Site Specification

timClicks edited this page Apr 3, 2012 · 2 revisions
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About is the website of the World Seabird Union, an umbrella organisation focused on seabird research.


Static content

Allow for pages with static content (text, images, etc.), arranged in a navigation hierarchy. Static text will be edited using the Markdown syntax with a few extensions, in particular to allow publications to be included in content.

Note Markdown has been chosen as it makes it easier to produce syntactically correct HTML, and discourages the use of complex formatting that will break the look of the web site.

Seabird researchers

The members of the site are primarily seabird researchers, although other interested and relevant people may apply to join. The site provides the functionality for researchers to register, login and change passwords.

The site allows for the creation of records of historical researchers, with the intention to become a canonical source of information relating to the field as a whole.

Roles & permissions

  • Users can post, comment, upload photographs and edit their own information
  • Staff can access the administration screens, edit the static content of the site and alter its layout
  • Superusers have full access and have the ability to block abusive users

Researcher profiles

Seabird researchers have a profile page created for them. The profile page gives the following information

  • Personal information: name, email, website, photograph, Twitter handle
  • Professional status: option list of Student Enthusiast Professional Retired and Deceased
  • Institutional information: institution's name, institution's website
  • Research interests: a free text section describing their research
  • Seabird interests: multi-selection of seabird families
  • Research field: e.g., ecology, taxonomy, 'I am not a researcher'
  • Latest posts: title and teaser of most recent posts made to the site
  • Seabird photographs: gallery of seabird photographs uploaded by the user
  • Twitter feed: recent tweets by the user
  • Looking for: option list of an advisor collaborators research assistants graduate students and undergraduate students

The design of the profile page will degrade gracefully, with content only appearing if there is something to show. For example, a user that does not have a twitter account, or that does not want twitter to appear on their page, will simply not include it in their profile. The display of email addresses is optional.

Hidden fields

  • Permitted to post: check box that admins are able to uncheck to prevent abusive behaviour
  • WID number: to allow for an association with the Seabird Information Network
  • Opt-out of Twitter feed: button / check box
  • Opt-out of WSU membership: remain a member of the site, remove membership with the union

Opting out

Having created an entry, it is important that users can always

  • Edit their own information
  • Remove themselves from the site

To leave, users will click through from the profile page to a special page with a single button and a message such as 'Please remove me from the seabird researchers database and from'. If they continue, their profile will be marked as inactive, they will no longer receive any communication from, and their profile will not be displayed.


Staff may also have the occasion to block users. This will be done through the administration screens of the website. It is expected to only be used if one of the users happens to become abusive. Blocked users will be unable to post further content, however their profile will still be visible and will still be editable. To remove their profile from the site, administrators mark their accounts as inactive.

PETREL database

The PETREL database is a list of the registered users, with the exception that members who declare they are not seabird researchers will not appear in the database. The database will have an index page that lists the researchers. It is anticipated that a single long list will be the simplest in the short term. The list will be able to be filtered by country, by seabird family, and by research area.


The key content of the site are posts. These are content items created by users. Posts contain a title, a short teaser, a block of text and an optional image. Posts may also be categorised by seabird family. Posts allow for comments to be made, and when displayed will include social sharing buttons. At first, comments will only be allowed by logged in users.

Site staff may declare their posts to be WSU news. These are the same as posts, however they will be displayed on a separate news page. The content of these posts is expected to be about organisational business.


Staff will also be able to post announcements. These will be similar to WSU news posts, but will only consist of a title and a teaser, and will not allow comments. Announcements will be used for short pieces of information.


Members may upload photographs. In order to make these photographs of wide use, they will be encouraged to use a creative commons license for the photographs. The form for uploading photographs will be relatively complex, as it requires the copyright owner and the source of the photograph to be identified. With this structure, will be able to re-use photographs that have been CC licensed from sites such as Flickr.

Photographs will optionally have a caption, allowing for a full description to be provided.

Photographs will be able to be tagged by seabird family. This will allow for a gallery page displaying seabird photographs, with the option to filter by family.

Communication with members

A key role of the website will be to facilitate communication with members. People are sensitive to getting too many emails, and so this aspect will be handled carefully. In particular, an option will be provided for people to opt out of all emails from the website, with the exception of essential communications (such as a reminder that they haven't updated their profile for the last two years, etc.). There will be three email lists that may be subscribed too

  • WSU news and announcements
  • Posts relevant to your seabird families
  • All WSU news, and all posts

By default, the first two options will be checked. The subscriptions will be managed by users from the profile page. Emails will be plain text, with a link back to the post on the site. The footer of each email will contain instructions on unsubscribing, and on resetting the password.

Each post, news item, or announcement will be sent as a separate message. If the volume becomes large, a digest feature may be added in the future, but experience shows that people tend not to read digest emails.


The website will allow for members to load references to their seabird related publications. Bibliographic references will be entered using the bibtex format. This is one of the formats that is made available by Google scholar, and citation management software often allows for export of references in the bibtex format.

It will also be possible to upload PDFs, providing the user asserts that they have the right to do so. This will allow for people to share publications, posters, and presentations. A size limit will be placed on the uploaded files (say 10 MB).

Twitter and social sharing

A widget will be placed on the front page that displays all tweets made by @seabirders, the Twitter handle of the WSU. Social sharing buttons will be placed on posts and by announcements, allowing them to be tweeted, posted on facebook, emailed, or posted via Google+.


The website comes with an administration site that allows for authorized users administrative control over all the content.

Hosting and code

The website is written in Django, a python web-framework. No proprietary code is used, and so there are no software licensing costs. All code used for the website (with the exception of private information API keys, passwords, etc., that must necessarily remain confidential to will be released under a license that permits free reuse (specifically, the permissive MIT/X11 license), and will be made available through a repository on Github. Components that are specific to will be copyright the WSU. Reflecting prior art, generic components that may be re-used on other projects will be copyright of Dragonfly Limited. Because of the permissive license, this will not restrict the reuse of the code by the WSU or any other party, in any way, provided that the original contributions are suitably acknowledged.

The website will be hosted on a third-party server, with WSU staff having responsibility for monitoring the website, for paying for the hosting, and maintaining the registration of the domain name.


Stage 1

  • Static content
  • User profiles
  • Petrel database
  • Uploading posts, announcements, and images
  • Preliminary design

Stage 2

  • Email lists
  • Publications
  • Image gallery
  • Twitter and social sharing
  • Minor design changes
  • Testing of function across browsers (IE8+, Chrome, Firefox)
  • Testing of W3C HTML compliance

The future

  • Site wide search
  • Internationalization (allowing translation of all content)
  • Seabird organisations (page for each organisation)
  • Metadata (description of seabird data-sets)
  • Species specific information (tagging of content by species, and associated species pages)
  • Functionality for conference administration
  • Implement OAuth to allow databases to authenticate researchers via