Building DFL Local Unit Web Sites

The Minnesota DFL offers local units the ability to create their own local sites in conjunction with the main state party site. These sub-sites give local units a space to post locally relevant information; the main site places these sub-sites within a coherent framework. To assist local site creation, the state also provides a website template which tries to balance customization and ease of use. This tutorial introduces the user to basic elements of the template, the ways it can be altered, and the relevant editing tools available to users.

The state DFL website is powered by a system called WordPress. While no full description of WordPress is necessary for our purposes, a explanation of WordPress terms (such as post, page, widget, and media) can be found here: Introduction to WordPress Terminology. For more in-depth looks at the mechanics of WordPress, WordPress User Guide or the Easy WP Guide serve as useful introductions.

A basic, step-by-step tutorial for getting your local unit DFL website started can be found here: DFL Website Tutorial

The Interface

admin menu
There are two main interfaces you will use when editing your site: the Dashboard and your local website. The Dashboard is the main editing interface. Your local site is – your local site, of course! From the Dashboard, you can access your local site through the grey bar at the top of your screen. Simply drag your cursor over the item listed as (name of your local unit) DFL, and click Visit Site. As long as you are logged into WordPress, you can use the same bar to access the Dashboard from your site. In this way, you can toggle between your Dashboard and site to see how editing choices affect the site. From the Dashboard, you can see an editing menu on the left of your screen which allows you to edit and add posts, events, media, pages, etc.

The Dashboard of the DFL Local theme that our system uses is customized to look a little different than the standard WordPress interface, as you can see in this overview of DFL Local Web Site Elements. In particular, you’ll notice that the DFL system has added the following elements: QuickLinks, Sliders, Callouts, and Forms. You will want to think about what use you may make of any of those elements.

Adding Content to Pages

The default template includes an About Us page that starts out blank. Your About Us page is a good place to add information about your county or district, possibly including a map, and a list of your party unit’s officers. To add text to a page, navigate to the Dashboard, click on Pages, look for the name of the page you wish to edit, in this case About Us, and click the Edit button below it. When on the edit screen of any given page, you can add text by typing it into the text window. Adding pictures is a bit more involved. Click Add Media, then select the image you want to add and click Insert Image. This WordPress guide will show you how to add a map to your page. Now that you’ve learned to add text and filled in your About Us page, let’s take a look at some other pages.

Menus, Sliders and the Home Page

When looking at your local site, you will see a blue bar running horizontally across the screen with names like News & Media, Events, Get Involved, etc. This is called the primary navigation menu. As you add additional content to your site, including completely new pages, you can adjust this menu to your liking. Many people will choose to start by adding the Home page to this menu. Clicking on your site’s title will return you to the front page of your site, but there is no Home button on the primary navigation menu of your site. To adjust the items shown in the menu, choose Appearance-Menus in your Dashboard. Select the item or items you want to add to your menu, and click Add to Menu. Once you have your menu items just the way you want them, remember to click on Save Menu.

appearance-menusBy default, the content from the Home page is displayed on the front page of your site. You can control whether the front page is a static page of content or more like a running blog showing your most recent posts under Settings-Reading. Unless you plan to display posts on your front page, you will want to add content to that page.

Looking at your starting home page, you’ll see a large graphic of the DFL logo. That’s called a Slider. It can be deleted or replaced from the Dashboard under Sliders. You can add as many additional sliders as you want. Each Slider can be configured with optional caption text and links to other web content.

Pages with Built-In Functionality

Your starting site includes the following pages by default. Each page has a built-in function described below. These are pages that you could simply leave intact if they work well for your purposes.

News & Media: automatically displays content from both your local site and from the DFL communications team. You can adjust which content is fed from the DFL by changing the category settings found under Appearance-Main Site Blog Categories. When you add a new post in WordPress, it automatically shows up on this page.
Events: displays a calendar of events that you can manage through the Events Menu. Your site starts out with an automatic calendar feed of state party events, but you’ll want to add your own local events to flesh out the calendar. You don’t need to adjust the content of the Events page itself, as it automatically feeds from the events you create. More details about configuring events is found below.
Get Involved: includes a pre-generated form that collects information from visitors who want to volunteer. The form can be edited from the Forms Menu. While this can be a bit tricky, it allows for a great deal of flexibility. This guide to Gravity Forms documentation will teach you how.
Contact Us: provides visitors with a simple form they can use to email your local unit. This form is built directly into the page and automatically sends messages to the admin e-mail for the site. You can change where these messages get sent either by changing the designated administrator or the default email. Both of these changes can be made from the Dashboard under Settings-General. You could choose to use the Gravity Forms tools to change the form or replace it with something else.

Accepting Donations Online

Donation-Form-TemplateYour local unit site has the ability to accept donations built right into the site. In order to use this system, you need to provide your bank account information so funds can be electronically deposited. Once your account is configured, you can use the Manage Donations feature in your Tools menu. In order to use the built-in donation form, simply change your Donate page’s template (located in “Pages” in your site’s Dashboard) to Donation Form as shown here. Your Donate page doesn’t use this template by default, because if it did you would keep getting warned that you had not yet configured your bank account information.

Changing Your Site’s Appearance

The color scheme of each local site can be tailored to suit your taste. You can upload an image to use as a background for your site, or you can use a color of your choice as the background. You can also adjust the colors used for different site elements such as the footer and navigation areas, as well as the color of text in each of those areas. All of this is managed through the Appearance-Backgrounds and Colors menu.

Managing Your Event Calendar

Your site has a built-in events management tool that uses the Timely All-in-One-Event Calendar system. You can create events using the Events menu, and you can subscribe to any other calendar that uses the ICS format (this includes iCal, Google Calendar, and many others). Your site comes with a built-in subscription to state party events, such as Founders Day, Precinct Caucuses, and SCC meetings.

Once you get your calendar started, contact Communications Director Rachel Boyer so she can add your calendar feed to the state party’s main calendar. To do this properly and minimize duplication of events, please identify them clearly as your own events by using a category or tag to label them. Your feed will be added to the DFL calendar, categorized by congressional district and tagged with label for your local unit. You can create custom feeds from the DFL events page using category and tag filters.

Using Social Feeds

If you want to display your latest updates from social networks, such as your Twitter feed or updates from your Facebook Page, you can set those under Settings-Social Network Tabs. When you first start working on your site, those are set for the state party social feeds, including the Minnesota DFL Flickr stream and YouTube channel. You can turn those on or off as you desire, or change them to use your feeds instead, but if you like having the updates that come directly from the DFL communications team, feel free to leave them connected to the state party.