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Lessons for Online Entrepreneurs

Extending and Customizing the DNN Platform
Dylan Lopez
/ Categories: Online Business

Extending and Customizing the DNN Platform

An overview of core module, store bought modules, integration modules and custom modules.

After market modules can extend your DNN website endlessly. We'll discuss e-commerce, landing pages and event registration options in following primer. By the end of this article you'll have a good idea of what can be accomplished and how to get started.

We won't cover the core modules included in DNN. Built-in functionality is covered in product overviews on DNN's website. At a minimum be aware of these key tenets of DNN:

  • Multiple uniquely styled websites (Portals) can run on a single hosted DNN installation (Instance)
  • Users can be registered on the website and content secured by specific users or by broad roles assigned to users
  • No limits to self administered pages and content. Add any amount, organize it in any fashion and update them as frequently as needed

Even the free DNN Platform edition is a stand-out choice when compared against Joomla, Drupal or WordPress for hosting your blog or website. By choosing a platform with Enterprise offerings also gives you avenues to explore should you need the big business features as you grow.

When you can't find a module to purchase you'll need to find a capable vendor to write you a custom module. Some needs are best addressed by 3rd-Party solutions. For example, Mass E-mailers and Auto-Responders require intimate knowledge of the rules related to spam and server blacklisting. Payment Gateways understand the risks involved in handling financial transactions using customers' personal information.

Generally I recommend using pre-made DNN modules where you find one that fits your needs and budget easily.

When you find an external service and want it to "talk" to your DNN website you'll need an integration module that is installed on DNN but interfaces to the service you signed-up for. Shopping cart modules often interface to PayPal. In this case the module is a fully functioning shopping cart that just reaches out to PayPal for handling the money. For mass emails, MailChimp modules exist to allow you to work within your DNN website for limited remote management of your externally held MailChimp account.

Don't confuse integration modules with stand-alone modules. In the above examples note how the shopping cart runs on your website and even stores its data locally BUT leaves the site for handling the payment during the checkout process. The MailChimp module can allow you to run things within DNN, but the heavy lifting (sending of emails, maintaining campaigns and the like) are all done on the MailChimp servers.

A very important consideration has to do with WHERE you keep the data and the ongoing costs to maintain it. In the diagram earlier, you can a DNN installation has it's own "Website Database" and serves public pages (green) as well as internal management pages (red). Modules extend this functionality by adding new files and data tables to your existing installation. This means the new functionality is served by your website and data is stored locally. At least this way if a module vendor stopped supporting their module you'd at least have the data on your server to recover.

3rd Party solutions host your database and content on their servers. In the diagram earlier, you can see how the DNN site just embeds JavaScript widgets and external links to access the solutions provided externally. This forces you to find ways to access the information processed by their servers. These solutions are typically billed monthly and increase as your data grows. You can get locked into a long term subscription model by being trapped where data export and migration (into a replacement solution) is cost prohibitive.

Where no suitable module or service can be found you'll need a software developer specializing in DotNetNuke. Perhaps you need your DNN users to access their golf club membership in the database at the country club. A real estate sales firm may want their CRM to be aware of prospects gathered from their DNN website. Under these circumstances the possibilities, budget and costs are determined by the creativity and experience of your DNN module developer.

For a free consultation or quote, contact Dylan at INNO Software. For expert DNN skinning and UI advice, contact Info at INNO Software.

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