Manasota Mensa

 

Overview

Manasota Mensa’s website is very comprehensive with a lot going on — and a lot of competing internal elements. It serves as both a public face to inform people about the organization, including qualifications and testing procedures. Plus, it acts as a point of contact for the very diverse two hundred members. It contains informational pages, including for testing; a resource page for parents of gifted kids, a blog section, archived newsletters, a public calendar, and password-protected Members section.

 

Details

This site development brought several challenging issues, and took some time in contemplation and design. The need to disseminate information among members was juxtaposed—equally passionately—by the need to protect member privacy. Unlike a regular business with only a few structured leaders, a member-organization often has a seemingly limitless number of differing viewpoints, all of which were ultimately satisfied here. (Well, at least, most all of two hundred different viewpoints.) At the core root of the most significant issue was the need to have a easy-resource calendar, yet protected from public view. While this could be accomplished with password protection, membership had shown themselves to be password-resistant. Moreover, some of the membership, specifically youth under eighteen, had additional (and also Federal) mandates for privacy.

The national, parent organization offered hosting space for design, but was not WordPress friendly—the chosen development engine to accomplish all the previously-stated goals. While we accomplished a work-around that was successful for a few years, their infrastructure was now growing dated, which was becoming a security issue. The organization made the decision to obtain its own personal domain, and host with Chinnici Consulting.

Special Features and Solutions

Though National offered free host space, they would not allow the mySQL database, a critical component of WordPress — actually, it’s defining component. With some research (and unique programming) we were able to initially host the WordPress at National, and host the mySQL database at Chinnici Consulting. WordPress is able to take that level of programming, but it is anything but a routine use. Every webpage that was spun up had to read from two locations across the web. Moreover, although a bit technical, the National organization was running php version 5.3. (For comparison, every website at Chinnici Consulting is at 7.1.) WordPress will issue periodic updates to leapfrog security vulnerabilities, but it was now no longer updating prior to 5.4. Running an old version of WordPress was, by definition, increasingly vulnerable.

Moreover, all of this had to be done on a limited budget. So the various needed modules needed to be the “free versions” of the more elegant, subscription-based module versions.

While the public face of the website was easy, the logged-in area posed some challenges. The calendar of events needed to show the list of public meetings, yet, more importantly, the full list of member events for logged-in members—in the very same calendar module. 

In addition to the Calendar, upon login a Members section revealed additional pages, including one listing the various subgroups: arts interest, social interest, and so on. On that page, there are two buttons: Join this Group, and Email this Group. That latter one required an additional mail-list program for easy subscription, in and out. 

 And in all of this, one of the great challenges is that all these modules had to “play well” together — which they did not. Of the three primary, additional modules, this took significant research to experiment with modules that in fact, all worked together seamlessly — and completely. Some worked well, but depending on what page element was clicked, might side-step the protected areas, and reveal member information. Through much trial and error, we did finally find modules that did fulfill all of these needs, working well together.

 

Check out the website, and organization.