Website Update: Moving to WordPress, and Beyond

Darcy Lewis

After more than a year of work, the website committee recently saw the homepage and a handful of landing pages as built-out WordPress pages. We’ve been working with these pages as PDFs for months, but seeing them in WordPress feels like a huge advance.

That means we can—wait for it—click on a homepage button and be taken to a landing page within the site. Navigating a homepage seems so simple and commonplace, but it’s easy to underestimate what an important milestone this is.

To get us this far, we’ve had to go through most of the key stages in website development:

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Build-out
  • Testing
  • Integration

Site Development Recap

This process may seem linear, but it’s not. We are currently working in nearly all these phases simultaneously. Here’s a recap of what we’re doing.

  1. Planning: Site planning is complete for the most part, although we still have a handful of pages whose ultimate place in the sitemap is TBD.
  2. Design: Our UX architect has switched his focus from building wireframes (planning) to page design, working his way through a long list of pages that need to be designed. Review efficiency is essential, so we’ve honed the process to include us on the web committee, plus some combination of President Laura Laing, Vice President Emily Paulsen, and Executive Director James Brannigan.
  3. Build: Meanwhile, Think33’s developers are building pages in WordPress as quickly as they’re approved—hence our recent test drive of the new homepage. Additionally, Kellen’s IS team is now also building out the back-end portal that will contain all the membership records.
  4. Testing: Once we reach a critical mass of functional WordPress pages, testing and troubleshooting will begin in earnest. We on the website committee will assist Think33 with this, and we will also invite committee chairs to take their respective pages for a spin to be sure they can do everything that’s needed.
  5. Integration: This is when the WordPress site and the back-end portal start communicating so that the user will experience them as a single website. Given that we’re using brand-new software, it’s where the most unknowns will arise. Kellen should be able to use the software to build the functionality called for in Think33’s design. Think33 should then be able to use WordPress to create the desired appearance on all pages. But getting there will be a process with an unknown and unpredictable number of challenges.

A Word About Member Profiles

The key intersection point of the WordPress website and the back-end portal will be the member profiles, the literal and figurative heart of the website. If you attended ASJA’s virtual annual meeting in May, you got a sneak preview of the member profile. You can also click here to explore a PDF of the layout.

Any site visitor will be able to use our new custom Writer Finder feature to find and view your public profile, which can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Note that this will be a “rising tide will lift all boats” situation, in that the more members who create a robust public profile, the more reason editors and clients will have to search the ASJA Writer Finder in the first place.

Each member profile will also tie into ASJA’s back-end portal. When logged in, you will go to your membership profile to complete important tasks like paying your dues and signing up for events.

Once we’re confident that the profiles can do what we want them to, we’ll start inviting members to create their profiles. I’ll write another post with detailed instructions about how to complete your profile at that time.

Get Ready to Build Your Profile

In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to prepare to create your public-facing member profile:

  1. Get a new head shot if needed. If your head shot dates from within the past 3-4 years and you’re satisfied with it, make sure you can locate an electronic version of it. We’ll give you pointers on file size later.
  2. Start working on your overview, or summary, statement. You’ll want to put your best foot forward by highlighting your current areas of interest and accomplishment. What about your writing sets you apart from the crowd?
  3. Verify the exact names and years of any awards. That goes for fellowships or other honors, too, as you’ll want to highlight them in the provided fields. But if you don’t have any special honors to feature, no worries: fields left blank will disappear when the profile is published to the site.
  4. Choose your best work to feature. Each member profile can feature up to 10 articles or book excerpts. While that’s a generous allotment, it can be hard to distill highlights from a writing career that spans years or decades. What are your favorite stories so far?

Now that you’re getting excited at the prospect of building your own robust member profile to attract the editors, agents, and clients you’d most like to work for, let me insert one caveat:

Patience, Please

Remember my earlier comment about the challenges in integrating WordPress and the back-end portal? We fully expect to end up with member profiles that look like the vibrant, nuanced PDF you’ve seen. But it might take us some time to get there.

We’ll start inviting members to build their profiles when the basic functionality is working. The colors, fonts, and feel might vary slightly until we work out all the kinks.

Or maybe we’ll hit a homerun on our first try. Please be patient as this implementation remains a massive and difficult undertaking. But, in the end, I’m confident we’ll have a modern, up-to-date, functional website that will improve the ASJA experience for members, staff, and site visitors alike.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with another update about the new ASJA website. Thanks for reading!