ARDEX Technology can design and build your web site, or build it from your design. We can provide you with a site built to your specifications to advertise your products and services and allow your customers to contact you. We can add functionality to allow online transactions such as secure purchases and payments, and we can integrate your site with your back office system, enabling the full range of e-commerce opportunities.
Integration with ARDEX Premier
If you are an Ardex Premier user, we can build e-Commerce features into your web site which allow you to get the most from your investment. We can include a client log-in function which allows your clients to access information about their accounts, download statements, and settle accounts using our secure payments gateway.
Using technology built in to Ardex Premier, you can also 'push' information to your clients including horse progress notes, latest photos and video. The possibilities for trainers, studs and other users are endless.
The pages we build into your site will have the same look and feel as the rest of your site and are a great way to extend online services to your clients. Contact us for more details.
Site Map and Requirements
The starting point for the process is to document what you want to achieve with your site. In most cases, this is as simple as a 'site map' which lays out the different areas of your site and how they connect to each other. You would also think about the functionality you want to support as well as any interfaces to other systems you might require. Some clients prefer to complete this step themselves, or we can assist. We have consultants available who will come to you and analyse your requirements.
Look and Feel
The next step is to develop a 'look and feel' for your site. This includes choosing a layout, developing a colour palette, selecting images and fonts etc. A good starting point is your coporate logo or stationery if available. Again, some clients perform this step on their own, or they may choose to enlist the services of a graphic design or advertising company.
Once the design and the requirements are documented, our developers will implement your design. We have designated test servers where we can temporarily host your site. This allows you to check on the progress of your site and complete any testing you may wish to undertake as the site develops.
Finally, once the site is ready and you have approved it for release, we can assist in installing the site at your preferred hosting location, or it can be migrated to one of our secure in-house production servers.
All static content on your web site is controlled by the ARDEX content management system (CMS). The CMS is designed to allow non-IT people to create and maintain content in a simple way, using a text-based editor with simple mark up codes to control formatting. This model allows the CMS to operate on any browser platform with no prerequisites.
Content is stored in the CMS database as extensible mark up language (XML) text. This format is both human and machine-readable, although in the ARDEX CMS, the user is never exposed to the XML. XML itself is purely a data format and does not explicitly define formatting. To translate the XML into hypertext mark up language (HTML), which is the format understood by web browsers, the ARDEX CMS uses extensible style sheet language transformations (XSLT) to convert the XML into HTML. This process allows the page content to be abstracted from the web page formatting. There are two advantages to this:
The user cannot ‘break’ the appearance of the page because they never work directly with the web page code (HTML). The entire look of the site is controlled from a very small number of XSLT style sheets, which makes maintenance and customisation much less labour-intensive.
The ARDEX CMS allows the creation of roles within an organisation which grant access to update static content and other aspects of the site. There are effectively three roles:
Site administrator – this user is able to access all features of the CMS. They are responsible for defining menus and page categories, and managing user permissions within the CMS.
Site Editor – the site editor controls which articles appear in the news section and allocates one or more stories to the home page (if that option has been included in the home page template). At most sites, the editor role would either be performed by the site administrator or one or more of the web content authors.
Web content author – users are able to create and update articles/static page content and upload and manage images. A web content author can be granted access to all areas of the site, or to specific areas, according to the client’s requirements.
Web Site Content
Sites created using the ARDEX CMS consist of four main components:
• Content – stored in the database as XML
• Page template – this is a definition of the common ‘look & feel’ of the site. It includes page header and footer, menu layout, fonts, colours and any other constant parts of the site.
• Style sheets – these are files which control the appearance of the site. They transform the content XML into HTML, applying the page template. The ARDEX CMS consists of a number of standard style sheets for different page types. These style sheets can be customised or supplemented according to client requirements.
• Behaviours – these define what happens when a visitor follows a link or clicks a menu item. The simplest behaviour is to display a static content page. Other behaviours allow the site to display dynamic content (data-driven from a database or back-office system), media content, on-line forms and other interactive content.
• Generally, the web content author can only change content. The other three components can only be maintained by appropriately trained staff (ARDEX Technology in absence of trained staff at the client site).
• Page changes to existing pages can be previewed before being released to the public site. New pages are not visible on the site until they are explicitly published. Existing pages can be replaced by new versions and likewise these are not visible on the public site until published. This allows changes to be prepared in advance and then published in a timely fashion.
• The ARDEX CMS includes an infinite number of ‘rollbacks’. This allows the site administrator to revert to a previous instance of a page if required.
Other CMS Tasks
In addition to managing static content, the CMS also provides the following features:
• Menu definition – three tiers of menu hierarchy are supported. Banner menu strips can be defined, including support for pop-up secondary menus. A third level of menu is available on individual pages. Menu items can be added dynamically. Depending on the site design (assuming there is room within the defined menu banner space in the page template) items can be added, removed or changed ad hoc by the CMS user without involvement from IT personnel.
• Page category definition – page categories enable static and dynamic content to be categorised and mapped to behaviours. Behaviours define what happens when a page is loaded. The simplest behaviour is for a static page to be loaded. Other behaviours supported include photo galleries, on-line forms, media (such as video), page searches, and eCommerce functions. Behaviours can be created and made available to suit special requirements – this is a customisation of the CMS which can only be undertaken by ARDEX Technology personnel.
• News – the CMS allows web content authors to add and update news items for the news section of the site. Users with the site editor role can control which items appear on the home page and which items appear on a dedicated news page.
• Article distribution – newsletters or articles on specific topics can be created using the CMS and distributed to email groups. These articles may appear on the site as well if desired.
• User administration – The site administrator uses the CMS to manage user ids and permissions.
• The CMS is supported by an on-line help web site.