Building your website

To set up an Indicia based online recording website, there are key things that need to be in place. Firstly, you need a website to add your recording web pages to. Indicia provides the online recording forms, maps and reports to integrate into your site. This could be a site which already exists if you are looking to add recording functionality to the site or it could be a site which you are building from scratch. At the very least, the server your website is running on needs to support PHP version 5.3 or higher, which fortunately is supported by most low cost shared server web hosts. There are several possible scenarios regarding the website development: You are starting from scratch to build a new website. You already have a website which uses a Content Management System You already have a website with static HTML pages.

Starting from scratch

If you are starting from scratch you might like to consider using the Drupal content management system to build your website. Like Indicia, Drupal is free, open source and based on the PHP programming language. Drupal provides a very capable environment for setting up online recording websites and integrates with Indicia through the installation of modules that have been created for this purpose. Moreover, there are a number of other sites using this combination of technology so you won’t be on your own. Drupal not only provides a system for building and publishing the content of the website, but it can be extended with a choice of many thousands of available modules. For example you can add a forum, online shopping and many other features just by using the modules. With Drupal installed, it is possible to setup Indicia forms as a site editor without needing to understand any PHP code, though if you do have PHP skills available then more possibilities will be available to you.

Another option when starting from scratch would be to develop a site using hand coded PHP. This approach is useful if you have good PHP programming skills available and want to be able to finely control the forms produced using Indicia or prefer to avoid the overhead of running a system such as Drupal. Don’t forget though that even within Drupal you are not restricted to using particular forms and can still write your own customised forms using PHP directly.

Existing website using a content management system

There are hundreds, if not thousands of different content management systems based on a variety of different technologies. Unless the content management system is Drupal (the only one which we provide an Indicia module for) you will need to find out if it is possible to embed your own PHP code into the web pages. This will depend both on the web server and the selected content management system. Fortunately all web servers are capable of running PHP as long as it is installed and many content management systems are able to embed PHP into their web pages. If this is not possible then another option is to have the Indicia web pages running in PHP files in a separate folder to the rest of the website. This is not a perfect solution though as you then cannot easily use the content management system login to control access to the web pages and will have to craft your Indicia pages to look like they are part of the same site.

Existing website with static HTML pages

If you have an existing website with static HTML pages then first, you need to check that your server has PHP installed so you can embed PHP code into your web pages. To test this, create a file called phpinfo.php in a folder on your website and add the following:

<?php echo phpinfo(); ?>

Save this file and load it using a web browser, e.g. at If PHP is enabled then you should see a dump summarising information about your PHP configuration. You should also check that the PHP version described on this page is at least PHP 5.3. If PHP is not installed or the PHP version is older then you will need to check with your web host to see if they can install PHP 5.3 or higher for you.

Something you should also consider if you have an existing website is whether it is worth converting into a content management system. This allows you to manage the site and create new content without having to create new HTML files and can be much more efficient for larger sites. For example you can have site editors who work on content without being coders. Of course there is a lot of effort required in the initial conversion but it may be worth it in the longer term.

About the Indicia Warehouse

The second component that needs to be in place is the Indicia Warehouse. This will normally run on a second web server and it provides both an interface for you to administer your website and also allows the Indicia components on your website to store and access data including species lists, sites, recorders and the observation records themselves. If you have your own web hosting capability you may like to install your own Warehouse. Don’t worry if this is not possible, a single Warehouse is designed to be able to support multiple recording websites so the overheads of running a Warehouse can be shared. For example, in the UK the Biological Records Centre host a Warehouse which is available to recording schemes or other small organisation in the UK subject to agreement.