Old Ottawa South Community Association: CMS migration, redesign

This is a long time client that hired me to redesign their site in the mid 2010s. The site had been using Joomla for a while and back then it was still an ongoing proposition. But by 2022, the design was dated and the CMS universe had galloped so far past Joomla it was time for a change.

This is a hair-raising prospect, especially when you add to the mix more than a decade of devoted chronicling of news and events in the community, stored diligently in the form of news items and more than 19GB of PDFs of the community association newspaper.

But it was the association’s first opportunity in a while to get their site up to date. So we needed to make the most of it.

And speaking of opportunities, since we were questioning everything, why not use the occasion to bring in a CRM to allow them to track and engage with the volunteers that are the heart of the association and who make all its efforts possible.

Phewf. That’s a lot.

The one ace in the hole I had was the staff at OSCA who were willing to jump in and audit the site’s content. I set up a few guidelines with them, including some that could be enforced technically, to winnow down the tens of hundreds of news items to a much smaller number.

They also took the time to review evergreen content, mostly related to the programs the association runs for children, youth and adults.

This client involvement was critical to the success of this project as (a) they’re the subject experts and (b) while bulk migration tools exist, they don’t get you all the way there and we needed to reduce the time spent massaging the retained legacy content into shape.

The site is constantly updated with news and event listings. And while it’s amazing that the association has this commitment to making its site into the heartbeat of the community, it does pose some content management challenges.

So one of the key innovations afforded by moving to WordPress and its universe of plugins was the availability of a plugin that automatically ‘sunsets’ posts that are older a year or two or whatever you chose.

There was also some extra work to do building a unified interface to the association’s two bulk email applications. One for programming notices, the other for community news.