Web strategy update for board 29 November 2013
By Ed Mitchell 2nd December 2013
The web project is at a point where we are at the limits of our current website and platform at a time when the organisation is about to make a seismic shift.
The site has become like an old apple tree; much loved and quite admirable, yet out of control and not producing the fruit we want from it. It is in need of a vigorous prune, then deep re-fit to make it capable for the strategic changes ahead.
This is a new strategic web project (TN v3)
- We are clarifying our fundamental building blocks
- We are reviewing the Transition source code as part of the strategic process; this is new. We are introducing a new support offer, based on a new structure.
- We therefore propose to re-design the structures that our communications and website are based on.
- Design and usability: big user engagement and workflow changes are afoot
- Working from the point above, everything is going to be re-structured, from what editorial categories we use, through to the process by which users register themselves and their initiatives.
- Technology: our platform is no longer actively developed
- Drupal 6 (our current platform) has reached its limit and we need to move to Drupal 7 (henceforth D6 and D7)
- Our maintenance overhead is very high keeping it going
- Our webhosting demands are greater as D6 isn’t very efficient
- D7 is better for various reasons including
- Location (particularly international) is radically improved
- Scale-ability and efficiency is vastly improved
- Feature enhancements – many desirable enhancements are available on D7 not D6
- Many modules we use on D6 are no longer in development; all the work is on D7 (and increasingly 8)
- Internationalisation (including translation) is way better
- Web services (web data exchange) are much better
- Transition Network’s strategy is taking us to places D6 can’t do
- International focus: has to be D7
- New support framework: no point building in D6 as it’s out of date
- Re-working the directories (initiatives, people, projects) to support the p2p framework concept requires a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) styled approach and software which is out of date for D6
How does this fit with our emerging strategy?
Many of our outcomes rely on outputs that are web-based, or significantly impact how the web project needs to present Transition Network, its services, and the Transition movement.
Particularly: – organised by Transition Network’s strategic outcomes which are being discussed:
- the work on the Transition Story, and the building blocks that make it up, will form the universal structures that define much of our website’s design logic
- the website is a tool in the communications plan. In fact it is a number of websites, representing the different roles Transition Network has
- The support offer’s framework will drive much of the new website architecture, and user engagement logic
- Much of the support will be made available as an online product which needs to be built from afresh
- The support offer needs to have ‘universal’ and ‘nationally applicable’ (for national hubs) elements which will need different web presences. It needs to be built as a feature that it can be adopted in entirety by a national hub, and then translated; this is a really big piece of work
- The regional offering for support requires a CRM-styled approach – a big shift from our current model which is a standard directory
- The proposal to help TIs monitor and evaluate themselves can be produced online as part of their Initiative Profile editing workflow (think of a simple slider based on the diagnostic). The results from their inputs will help the TIs strengthen themselves, and can form a growing base of data for the researchers.
- Where there are no national hubs, a Transition Network site will need to provide the universal support and directory services (in English) to enable national networking and connections therein
How might we do it?
There would need to be a series of stages, starting with the basic migration and establishment of the new site(s) and support services, then moving into greater detail and advancement as we proceeded, hopefully hand in hand with the national hubs and a growing body of international technologists and information analysts.
Based on the current strategic conversations within TN, Ed and Jim (the lead developer) have produced rough estimated costs for ‘Transition Network Version 3 (TN v3) as follows:
- Phase 3.1: Delivery late summer 2014:
- New site architecture and content types rolled out, migration of relevant content, introduction of universal support features, re-design
- Phase 3.2:Autumn/winter 2014:
- Gradual release of more support features (UK hub?), CRM-styled profile updating and health-check introduction
- Doubtlessly things we can’t foresee!
- Phase 3.3: Spring/summer 2015:
- Advanced development building on proven features etc.
NB: times can and will vary depending on the huge range of variables and unknowns at this point, costs are estimates only based on a thin layer of actual knowns.
We have been working on a theoretical project plan which you can see on the TNv3 page on our wiki