We have been working on a new website for Wesley Grove United Methodist Church (UMC) for the last few months, and are excited to announce its official release. You can see the website for yourself at https://wesleygrovehanover.org. Wesley Grove UMC was declared a historical landmark in 1982, and has been an active part of the Hanover, Maryland, community since 1948. The church also offers pre-kindergarten classes. In February, Wesley Grove contacted us to completely overhaul their website in order to make it more welcoming to newcomers and to add an online payment portal for pre-kindergarten registration and tuition. To date, the Wesley Grove website has been Raving Software’s largest project and the company’s first e-commerce site. With more than 40 pages, a featured video, two new logos, and a payment portal with user accounts, we learned a lot about our software processes and grew in our programming, photographic, graphic design, and videography skills. Because the site is so large, we will focus on what we learned as opposed to what we did, especially since most of the static pages had “cosmetic” changes done to update the look of the website’s front end.
Lesson 1: Going the extra mile makes all the difference towards “Raving Clients”
Upon commencing our project, we learned our client had little to no visual elements, such as photos and video, and needed to update what they did have to reflect the current church community. In this highly visual industry, Raving Software strives to maintain the delicate balance of artistic design and technical savvy to create beautiful websites. We love bringing our client’s message to life, reflecting both the client’s branding and personality. Developing these missing elements — photos, video, and logos for the church and pre-kindergarten — was key to creating a successful interaction with the end user.We also paid extra attention to carefully craft our client’s branding through a thematic color scheme, font selection, page tailoring, and the creation of separate logos for the church and the pre-kindergarten. As a website is one of the most outward expressions of an organization’s vision and personality, it was vital to create logos that reflected the church (warm, loving, inviting, and family-oriented) and the pre-kindergarten (fun, engaging, and energetic).The end result was worth the extra effort on each of these critical elements. The website is full of beautiful photos and engaging content, and the home page video reflects the church’s warmth, love, and kindness. The website truly reflects the personality of the client as a whole. Moreover, Raving Software brought our client’s dream for their website to reality with the website becoming an artistic and visual manifestation of their organizational vision and mission.
Lesson 2: Save everything (or as much as possible)
If you’re redesigning a website, your client has existing content. Even if they want to rework or update this content, we recommend ensuring you have access to it and back up the content as soon as possible. You’re probably thinking this is the client’s responsibility — and it is — but it doesn’t hurt to take on some of that responsibility either.Here are some reasons we’ve found it helpful to save existing content on our end:
- You never know what will happen. Our client’s original website was lost early on during the redesign due to a lapse in their previous hosting agreement. Thankfully, we had pulled over most of the text and a few photos for the new website, so we did not have to start from scratch when the previous website was lost.
- It gives you something to work with for prototypes and mockups. In addition, it can help your client to be more invested in the project if they see their work being used early on in the redesign.
- It gives your client something to react against. For a busy client, it may be easier for them to update existing content than to sit down and create or gather new content.
- It can make updating the content easier. If you save existing copy, then you will have better documentation concerning updates to the content and ensure everyone is on the same page.
- You’ll learn more about your client and their audience. If you spend time with the existing website before you begin designing, you’ll gain insight into what is and isn’t working toward your client’s goals and be able to offer better suggestions when the time comes.
While your client will need to be involved in the editing of old content and the creation of new content, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little extra time in the beginning making sure the existing content is accessible to you somewhere besides the previous website. In our situation, our client only had to create brand new content for a few pages as opposed to all 40+, which saved us time in the long run.
Lesson 3: Continuous improvement
We continue to refine our development process with each project. Like many designers before us, however, we ran into challenges regarding scope creep and deadlines.While we want to provide our clients with the best possible website and experience (creating “raving clients” is part of our philosophy), we need to do better defining and clarifying what that will look like within the agreed to scope of the project. Allowing too many additions or adjustments during the project pushes the deadlines back and can result in a website being more complex than necessary.Our team has been brainstorming and re-evaluating how we handle client on-boarding and our initial development stages. We are looking forward to working with our next client using our revised processes.It’s hard to admit when something isn’t working. By recognizing a process is flawed, we’re able to take the steps to fix it and become better designers and developers.
Lesson 4: Take the challenging projects
While our team has previously built and maintained e-commerce websites, the Wesley Grove UMC project is Raving Software’s first e-commerce site (we did just turn a year old in March). This brought a new set of challenges, such as payment portals and processors, user accounts, and even higher security requirements. At Raving Software, we not only embrace challenges, we run after them — that is the only way we know to continuously improve our skillset.Originally, part of the e-commerce site included student registration for the Wesley Grove Pre-Kindergarten. However, the client decided to keep the registration process offline and only allow parents the option to pay tuition online. In addition to ensuring security standards to protect users’s personal information, our website needed to allow the users to pay registration and tuition fees either in monthly installments or pay one lump sum, as well as apply the appropriate discounts.We used WooCommerce and Stripe to set up an e-commerce store so parents can add registration fees or tuition payments to their cart and finalize their payments. However, we still needed to do a lot of back-end customization to the platform and functions so the website met the operational requirements of the client, such as hand-coding a complex discount process not available in any plug-in.Between programming for the registration and payments, we learned even more about the back-end of WordPress and how much more efficient and powerful our websites can be. Plus, now we have a template for implementing user accounts, a registration system, and payment processes that can be adapted for future clients. Even though the e-commerce side came with many challenges and took a lot of time to get working the way we needed, it paid off. We have further increased our knowledge of the WordPress, WooCommerce, and RegistrationMagic’s interfaces, allowing us to build beautiful websites with complex functions and processes that still run smoothly.
Overall, we learned a lot from working on Wesley Grove’s new website, and we can’t wait to take what we learned and apply it to future projects. In the meantime, we hope you’ll take a look at the new website and check out our other projects.
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