Refining the Information Process and Extending its Functionality

To super-charge our website we need to refine the information flow, standardise the database connectivity process and add some extra global code to extend the functionality of the website.
Refining the Information Process and Extending its Functionality

Tweaking and Refining our Website for a better experience.

Liberate the Data

There are many facets to our website, but to achieve the most out of its functionality we need to tweak and refine the code that delivers this content and extend its functionality to produce a diverse experience throughout the site. Currently database (RDB) related information is delivered to specialised folders and sub-folders using isolated database connections; this means that dynamic information is fixed into one area of the site and therefore its' use is constrained. This contravenes our original concept for providing a dynamic and unique user experience to our website.

To liberate the data and enable it site-wide, we need good data in the first instance, this means we go back to the originating SQL database, tidy up that information and provide the relevant 'hooks' to connect to the website databases. Once that is complete we can add code to the website database and the website to enable queried data to be delivered to any part of the website as requested, without affecting the functionality of that part of the website. If we can achieve this we have liberated the data!

Publish the Information

Speaking of liberating the data, we recently added social media icons to the website, this worked great adding social media like and share buttons to all the pages we specified automatically, but what is the point of having them if you can't get the information in front of people! Let me explain, we are all busy people therefore we divide our finite amount of time between the things we want to do and the things we have to do. Search engines are great at both tasks, but when you use a search engine your mind is focused on the objective; leisure or work. When you use social media you have a different mind-set and you are open to exploring different possibilities- creativity steps in and you have an epiphany. We are scientists, moving in a scientific, technological world; cold, objective and empirical, suspicious of enthusiasm as a mask to deceive. We are not going to share website information readily for fear of judgement, labelling and identification. But what happens when you release the pages of your website onto a format such as Facebook, where those rules don't apply?

Preliminary research would suggest that it is quite an endeavour, "when you play in another programs' pool you have to obey its rules", however we have already added social media and OG-Tag functionality to our website for Facebook, so we should have some inherent compatibility with Facebook inherited from that piece of coding; a quick test with a small amount of code from Facebook's development centre confirms this (See Below). This means in theory all we have to do is expand our core functionality (i.e. install another piece of code), shorten our URL's (who would have thought there was a special website for this) and setup a CRON to publish data to Facebook automatically. Looks like we have our next project.

The code is very small so we can add buttons within a page easily, like this:

Why More Work?

I ask myself this question very frequently, why do we have so much work to do on our website, when everyone says 'Get your website up and running in 15mins' or something like that. Essentially the answer is given in our very first publication New Corporate Website. In this document we established the fundamental properties of our website (i.e. one portal to add information to and fully automatic dissemination and publication to other parts of the website). So when I wanted to make an announcement for Xmas opening/closing times I ran into a problem; announcements are not 'News items!. When I wanted to cross-pollinate a news item with related products and services I ran into a problem; it had to be run in a query folder which would sit inside the news folder, this made it inaccessible to the special properties of the news folder and the pages within it were no longer 'News' items!

Then I looked at the recent developments we had made (i.e. social like buttons), adding these has slowed the website noticeably and I don't see any ROI (for the reasons cited earlier). The choice is 'get rid of them or make use of them'; we've chosen the latter, publish our news to our Facebook timeline to improve our return on investment.

So three more pieces of work to complete.

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