Here’s my recommendations for the software that you’ll need for your day-to-day digital life as a charity Web Master.
As mentioned in the Graphic article in the Toolkit, you will need to get yourself some Photo/Graphics editing software, and as you’ll be using it most days it’s worth spending the time to learn how to use it properly. Photoshop is normally really expensive but you may be eligible to get a copy from Charity Technology Exchange. You can buy it singularly, or get the whole Adobe Suite for £100. That’s a massive saving and it’s probably worthwhile getting the whole bundle just in case you ever need a copy of Illustrator or InDesign for making/editing brochures, business cards etc. It’s not the easiest programme to learn because it has so many features, but there’s loads of tutorials and blogs that can help.
Firefox/Chrome/Internet Explorer (and Safari if you have a Mac)
One of the first things you’ll encounter when you start building websites is that they don’t always look the same on each of the browsers you use. Traditionally this has especially been the case with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer – which lagged years behind Firefox and Chrome in terms of the way it interprets the HTML and CSS that make up a website. Thankfully, very few people use version 6 anymore and you can freely ignore it, but for years ‘IE6’ were the most hated letters in the web-design alphabet. The newer versions (9&10) work much better but you should always check that your site looks and works OK in as many browsers as you can.
If you’re serious about using Twitter as one of your online channels then you’ll soon get frustrated with using the Twitter website itself as the interface. It’s OK for posting tweets, but most serious Tweeters use a Twitter client like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to manage their accounts through. They all work pretty much the same way so it’s a matter of finding the one you prefer the most. They usually have a column layout and I’d recommend for starters that you create columns for Mentions, Sent Tweets, ReTweets, a search on your charity name, a group of your fundraisers, a group of fellow charities or sector experts you want to follow closely. Plus with services like Hootsuite you can schedule tweets so you can write a few in the morning and have them automatically sent out at designated times. Most of these clients will post to your Facebook page too, though personally I prefer to do that within Facebook still.
Editing the ‘theme’ of your site:
There’s two types of editing you can do to your website. You can add/edit content using the Content Management System (like WordPress or Drupal), or you can make some simple changes to the design of the site itself. The latter involves editing what’s called the ‘theme’ of your site and it’s what you would otherwise pay a web developer to do. If you just want to add new pages to your site, and insert images inside it then you don’t need to know much about how HTML works. You’ll be adding/editing your pages using a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor that looks pretty similar to creating a document in Microsoft Word. Editing your theme allows you to change the colours, text size and layout of your site but it requires a bit more technical knowledge.
First up, you’ll need some free software:
This is an ‘Add-on’ for the Firefox browser that’s really popular among web developers. It allows you to right-click on an element in your page (an image, a headline, a sidebar etc) and then see all the CSS rules that the browser is using to determine its look and placement. You can then temporarily edit those CSS rules and add new ones on-the-fly and see the changes happen live in the browser. It’s a huge time-saver.
This is a free File Transfer Protocol (FTP) programme. Whilst you can edit your theme files from within WordPress, I wouldn’t really recommend it because the code isn’t formatted in a very friendly way, and there’s no options to go back and undo any changes that you now regret making. An FTP programme lets you download and upload files between your computer and a web server. It doesn’t have an editing facility built in, all it does it transfer files between the two places.
You can’t use a programme like Word to edit the PHP and CSS files because it’s not designed to do that and it tends to add some unwanted coding and styling of its own. You can use the free Notepad program that ships with Windows but you’re better off with a free upgrade of it called Notepad++. This shows line numbers (very useful when used in conjunction with Firebug) and will do syntax highlighting which makes it easier to read and debug all those lines of code yourself.
How to do it:
I haven’t yet found a simple video that shows a basic tutorial of how to use these three with your WordPress site, and it’s one of those things that’s much easier to explain in a video than a long series of screenshots. I’ll add it to my ‘to-do’ list and post it here when I#ve recorded my own.