Case Study: A Website Redesign for the IMPACT Conference

I’ve been told I could/should be a professional organizer. So when the Board Chair for the IMPACT Conference came to me wanting a website redesign, for a website with nearly 100 pages, it became a fun marriage between my organizing and WordPress skills. By the end of the process, we went live with 20 pages and a look that better expressed the youthful activism of the national conference.

Here are the details of how that happened.

Laura is the board chair of the IMPACT Conference. IMPACT is the largest annual conference focused on the civic engagement of college students in community service, service-learning, community-based research, advocacy, and other forms of social action. As the new board chair, Laura’s goal was to complete a handful of projects the Board had been wanting to complete for several years. A website redesign was one of those.

Website Redesign: IMPACT Conference - Previous Design
The previous IMPACT Conference website.

Their previous website had served them well, but didn’t manifest the youthful spirit and activism of their target audience. It also needed a new look, a spring cleaning, and it needed to be easier to navigate by a team of webmasters once I completed the redesign.

Our first step was to meet and correspond on the phone, via GoTo Meeting, and through e-mail about the “wish list” for the site. I heard from Laura’s team about how the website worked well, how it didn’t, what options they wanted, and which other websites they found functional or attractive. After the initial meetings, we continued to correspond about specifics for their website. For example, we identified the most important pages and talked about which ones to merge while also developing a strategy to hide or make private the pages which shouldn’t exist on a redesigned site.

At this stage, we were also considering which platform to use, but chose to stay with WordPress to reduce costs and to keep utilizing plug-ins that were working well for them. I was also looking for themes which would fit the college-age audience of IMPACT registrants. I wanted to provide the Board with a range of options, but knew the theme needed to be image-based with attractive and bold fonts and headers, a somewhat simple layout, and several ways of organizing content. After offering the IMPACT team a list of five WordPress themes, each with its own take on youth and functionality, we settled on the Smart Magazine theme.

From there, I created an Excel sheet with the IMPACT website architecture. As with many non-profits which utilize all the volunteer help they can get, the IMPACT team had utilized a number of web volunteers over the years. That’s wonderful from an organizational perspective, but it also means that the organization of a website can quickly get out of hand if there isn’t an organizing principle.

The IMPACT website had nearly 100 pages, many of them standing independently. By that, I mean that some pages stood on their own and were only connected to the homepage. A better practice is to “nest” pages under “parents.” For IMPACT, this meant that the previously individual pages for conference sponsors from 2013, 2014, and 2015 (3 pages in this example) would be nested under the parent “Past Sponsors” page. And once we started pulling the site together, we decided that “Past Sponsors” didn’t need to be directly accessible from the homepage either, so we further nested that under “Sponsor and Exhibitor Opportunities.”

Once the pages were simplified, I began moving them around the Excel spreadsheet and grouping them. The groupings were determined by theme, such as Logistics or Sponsors or Board, and also by the desired visitor flow through the website. On any given page, for example, we wanted visitors to have easy access to a Register link as well as any details that would help them decide they were ready to register, such as the Workshop list.

Website Redesign: IMPACT Conference - New Design
The new IMPACT Conference website.

At the same time, I was able to feed the Board a list of pages we knew we’d have on the site so that they could start writing or rewriting text. With some clients, I’m able to do a lot of web writing, but for a conference, the Board might be the better writer, given that the writing is actually schedules, directions, or hotel blurbs. We kept track of the pages, their stage of completion, the Board member in charge of the rewrite, and my work on getting the content live, through Google docs and e-mail.

With the website architecture cleaned up and the text in progress, I started building and linking and moving pages to fit the Smart Magazine theme. This theme gave us five distinct areas on the homepage to work with.

The first was essentially a header where we linked all of the evergreen content such as “About Us,” “Conference Info,” “Workshops,” and the important call to action: “Register.” The content of these pages isn’t necessarily evergreen – it will change with each year’s event – but the links are evergreen because, as a conference, there will always, for example, be a selection of workshops, a need to register, and conference info such as directions and lodging options.

The next section of the homepage was much more visual: rather than links in a header, we have images with headlines and the tag, “Call to Action,” in red. This is a section that’s really designed to catch visitors interest and spur them to action, such as a timely call for registrations, exhibitor opportunities, award nominations, and a call for proposals.

Below the main section are two columns, one for logistical info, like directions and hotel deals, and another column for behind-the-scenes info, like details on who the Board of Directors and Planning Committee are. In the right column, there’s also space for ads, which, as a non-profit, we utilized as a spot for the conference logo and another CTA for registering.

At the bottom of the homepage, we have a footer which includes an e-news sign-up, social buttons, and specific ways to get involved in the conference. Many of the CTAs on the homepage are linked multiple times, just with difference images, different headlines, or in some way packaged differently. For a conference, there’s a lot of information to provide to visitors, but we essentially only have a few visitors paths for them to take: to register, exhibit/sponsor, nominate, or volunteer. The whole homepage – and the whole site, in fact – was designed with those visitor paths in mind.

The IMPACT team was really wonderful about cranking out the text and getting me photos, while also giving me the liberty to find and use Creative Commons photos for gaps we had in the photo selection. As their texts poured in, I added or edited the content to the pages and filled out the skeleton of the site until it had some meat on its bones.

When the website redesign was nearly done, an IMPACT Board member, Julianne, said, “This is a beyond sexy website. I absolutely love it!” We had a few minor edits after that, but now IMPACT has a well-organized website, with a fresh look that reflects their young and dynamic audience better.

At the end of the project, I provided the IMPACT team with a password-protected webpage. That page contains all of our project paperwork, including contracts, invoices, and timelines, links to our shared documents, and tutorials on how to work the website. I offer ongoing website support to my clients, but I definitely want them to have a solid understanding of how their website works without me.

Check out the IMPACT Conference website here. [Please keep in mind that the website may be changed, updated, or managed differently after I hand it off.]

Does your WordPress website need a spring cleaning – regardless of the time of year? If so, please feel free to contact me.