When we talk about customizing NetCommunity what we are really doing is designing a piece of functionality or custom parts that fits into NetCommunity and interacts with The Raiser's Edge via the API or re7service. These custom parts can look and feel almost identical to the core NetCommunity parts that ship with the product.
Custom parts are technically web user control designed in Visual Studio. They have have two main components; the Display and the Editor. The Display is the front end that is web facing. This is what the website user interacts with. The Editor allows a content administrator to set specific options unique to that instance of the custom part. The Editor resides in the back end admin area of NetCommunity.
They can integrate back to The Raiser's Edge via the API or the re7service. This allows you to insert data right back into The Raiser's Edge if you wish or into a plug-in interface first for approval before the transactions is committed to the database. I will probably cover the plug-in in more detail in a later post.
Obviously the most important aspect of a custom part is the fact that it's custom. You can create a piece of functionality that meets your specific, unique business needs. There isn't any need to compromise or modify your internal processes so you can use a core part in NetCommunity. It's a difficult task for Blackbaud to design all of it's core parts to meet the requirements of every single one of their clients, 100% of the time. There will be times when the NetCommunity solution just won't work for your organization and thats OK. NetCommunity does most of the core requirements of a CMS well and the ability to create custom solutions that integrate into everything is the best possible way to cover those requirements that are too specific to your organization for NetCommunity to realistically meet.
So that's the basics of what we mean when we talk about customizing NetCommunity.
The next post will probably cover some of the prerequisites for developing customizations. Expect that to get a bit technical.
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