Considering that I’ve been waiting over a year to be able to post that headline, you think I wouldn’t have waited nearly a week to write this blog.
A bit of an improvement over the old one:
The new site was well over a year in the making. Not because it’s all that complex, but it’s been difficult to focus a very small organization on all the moving parts that had to go into a ground-up rethinking of a website on a small budget.
The old site started in early 2005 as approximately 50 or so static HTML files. It was a call to action and not much more. I inherited that site when I started working fulltime for the organization later that summer.
In September 2005, I installed Movable Type and we started the Research blog. That part of the site took off quickly, so rather than manually updating the front page as the original site had been intended I folded the front page of the site in Movable Type so updates to the blog would update the first thing people see when they visited our page. We added the advocacy blog shortly thereafter.
Our folks were easily able to update blog posts, but the static pages were well…static. There was no capability to search outside of the blog. All updates on those pages had to be done by me manually. And on top of that, I was dealing with a site structure that didn’t meld with C3’s strategic plan. As an organization, we quickly focused on 3 main program areas: Research, Policy and Awareness/Education and the site in no way reflected that. We were also fully aware that the site lacked clear direction for the new visitor. What should the new person click on first?
In early 2007 I moved momathome.com to WordPress. Erik J. Barzeski and I have been cyber-buddies for years and I was talking to him about the challenges with C3’s site. He moved to WordPress from Movable Type shortly before I did and we both agreed that perhaps a site built on WordPress was the answer. I knew I needed to move to a content management system, but I was also thinking that it needed to be very easy for users to understand, easy for me to manage and have a flexible plug-in architecture. I knew that WordPress answered all those concerns. I also knew that sites much larger than ours were using it to drive their entire site.
We hired Erik to manage the site move to a new (dv) server at Media Temple and the rebuilding in WordPress, thinking it was a 2-3 month project, tops. Ha. That was about 15 months ago. Erik had a great deal of patience while I explained yet another delay on our end.
Once we had the basic wireframe thinking in place, we had our next challenge: the design. Erik is technically one of the most competent people I have ever met, but he’s the first to admit that he’s not a website designer. I haven’t done the front-end on a website in quite some time, and even when I did do websites I lacked the skills needed to execute the vision I had for C3.
I knew how I wanted the navigation to work. I knew that I wanted 2 clear paths into the site: one for patients, one for advocates. I knew I needed site-wide search.
Enter ACS. The company had just completed the redesign of Web Worker Daily’s website and I approached them to help us take my vision of C3’s site to visual reality in a new custom theme.
I love the way the site turned out. In addition to being well-balanced and visually appealing, it’s so functional. ACS did some nice PHP/WordPress magic so the menus dynamically work with the site page titles. I rarely have to touch the theme files manually.
They also devised a breadcrumbs navigation scheme for nested page that is serving us very well.
First level pages are in the top navigation:
Then 2nd level pages show in a little floating sidebar on the 1st level page:
3rd level pages and beyond show breadcrumbs at the top of the page:
If there are no subpages, then no breadcrumbs. We can go as shallow or as deep as we need to be, and never have to worry about the visitor getting “lost” in the site.
The beauty is that our folks were able to think very clearly about what information they wanted to present, and then the design/technology quickly got out of their way. It just worked.
We expanded our “static” pages from around 50 to 125 pages of up-to-date info, plus all the blog posts. It’s so much easier for folks to blog on WordPress 2.5 than it was for them to use Movable Type 3.x that was installed before. So they’re already blogging more often.
This site will serve us well for a while.