In 2008, CCCMB directors expressed a desire to update the look and feel of their existing web site. Content was outdated and the look and feel was not terribly consistent. Directors relied almost solely on a single person to manage their website. This person volunteered many hours of skilled labor to maintain the site on a standard web server that required reasonable technical skills to update.
Once we determined the need to expand the horizon of the site, several members of CCCMB formed a technical team to look into the process of upgrading the website. Initially about 5 of us met every couple of weeks to discuss some ideas and gather thoughts on what we could do to make things better. This formed the foundation of our team with technical skills, a manager type, and a wordsmith.
Although the directors of CCCMB knew they wanted some change, exactly what they really needed/wanted was outside of their knowledge. With some leadership by an experienced project manager we took on the initial task of defining our goals for the site.
These goals allowed us to review our options. We needed a calendar mechanism and had a desire to apply a more professional appearance to our organization. We wanted to provide a group or forum for our membership to discuss activities, work and local activism. With a limited budget, the suite of free tools available from Google offered an appealing option. Google Apps, Google Groups and Google Sites answered all of our needs and did so for free.
We created a Google Apps account for CCCMB.org. With this, we got collaboration tools in the form of online spreadsheets, documents, presentations, sites and email for our domain. Initially we just enabled email and created accounts for our directors and team members. We educated them on the use of the email accounts and this allowed for a more professional presentation of official business, especially with local and state officials.
Google Sites is a reasonably powerful content-managed web site creation tool. It has limitations which prevent it from being a great choice for all sites, but with our need for an easily updated site, limited flashiness and great price point, it met our criteria.
Our technical lead, Daniel, was also our artist and provided high quality images and guidance to our team. Rachel filled the role of wordsmith and chief motivator. Morgan provided technical skills and project management. The graphics you see on our site are Photoshopped scans of muddy bike tires rolled over white paper: super simple.
With our platform selected and a basic framework established, we reviewed the basic goals and structure with our board of directors. With their blessing, we moved forward and built out new content for the site as well as migrated relevant info from the old site, including maps, trail info, calendars, and a time-tracking tool to allow members to report time they spent working on the trails. At each significant step along the journey, we reviewed with key stakeholders. Often this resulted in slight rework (iterations), but our forward progress was continuing and in a matter of a few weeks we had a site ready for opening up to a larger audience. All of this development took place on a URL that wasn’t readily found. Only after incorporating feedback from our final reviews did we plan to switch from the old site to the new site.
Daniel threw the switch and we were live on the new site. Introducing it to the larger audience of course helped us identify a few unintended bugs or issues. Nothing major came out, though, and we haven’t looked back. From initial ideation to launching the new site was only a matter of a couple of months. The bulk of the work was actually done in a matter of a few weeks once we established our direction, goals and framework.
Rapidly implementing the site was a major indication of success. The real test was whether we could get our non-technical directors to update the site. That test was passed with our director’s first post to the site and continues to this day.
We have added a few features and more content along the way; we continue to keep the home page updated with new information and content. Our time tracker has been eye opening in showing just how many hours people put into our trails and our organization. Being able to provide state and local officials with those kinds of metrics and details is invaluable in continuing to show our value to the community.
The establishment of several Google Groups has provided a modern and convenient way for our membership to communicate (e.g., the folks who regularly attend monthly meetings, the folks on the education committee, the whole group). Members can manage their own group membership and the amount of email they receive from these groups. Additionally, Google Groups does not require a special account or login to participate in them. This is key to ensuring our members can easily join and contributes to them staying on our lists and aware of upcoming events and activities. We’ve had a little trouble with the occasional spammer getting onto the group and past our moderators, but generally we have had great success and very little abuse on the sites.