Monday, April 16, 2007

American Rivers dot org is LIVE!

It's been one year since I applied to American Rivers, 10 months of website redesign internal chatter and more than six months of blogging about our redesign(s) and I'm happy to report that we've reached the end of the road...maybe the end of this road (like a launch is ever an end).

I had all of these great ideas about how I could show the good, bad and not so good times along the way, but I'm just too tired at this point.

To quickly recap: We were supposed to launch last Thursday, before everyone awoke the next morning, but Convio had a widespread advocacy module update deployment that same night which brought roughly a quarter of the servers to their knees. That was sleepless night #1. We weren't aware of this and it inevitably cost us a night's worth of work. We've been backpedaling ever since.

However, as another weekend was consumed by updates, review and pages being built out (America's Most Endangered Rivers report comes out in a few hours, so new pages needed to be built), we finally flipped the switch this morning at 5:45.

It's good to finally have all our cards on the table, but it doesn't make the *cleaning* any easier. There's a lot to do before the biggest traffic day of the year (release of Most Endangered Rivers report), but all and all, we're very pleased where we are right now. Take a spin.

Here are a few before and after pictures -


About Us


Join Us

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blog and first wiki glossary are LIVE!

Though the national redesign is on it's fourth day of delay (not bad!), the wiki glossary and blog are now live. Over 60 posts fill the community blog, dating back to 2006, and more than a handful of terms exist in the first wiki glossary dedicated to river conservation - very cool.

For me, the blog wrangling continues - hence my light blog posts over the last couple of weeks - and wrapping up what we plan is the last day of web development.

There are lots of little details left to complete, but we're planning on launching the redesigned national website tonight. Really.

As somewhat of a teaser, I released the blog and wiki to the organization last Friday and have gotten some good feedback as well as suggestions for moving forward. One in particular was to create a redirect for our blog and wiki so we can drop the added verbage (i.e. /wordpress/ and /wiki/index.php/Main_Page) at the end of the URL.

I assumed that we would keep these URLs as destination sites, only accessible via our website, but it didn't make sense as a co-worker suggested. So we redirected both to simply the subdomain, and

On a side note, I recently learned what that little box was actually called next to the URL...favicon (favorite + icon). Pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Act for Healthy Rivers is LIVE!

After 8+ months of conceptualizing the whats, whys, whos, and hows, we've finally launched Act for Healthy Rivers ( The first site, phase I, is designed to speak to river groups, or anyone working (and possibly profiting, ie rafting or guiding services) on the water.

Phase II, which is scheduled to launch early this summer, is geared to *Joe Public*. Not too many details on this site, but it will be short, sweet, and subversive (keep your fingers crossed with the latter).

Until then, take a spin on Act for Healthy Rivers. It was just launched the other day, so it's still in beta mode...if you have suggestions, ideas, or comments, now is the time to share 'em.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

How redesigns really work

Creativity is good, but finding those who are doing well is better.

That's at least been my mantra as we've gone through the redesign process. I love finding good examples of what others are doing online and using it as a benchmark for us and our work on the web.

And fortunately, there are some great brains in the non-profit tech/strategy world who have really opened my eyes as we near the end of our redesign road (yikes, it's been six-months already?). And thankfully, there are people who've been involved in this process who I don't work with and who have provided that outside prospective - you know who you are, thank you.

One of the cooler functions (IMHO) with our redesign site is the Find an Expert page on our site. I wish I could take credit for this, but I can't. I first saw this on Environmental Defense's site and just thought it was a brilliant way to put people in front our your organization.

People give to people, right? Well, we're banking on the fact that people support people too. Our goal with the redesign is to put our people in front of our audience. Then the organization. Hence the community blog, wiki glossary, and the Find an Expert link.

I hope you get to know the folks who are working on the front lines of river conservation, hear their stories, see their photographs, watch their videos, and learn about their work through their eyes.

Our Find an Expert page:

Same tabbed (?) browsing experience for our Citizen Guides:

Houston, we have a...

delayed launch.

It's Wednesday morning and we have a national site that is looking great, but is taking a little longer to develop than expected.

Since last fall, we've been shooting for an April 6th launch date to give us a couple of weeks to work out the kinks prior to the biggest media event of the year (i.e. traffic to the site), the release of America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2007 report on April 17th.

However, I don't see our delayed launch as a downward turn, and in fact, I've never been a part of a project of this size that wasn't extended slightly beyond it's due date. But still, it's not a good feeling having to turn to your co-workers, supporters, and members and say, "sorry, we need just a little more time."

But we needed to set a date, a deadline to act internally as well as serve as a greater motivator for our four separate consultants to develop our redesigned (who am I kidding NEW) national site. I never thought it would take four teams of *partners* to build out our site, but to do it within our budget and on time, it required us to patchwork the development teams. Yes, crazy coordination, but on the cheap.

Though it's not looking like a Friday launch, we're hoping to 'go live' on Monday, April 9th. However, our ABSOLUTE deadline is Friday, April 13th, since the release of America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2007 report is the following Tuesday.

As soon as our partners are done with the pages being built out in Convio, our staff has to get in there and fine tune the pages - I'm hoping we can complete this over the weekend. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Video production(s): behind the scenes look

We're still planning on launching Friday - as of now. The pages are being built, content being migrated, and staff being informed of the various (and exciting) upgrades to the new site. And funny thing, after five or six straight weekends of work, I suddenly feel like there isn't much to do. Calm before the storm?

Our partners have all of the content, the blog and the wiki are gearing up for the launch (35 posts already back dated in the blog), and I went for a bike ride today during lunch to see the cherry blossoms on the National Mall. And, to boot, we've also produced our video web introduction, video introduction of America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2007, and a blog audio introduction - similar to what I have on this blog.

And all of this was a lot of fun too. A few photos of the day are below. The videos are awesome, I hope we can do more video...but it was also nice to just get out by the water on a beautiful spring day.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Three levels of navigation complete

One week until launch and we have over 400+ pages to convert (create for most) to the new look. Safe to say, the next week will be busy.

In the mean time, I sent a second email to all staff with the following screenshots. My first email contained only the front page a week ago, so it was about time to give everyone a better idea (as I see it develop for myself) of our new look and direction. Since there are many changes, I'm trying to reduce the *surprise* factor as much as possible,

Front page

Channel page

story page

Wiki glossary

Community Blog

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Act for Healthy Rivers nears completion

We're soooo close to wrapping up this site and launching Act for Healthy Rivers, a project that has been in the making since last July. This has not been an easy task - small niche campaigns never are - but overall I think we're in a good place.

Plus, the *slog* will be reinforced/cross-promoted nicely on our national river blog. More to come, but here are a few screenshots.

Front page

Slog (sewage + blog = slog) page

Our coalition page

Our fight page

Friday, March 23, 2007

Blog design complete (with a little tweaking left to do)

Over the last couple of days, I've gone back and forth with our partner on the design of the blog and I'm quite happy with the finished product. Blogs are so easy. In fact, so easy (and fun) that I've been distracted from what I probably should be doing more of...content wrangling.

But fortunately, I am roughly 70% complete with two content sections left to go, *Your Region* and *Community Tools* - so that's good. As I wrap that up in the next few days, I'm also planning on burning each category feed through feedburner to create the look of a personalized RSS feed for our blog as well as the RSS component/page of our national website.

The above changes to the blog are drastically different than the first design draft (also below).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First blog draft is set free

Well, you get the idea, it's a blog, with blog stuff, that does blog things. But we plan on sprucing it up a wee bit so that it looks a little less of a packaged WordPress theme.

I really like the header, and though I spent too much time searching for photos last night, I think we'll probably use it just the way it is. Searching for photos is such a time suck, but oddly enough, somewhat therapeutic. Though finding one that crops to 800x115 is a bit of a challenge.

There's is quite a few low hanging fruit with this WordPress design, so I imagine things will look quite different with the next go around, but wanted to throw it out there. The blog and Riverpedia are being developed simultaneously.

National site conceived in Convio

Trust me, the sum of the parts will make a whole site, but for now the immediate focus is on the individual components. And we need a lot of them as we build out the various parts in Convio - but that's actually kind of preferred as I'm learning.

The more parts we have, the greater control of the site we'll have down the road. For those who know Convio, we'll have a lot of *reusable* content at our fingertips. This is a good thing as it gives us the ability to make changes on the fly as opposed to relying on others to do it for us. And we do want to walk on our own when this is all said and done.

Anyhow, not a lot to look at compared to previous screenshots, but I'm very excited the parts are finally coming together IN Convio. Though we're still in the first trimester of web development, I'm pretty sure we'll zip through the content (I better not have just jinxed myself) over the next five days or so.

Yes, I'm suddenly feeling optimistic that we'll hit the launch mark on April 6th. And with tomorrow being another day on the production schedule (Act for Healthy Rivers is in full swing too!), I'm going to enjoy it now with a cold river-born brew.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Riverpedia: draft of wiki glossary using mediawiki

I'm pretty psyched about this: our very own RIVERpedia that can complement Wikipedia's existing river entries as well as create new ones. It's kind of lofty, but our goal is to expand the knowledge-base of river terms. I've been talking about wikis quite a bit (internally and externally), so it's good to finally see a public facing wiki.

Though we're using two wikis internally (for more test purposes than anything else), this is our first effort with MediaWiki. Once we created a subdomain, our partner downloaded the software and got us off the ground. Though I was envisioning a wiki embedded in a page that looks like everything else (similar to Mobile Active), it appears the software is still evolving.

From our partner regarding the recent effort to use MediaWiki:

This is the most recent version of MediaWiki (1.9.2) which in turn required the most recent version of serverside PHP5.2. I installed the new PHP last week and ended up bringing down my server for several hours because of a number of existing bugs which often occur in latest versions that haven't yet been well tested. Things are fixed now but that experience coupled with MediaWiki's dense code has left me no fan of this software...
Now I have to go learn everything there is to learn with MediaWiki...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nat'l home & campaign page up in testing environment

As I'm learning, few things are built inside of Convio. Currently, our team is building a variety of pages that will eventually be broken down into components and migrated to Convio. The sum of the parts: a page wrapper that can be edited by us.

Then when ready, it appears that with our new wrapper and security category, we can easily switch out one page wrapper with the other - content remaining in tact. Cool, but three weeks to go until a much anticipated launch - remember new brand, tag line, and logo - and we haven't completed one page.

Nervous? Absolutely. However, as I've been assured, the building, importing to Convio, and creating page wrappers is the heavy lifting during the process. Once complete, we should be able to crank out the content. Though we have 900+ pages of content, I'm thinking that we should be able to cut it down to half (but definitely no promises) for the launch.

I'm basically gearing myself up for the next few weeks to be very interesting (i.e. much learning), frustrating (compromises to achieve end goal - I can be too ambitious), and extremely exciting. Oh, and busy. My wife is out of the country for the next month for work - coincidence? - and my focus will be on the site redesign.

Homepage draft built in a secure environment for testing purposes.

Campaign page in the testing environment too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

eNewsletter draft template proposed

We had a quick look at a mock-up of the newsletter last week, but I think it was a little premature as the design concept matched past iterations of our homepage design.

This one is much more along the lines of what our website will look like, minus the logo of course. So, on the right track.

Our edits/thoughts with the design elements were basically -

Header: Seemed like there were two headers on top of one another, which seemed less than ideal use of space for newsletters(?).

Title of eNewsletter: This needs to be spelled out - The Current: A steady stream of river news

Left column: It looks too much like our web navigation and not a table of contents, overview of our subject areas. I think we’d like a greater sense of separation between the profile and feature sections from the rest of the items - possibly a different color too.

Our sections:

Profile: Name of individual
Feature: Title of story
Ripple effect
Notable Folks
Take Action
Our pick
In the news
Blog musings
Donate button (less of section, more of a stand alone)

But all said and done, this is a minor detail to the bigger picture...our national site redesign. In the mean time, I'm still pulling teeth - I mean content from our website...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Subaru car prepped for record river cleanup organizers

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that we had exceeded last year's number by 50. Well, as of today we've doubled last year's total (300 cleanup organizers!). And it continues to grow, which is very cool.

On top of it, looks like we'll have four 2008 Subarus (possibly before they even hit the showroom floor) to drive around various parts of the country promoting National River Cleanup Week.

What does this have to do with our website? I'm hoping with the four cars we can create live blogging events that includes photos, video, and/or podcasts chronicling the June 2 - 10 cleanup events. I'm thinking lots of video, possibly even daily video logs from out in the field, but we need a vlogger. Think Amanda Congdon or ZeFrank is available?