Disclosure: Optimate Group Pty Ltd has an interest in The International Alpaca Reference Library.
A long-time client (Ian) rang out of the blue and asked if I’d like to set up an online library for alpaca breeders, and I said ’sure!’. Ian knew what he wanted, but was very happy to leave all the implementation to me — we have worked with each other for years and he trusted me implicitly to git ’er done. (This eventually evolved into a partnership: Ian’s contribution was to source all the articles and mine was to put everything together.)
The site was to be the definitive reference site (library) for all alpaca-related information and scientific research, and would rely on funds from sponsorships, donations, and running advertisements for ongoing maintenance.
Ian provided links to a plethora of alpaca-related articles and research papers via Word docs. I needed a way to collate those links in a way that was ordered and logical, as in a library, and which didn’t breach copyright or was plagiarism. These articles also needed to be found easily with a search function. Writing the software from scratch was possible, but was not a viable option owing to time and costs involved. And because this was a site for alpaca breeders, and this was around the time the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal was in the news, we thought it worth adding an online community/forum for the intended readership, which was guaranteed to protect people’s privacy.
The obvious and only choice for me was the excellent Content Management System (CMS) software, b2evolution. It took no time to install and within a day I had the basic structure fleshed out. This included a custom home page, two library sections, a page which recognised all supporters, a page which recognised all advertisers, and a forum. I also added a page advising how people could sponsor, donate, or otherwise advertise on the site, and linked that to an OpenCart ecommerce installation for taking payments online. (The lack of inbuilt ecommerce functionality is the only downside to b2evolution in my mind, but even that is now a promised feature on its way I hear!)
The software comes with a ‘manual’ interface, which made the collation of articles a breeze. I could create any number of categories and sub-categories, each of which then displayed a list of relevant articles or papers by title and a text snippet. Clicking on a title displayed more information again, such as the author, date of publication, name of publication, and a larger text snippet. A link to the full article or paper was provided for people to follow if interested.
b2evolution made it very easy to organise and display sponsors’ and others’ advertisements. The same ads were displayed together on the aforementioned sponsors and advertisers pages, further displayed by category within those dedicated pages, and were further again displayed individually in dedicated positions on all other pages. It was also a simple matter to have ads appear in a randomised order, which ensured all advertisers had an equal chance of being in the number one (or only) spot for any given page view.
Having access to the wonderful b2evolution CMS saved countless hours of time in development. Using that time to build the site, rather than its foundation. was far more productive and rewarding. Indeed, it took much much longer adding the content than setting up the site itself — and that site was a rather involved and sophisticated project in the grand scheme of things.
The only aspect b2evolution couldn’t handle was the ecommerce requirement, but that may soon be a problem of the past, and our go-to ecommerce software OpenCart more than adequately fills that role in the meantime. Apart than that, b2evolution readily handled every other need we could throw at it, with plenty of room left over for even more large-scale upsizing if required. For example, the forum never really took off despite our best efforts — Facebook probably won out in the end — but if it had, one idea we had was to offer regular/popular/informative posters their own blogging platform on the Library site. And we could do this for any number of guest bloggers without b2evolution breaking stride, it really is that powerful. I’ll be writing more about this software — you may have gathered by now that I am quite enamoured of it!
Please get in touch if you’d like a similar set up for your own needs. We can make it as simple or as sophisticated as you need from the outset, and the beauty of a powerful CMS like b2evolution is that the site can grow as you grow, without any compromise in performance, as this case study has shown. All support offered should you wish to maintain the site yourself, or we can do this on your behalf, whether fully or in part, in whichever way works best for you.