be the admin of it and the staff of the schools or whatever would be moderators, and certain ones would have to be approved by the admin before hey go public.
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  8. #7
    Junior Member
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    You guys are good.

    Wow. I'm very thankful for all your comments and am quite impressed by the knowledgeable suggestions you've made.

    I'll do my best to respond to each of your individual posts in this reply; and once again thank you all in advance.

    In response to Jason Bagley: I kinda thought I'd be in a little over my head before approaching the Asst Superintendant and personally requesting to handle this project (on top of my already busy schedule); but now hearing a pro such as yourself say that I have "quite a complex website" to build, it almost makes me second guess myself... but, we'll see and I'll find out soon enough. I like a challenge and figure this is my chance to force myself to learn new technology, while at the same time provide the schools with a quality, technically advanced website that sets an example, if you are motivated to learn you will acheive your goals.

    I do have a broad range of intermediate level experience that I picked up from various Comp Sci and MIS courses throughout college, I'm OK with Java and SQL and have some limited knowledge of C+. I plan on taking your advice to learn PHP with mySQL on Apache. A good chunk of my time will be spent educating myself at www.w3schools.com as Patrick (Physt) suggested; after briefly reviewing the site today it definitely seems to be an excellent resource.

    I plan on designing the website in phases, initially learning CSS and getting the basic look/style of the website laid out with some essential school links and info. From there, I'm going to start looking into scripts and figuring out a way to incorporate a calendar, at which time I'll probably be visiting www.hotscripts.com to see what I can find. After that I will figure out a way to allow school principals to access thier calendar and newsletter text, so they can maintain their school specific info. It was assumed that FrontPage would be the only easy interface that the school admins would know to enable them maintain their text based info themselves... but if there is another way to enable them to update this info easily, I'm glady open to it. I would rather not be limited from design ideas/methods that may not be available using FrontPage, knowing that Mr. Gates would prefer everyone to do things his way only. Mlseim's suggestion definitely makes sense, that people should not be able change the whole page, just the text in it. I will have to figure out a way to allow certain people to login and do this while also providing a storage space for each of these users where the can upload something such as a PDF newletter so that their students will have the ability to view/download it without modifying it.

    As Wired has suggested, the pre-existing CMS Kits may be an easy alternative to roll out this website; but from the position I'm in, it is not my place to deal with the budget decisions that my superiors are responsible for. As I personally have no substantial funding to pay anyone to help me design this website, I'm basically alone on this one.... well, except for the generous help you all have provided.

    Thank you

    - Dave


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