Blind Citizens Australia, Australia’s leading advocacy organization for the blind, decided it was time to modernize their website. They wanted a website that would serve their community of members in the best way possible. They also wanted their website to act as a resource for the wider blind community.
The site needed to work well on desktop as well as mobile devices, including note takers for the blind, and it also needed to be easy for their staff to manage.
WordPress was the obvious choice
The original site ran on the Joomla platform. But the Blind Citizens Australia staff found Joomla hard to maintain, and hard to manage. So when the time arrived to rebuild their site, they chose WordPress.
Assembling the Team
Since this was a rather large and involved project, a team was assembled so that the timeline requirements set by Blind Citizens Australia could be met, and so that the work could be divided based on specialty. The team included myself as backend developer, WordPress and security consultant, Monica Williard Moen as content curator, Kerry Hoath as systems administrator, Gemma Hoath as frontend designer, and Greg Madson along with Erika Webb as project coordinators on behalf of Blind Citizens Australia. Once the team was assembled, our first task was to undertake a review of the then-current website. We needed to determine what could be kept in regard to content, and what would be discarded. We also created new content to fill existing gaps in the site structure.
Starting from the Ground Up
The first thing we needed to do as a team was to procure a server for development. At the time of the redesign, the site was hosted on a shared hosting account, and as a team, we recommended to Blind citizens Australia that this was not going to be an ideal development environment. Consequently, a virtual private server was purchased, and all necessary software packages were installed and configured. Once this was complete, we could begin moving the content and making design decisions.
Once the initial development server was set up and configured, we needed to decide on which theme we were going to use. It needed to be something that was light-weight, responsive and standards-compliant, since the BCA constituents would be interacting with the site from all kinds of devices, including Note Takers designed specifically for the blind. We chose the Genesis Framework for it’s clean, standards-compliant, search engine optimized code base, and we chose and customized the Luscious child theme since it most closely matched Blind Citizens Australia’s brand colors.
Migrating the content
Once a theme was chosen, it was time to start migrating the content. Blind Citizens Australia’s content consisted mainly of recordings of prior conventions, podcast episodes, and membership documents. The multi-media content needed to be hosted and easily retrievable, as well as added to, by Blind Citizens Australia and its members. So we began curating the content, deciding what was important enough to keep and what should be archived, and then uploading and linking that content on the new site. Podcast capabilities were also built into the site, and the ability to take donations along with various other kinds of forms were added, including a membership application used to accept new members into the organization which was built with Gravity Forms.
Manual Migration and Extensive User Testing
Once all the content was added to the WordPress instance, the site was manualy migrated by myself from the development server to the shared hosting account used by the organization. We could then conduct extensive user testing and act on the feedback we received. Once we started receiving feedback, we improved on the design, tayloring the site and the underlying theme more specifically to BCA’s low-vision users, while maintaining the emphasis on structure and inclusion of headings for the screen reader users.
The site went through two launches: the first, a “soft” launch during the 2013 Blind Citizens Australia annual convention, and the second “hard” launch in February of the next year. Since the migration from Joomla to WordPress and the Genesis framework, the BCA website has seen an increase in traffic, an increase in the amount of content being created for the organization and its members to enjoy and benefit from, and Blind Citizens Australia itself has seen great success with its membership form.