Website Launch: Community Development Society


cdsmobileviewWhen a website is meant to serve a lot of people, you have to balance the needs of everyone.

The Community Development Society has hundreds of members worldwide. Many are involved in committees within the organization (so they need access to info regular members wouldn’t get). And, just like any membership organization, CDS has to attract new members and provide enough public information that people understand what the organization does and want to join.

The new CDS website is not only responsively designed but accommodates these separate audiences.

Created in Joomla 3.0, this website not only serves as a resource to thousands of visitors a month but shows what an open source CMS like Joomla is capable of in terms of function and customization.

Member Only Area

All members receive log in information when they join the organization. Once logged in, members see a special sidebar of content only they can access.

Members who want to blog are assigned permissions to do so and they can add and edit their posts on the website without accessing more sensitive areas.

As per the organization’s request, the profiles are connected to an internal social network, allowing logged in members not only to post to forums, create blogs, or see specific content but also create and maintain a profile that others can see and connect with… you know, once logged in. (We’ll be working with CDS this winter on further refining this feature with the help of member feedback.)


Tagged Content

The homepage of the website displays the organization’s most important information for members and non-members alike but since the organization does publish content on social issues and about a variety of locations, it was important for this website to be able to have tagged content.

Tagging ensures people can move around the website and browse easily on topics most of interest. (The search feature is great if you know exactly what you’re looking for but tags can let you stumble upon cool content.)


cdsresponsivegoogleform-mobileviewGoogle Apps Integration

The organization wanted the ability to have forms on their site but, rather than submissions getting sent via email, wanted them in a spreadsheet committees could edit and access easily.

Since they have been using Google Apps over the last year, this seemed like an opportunity to use them to handle conference submissions in a way that would cut down back and forth emails (they are all stored in a spreadsheet) and allow people to access/edit them while keeping a copy of each revision.

Not sure why anyone would want to fill out an in-depth form like this on a phone but it’s responsive too.

Training Videos

Because members are in many locations (and more than a handful of people needed to be trained on website updates), it made sense to make video tutorials on how to do things on the site (in 5 minute increments or less).

Every time someone asks about something, we make a video and put it on CDS’s own private Vimeo channel, in addition to the videos we thought necessary to have at site launch. This way, if someone forgets or a new person takes over, they are a short, fun video away from being able to do something on their website.

Though we launched this site back in May (!), we have only just now had time to write about it. So congratulations to CDS on their site and here’s hoping it inspires not only membership but activism in community development, a worthy cause indeed.

Tech Thursday: Is Your Website Easy to Navigate?

…or is it mangled up in tangled up knots, like the Grinch? Or those Christmas lights you’ve been trying to hang up outside?

We have a few ideas for getting your website navigation un-tangled. First of all, you want to make sure you cater to both the linear and visual thinkers by using the menu (linear) and sidebar tools, such as buttons (visual). Second, interlinking pages to one another will make viewers’ lives easier. If you have a series of blog posts, or a form that you want people to reach, just add a link on the relevant pages, and people will be much happier. And finally, begin with the end in mind (determine what page(s) on your website are the most important, and try to mindfully build around it).

We hope you enjoy this video, and that your website navigation adventure! As Nicole says, we’re glad that we’re better at handling websites than holiday decorations!

Tech Thursday: How to Tell if Your Web Host is Shady

Is your website being hosted by someone who might not be the best for you? Know the warning signs: they put their own name on your domain, won’t share server (or any other) access information, and overcharge you. There are plenty of other hosting fish in the sea- is it time for you to move on?

Tech Thursday: Why You Should Have an Online Donation Form

Some statistics:

In 2013, 33.6% of all donations to charities occurred in the last 3 months of the year. In 2012, $24 billion in donations happened online.

Does your business have an online donation form? With the season of giving just around the corner, make it easier for your donors to give back. More people (especially millennials) are likely to give back online, plus, having this form directly on your website makes it more likely that they will follow through (rather than get annoyed by PayPal).

If you don’t already have an online donation form, but want to get one set up on your website, we can help! Start getting your donations here.

Oyster: Netflix for Books

When I was younger, I used to burn through books like it was my job. Although Mom was ultimately thrilled that one of her kids enjoyed reading, the amount of books that were needed to keep me busy cost a lot of money and took up a lot of space in the house. Once my own bookshelves were filled, I started having stray stacks in my room, then gradually throughout the house. I haven’t entirely relinquished my affinity for print, but getting a Kindle at least made saving space possible.

Recently, my reading experience (and maybe yours, too) just improved tenfold. I learned about a little thing called Oyster (named after one of Shakespeare’s famous lines- “the world is mine oyster”), an app that allows you to stream an unlimited amount of books each month for $9.95. Last week, I signed up for a free, 14 day trial. Minus the little glitch with the recent power outage, using Oyster has been not only fun, but easy.


Books as far as the eye can see.

When I try to conceptualize how many titles Oyster offers, I picture the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. There are books everywhere, as far as the eye can see, and they’re all yours if you want them. It’s exciting stuff. The first book I downloaded was Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules by David Sedaris. Then I went a little download-happy, and have a ton of books to look forward to in the next 9-ish days.

How does it work? Just like Netflix, you stream the material online through the app. So, you can’t download it and keep it forever, but as long as the app is on your device and you’re a paying customer, you can access the book if you need/want. Also much like Netflix, Oyster updates it’s content frequently enough that it doesn’t get stale.

My fun reading for the week

My fun reading for the week

It’s easy to access.

The website is user-friendly and easy to navigate, so you can feel comfortable recommending it to your great-aunt who accidentally posts status updates instead of sending private messages on Facebook. Plus, it’s not exclusive to any one device. You can access it on your computer, on your Apple products, Android devices, or Google Play. Just remember your username and password, and login from wherever!

Encourages diversity in reading.

There are many topics that I’m curious about, and my first instinct is to do some reading and learn more about them. However, when I want to get a book on Amazon about, say, political influence on the arts, 9 times out of 10 I promptly lose interest in the pursuit of knowledge when I see the price tag. With something like Oyster, I can get all kinds of new information for about $10 a month, which for me is more appealing than binge-watching Arrested Development on Netflix (mainly because I’m all caught up).

With the vast spectrum of genres and authors, there’s a potential to explore not only what you enjoy reading, but subjects you are vaguely intrigued by or passionately curious about. Oyster also has children’s books, so you can share the love with the kiddos.

You can give it as a gift.

If you know someone who would love to try something like Oyster out, you can buy them a subscription. All you need is their e-mail and some cash. There are different options, if you want to just give them one month versus one year. My Christmas shopping just became remarkably simple. Another incentive for gift giving: for every gift subscription purchased, 10% of the proceeds go to a literacy-based charity.


You can share with friends.

I haven’t explored this option yet, but when you sign in to Oyster, you automatically have a profile. It displays your reading list, and you can add a picture and mini-biography if so inclined. If you have friends using it, you can all share what you’re reading. Reading, while a fun solo adventure, is also a fun when it’s social. That’s why book clubs exist.

Oyster is fun.

In addition to what’s listed above, the founders of Oyster have created a website with a bit of fun pizzazz. At the bottom of the About page, there is an animated text area that says “You might enjoy Oyster if…” followed by a changing list of answers (including “you have dated or dumped someone because of their taste in books”).

In the list of Genres, there is a section called Famous Reading Lists. This showcases what books certain famous people have read, such as Steve Jobs,J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Junot Diaz, Margot Tenenbaum, and Lisa Simpson. These folks have a sense of humor, and that’s the sort of crew I feel good about giving my money.

Oyster is cool, but don’t take my word for it. Check out the 14 day trial- it’s free, and you just might get hooked.

Tech Thursday: How to Track Traffic to a Page on Your Website

…Now say that five times fast.

Every website has certain goals, whether it’s getting someone to buy a product, subscribe to a newsletter, or make a donation. There’s a page on your website where al this action occurs. How do you know whether people are getting to this particular page?

This is where tracking comes in. Using tracking tools, you can figure out how many people are getting to your website, how many are getting to that desired page on your site, and where they’re coming from (social media, Google searches, blog posts, etc.). What are some different tools you can use for tracking? We talk a bit about Bitly, analytics offered by your Web Host, and Google Analytics (keep in mind, these are by no means the only tools available- just the ones we use most).

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