Freelance Proposal for Dwelling place Web Site
One of the most exciting achievements in web development technologies in the last five years is the
emergence and growth in open-source web platforms. Drupal (Drupal.org) has emerged as the
leader among open-source web development communities. It is the most robust, well-supported,
and actively developed among all open-source development platforms. The proposal below
involves using free and widely used open-source technologies—no vendor-specific or proprietary
programming is involved in this proposal.
Last October, Drupal made a big splash when it was chosen as the web platform and redesign of
WhiteHouse.gov. This was certainly not the first use of Drupal in government spaces, but it gave
Drupal a lot of attention and since then we’ve seen Drupal become the platform for sites chosen by
the British government, the King of Belgium, the City of Athens, and the Jamaican Prime Minister.
Drupal is used at the Points of Light Institute, the National Council of Nonprofits, the United World
Food Programme, the Globaloneness Project (http://www.globalonenessproject.org/] and many,
Easy to Post and Maintain: Nonprofits need to be able to quickly post new content and involve
several levels of permissions so that new content does not have to be funneled through a single
“webmaster.” The content management features (CMS) of Drupal make it possible for anyone on the
organizational chart (or lead volunteers) to have appropriate permissions to easily create or update
site content without delay.
Security and Core Updates: The open-source model leads to a very secure site platform. With a
development community that includes thousands around the world, security gaps are addressed
much more quickly than with proprietary software. When Drupal.org publishes a patch, security
update, or core enhancement, it takes about three minutes to apply the core update, and it can be
done very simply in house—there’s no need to contact a vendor.
Cost Effective: The Drupal open-source platform is free. Its core updates are free. Its hundreds of
feature-rich contributed plug-in modules are free and new ones appear each month. Choosing
Drupal (whether you choose our proposal or some other) is imperative. Where cost and new
development can be very expensive in the proprietary world as a site evolves, an open-source site is
very cost-effective because it taps into the world-wide community of shared development. Using
propriety software typically “vender locks” into the private expertise of a commercial development
team, which is expensive and creates a situation where there is no incentive for new development.
Too many nonprofits in our own neighborhood are stuck paying annual fees to vendors that have
not developed new features in years. With Drupal you are assured that local development experts
are widely available and that you are working in a platform environment that is widely used and
Our Conceptual Vision for the Dwelling place Web Site
I imagine a beautiful, high-functioning website that is, ultimately, under your organization’s full
control and management. The site I have in mind would liberate you from any single vendor or
designer. After the site is designed and running, your organization will easily be able to add new
content, update existing content, and manage all the basic functions of the site. A user with proper
permissions can simply navigate to a page, click the Edit Tab, update the page, and save. It’s that
Adding new content will be a matter of navigating to the site, clicking a “create new content” link,
and choosing the appropriate content type and filling in the form and saving the form. Creating the
appropriate content types (the forms) will of course be an important aspect of our work as site
developers. As your proposal requires, I would develop custom content type forms for press
releases, articles, annual events, various static pages, the annual report, history, profiles, volunteer
opportunities, surveys, etc. Some content types will allow users (anonymous or role-specific) to
“sign up,” and some content types will trigger “system events” such as sending an email notification
to users that have subscribed to this or that particular content. RSS feeds will be available for
syndicated content like press releases or other dynamic pages. I imagine a dynamic, evolving site
that makes use of social media where appropriate and uses a permission structure that allows
anonymous users (i.e., those using the site without a login), staff, board members, volunteers,
bloggers, writers, or any other qualification of site participant the appropriate access to view,
create, edit, or manage site content. For example, those with the permission role of “board member”
will have access to certain areas of the site that contain meeting packets and other private content.
Staff members will have a permission role that gives them specific access to view and download
human resource documents (or any other area of the site we open to that role). The permutations
of content and permission are not difficult to implement, but they will require a thoughtful
discussion with your organization.
The goal for managing and maintaining the site is that Dwelling place ultimately be independent of
vendors or much technical help. There are many opportunities for assigned staff to learn to manage
and even add functionality to a Drupal site. There is a local Drupal users’ group that meets each
month, there are national and international conferences and workshops for beginners and
advanced users—whether they be developers or site managers. There is now a large collection of
books for beginners and advanced Drupal site owners. There are a good number of local Drupal
experts for hire as well. Again, I imagine, not an esoteric site, but a site that is dynamic, easy to
manage, standards compliant, and based on an open-source platform that is familiar to all who are
participating in this new global community of shared development.
Site Goals and Functions
4. Raise Money: I would set up a payment system that connects with your PayPal account. I’d use a
“Donate Now” button and links. The Ubercart payment module allows use of credit cards
through a secure socket layer (SSL) connection or the use of checks. This process can also
gather contact information on these givers.
I would also create custom content types that can be used to register for events, and/or I
can connect to Eventbrite.
The site contact form that I would create will have a selector for the user to choose the
reason for contact with the consequent email be automatically funneled to the appropriate
5. Educate the Public and Media: This goal can be achieved primarily through a combination of static
pages, social media accounts, a java widget that allows the user to use RSS, Facebook, Digg,
and other sharing utilities. The creation of content such as press releases, awards, and news
articles can be created and then accessed through a page that allows users to filter by
keyword, date, author, etc.
Staff profile pages with photos can be updated by each individual in the organization or by a
central site editor—whichever is most appropriate.
3. Connect with Residents and Commercial Tenants: Residents and tenants can be assigned a special
“role” in the site that allows them to access special content, downloads, work order forms,
and other content or functions unique to their context. I will need to learn more about the
kinds of payments needing processed for tenants—e.g., will these payments be process
through PayPal or directly to the owner?
6. Encourage Volunteerism: I can certainly link to Volunteer Solutions and I can aggregate feeds
from the United Way site or other volunteer opportunity pages. I can create a content type
for special volunteer opportunities with a keyword filters, and make it easy for staff to post
volunteer opportunities and users to filter and read through those posts.
7. Inform Board members and Staff Members: This goal is achieved simply by designating content
that is only viewable by those with the proper role and permissions.
8. Advertise Employment Opportunities: Much like the other site goals, this one also involves either
aggregating feeds from other sites or creating custom content types so that selected users
can create employment postings. Another content type would include an upload function so
that resumes can be attached, and forms can indicate general information to those reading
the application. Fields would be created so that those reading the application can comment
and take notes on the form in a way that is viewable only to themselves and others with
proper permissions. In this manner, all of the information—the employment post and the
responses—are managed in a single online database. Contact forms would include a
selector for employment opportunity contacts.
One of the recurring functions I see requested for this site is the ability to post various kind of
information (data) and present that information to appropriate users in an organized way with the
opportunity, in some cases, for users to sign up, respond, comment, filter, or create forms themselves
like applications. This functionality is the forte of a database-driven site like Drupal. The site I’d build
stores content in a MySQL database on the server (backs up that database each night) and the web
pages are designed, not just to display static content, but to query this database and display content in
new and organized ways such as in tables or forms so that users can find information and use it. A
database-driven site facilitates the dynamic construction of site content with block views like –most
popular, recent posts, newest opportunities, so-called “tag clouds” that visually reveal the most
frequently occurring keywords for content like blogs or press. Because the site will use permissions
associated with site roles, a board member will see content that a staff member might not, and both of
these users might have permissions to access content that an anonymous user (i.e., user without an
account) will not. Secondary logins for private information are not needed in this kind of system since
role permissions will handle these levels of site access.
Goals 1 and 2, Rent Apartments and Commercial Spaces: I could provide a proof of concept to make
sure I am clear about what is needed here, but it seems that these goals are not, in kind, much
different from the other functions on the site. Granted, a content form posting for a rental property
would contain photos, maps, and much more information—like what exists on the current site—
and then an application form or sign up query could be associated with this content for the end
user. Those who are posting these housing spaces would have permissions to create this kind of
content—and perhaps only this kind of content—and permissions to view and answer questions
from users about these properties.
Layered over this functionality there needs to be a design theme that reinforces the branding and
identity of Dwelling place. I’ll present some theme ideas and work with Dwelling place to build
graphic look and feel that fits the mission and values of the organization.
Does Dwelling place already have a server and site hosting? I recommend Site5 shared hosting
which would cost you $60 per year for a two-year contract. They would manage the server backups
and provide unlimited bandwidth and disk space. These are state-of-the-art servers with 99.9%
Install the MySQL database, install the core site, install the shopping cart module, set up
with PayPal, build custom content types, create custom views, import content from existing
site, create the design and theme layer. The entire site with full administrative access will
be made available to you when our work is complete. I will reserve no developer logins or
permissions. The site will be entirely yours. Should I be run over by a bus, you’ll find access
to hire (either locally or internationally) other Drupal developers that will immediately
recognize our work and be able to help you.
Maintenance: $50 or Free
Routine maintenance on the site involves keeping the Drupal 6 core updated when security
patches or core enhancements are released. This work is done by the Drupal security team
and made available free to end users. Each contributed module that we use on the site may
occasionally also have its own security or enhancement updates sponsored by the module
developer. I can download and install these updates for you for $50 each time (perhaps 4-8
times per year?), or I can teach you how to do it and you can do it yourselves—which I
recommend. A core or module update will take you about 5-15 minutes to complete.
Training: $150 per hour
I recommend a series a training sessions for Dwelling place staff. I want staff to “see behind
the curtain” how this site works and become independent users and maintainers of the site.
I am willing to provide as many training sessions as you think you need to become
comfortable creating and editing your site content. I can imagine you might be comfortable
with one session to get you started and a second or third session three and six weeks after
the site launch.
Future Development Work: $100 per hour
You may find that in six months you wish you had a new feature, that some aspect of the site
would work in a different way, that a new content type needs to be created, that some
adjustment to the theme needs to be made. Since I am holding no proprietary rights to your
site, you would be free to bid this work out or contract with a company or freelance
developer. I think you’ll find the going rates between $30 and $150 per hour. I can work for
$100 per hour, and I also think that being familiar with your site I will be able to work much
more efficiently and sometimes even complete work at a minimum half-hour pro-rate. I can
give free estimates and advice.
Dan Royer is Professor Writing at Grand Valley State University. He teaches courses in professional
writing, writing for the world wide web, and document production and design. He began doing
freelance web site work as part of his research and training. He is the sole developer of several sites
including a commercial site, www.esplanner.com, a small private company in Boston, MA
generating about 300K in annual revenue. He is also the sole developer behind the Heart of West
Michigan Volunteer Center site, www.volunteercentergr.org. The Volunteer Center site was done
entirely as volunteer work, and the site had to be designed to look similar to both the Volunteer
Solutions site and the main page at the HWMUW and it had to be integrated as seamlessly as
possible with the volunteer solutions database. He is also the developer behind
www.wakegreatlakes.org, a new literary journal of the Great Lakes region. This site uses a custom
submission form and private review space for editors. I created a submission manager to track and
manage literary submissions with a variety of unique permissions. The basic functions of the Wake
site are complete, but the site owner is still using dummy content throughout much of the site as he
readies for site launch.