Monday, April 8, 2013

INTRODUCING: 2013 Greater Perimeter Business Expo

The Greater Perimeter Business Expo is back for 2013 and is again a joint effort between the Sandy Springs and Dunwoody chambers.  Sponsorships affordable for a wide range of businesses are still available, as are display booths in the ballroom at Crowne Plaza Ravinia.  This Expo is one of the best annual networking events in the area.  You learn a lot about your neighbors and the city around you when meeting them in a business environment, eye-to-eye.

This website is a significant upgrade from the original launched last year.  First, it is the Dunwoody Chamber's first step into Drupal 7.  Drupal is an extraordinary powerful open-source content management system (CMS) whose advantages include fine granularity of permissions.  (That means you can set up your site so each user or group of users you designate has different abilities to access different functions, or to have different experiences with content.)  This latest stable version of Drupal has built-in code that makes slideshows (like the sponsor filmstrip above) easier to install and maintain.  Unlike most Joomla and WordPress extensions/plugins, it isn't hard to have more than one slideshow or other animated feature.

The other major improvement is the site design:  it still reflects the original, but was updated to the most current design trends.  This theme is optimized as much for a tablet/iPad as for a desktop or laptop.

Finally, I didn't forget the smartphones!  It's not enough to design for horizontal rectangular screens anymore. Site visitors may use anything from an iPhone to a 60-inch TV screen.  There are several ways to accommodate this wide variety of screen sizes and proportions.  In this site, I used the latest technique called "responsive design".  That means the server where the site resides can "read" the screen size that is viewing it, then rearrange the elements and font size to fit.  You can access all of the same information and function as comfortably on your phone as on any other device.

Here's a simulation of how this same site looks on an iPhone:

The following is intended for my fellow web geeks and ChamberMaster users.

As of this date, ChamberMaster's SEO-optimized content modules are not compatible with Drupal 7.  D7 has javascript libraries included in core that make image/content sliders easier to install and optimize jQuery animated navigation associated with mobile devices.  However, there's a trade-off:  It is no longer possible to copy/paste or otherwise insert JavaScript of any kind into a Drupal page.  Not even one little line, even from Google or similar libraries.    So ChamberMaster's SEO-optimized modules will end up breaking your theme and navigation entirely, because they function by inserting JavaScript into the page.

Adding additional JavaScript requires including the script in an external file and declaring it in a theme, or referencing it in a module.  You can declare a javascrript in either the theme's .INFO file, or in the functions.php directory, to load the script on every page.  Or, download and install the "Javascript Libraries" module and your javascript can be called on a per page basis.  With the module, you can even load the script after the footer and speed up your page load time.

I've already been on the phone to Micronet to explain the conflict and the solution.  (SamC.?  Buddy?  You listening?)  To make ChamberMaster modules compatible with D7, the javscript will have to be exported to external files and referenced in the integration code.  Then the user would need a list of those scripts and reference them in their site's theme (or the Libraries module) while following the usual ChamberMaster page integration instructions.  I tried this with individual "plugins" like the search function and main business directory and it works when you edit the inserted code individually and build/reference your own .JS files.

Sitting in my chair, it's simple, if detailed, but I have no idea what Micronet would have to go through to modify their code for Drupal compatibility without fouling up another internal function on their side.  In theory, this should work equally well on Joomla, WordPress, SiteFinity, Expression Engine, and other CMS.  Those would not have to have the javascript referenced in their theme, as long as the ChamberMaster module references the location locally.

BTW - how did I get the event registration integrated into the GPBE site?  IFrame tags on the main registration page, lightboxes for breakfast and lunch registrations.  Not the most elegant solution, but it does work.  And with the new color/style management system in the admin side of ChamberMaster, it matches the rest of the site easily enough.  The Drupal 7 upgrade of the Dunwoody Chamber website is on hold until this conflict is resolved.

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