By Julia Heinig, Communications Chair, House of Gordon USA.
The redesign direction came from our President, Jen Mills-Martin. We wanted a site that is easy to navigate, easy to read, and to provide a more efficient way of signing up for memberships and donations. The previous site’s design was out of date as well which created a lot of issues for us.
We have been using IONOS as our web hosting for many years. It was set up by our previous President and Communications Chair, Lois Todd, and they have served us well. Because of this long history, it was never a consideration to switch hosting providers. Design and upgraded WordPress software was the sole focus this time around.
The decision to switch to a WordPress platform was done when we first redesigned the site back in 2019. Being that web design is more of a hobby and not my full-time profession, I find WordPress very user friendly and easy to learn and navigate. The fact that WordPress automatically formats the site for mobile devices and various browsers was a nice bonus. We had also started to use it at my full-time job for our internal wiki, so I was gaining experience with it and had co-workers that I could reach out to for help if I needed assistance or guidance on tools and plug-ins for the House of Gordon USA website. For this revision, it was simply a matter of finding a new theme/design that fit our needs and matched how we wanted to represent the House of Gordon.
For this redesign we wanted a theme that felt modern and provided customization without extra costs. Because we are a non-profit organization, we must carefully choose where our funds are directed. There are other features on the site, specifically a forms addon, that needed a premium version to function the way we wanted. We felt that was a better use of funds. The theme I choose to go with is called ThemeIsle. The customization of the menus, sidebar, font and colors were helpful features and I got to experiment quite a bit to get the effect I wanted. I did need to delve into the CSS to get some features that I was looking for. For example, the background of the text was white, which some people find difficult to read due to the stark contrast, so I had to add CSS class styles to make the background a beige/off-white color and easier on the eyes.
One of the biggest features we wanted was an easier membership form with PayPal feature built in. We had been using the free version of WPForms, but it didn’t have the PayPal functionality. That meant we needed separate PayPal buttons that members would use to pay for the Membership. It was quite the process as we would have members that would fill the form out, but would miss the PayPal payment and vice-versa. After some research I found that WPForms has a non-profit version of their Pro version, which includes the PayPal feature in the form as well as a Google Sheets export feature. Our Membership Secretary currently copies all the information submitted in the forms into an Excel membership list. It’s time-consuming and has the potential for human error and inaccurate data. My goal was to save the Membership Secretary’s time by having the information submitted in the form go directly to a Google Sheet. The non-profit version has a 75% discount and after submitting our non-profit status information we were good to go. https://wpforms.com/wordpress-forms-nonprofits/
I did need the assistance of my boyfriend, Greg Stiffler, who works in IS (Information Services). He was able to help me navigate some more of the technical aspects of the website, so that I could focus on design and the actual information on it. We started the process around August of 2022. He created a development copy of our website that I used to test different designs. Initially, I was only able to dedicate a few hours here and there to the new site. Around the end of January, though, we started experiencing some technical difficulties on the old live site and it became apparent that I needed to have the new site up and running as soon as possible.
After sharing the development site with Jen Mills-Martin and our Vice-President, Cynthia Patrick, we went through a few rounds of tweaking to get things just right. Greg then helped me backup the old site and go-live with the new one.
The response so far has been very positive. We went live on February 19th and our daily visitors are up 85% with 4 new members signing up using the new forms!
Julia Heinig serves as the Communications Chair of House of Gordon USA. She has been in the print industry since 2006 and currently works as a Product Engineer at Olympus Group. She has led a team of five, run daily production meetings with other plant leaders in attendance, monitored daily scrap transactions and work to reduce it, and participated in various events. She has recently learned to create reports and broadcast them using the Yellowfin Business Intelligence platform, as well as assist in creating and maintaining webpages in her internal company wiki-site.