Woohoo! We have a refreshed and updated Refresh Detroit website.
Refresh Detroit is a local web design meetup group focused on accessibility, usability, and web standards.
I’ve been a member of the group for 13 years and co-organizer of the group since 2007. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve seen my promotions of our Refresh Detroit events.
With the annual web hosting invoice looming over me, I finally took the leap and updated the site.
I’ve been meaning to audit the website and update the theme for the past several years, but never got around to it.
With my client sites and managing three meetup group websites, I never found the time to focus on the Refresh Detroit website.
Given the annual web hosting invoice was due this month, I set aside time earlier this summer for the site, determined to review it and plan what needed to be done.
I have to admit I’m pleased with the results!
In addition to a new theme, the Refresh Detroit website:
- Moved to new hosting
- Had dozens of outdated and trivial posts removed from the 13-year-old site
- Is updated with improved accessibility
Read on to learn more about the steps I took to update a site that hadn’t received a content audit in 13 years or any significant design changes for the past nine years.
Planning the Redesign and Web Host Move
Hard to believe it’s been six years since the last major change for the Refresh Detroit website.
And that change happened in a matter of a few days, by me, when the web hosting started to crash.
We’d been waiting for over four months for another Refresh Detroit co-organizer to update the website and move it to their server.
But with hosting crashing and our biggest event of the year, the Accessibility Summit 2013 event coming up in less than three weeks, I had to work quickly the week after my vacation to move the site to new hosting and a new theme.
This time the redesign and move was going to be different.
I had already made some decisions:
- Conduct a site content audit.
Review the site for outdated/trivial posts and delete them. As you might expect with a 13-year-old site, the early posts contained interesting content.
I discovered a fair amount of promotion by co-organizers of their own posts (visit my post on my website) as well as posts about the meetup events, with such meaningful titles as “Meetup rescheduled” with no indication of what month or year.
In addition, there were more than a dozen posts about job opportunities from over 10 years ago.
- Move the site to WordPress.com
The Refresh Detroit website is an informational website, with posts of upcoming meetup events, recaps, book reviews, and other web design related content.
There were no functional requirements that couldn’t be met with a hosted site on WordPress.com, which can support a mailing list on MailChimp, Flickr photo gallery, Eventbrite event calendar and Twitter timeline.
Plus, since I’m the only person who updates the Refresh Detroit website with new content, themes, and plugins, I wanted to reduce my time spent managing and maintaining the site.
With WordPress.com, I would no longer have to visit the site each week to update WordPress themes, plugins, or worry about security.
Hosted WordPress.com takes care of it all for me.
And with the WordPress.com Personal plan, I can customize the CSS for color, style, and accessibility.
Which is why I often ask my clients whether they really need a self-hosted WordPress website.
- Choose a more accessible theme.
At the time of the last design change on the Refresh Detroit website, there were few WordPress accessible themes.
And those themes that were deemed accessible didn’t offer a lot of functionality.
I wanted to improve accessibility with a new theme that offered the functionality we needed.
New Site Released
While the move to a new web host didn’t go as smoothly as I expected (multiple issues arose that required technical help from WordPress.com Happiness Engineers), eventually everything on the web hosting end was resolved.
And even though I chose an accessible theme, it was not the end-all when it comes to creating an accessible site on hosted WordPress.com.
The theme I chose, Franklin, is a clean, lightweight theme that fit my requirements.
But I found the color contrast and small font sizes (Who uses 8pt font size for a tag?) to be less than desirable.
I spent a fair amount of time updating colors and font sizes in the CSS.
My advice: if you’re choosing an accessible theme on WordPress.com, take the time review and update font sizes and color contrast.
There’s more to be done on the site to improve accessibility and usability.
But overall, I’m pleased!
I met my three goals and the Refresh Detroit website is in much better shape for content and has a more updated look than the previous site.
I call that a win!