Looking for a Website Partner: A Case Study
The Vermont Historical Society preserves, explores and shares the history of Vermont, and they needed a website upgrade that would efficiently bring history right into the homes of even the most remote Vermont citizens. They gave 4Web a clear mandate to create “a website that works.”
Jane Campbell, the society’s Director of Development, and Julie Nelson, Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator, were impressed by 4Web from the start. At the very beginning of their search for a website developer, Jane explains, “I looked at the 4Web profile and it was clear that they tailor their sites to what their customers need. During the project, they were willing to take the time to listen, ask and explore with us. They put a lot of time and people power up front. We worked with a team where everyone knew their specialties. I never got the feeling that we were asking too many questions, and it still feels like a partnership.”
That partnership enabled the Vermont Historical Society to ask for and receive a website that reflects exactly the needs of both their users and their staff. Jane explains the visitor perspective: “We had a lot of content that had to be organized. Some people like to read and some like to point and click; our visitors are readers. But we wanted a site that worked aesthetically. We wanted to make it easier for people to see what’s on the site and find what they’re looking for.”
4Web achieved that goal in several ways, including consolidating the site map so that navigation became easier and clearer. They also used accordions—topic headings in the text that open at a click to provide more information. That way visitors who access a page can quickly select the topic that interests them most without endless scrolling.
4Web also recommended an accordion-style event listing for the society. For most groups, the usual month-by-month calendar is full of gaps between events. The accordion-style listing highlights the events themselves, not the gaps between, giving visitors more information faster.
The society’s second goal was to improve the backend of their original site, the place where staff worked with the content management system to periodically add or change content, list events and run the shopping area, along with other functions. Julie states, “4Web definitely made our tasks easier in the backend. They understand Joomla!, and they were great at giving us technical information without the technical words.” Two days of onsite training for office staff and volunteers prepared everyone for the website launch less than three months after the kickoff meeting.
Thanks to the new, more responsive backend, the Vermont Historical Society is planning an online raffle for fundraising that would have been difficult or impossible with their old site. They are finding it easier to add content and are eager to include videos to bring history to an audience which cannot travel to presentations and programs. As Jane says, “Now we have a structure that will grow with us.”
Because of its age, the society’s old site was also vulnerable to hackers, who send out bugs specifically designed to locate and exploit outdated software. One of 4Web’s tasks was to move the old site to the 4Web server and clean it up before updating the software to a newer version Joomla!.
Julie has one bit of advice for anyone considering the upgrade of an old site or development of a new one: “Regardless of who you are, call 4Web.”……..(we like how Julie thinks!)