FTFY: Getting Started With WARL

by Sep 2, 2018Fixed That For You

Back in 2009, I adopted a dog from Worcester Animal Rescue League (WARL). The dog we’d rescued from a parking lot had just passed away and we were struggling really hard. We looked at the WARL website and found a listing for this two year old brindle girl named Alice whose tail was a blur in her photo. The next day we were at the shelter meeting her. And somehow we ended up taking her home and renaming her Pumpkin.

Pumpkin was a truly amazing dog. She was just a wiggly love who wanted as many pets she could get, as long as it wasn’t cutting into her sleep time. She had a large repertoire of tricks and was really good at making people feel good.

WARL gave me something so precious and wonderful. They gave me a best friend who was there for me through a lot of amazing and tough times. They gave me a companion who could brighten anyone’s day. They gave me a family member so cherished and beloved by everyone that I used to joke that if she ever went missing the list of suspects would be too long to investigate.

So I want to give something back to WARL. I’ll adopt again once I’m back on my feet and become a regular donor again too. But for now, what I can do for them is rebuild their WordPress site.

First impression

WARL’s website was redone back in 2010 (I think – it might have been later). At the time, it was a pretty good update. But it needs some serious rehab to make it more effective and pleasant for users.

I really want to fix the logo and color scheme and do a lot of mobile optimization. I also want to make it easier for them to accept donations and manage donor relations through their website. And the animals need better profiles to show off what makes them new best friends for potential adopters.

I think a lot of the work on this site will be reworking content. It’s a little daunting given the volume of content that’s there, but I’m certainly up to the task. And if I can’t get it all done in a week, I don’t mind spending some extra time on it.

Doing a web audit

There are more user profiles for WARL than there were for The Gyro Spot, so the audit will be a little more detailed. I count approximately six user types: adopters, supporters, donors, volunteers, foster parents, and staff.

There definitely needs to be a lot of mobile optimization. But things need to be really easy for the staff to edit and work with so that they can post better pet profiles and keep the community aware of various events going on.

Forms definitely need to be incorporated to make it easy to apply to adopt and volunteer. Calls to action need some help – right now they’re inconsistent and all over the place. And landing pages might need to take over some of the heavy burden the front page has been doing.

Animal profiles show up in iframes, which makes it frustrating to scroll and read on any device. The blog has no entries. There’s a carousel on the front page obscuring lots of good content that would be better to let users scroll through.

Mobile and speed optimization

Like The Gyro Spot, WARL gets an okay score from Google PageSpeed Insights when it comes to speed – it’s listed as average. Again, a qualitative assessment reveals some pretty deep issues.

  • Mobile users don’t see any calls to action when they visit the site. Many of the desktop calls to action are just all over the place on the site and most of them direct you away from WARL.
  • The navigation is overwrought for all users. Things need to be simplified for users.
  • Scrolling through adoptable pet pages is a nightmare on mobile because of the iframes.
  • The carousel disappears on mobile devices, completely removing that content for mobile users.
  • The logo takes up a substantial amount of real estate and there are no photos drawing the user in.
  • The font is too small and too light (both in weight and color) for readability on any device.

The stack

Fortunately, this stack is pretty much the same as the last one because it’s a WordPress install. Aside from a few useless plugins and the iframes that support PetTango integration – this is workable.

What I would like to do is get WARL off of GoDaddy as a domain host. They probably should go to a host whose CEO hasn’t been shooting endangered animals in Africa. While he might not have technically poached the elephant – the company does poach recently searched or expired domains and tries to ransom them back for four or more figures.

Like last time, here’s the stack tech that I expect to be dealing with:

  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • Apache
  • Linux

The design

There’s just too much going on with the design. In simple terms – it’s a hot, hot mess. But that’s largely due to the fact that WARL runs on a shoestring nonprofit budget. That’s why a good design cleanup using the Divi theme will help them out a lot to prevent design issues from cropping up again in the future.

  • Color: The site needs a consistent color scheme and a lot more white space to avoid overwhelming the user. I’d like to trade those pastels for colors that make users more likely to perform actions.
  • Typography: I’m seeing too many weights and colors of different fonts and easily getting distracted on the site – and I’ve trained myself to try and counter this effect. Font sizes and line-height need to be tweaked as well.
  • Photos: Photos do a much better job of getting people to open their hearts than blocks of text and graphics. The site needs some more big impact from big visuals.
  • Copy: There are better ways to communicate urgency and emphasis without resorting to all caps. Tweaking the copy will reduce the need for yelling-case.

Getting started

As always, I’ve got a big, detailed PDF about 22 pages long going over everything that needs to be fixed. Tomorrow I’ll start the branding and design process to get a concept going. What I might also do is have a friend build me a scraping tool to get all of the text of the website into a Google Doc where I can work with it more easily.

I’m really excited about getting to work on this. It’ll be nice to work on something that’s not food-related for a week.