Tool for building a reference guide website or document generator?
March 25, 2013 3:23 PM Subscribe
Is there a word for these types of web-based tools, and a widely-used way to make them? One: a way make a web-based reference guide / glossary / help centre. Two: a tool that will generate a custom 20-page PDF based on complex user inputs, complete with table of contents. Are there open-source, well-supported solutions for building these things? Maybe a way to combine some plugins for Drupal or Wordpress? I really have no idea how to tackle this.
I have a client who has a unique need. I'm trying to figure out if I can provide what they're looking for, and if not, where I should point them. Let's call them a non-profit association (NPA). They support small member organizations (MO's) by providing legal counsel, and one of the legal services they provide is a toolkit for new non-profits to write their documents of incorporation and bylaws.
Currently this is a Word document that has all the legal language the MO needs, in several optional variations, with notes where they should cut and paste things or customize. The user (MO member, usually not computer-savvy) has to cut and paste this Word document into a new Word document and then figure out how to generate a new table of contents and change the text to reference that new table of contents. This is required because often the text says things like "(when such and such happens) see bylaw 2a subsection 3 (but if such and such doesn't happen) see bylaw 3c subsection 1," so numbering needs to be consistent. The process often goes badly and the MO has to send their document back to the NPA to be cleaned up and fixed, which creates a lot of work
The current Word document also comes with a reference guide which explains legal terms and bylaw implications. Currently this guide is produced as a static PDF or printed booklet.
The NPA has a vision of this all happening online, in a more controlled way. They want the guide to be an interactive help centre, linked directly to the working document. So as the user is working on selecting their bylaws, they could click on a term and go to a web page with a definition, or see a pop-up with an explanation. Furthermore, the NPA would like to have more control over the final document, ideally they'd like PDF output based on a limited number of choices, rather than a Word Doc. The process is complex enough that the user should be able to save their work and come back later, rather than doing it all in one sitting. The MO's already all have logins to the NPA's (Drupal-based) site where they access the downloadable resources, so Drupal makes sense as a starting place. Any ideas about how to tackle this with existing tools? Are they looking at paying $50k for a complete custom web app? Or is this just plain too big to tackle, and they should put the money towards hiring a bunch of legal assistants to deal with the workload from the current system?