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Institute of the North
Give us some background on some of the members of your team and the company that you work for.
Dreamtime is a small design and development shop I opened about 6 years ago as a freelancer. Although I still do most of the work myself, I occasionally use a few excellent subcontractors when the need arises. I work with businesses of all sizes and types and really enjoy consulting with them and educating them on the wide array of possibilities and technologies available to them. I specialize in design, development and content management.
Tell us about the site. What vision were you trying to fill for the client?
The Institute of the North is a non profit organization in Alaska that “...specializes in how to utilize and care for the resource-rich commons for the benefit of those living in and on the commons”. In English that means they work to educate people about the the richness and the responsibility of the lands of the north (above the arctic circle) to help preserve them.
The Institute was looking for a company to redesign their old site and bring a large set of functionality to them. One of their main goals was to get off of an archaic custom content management system that was source of frustration for all of them. They had a fairly large wish list full of challenges I was willing to tackle including a formbuilder, conference registrations and payments. In addition to new functionality, they wanted a total redesign and had a few ideas of their own on style. I worked with the Institute alongside my project manager, David to successfully create a layout that focuses on their content and is a breeze to navigate. the layout is based on a 16 column grid and is a modified version of 960.gs.
Was there a specific reason why EE was chosen for this project? Why?
I received an RFP from the Institute that outlined their objectives very clearly and from that I knew immediately that EE could handle it between native functionality (ahem, Boyink) and a few (or a lot) third party add-ons. My proposal really focused on why EE was such a great solution for their needs and I later learned that it was a 45 minute phone conversation we had, where I explained how great EE is and why, that convinced them I was the right candidate and EE was the right tool. Go EE and go smart client!
What add-ons were used? and why?
I try to limit my usage of third party add-ons where I can but if the add-on is supported/and or by a trusted developer, I see few downsides if the add-on makes something easier for the client or is just a better solution in general. Their site consists of mostly static content so I knew immediately that Structure was the way to go. Kudos to Travis and Jack for creating this much needed add-on and for helping me out when I had an 11th hour Structure issue. They really came through! Other major add-ons used were Solspace’s excellent Calendar and Freeform, the holy trinity of add-ons from Pixel and Tonic - Playa, Matrix and Wygwam, Taxonomy and several other plugins like DM Force SSL, etc.
What difficulties did you encounter? How did you address them? Was there a particular add-on that got you out of a bind?
One major request from the client was a way to conference registrations. There are several registration apps out there and we considered a few of them but in then end I decided I would try to make this as integrated into EE as possible to limit the number of sites they would need to use. This led to a bit of research and finally after talking with Kevin Thompson (who is awesome, use him!) about payments, we decided that he would build a new extension for Freeform to allow integration with a few payment gateways. This extension is called Freeform payments and allows you to do exactly that, take payments from from Freeform. You can see it in action here and feel free to donate to a good cause. The form only submits when the payment is accepted from Authorize.net so you don’t have incomplete forms added to Freeform. Freeform payments automatically adds in the payment fields and keeps them separate from Freeform so you’re not storing CC info in your database. It’s a sweet extension. So with the payments figured out, we needed to make it possible for the client to create forms. this has been done before by smart people like Trevor Davis (http://trevordavis.net/blog/freeform-fieldframe-expressionengine-form-builder/) and made possible by Playa & Matrix by Pixel and Tonic, Adam Wiggall’s Field Builder plugin, and some some relatively simple but smart template code. The entry page for a form looks like this. Pretty cool! Once the client builds a form they can use Playa on any page to relate it to that page and it will show up. So now the client can build a registration form creating any fields they want, add a price or several price options and save it. Next they add a calendar event (Solspace Calendar) and on the entry page they can relate their new form to the event. Finally, a user sees the event and can register and pay for the event right there. Boom!
Special Thanks goes out to Kevin Thompson(@kevinthompson) and Adam Wiggall (@turnandface) for their help with the form builder!
Chimper, MX Cloner, Custom System Messages, Freeform Payments (built for this site), Beech, Antenna, DM Force SSL, Field Builder