How did we develop our new website – LWCT.ORG.UK?
We’ve had a lot of great feedback on our redesigned website. Thank you to everyone who sent compliments and suggestions! Here’s some more information about HOW we went about our website redesign…
I hope this post will be of interest to general readers. Some technical details have been included because they may be useful to other community organisations reading this who are thinking about their own websites.
What was wrong with the old website?
Well it served us well as a presence on the web, but it had become a bit of a spider’s web over the years, and it had the look and feel of being a little ‘out of control’ and a little dated.
It wasn’t focussed enough on our current service offerings, and it wasn’t easy to find clearly laid out information for current and prospective users.
The main contributors found the website difficult to edit, and they had become quite frustrated with the system it was built upon. This meant it didn’t get a lot of love, attention, or up-to-date news and information!
The board of directors decided we should have a refreshed new “look and feel” to better serve our users, with easier to find information on our services, and to give our organisation a more professional image.
And, because the majority of our editors hated using the technology behind the old website, the new website had to be based on different technology!
Time also for a new domain name
Our organisation’s management were finding it was prone to error when telling someone our website or email addresses. Something short and simple was needed!
We searched for a short, easy to remember domain name, which would be appropriate for us to use. Luckily we found LWCT.ORG.UK was available, so we registered it quickly.
The URL for the new website is https://lwct.org.uk which is much shorter than the old https://lanwrtydcommunitytransport.org.uk
And, we could also create new email addresses. We decided our main address would be: email@example.com which is easier to give out than firstname.lastname@example.org !
Roundtable workshops and brainstorming sessions were not an option
Here we were in the midst of Covid-19 lock-down rules, September 2020. We wanted to meet face-to-face and thrash out ideas, how we wanted to be perceived, what the sitemap would look like and what goals we had for our new site. But we were not able to do this, for our own safety and due to the government imposed restrictions. Board meetings at this time were held remotely, via Zoom, but we didn’t feel this would be good for swapping ideas for the new website.
So, we took a different approach. We researched what we liked the “look and feel” of in other organisations’ websites. Concentrating almost exclusively on other community transport organisations, some from our local county of Powys, some from far and wide across the UK and world-wide, we collected a list of 30 sites for the team to consider further while they worked from home.
We looked at what these sites offered and what we liked the look of in these websites. This started to give us a good basis on which to decide what we wanted for our own website.
We also collected, as a by-product of this exercise, some ideas of what we might like for a new logo for the organisation, but that’s another story.
Once we’d got our shortlist of 30 down to our top 3 we knew quite a bit about what we wanted our own website to do and what we wanted it to look like.
Final decision, what website builder to use?
An important consideration was that our contributors (editors of the website content) wanted something different from the technology our old website was using at the time.
We went ‘under the bonnet’ and looked at the technology that had been used to build the sites in our top 3 list. It tuned out each had used a different website builder, and none had used the system our old site was built with.
The systems used to make what we considered our top 3 most beautiful websites were, in alphabetical order: –
We then looked at the pros, cons, and costs of each of these platforms and the options we had for hosting our website.
We also wanted to have company email addresses for everyone that needed them. With some options every extra email box adds a considerable additional cost — so that is something to watch out for — it’s not only the cost of hosting the website you also need to think about the cost of email hosting!
Among our final considerations were: –
- ease of use of the website builder
- how good do websites look using it
- range of templates available
- overall monthly/yearly cost for hosting
Also, we looked at the popularity of the platform especially among other CT organisations as to what we thought would be most suitable for us.
Our old site was built on Joomla CMS (content management system) and it was apparent that whichever of the three alternatives we picked there would be a fair bit of new learning needed.
After some thought, we decided our preferred option was to use WordPress CMS. Among the reasons we decided this are: –
- open-source software which is very well-supported
- most popular website builder in the world at the time
- millions of templates available to help with the site layout
- it’s flexible and extendable
- many of the other community transport organisations on our shortlist of 30, that we initially reviewed, were using it
The other two website builders are proprietary systems, and we thought this might make it more difficult to migrate away from should there be any problems with the system or the assistance available; or should we decide in the future to develop the website with features that were not supported or would incur additional costs.
We knew that WordPress was available free of charge with the account we already had for the hosting of the domain name, and it had the lowest ongoing cost for us.
In September 2020, we implemented new email addresses (email@example.com) while work on the design of the new website went on in the background.
Our job felt like it was made a little easier because we could have old and new websites existing in parallel — each on its own domain name.
So that we could develop the new website “in private” we set it so that it could only be seen by registered and logged-in users, a simple holding page would be seen otherwise (useful features that WordPress offers).
We found a migration tool on WordPress to take content from the database behind the old website and import it into the database of the new website, which saved us a lot of re-typing.
The old website continued to be our public face through to November 2020 when the board of directors agreed that the new site, although not completely finished, was better than the old one, and we were ready to swap over. The old site and domain now redirects all visitors to the new website.
So that’s it for HOW we developed our new site, for a little more information on WHY we changed our website see the previous post: new website launch announcement.
For any questions, for more technical details, or for suggestions, feedback or comments on the new website, please send us a message.