How I Built This: The New NYC FTC Website

When Andrea came to me about updating the Coalition’s website, I’m sure I audibly groaned (it’s ok, we’ve been friends for a long time). Not because I didn’t want to update it — after all, I’d been lobbying to do it for some time — but because of the particular parameters she requested: keep the site on Wix and update it while it was still live. Staying on Wix turned out to absolutely be the right choice to make automated member profiles happen (yes, you were right again, Professor Reyes). Updating while the site was live, on the other hand, had some very specific challenges. I'm taking you #bts on how we got to the website so elegantly displayed before you.

When I design or re-design a site, the first thing I do is determine the client’s wants, needs, and goals. In this case, I found that what was most important to the coalition’s leadership was to automate profile creation for new members. In addition, we needed to tell the coalition’s story, showcase members and events, and lead site visitors to join the community.

Homepage and Design

Andrea assembled a small group of members to help guide features and provide feedback on the design. I appreciated this process as a microcosm of members and the public who would be using the site — I wanted it to be inviting, engaging, and easy to navigate.

Per Andrea’s request, I designed several versions of the homepage in different styles. I called them Modern, Magazine, and Playful. Each was brighter than the existing site and drew on a theme of shapes — a design element we were playing with and which you can see in the repetition of circles in both the logo and website. The small group voted for the Magazine version which showcased large images and followed a more traditional layout. Photos of members and their work are displayed at the top while the rest of the page explains who we are and why visitors should join the community.

Grid of design inspiration for the website.

Aesthetic inspiration including the SDGs and Fe Project

I knew that the coalition was heavily invested in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and that we would continue to highlight them moving forward. I took some inspiration from the color coding of the goal icons and created a bright but sophisticated color palette for the redesign. I chose large, clear, comfortable fonts for both legibility and professionalism. I also considered the accessibility level of the new site regarding text contrast, site structure, and language settings.

Member Profiles

Andrea, the board, and I had to come up with a way to onboard new members. Wix allows the creation of profiles, but it is essentially a public-facing application (i.e. your Wix profile) so that meant that anyone coming to the site could make one and log in — not exactly what you want for a paid membership platform. Outside of a completely custom coded site (not in my wheelhouse or within our budget), I needed to create a paywall plus automated onboarding process. With the help of custom forms and Wix Code, I came up with a manageable solution.

What happens it this: when you join and pay as a Business Member or Fair Trade Advocate, a recurring annual PayPal invoice is created, and the form you fill out triggers an automated email that walks you through setting up your profile. Using a bit of javascript, I connected the profile forms to the database (the reason Wix works well for this process), which then populates in the correct directory here or here.

Image of the profile page for Elizabeth Stilwell, a fair trade advocate.

Events Promotion

The old site also lacked a place or a way to promote coalition and member events. This section is still evolving, but for now, you can see both our ongoing community meetings and the latest events promoted by our members here.

Backend Features

While not as glamorous as a color palette, the site also needed a lot of updating on the backend. I made sure to complete all of the metadata, connected the site to Google for indexing, and updated all of the logos, the favicon, settings, and description boxes. This will help our search engine optimization (SEO) so the site can be found by web searchers looking for a fair trade community in NYC.

Members, you can actually help this effort as well. More links back to our site will increase our search ranking. Download the NYC FTC member badge here and make the image link either to our homepage or your profile page.

Besides the inherent challenges of Wix (ahem, no responsive layout), one of the gnarlier issues was overhauling the site while it was still live. Pages could be duplicated and worked on behind the scenes until they were ready. But site-wide elements like the navigation menu and footer could not be hidden forever. In addition, I wasn’t the only one logging into the site so sometimes elements I had saved for later were inadvertently published.

Everything we set out to accomplish worked out in the end, and this project turned out to be an interesting learning experience. I am grateful to the coalition for the chance to redesign our public-facing image and look forward to working with more members in the future.

If you’d like to work with me on your own website design or refresh, check out my portfolio and email me here.

#smallbusiness #webdesign #UNSustainableDevelopmentGoals #Wix #ElizabethStilwell #freelance #logo #ProfReyes #NYCFTC #nycfairtradecoalition

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