ColdFusion Muse

How to Build a Website in 4 Hours (without Elves)

If it hasn't happened to you already it will happen eventually. Someday soon, someone is going to ask for your help building a web site pro-bono. Now, I think this is a very good idea. If you are a member of a Church, a Scout leader, a band booster or involved in any other worthwhile cause that's long on commitment and short on funds, you should dedicate a part of your skills to helping them leverage the web. The problem is usually time. If you are like me you may have trouble coming up with enough time to build a web site "for free" - at least not the 30 or 40 hours you feel such an effort deserves. Not to worry... I'm here to tell you that with a couple of simple choices you can build an excellent web site in around 4 hours. What?? You don't believe me?

Listen Here

Step 1 - Skip the Design and Use a Jumpstart

My first piece of advice is to simply scrap the whole design process and use a jumpstart from Community MX. This site gets my vote for the most useful site on the web. In fact, to be in my will you have to promise to vote for it every year (and you have to be related to me - so don't ask). These little "jump starts" represent all the source material and documentation to skin an entire site. They come with PNG files, CSS files and a host of documentation from bone fide CSS gurus. They also come with Dreamweaver extensions allowing you to create a page based off of the template. Pick a jumpstart, drop in a few new images, change the text and Voila! - a very professional site design in about an hour.

Step 2 - Blogs as CMS

My second piece of advice is to install a blog. You can use Ray's BlogCFC if you like, but you should also consider Blogfusion by CF guru Jake from Countersink Design. If you are using it for non-commercial use, you can get a copy by simply sending him something from his Amazon wish-list. Why Blogfusion? Because it has a photo blog as well - so you get 2 features for the price of one.

If you are adept at installing CF applications, installing either of these blogs is no problem. Once they are installed you can re-skin them using your CSS template designs from step 1. You may not have thought of it, but a blog can also be a nice light-weight "content management system" (cms) for a small site. Create a container on the home page and add a query for the top entry for a particular category (say - "home page"). Whenever you want to alter the home page all you need to do is add a new entry to that category. You can even come up with a few categories, different pages etc. - whatever time allows.

Step 3 - Galleon Forums

This application is so easy to set up and skin, and it immediately adds an impressive feature to your site.

Step 4 - Calendar Application

There are a lot of these out there, but my favorite has to be CF event calendar. It uses 2 tables, it's easy to skin and it has nice rollover features. Anyway, there are a number of event calendars out there that are free - or nearly free. Pick one and install it - then come up with a clever way to use the data. For example, display a list of "upcoming events" on the home page.

An Example

Here's an example (just registered - if it doesn't resolve try this link instead). I did this site for my church choir. The site is complete, but the principle stakeholders have yet to add "real" Content. Here are the steps I took:

  • Using the "Machu-Pichu" jump start from community MX I created a sample home page.
  • I used the PNG file that came with the jump start and gathered a few pictures of the choir and director. I made a new collage from the pics and replaced the "machu-pichu" masthead with the current masthead.
  • I installed "blog fusion" in the /blog directory and re-skinned it.
  • I installed Galleon Forums in the /forums directory and re-skinned it.
  • I installed "event Calendar" in the /events directory and re-skinned it.
  • I took out the bogus content from the home page and added a module that shows the latest post from the "announcement" category in the blog, and another module for the "director's message" category in the blog. Still another module displays "community news". By posting to the blog the site stays up to date.
  • I added a "list" at the bottom that displays "prayer requests" from one of the forum items.
  • I added link lists at the right for "rehearsals" and "performances" that pull events from the calendar application.
That's it. It was about 3 hours on the weekend and another hour today. It looks professional. It's not "flashy", but it has a wealth of functionality. It's a full fledged community site with lots of features, and all done while sitting in my sweats watching NFL playoffs and making bodily noises.

Summary

In short, it is possible to build a fully featured web site in a few hours if you have the right skill set (database, Coldfusion etc.) and if you use canned design and application.

Comments
I Rz's Gravatar Can you please provide a link for the "event calendar". Thanks.
# Posted By I Rz | 1/17/06 12:47 PM
mkruger's Gravatar I wish I could - but I simply don't remember where I got it - and I cannot find anything anywhere in the code that gives me a clue - sorry.
# Posted By mkruger | 1/17/06 1:07 PM
John Blayter's Gravatar I found the link to the event calendar.

http://www.daydreaminc.com/personal_eventcalendar....
# Posted By John Blayter | 1/17/06 3:18 PM
mkruger's Gravatar John,
Thanks! I updated the site and I'll send in a donation - thanks again.
# Posted By mkruger | 1/17/06 3:32 PM
Jake's Gravatar Thanks for the shout out.

I actually built in some quasi-CMS type features specifically for being able to manage non-blog pages via your blog app. For instance, BlogFusion runs the BlogFusion.com site with only a few mods. Or if you want to have "static" pages (pages that aren't included in blog itself via the home page, category listings, and archive listings) via a "not shown anywhere" category.

Anyway, hope this helps. Thanks again for the call out!

Jake
blogfusion.com
# Posted By Jake | 1/17/06 10:44 PM
mkruger's Gravatar Jake - no problem. Thanks for the tips on content management. I love the ap. I use Ray's blog for CF Muse because I don't need all the advanced features of your blog - plus he has some nifty code techniques I admire :)
# Posted By mkruger | 1/18/06 8:04 AM
Danilo's Gravatar I'm a partner at CommunityMX, and just wanted to drop a line to say thanks for the great compliments that you give us regardign our JumpStarts and our general usefullness.

One correction, in the podcast you mention purchasing a JumpStart and you say the cost is approx $5 if you're not a subscriber. While we feel they are a great value, they aren't quite that cheap. Currently, they are priced from $29.99 through $45 depending on the contents of the JumpStart in addition, we do have one freebie, North Pole. Links to all the JumpStarts are in the righthand column of our home page: <a href="http://CommunityMX.com">http://CommunityMX...;

For those not familiar with the CommunityMX JumpStarts, they inclulde not only a great looknig design, but a number of articles that describe the techniques used in the creation of the JumpStart design.

Most content is available are just a couple of dollars for non-subscribers, and we do have a bunch of freebie articles too.

PS: Machu Pichu is in Peru.
# Posted By Danilo | 1/18/06 12:32 PM
mkruger's Gravatar Danilo,

Thanks for the update and correction. 29.99 is still a good value I think. It's also the first time (I think) anyone has commented on the podcast version of a post. Nice to know someone is paying attention :)
# Posted By mkruger | 1/18/06 12:36 PM
Jake's Gravatar Podcast?? Completely missed that before, but am subsribed now! :)
# Posted By Jake | 1/18/06 12:42 PM
Seth Petry-Johnson's Gravatar I listened to this podcast on the way to work this morning and I thought it was very well done. It was full of good content, concise and to the point and short enough to digest in the drive between my house and the office. Can't ask for much more than that from a podcast!
# Posted By Seth Petry-Johnson | 1/23/06 9:59 AM
mkruger's Gravatar Seth, Thanks for the kind words. Could you contact me directly at mkruger@cfwebtools.com. I'd like to ask how you get the podcast exactly... how it gets to your ipod or player. Did you just download it into your PC and copy it over? Did you get it from the RSS feed? what's the procedure...
# Posted By mkruger | 1/23/06 11:04 AM
:-: S€zæR ->'s Gravatar css web template page (example) -- http://www.css-lessons.ucoz.com/css-template-page....
# Posted By :-: S€zæR -> | 5/14/08 1:20 AM
David G. Moore, Jr.'s Gravatar Does anyone here still use CommunityFX or Jumpstart products. Is it worth the monthly fee? It seems they have slowed down their development of new products. Is there something else that is more current anyone would recommend?
# Posted By David G. Moore, Jr. | 10/9/10 6:55 PM



Blog provided and hosted by CF Webtools. Blog Sofware by Ray Camden.