Case Study: Toronto Ultimate Club

The Client

The Toronto Ultimate Club is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the growth and advancement of the sport of Ultimate Frisbee in Toronto, Ontario. Since 2006, we have been maintaining their web site on a volunteer basis. The site has gone through several iterations in this time, constantly being upgraded and enhanced with new functionality to improve the experience for over 3000 members.

The Problem

The site is focussed primarily on providing information to members of the club. This information can be static (details about club operations, league offerings, etc.) or dynamic (online registration, scheduling, scoring, standings, and discussion forums). The aim is to provide easy access to all of this information for new and existing members.

The Solution

When we started, the site was a hodge-podge of seemingly random inline formatting. The first task was to reformat all pages to a standard look, using standards-compliant HTML and CSS.

Once the look was complete, we turned our focus to improving the functionality for both administrators and users. At the time, the content management system (CMS) and the application used to run the individual leagues were poorly integrated with the rest of the site, requiring a separate login. The league software had long-term bugs that hampered functionality, and which the provider appeared to have little interest in resolving. And the club was paying in excess of $10,000 per year for this! It seemed that there had to be a better option, which would improve the functionality and ease-of-use of the site, while also saving the club money: a saving that would be passed on directly to the membership.

After some research, we put forth a proposal to redo the site using public-domain software. This would give the club direct control over all aspects of the implementation, allowing new features to be added as required. And it would run on a normal web hosting plan, severing the ties to a particular provider, and reducing costs to a small fraction. The software chosen to base this new implementation on was Post-Nuke (since renamed to Zikula) for the CMS, and Leaguerunner for the league management.

TUC Site Functionality DiagramThe first task in this project was to modify Leaguerunner to share login information with Post-Nuke. We needed to ensure that a single login would give members access to the primary site, the discussion forums, and their specific league details. We also converted the existing database of users, forum posts, and static content, to ease the transition for the members. Summer is the busiest season for the club, so the new site was launched for the fall season, allowing members and administrators alike to ease into it with minimal complications.

At the time, the stock version of Leaguerunner didn't handle online registrations or payments. Registration for that first fall season was handled through the old system, and work proceeded on adding the required functionality into Leaguerunner for the winter season. The launch of this upgrade finalized the elimination of the old provider.

Additional cost savings have been realized by replacing previously outsourced functions such as the events calendar with standardized Post-Nuke/Zikula modules. The availability of such modules was a major factor in the decision to choose Post-Nuke to run the site.

Since then, many additional features have been added to Leaguerunner, to simplify the lives of administrators and members alike, by streamlining common processes, adding helpful reports, and building a JavaScript editor and viewer for greatly improved field layouts in conjunction with Google Maps. Throughout this process, we have also continued to upgrade both Post-Nuke/Zikula and Leaguerunner with updates from their primary authors, as well as feed the local Leaguerunner modifications back into the public source code repository.

More recently, a feature-for-feature replacement for Leaguerunner, called Zuluru was developed. Zuluru's more modern structure has further accelerated the rate of new feature additions.

The Executive Summary

Complex sites can often be built partially from from pre-existing components, but it's unlikely that you're going to find everything you need. Projects like this demand a careful review of requirements before beginning, in order to select the most appropriate framework to build on, and a capable developer to customize and extend functionality where required.

Trawna Publications has experience working with and extending a variety of development frameworks. We can help determine which one best fits your project and do what it takes to make it jump through the unique hoops your application presents.