Ben Sihota

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BS Computer Science & Cognitive Science Major @ UC Santa Cruz

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3 November 2018

Project: Interact District 5160 Website

by Ben

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I recently launched Interact District 5160’s revamped website, completely overhauling the design and content.

Purpose

The non-profit’s website was in serious need of an upgrade. After volunteering with District Council 5160 (a.k.a. DC, the client) for two years, one as District Governor, I recognized the importance of an effective website and the value it could add. Especially with today’s youth, the primary target audience, online presence plays a huge role in determining the outside perception of potential members.

Two major balances that had to be struck regarded form over function and audience knowledge. The council wanted a website that would be both attractive and serve as a dependable resource. This meant often dedicating certain areas for more eye-catching, graphic-heavy content and others for text. Furthermore, an issue that similar websites struggle with is making assumptions about the audience’s expertise of the organization. This website needed to achieve many goals–providing information regarding both the organization as a whole and this district, while still presenting updates and resources to existing members.

Primary Skills Employed

1. Front-end Web Design

Website Design

About 60 percent of the time dedicated to this project was on the design and content of the website. As the website is based on a loose WordPress theme, the organization’s brand had to be extended to develop a rhythm of content. Having historical knowledge of the organization, it was up to me to procure most of the content, including graphics and photos. Responsiveness and usability were both critical focuses in this process as most of the internet’s traffic is transitioning to alternative devices, including tablets and phones. Careful decisions were made along the way to ensure that the website would function equally across all mediums.

Specific skills required for this portion of the project included: HTML, CSS, Photoshop, and SEO expertise.

2. Software Development

Languages:

  1. PHP (website back-end)
  2. JavaScript (website front-end and Google Suite add-on)
  3. HTML/CSS (custom front-end content)
  4. SQL (database for custom back-end software)
  5. System Administration

Although having a WordPress backbone, a common practice for most websites of this scale, custom software was developed to tailor the site to the needs of Interact District 5160. About 30 percent of the time spent on the project went towards these programs.

Club Directory Club Search Club Database & Search: A goal of mine was to develop a cohesive system that allowed the District Council to maintain a record of all of the Interact Clubs in the district that would automatically translate to the website. At little additional effort to the council, clubs are synced to the website to present a public directory. Prospective members are able to look up their high school or city and be matched with a local club.

Club Contact Form Club Contact Forms: To supplement the prior feature, a built-in “Contact Us” form is integrated to remove a barrier to membership. Security was taken into account for this feature to prevent spam emails.

Club Map Club Map: On the Clubs page of the website, a dynamic and interactive map is generated by pulling the same data as the directory.

Area Update Area Update Synchronizing: Relying upon the same infrastructure as the club database, this feature present on the area pages allows the district representatives post updates without ever having to access the website or contact the webmaster.

G Suite Add-On Google Apps Suite Add-On: In order for the council to manipulate this database, an easy-to-use interface had to be developed. Since the council was already accustomed to using Google Sheets for their records, developing a G Suite add-on was the most practical decision. This way, they could utilize the robust features of Google Sheets and publish their changes with two clicks. This system is completely modular and can be maintained and reconfigured by the group.

Online Waiver Signing: One facet of the website includes a new calendar system with ticket sales for DC’s events. That said, since Interact is a program for minors, every event requires a waiver/permission slip to be signed. A problem that the council often faced is that attendees were unaware of this form and would show up to events empty-handed. I developed a software that extends the functionality of the ticketing software to include online waiver signing. Registrants can either have their parents/legal guardians sign the waiver at the time of purchase or email the waiver, which is useful when club directors register multiple attendees. Adding this feature in conjunction with configuring the ticket software results in a streamlined check-in process at events.

3. Project Management / Solution Development / Documentation

In addition to being responsible for the technical aspects of this project, I had the duties of project manager. Most of the time spent in this category (~10 percent of the project) went towards outlining the project, recognizing steps to completion, and managing arbitrary deadlines. The council leadership opted to be mostly hands-off of this project, making me accountable for the project’s progress and quality. Before beginning, I first assessed the strengths and weaknesses of both the existing website and the district program, setting goals for the finished project. Throughout the production process, these goals were checked upon to ensure they were met with satisfaction. Finally, I documented guides on how to use the product, with special regard to the proprietary software to ensure the council’s ability to use the software in the future.

View Website: Interact District 5160

PLEASE NOTE: I am not longer responsible for the maintenance of this website. Therefore, as the product is used for daily operations, the current state may not reflect the design of my final product.

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"Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming" - David Bowie