When the Minnesota Public Health Association (MPHA) was ready to redesign their website, they knew they needed to make a major change, but had no idea how to get there. Vivid Image Inc. helped the MPHA committee identify a third party website software, called Wild Apricot, that would help manage the membership login section of their website. We recently interviewed Ann Bajari, the President of MPHA during the website redesign. Here is what Ann said about the experience.
What were some of your challenges prior to having a Vivid Image website?
We were having many problems with our old website and had been talking for some time about the need to make a change. Here is a list of some of the challenges:
- Lack of responsiveness with our website provider was a very frustrating problem for everyone who worked with the website. When there were problems with the website we could never count on getting a timely response and there was not a help option such as we have with Wild Apricot. There were no ongoing trainings offered as the leadership of the Association changed.
- We had many problems with website membership database. We lost members who later told us they did not receive any renewal notifications. There was no way for us to track what had been sent out to members and if notices had been delivered and opened. We did not know how many notices were sent, we think only one, and sometimes the notices went out late in the evening the day before the membership expired. Many people thought they were members when they were not. They did not receive notices that their membership had lapsed.
- Queries on the different categories of membership status (for example: lapsed, new, renewals, type, etc) were difficult to set up.
- Website viewers from other states asked us if the link to our website on the APHA website was to an old website. The logo on the website gave the years 1907 – 2007 for the one hundred year anniversary and we did not know how to change it. The look and feel of the website was outdated and not inviting to the viewer.
- The website was difficult to update and the user needed to have IE to do updates. Those with Mac’s were out of luck.
- Our members and customers did not receive receipts for payments for memberships and events, We did this manually when requested. Doing this wasted the time of our volunteers who should have been focused on other things.
- Problems with our website made us appear incompetent and unorganized as an Association.
What unique needs brought you to Vivid Image and the Wild Apricot solution?
- We are an organization of volunteers with a limited budget and many of our volunteers have full time jobs and other commitments. We needed a website platform that was inexpensive, easy to use with software that is kept updated using the latest technology.
- Important was membership and event management, ability to communicate with our members, easy to change and update.
- We wanted an updated/fresh look to our website.
- Although the design of our home page was limited by the features in Wild Apricot, it is so much improved over our previous website software that it is hard to come up with challenges as they are much less than what we were dealing with. There are many features in the software that we still don’t know about. There is a lot there and it will take some time to learn about all the features.
How did Vivid Image help you successfully implement your new website?
Vivid Image started the process by looking at our previous website. They then did a web meeting (GoToMeeting) to talk with us about what our needs were and what did we want from our new website. VI then did research on website options and came up with Wild Apricot as the recommended software. Wild Apricot offered most of the features we needed and aligned with our budget.
The website was designed based on the findings above as well as information gained from looking at public health association websites in other states. Kori Sanders was our Project Manager at Vivid Image and her Team did a great job in capturing what we are about in the design. There were comments such as “wow” and “I love it” when it was unveiled to the planning committee. A few changes were made to the design but VI got the look basically right with their first try because they did the necessary background work.
The next step was the functionality of the website. Kori showed a good understanding of our Organization and needs and incorporated suggested changes. She was very responsive to our requests for changes and kept at it until it was right. She did the necessary research to help us to make the best decisions.
Once the website went live, Kori was attentive to getting everything to work right and resourceful in dealing with problems. After going through this process I know that we would not have been able to do this without outside technical assistance.
Was it difficult to tackle a project of this size as a large committee?
Most of the committee members who worked on the website development are very busy people with demanding full time jobs and one is a full time student with a part time job. All are volunteers for MPHA, we have no paid staff. Kori was understanding of this and gave us adequate time to respond to any requests for input. She knew the steps that we needed to take to get to a functional and appealing website. She kept us focused on what we needed to accomplish. All were given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making and to give their input so everyone now is vested with the website. Kori stressed the importance of this at the start of our process and she was right. It was complicated to take input from so many people but the benefits are now apparent as we are now independent with our website. She also worked to build our capacity to manage the website on our own, make us independent. We have limited funds so this was very important to our organization. She helped us to do some of the website work ourselves. She was very responsive to requests for training and to individual questions about how to do something. Kori was very professional and patient with us. She represented Vivid Image very well. There have been many positive comments about the great job that Vivid Image did for us.
How will your new website help your organization reach their overall goals?
Our website now does things automatically that we had to do manually with our old website. This frees up our volunteers to focus on our organizational mission and goals. It is easier to communicate with our membership and to be responsive. We now look professional and competent as an organization. The website is helping us in maintaining our credibility as a professional association. We have a website that is functional, appealing, and reflects who we are as public health. We are able to provide improved member services with all of the features of Wild Apricot. And the software will be kept updated so we will not run into problems with outdated software that does not meet our needs as we did with our previous website.
Everyone at Vivid Image was great to work with! Very professional and responsive to our needs and requests. It was obvious that they knew what they were doing. They guided us through the process expertly.