Parents United Web Redesign Proposal
Note: this proposal has not been approved or agreed to in any way. It is a work in progress. Please send comments to email@example.com.
On 25 September 2012 Mary and Jill, the executive director and associate director of Parents United for Public Schools, met with me to discuss the state of the Parents United website and what it might take to maintain it. Mary would like to be able to maintain the site with one part time “web editor” and the direct participation of some other organization staff. The web editor may or may not have significant HTML skills, depending on who they can hire with limited PUPS funds.
The concern I expressed was that the current PUPS site, which is built on WordPress, is using a very poor theme. Upon investigation after our meeting, it appears that the site is, in fact, using a sophisticated theme called Canvas from WooThemes. While I am not familiar with WooThemes, their online description of Canvas certainly seems capable of managing all the common elements of a website. The theme is designed to facilitate detailed changes to the look of the site, but not so well designed for easing the maintenance of the site. It also sounds like PUPS staff have been “fighting” the theme by adding HTML code to pages, posts, and sidebars to force certain styling decisions.
A theme with a better match to PUPS needs could help this situation. I recommend that Parents United adopt the Construct theme from MySiteMyWay. While I could work with other themes, and even attempt this project by just cleaning up the use of the existing Canvas theme, I believe there are some clear benefits of Construct including:
- very clean, modern design that works well in most web browsers
- responsive design that scales down to tablets and phones intelligently
- slide show on the front page that can be driven by simple WordPress posts
- variety of “shortcodes” that make pretty boxes, forms, and buttons simpler to produce
- clever use of “featured images” to make creating a visual site as easy as uploading one image per post
- active support forum to answer questions about the theme
The good news is that WordPress themes are easy to switch out. The bad news is that in this case there has been a lot of band-aide content creation because of a mismatch of the current theme to staff needs and expectations that has to be cleaned up. The staff would also have to learn to work with the theme and WordPress rather than at odds with both.
I will meet with interested PUPS staff and the current web developer to discuss the details of this transition and make sure we all have aligned our expectations.
I will create a temporary instance of WordPress to hold a new version of the PUPS site. It appears that the PUPS site is running on DreamHost, so this should not present any problems technically. This temporary instance will begin as an exact copy of the existing site. This temporary instance will be used to build the new site out of public view.
I will install the MySiteMyWay theme Construct on this new instance. I will create a “skin” for Construct that resembles the look of the existing site only in color choices. Many of the details of the current look and feel will be change, for example, the new site won’t use the rounded boxes of the existing site. You can see a general impression of this look and feel at a trial site I created at MySiteMyWay to demonstrate Construct for PUPS.
I will hunt through current PUPS content and remove instances of special HTML coding so that content in the new instance conforms to the new theme. I will consult with a designated staff person at Parents United to determine which of these custom code fragments represent critical needs for presentation that cannot be fulfilled by the new theme. In those instances I may create new features for the theme that allow for similar presentations on the new site.
In cases where current content includes images, I will try to convert one image per post or page into a “featured image” so that it can be used by the theme in a variety of settings.
Once this initial conversion to a new theme is done, I will meet with interested PUPS staff and the current web developer again to show the work in progress and request feedback.
I will then make final revisions to the site based on that feedback.
I will provide staff with a document explaining the basics of the site and how to edit it. And I will provide a total two hours of training in, at most, two sessions to help staff learn the basics of editing the site. These can be in the form of two more basic one hour sessions or a single, more in-depth, two hour session with more time for Q&A and specific problem solving.
I will make myself available to answer questions about editing the site after the conversion.
I will need complete access to the current PUPS WordPress site and to the hosting environment behind it at DreamHost.
I will need a copy of the Construct theme from MySiteMyWay for use with Parents United. If, at our initial meeting, we decide on a theme other than Construct, I’ll need that one instead.
I will need access to the highest resolution version of the images used on the site possible. Many of the images there currently will not scale up to the sizes needed by Construct without unsightly pixilation.
I will be reporting directly with Mary and Jill on this effort. They may include other team members as they wishes, but I will not be responsible for reporting to anyone else directly.
I will be responsible for the conversion of the site to the new theme, but will not be responsible for creating new content or maintaining the site in any way after the conversion.
I usually create a backup procedure for websites I develop. I am assuming that a backup solution is already in place and will not do anything to ensure proper backup of the site.
The initial meeting time will be set within a week of this proposal’s acceptance. The weeks below are measured from this meeting.
- creating of temporary instance
- installation of new theme
- beginning of conversion
- continue conversion
- complete conversion
- follow-up meeting with Parents United staff
- final changes
- switch out temporary instance with live site so that new version becomes public
- staff training
- available for questions
As a consultant, I do not charge by the hour. The services above would normally cost $6,800. Because I am a supporter of Parents United, I am willing to discount my services by 70% and only charge $2,000 and consider the remaining $4,800 an in-kind contribution. If this cost is still too great, please let me know, I’d like to find a way to get this done.
I will only consider myself on call for questions for the first month after the site goes live. After that we can discuss whether you want to keep me on a retainer for further support or rely on your own staff. I normally charge $300 a month for this sort of general retainer with no more than 2 hours of support per month, but I would not necessarily need to charge PUPS depending on how much support we imagine is required over the long haul.
The Construct theme from MySiteMyWay will cost $35, which Parents United can pay directly to MySiteMyWay so that you are eligible for support and updates of the theme there.
Eric brings over 15 years of library and 30 years of technology experience to his consulting. At MIT Eric shepherded the creation of DSpace, open source digital repository management software developed with HP and now deployed at hundreds of institutions worldwide. At the University of Minnesota Libraries he encouraged the development of the UThink blog service, a wiki-based staff intranet, LibData, and the University Digital Conservancy. He works with non-profit institutions on appropriate uses of technology for informing, communicating, and collaborating with their constituencies.