Parents United Web "Phase Two" Proposal
Note: this proposal was approved by the board of Parents United on 11/17/2015. Please send comments to email@example.com.
On 20 August 2015 the Executive Committee of Parents United for Public Schools, asked me to provide a proposal for transitioning the organization’s website away from a non-responsive vendor and into the organization’s more direct control. We discussed moving the site to DreamHost.
The current PUPS site is built on WordPress, though it is using an outdated theme. The site is using a theme called Canvas from WooThemes. While I am not familiar with WooThemes, their online description of Canvas in its more recent iterations 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 the 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 Parents United needs could help this situation. I recommend that Parents United build a child of the Responsive theme from CyberChimps. 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 Responsive 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
- 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
Note that there are other options for WordPress themes, which we can discuss. For now I will assume a transition to Responsive for simplicity’s sake. With a few changes, I could implement a child of Responsive I created for the Crosswinds school, which could save considerable effort.
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.
At a board meeting on 11/17/2015 three phases of a web transition were discussed. The first would be simply moving the Parents United site, as is, to a web hosting account fully controlled by the organization. This first phase was accomplished during the Thanksgiving holiday week by moving the existing site to a Parents United account at Media Temple. The second phase would be refreshing that site with some new design and a few new features that make it easier for the staff to manage. This second phase can be considered the scope of this proposal. A third phase might come later in 2016 and bring a refreshed message, rebranding, and complete design refresh to the site. This third phase is outside the scope of this proposal.
I will meet with interested staff to discuss the details of this transition and make sure we all have aligned our expectations. We will also look over documentation of current and past organization sites since it is possible that Parents United did, at one time, already have a DreamHost account.
I will create a temporary instance of WordPress to hold a new version of the PUPS site. This site will run on DreamHost. This temporary instance will begin as an exact copy of the existing site. It will be used to build the new site out of public view.
I will install the new theme on this new instance. I will create a “child” for Responsive 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.
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 staff 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 this training.
I will need complete access to the current PUPS WordPress site and to the hosting environment at DreamHost.
I will need a copy of the Responsive for use with Parents United. If, at our initial meeting, we decide on a theme other than Responsive, 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 Responsive without unsightly pixilation.
I will be reporting directly to Laura and Shawna on this effort (or other staff as directed by Parents United). They may include other team members as they wish, 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 will provide a backup procedure for the site, but will not be responsible for making or storing backup copies 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 $8,000. Because I am a supporter and board member of Parents United, I am willing to provide my services pro-bono and consider the $8,000 an in-kind contribution.
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. Another alternative would be for Parents United to contract with my son, Alex, who will work with me on the conversion project. Alex would only charge $100 a month for 2 hours of support.
Eric brings over 20 years of library and 35 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.