In a recent forum post on webtrees.net a member asked “Would it be feasible to have section headers in the FAQ?”
The short answer I gave was “no, it is not currently possible, and given the generally low use of FAQs, it is not likely to be a priority to develop such a change“.
However I do think the idea has some merit.
I have mixed views on FAQs myself. I firmly believe they are rarely used or read, but at least if they exist they do provide somewhere to point people to rather than keep repeating the same advice. So rather than suggest a significant change to webtrees, I suggested that perhaps there is a suitable already-existing software that could achieve the same goal.
Looking around the web I found phpMyFAQ. It is a very comprehensive FAQ tool, written in php, using a MySQL database, and is open source. In other words, a near perfect match for webtrees! Those features also make it a great fit for webtrees’ stated aim “… to be efficient and effective by using the right combination of third-party tools, design techniques and open standards“. (stated on the Home page of webtrees.net).
So I have started to develop a way, or ways, to utilise “pMF” in webtrees, without requiring major programming effort. On this page I aim to talk about what I have found and the solutions I have tried. At the same time I am amending my own Our Families site to use pMF. Once completed I will publish the solutions, and if necessary a module to help. Feel free to comment here if you have any thoughts on the issues raised.
Progress report 1
To start I will list some of the problems involved in using pMF in webtrees Not, I must stress, because there is anything wrong with pMF, but to document some things that do need considering in this situation.
- pMF is currently in the midst of a major upgrade. The current stable release is version 2.7.9, but it’s replacement, 2.8.0, is close to release, and is quite significantly different (better from what I can see). Therefore all my development is based on 2.8.0.
- pMF has it’s own comprehensive user management system. Because I intend avoiding any major programming, and in particular any hacking of pMF’s code, I will be ignoring that aspect completely, with the sole exception of a single admin user necessary to create and edit FAQs.
- pMF 2.8.0 makes extensive use of ‘bootstrap’ styling and css. This is great for pMF, but not currently practical for webtrees. So styling will be different. I expect this will result in two or perhaps three alternative levels of integration, with the simplest being just linking to a default pMF installation and the most complex being a custom theme to match one or more of the webtrees themes (and / or simpl_themes).
- A major design aspect to pMF’s functionality is the ability of members / users to add their own questions, to which an administrator can add answers, creating a full FAQ. Without using pMF’s user database, webtrees will not have access to that part of the system. All FAQs will need to be entered by a single webtrees admin, or group of webtrees users manually added to pMF. But that is no different to the standard webtrees FAQ module, so should not be a major issue.
That will do as a list for now. I’m sure there will be more as I progress. I do already have pMF operational on Our Families, but not yet to a stage where I can make it visible to guests. I can however report that it was very straightforward to install, with many similarities in both requirements and set up process to webtrees. It certainly more than satisfies the original request “…to have section headers in the FAQ…”. So at this stage it is looking good 🙂
I will add more soon.