Redesigning a site is always both a great adventure and a great challenge. There’s the fun of approaching the work from the new perspective of where the client wants to be while holding onto knowledge of what already doesn’t work for them, and there’s the challenge of helping that same client let go of the outdated components of their site, even if they believe those design elements define them and their business.
It’s a rush!
Fortunately for me, my most recent redesign project was for one of my longest-standing clients, the fantastic group at non-profit organization Meals at Home. Founded in 1968, Meals at Home has been delivering meals to homebound individuals on the north shore of Chicago long before the web was part of any business plan. In recent years, however, their web site has always been an important way for them to communicate with both the people they serve and their families.
Web Site History
When I began working with Meals at Home in 2009, very few small business web sites were using content management systems to run their sites. Even two years later, the World Wide Web Consortium reported that almost 80% of web sites had no system like Joomla or WordPress running their site. Much more common practice was for small businesses to hire a consultant to manage their content and updates on an hourly basis. I worked with Meals at Home back in those days in just that way — on a simple HTML and CSS web site that only I could keep updated for them.
In 2011, Meals at Home moved their web site to Joomla, an open-source content management system built to be extendible for larger organizations looking to grow their online presence and do more of their organization’s work on the internet. As Meals at Home worked to expand their volunteer base and maybe even automate some of their processes, Joomla looked like a great fit. It wasn’t as complicated to manage as Drupal, the even-more-flexible but slightly-less-user-friendly open-source system that was gaining popularity at the time, but it offered more flexibility than WordPress, the third contender at the time. We implemented a Joomla solution that would allow their board members to upload documents for private review, and prepared for the possibility of adding more extensions and functionality improvements over time.
A New Chapter
I’ve said it before — these days, technology moves and changes faster than almost everything else for a small business or non-profit. The solution that seemed perfect two years ago may not be the perfect solution now. This was exactly what happened with Joomla for the team at Meals at Home.
Like many small non-profit organizations, Meals at Home has to maximize every hour of work their small staff has at its disposal. Changing systems for managing volunteers and clients takes time that isn’t always available, and in fact, finding a nonprofit management system that worked with the Joomla web site hadn’t yet happened. As a system, Joomla’s complexity — while a boon for a larger, more complicated site — was often too much to learn for the regularly changing volunteers who were charged with keeping it updated. Without the need for that kind of extendibility, and with the cost of upgrades that Joomla released which required additional labor from Jebraweb, it became clear that Joomla had ceased to be the right fit for Meals at Home.
Enter the new and improved WordPress.
WordPress had become, since its days as mostly a blogging platform, a far more robust tool for small-to-medium-sized web sites. By 2014, WordPress software was running twenty percent of all web sites. With a smooth, intuitive interface, one-click updates, and a huge number of well-reviewed plugins and add-ons available, it had become not only a cornerstone of Jebraweb’s business but a tool many clients were coming to us to request by name. Meals at Home’s technology volunteers were among those asking for it, and I agreed: WordPress had evolved so much that it was time to adopt it for their new website.
After many years with the same style of design, Meals at Home was ready to update the look and feel of their site. Their iconic logo needed to stay, of course, as well as the photos of their fantastic volunteers, but they were ready to use some more evocative imagery on the home page and a layout that looked more like some of their counterparts in similar organizations. In addition, they wanted to choose a WordPress theme (design framework) that would grow with them as they implemented any future fundraising campaigns — a theme that would grow with them but not be too complicated for them to use right away.
We were lucky to find the Rise theme from WowThemes. It offered everything Meals at Home might need, along with easy-to-customize slideshows, simple theme options they can change, and really fantastic quick customer service. It is made for non-profits. Implementing it was a breeze!
As always, designing a site by committee is never easy, but with such a long history, I can honestly say that the process was both fun and smoother than ever. Committees on their end discussed priorities and shared them with me through a single contact person. Design meetings were quick and efficient, and in the end, they have a beautiful new site that they can share proudly.
We started with this:
And the newly redesigned, fantastic Meals at Home web site looks like this:
Congratulations to Meals at Home on their new web site and on everything they do to foster health and well-being in their community!