I do all of my web production & content management using WordPress. I love it. Your union local should consider it too.
1. Ease of use/training
When I set up a new site for an organization, The WordPress dashboard interface is what administrators of the site look at every time they go to update their site (have a look at the WordPress dashboard interface). Once they get used to all the functions (which may feel a bit overwhelming at first), they invariably find the dashboard to be very user-friendly.
On a day-to-day basis you can mostly concentrate on 3 areas – posts, media, and pages – even non-computer savvy users generally find this very easy to manage. And because of the simple set up, if a volunteer admin moves on it won’t be a big problem for the next person to take over.
2. Cost savings
WordPress is open source, meaning it is downloadable for free. Costs are accrued in the initial development, but on-going costs are quite low for simple websites. Basically, WordPress’ ease of use means that the day-to-day workings of the site can be done in-house, while you save only the really heavy lifting (eg. programming, updated design, etc… for consultants.
3. Community support
WordPress.org is filled with tutorials, forums, guides if you have a problem with WordPress, there is likely a solution that someone has worked on elsewhere.
4. Extends with ease
WordPress acts as the central nervous system that focuses on ease of use, simple design and doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you. But it is the ability to easily add-on to the WordPress core that brings uniqueness to your site. You do this through plug-ins and widgets which you add as needed.
5. Cutting edge
Here is one example – much of the WordPress effort is focused on ensuring compatibility on multiple browsers and on smart phones, iPads, etc… It is currently on the cutting edge of ‘responsive design’. which works to ‘respond to the user’s behaviour and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.’ Mobil platforms are the future of web use (and, in many ways, the present). WordPress’ responsive design has it covered.
WordPress sites are clean, organized and well designed.
- 14.7% of websites use WP as their Content Management System (CMS).
- 22 of every 100 new sites are using WordPress.
- Many major, innovative websites are based on WordPress such as CNN, Loolapalooza, the New York Times blogs, Jay-Z’s site. WordPress has come a long way from the days that it was mostly used for personal blogging.
This represents significant growth from a number of years ago.
For me, WordPress hits all the right notes. WordPress enables union members to simply and easily run a website with blog posts, forums, news updates, polls…anything. It doesn’t take much to get a presentable WordPress site up that you can easily update. Gone are the days of needing to talk to an expensive consultant every time you need to update your site.
Your union could quickly and cheaply get up-to-date with the latest in web functionality by making WordPress your content management system of choice.
Many issues come up when you hire to have a website built or updated. Don’t hesitate to ask these questions of your website developer, the answers will go a long way towards ensuring a healthy start to the project!
1. What is their billing rate?
It’s a good idea to get this information upfront and in writing so there are no surprises. Billing can be based on an hourly rate or on a per project rate. It is often the case that designers will ask for up to 60% of the projected project costs up-front, with the rest billed later.
2. What maintenance will be needed (and maintenance costs)?
It is important to determine how much maintenance will even be needed on the site once it is up. Ideally, you will have been set up with a user-friendly content management system (CMS) and will have been properly trained in using it- thus lessening your need for ongoing maintenance.
Most small and short tasks such as adding new posts and pages, simple software updates, etc… should be easily able to be completed in-house, with infrequent bug fixes, hosting problems, and design overhauls being the focus of outside maintenance.
From there, it’s important to know the fees that will be charged for each maintenance needs. Usually, web developers will charge hourly rates for maintenance – including charges per call or request for work. Just make sure this is all clear in advance.
3. How much of the developer’s time will be taken up by this project?
Don’t forget to check to see how much time the developer has to dedicate to you on this project and how many other projects they are working on.
Obviously, they can’t focus solely on your website if they have other clients, but there should at least be certain times that you know they are dedicated to working on your site. If not, the work being done for you runs the risk of being put off as other, ‘more pressing’ work takes priority.
4. What are the best times to contact during development?
Specific times, usually coinciding with times that the developer is focused on your site, should be set aside for discussion. This could be once a week or even less frequently. It doesn’t matter when and how often this is, as long as you have agreed to it and you stick to it.
5. What happens when there are problems after the site is completed?
Ask the developer what will happen when something goes wrong with the website. How quickly will they be able to respond? If it is something major like the site being down, it is important that they are are quickly available. Thus, it is important to put a priority level on bugs and problems – is it an emergency or can it be dealt with later?
Emergencies, of course, are an exception, but emergencies should be real rather than every time you need some small change or you have a new idea for the site. This will allow the developer to focus on the work at hand and will save you money in not slowing them down every time you call/contact.
6. Is there a Statement of Work (SOW) available?
It’s a good idea to include statement of work created by the developer and signed off on by the client. This is the outline of all of the information discussed above, so it is clear what is expected of the developer and what is not. It should also include a timeline for completion of tasks.
— Parts of this post inspired by a highly informative talk at WordCamp 201 San Francisco: “How to Hire and Manage a Developer” by Steve Zehngut. Video from the talk will be up in the next week or two, check back at WordPress TV!
If your union local is planning a web makeover, there are many, many things to consider. What is your site all about and trying to convey? What will you have on the site? Who are you looking to get the information to?
Many organizations are unsure of what they want or need for their site and need a bit of guidance. I’ve made this list to help ensure your local asks itself the right questions!
A. Setting the table: Broad questions for your local
1. What you are trying to communicate with members?
2. What does your local offer to members, etc. Both specifically and more philosophically?
3. Where would you like the union to be in 5 years?
4. How are you currently promoting the local to members and to the public?
Answers to these questions will be a big help to you and your web developer in choosing a design and information structure that is right for you.
B. Knowing your audience: Who uses your site?
1. Who are your possible target audiences?
- Activist members
- Less active (or inactive) members you want to reach out to
- General public – for building support during bargaining or strikes,
- Other unions – for building support during bargaining or strikes, supporting them
Your site structure & organization will depend heavily on who will be reading the site
2. How will these users interact with the website? e.g. comments, discussion forums, contact forms, multimedia submissions
C. Taking stock: Your current website
1. What does your current site say about your organization?
2. What do you like on your current site?
3. What is redundant, outdated, trivial on the site? What is missing?
D. Looking ahead: Your new or updated site
1. What are some of your ideas and needs for the new site? Think of these as two separate things. e.g. [NEED] increasing connections with members, [IDEA] increasing use of audio and video for communication,…
2. Do you have some specific uses for the site? e.g. for an organizing drive? for bargaining?
3. Do you need one website or more than one to be able to fulfill these needs (eg. one main site and another site for a specific campaign)?
4. Focus on Functionality – There are a lot of bells and whistles available for websites and many of them can be very useful if used properly. But always remember to connect functionality to strategy. Technology should solve a specific problem or need. Don’t add things you don’t need or can’t maintain.
Always ask, do i need it: e.g.. Facebook, newsletters, photo gallery, press releases, events calendar. If so, use it! If not, avoid the temptation! This will keep your site clean and not cluttered with a bunch of distracting, unwanted tools. Your web developer can help you through this process.
5. Updates to your site – what will change weekly, monthly, yearly? What will stay the same all the time?
6. What are your specific short-term website goals? eg. over the next two months: 200 twitter followers, 25 likes on Facebook
Keep your site up-to-date
Nothing is more important than this (well, at least regarding your web content!). On the web, as they say, content is king. A site with current information will come across as much more serious than one with an article on 2008 bargaining on its homepage. It also helps show local members that movement is happening, which is exactly what a union is supposed to be about! This does not mean that it must be updated daily like a news site would be, but it should be keeping members informed at a steady pace.
But how do you update content consistently and cost effectively when you need to call your web developer every time? This is where a switch to a user friendly, easy to update, content management system comes in. You will be able to avoid costly and time consuming consultation and update your site whenever you need. Have a bunch of photos from a rally you want up quickly? Upload them instantly. Want to let members know the latest bargaining information? You can in minutes.
Keep it Simple: Only have the latest and/or most important content on your homepage
You don’t want to clutter up your homepage or force readers to have to scroll down a long way to get to your information. By the time they get half way down you page, they are sure to lose interest. A better answer is to organize you site in such a way that those items you feel are very important can still be accesses easily without much digging around.
Build email communication with your members, focusing on action.
Even with social media growing as it has the past few years, email is still the most widely used form of communication on the web. As well, email often feels more direct and personal and allows subscribers to read at their own pace. It is a great way to build interaction with local members and to mobilize them for action. Most locals have email lists they send information to, but are sometimes unsure of what exactly to send beyond the latest update from the local.
No more than about 20% of emails should be simple information or updates. Instead, if possible, most emails should be campaign and action oriented – even if the action is very simple, such as sending a letter to an MP or supporting a solidarity picket. This is a good means to keep members engaged and to avoid the feeling that they are being ‘talked at’ rather than ‘conversed with’. Emails could also encourage feedback, suggestions for the local, etc… to build the two-way nature of the discussion.
reWORKit can help you build well-designed emails that members will be more likely to read and engage with and can also help with email campaign tips such as how often to email members.
Limit your categories
Organize your site in such a way that there are only 4-6 broad categories of information that readers see on first glance of your homepage. This includes your about page and your contact link. When you have too many categories, it becomes more difficult for readers to sort out what your site is all about. You can always have ‘drop down’ menus within categories with more specific content.
This reWORKit website has 4 categories (plus a home button), offering readers a quick place to look for the information they need. Given the website type, readers are most interested in ‘how reWORKit can help’ and are able to go directly to a self enclosed area to immediately find the information they want. Good categorization is very simple, but will go a long way in allowing readers to quickly find what they want.