The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) was founded in 1923 to preserve traditional Scottish country dancing (SCD), and is an international organisation catering to the needs of over 35,000 members.
In the bad old days, dances were created by "Dancing Masters" (teachers) and passed on to subsequent generations of teachers by word of mouth, only occasionally being recorded in writing. The 19th century saw dances being published in small quantities, and the early 20th century saw the regular publication of dance leaflets.
As time goes by, publications go out of print, many dances are forgotten or overlooked, or never get published, which is a consequent loss to the SCD community. Publication errors can creep in, but corrections are not always published, and the dance is propagated with its errors.
Having to scour dozens of publications / photocopies / websites to find instructions for a particular dance is frustrating, and often results in failure. Also, each SCD website has its own idiosyncratic layout, making searches difficult. What was really needed was a single point of contact where all the information was in one place, in a common format, and easily accessible. These problems are exacerbated by the large number of dances now in existence, several thousand at the very least.
The brief, therefore, was to provide a central repository -- a "library" -- of Scottish Country dances. The website should:
Before production, we carried out a research project which allowed us to see what the various SCD communities world-wide wanted from the site, how they would use it, and how it would integrate with legacy systems and databases.
Dance devisers had to be able to upload dances to the database, and have editing facilities. This led to a solution that authenticates devisers' identities and presents their information dynamically. All changes made to a given dance are automatically logged to an errata log.
Teachers and dancers alike needed a user-friendly front end which would enable them to use the site with no training. Also, since the bulk of users would be connecting via slow internet connections, fast load-time was important.
Much time was invested in organising the content into comprehensible, easily-navigable categories, with extensive search facilities.
A custom MySQL database, with a browser-based front end, was designed and built. Templating provides the different users with the relevant front-end.
A secure administrative area of the website was built to allow the site administrator the ability to manage content on the site without any programming knowledge.
Administrative staff can manage content, devisers can edit pages. Users have, so far, given us very positive feedback.
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