CoTech Website improvement session at the gathering


#1

Hi folks!

At the CoTech Space4 gathering on 29th-30th November I’ll be helping to organise a practical session to make improvements to the CoTech website. I think we can have people hacking on the code itself, or working on the content. Perhaps we want to move some of the wiki content to the main site? I’d also like us to run a “drop-in” service to get any CoTech members who’d like to contribute to the site set up with accounts, passwords and any help they need.

We’ll all make this session what it is - so I’d like to hear any suggestions and from anyone who’d like to participate in the session. What do you think we should do? What needs improving? Go!


Website problem
#4

Hey Chris,
I’ll be up for joining you on this, maybe not for the full two days, but certainly a morning or afternoon. I have nothing specific right now but will review the site ahead of time and have a think.
Cheers,
Finn


#5

Yeah Chris! CONTENTIOUS SUGGESTION ALERT: As someone who has made quite a bit of effort to maintain/fix/improve the website as it is. Here’s my suggestion: Ditch the Wordpress! It’s been said before, it’s been tried before! Is there any motivation to revisit this discussion?!


#6

I’d like to help too. I have an interest in developing an enquiry form or something to channel sales enquiries more effectively. Also, explore the usefulness of news/events section.


#7

My own feeling is that moving to a static site would make it much easier to maintain and develop. If anyone’s interested in that idea there’s the work Go Free Range did to port the existing site over to Jekyll last year. I don’t think the site has changed too much in the interim and there’s a TODO list in that repo with some more context, so it is something that could be revisited.


#8

I think this would probably be true for people doing development on the site, however, what is working really well at the moment is the updating of the content — as far as I’m aware we have had almost no problems with people adding their co-ops and services and clients to the site and I think that switching to a static site generator would make it harder for people adding content and for that reason I’d be reluctant to support a move to a static site generator.

It is probably worth pointing out that there are a lot of outstanding issues on GitHub and we haven’t managed to update WordPress for about six months, so there is that…


#9

When we did the spike on using a static site, we also enabled siteleaf which provides a friendly web interface for adding and editing content. Additionally, Gitlab also allows content in the repo to be edited through the website.

I don’t think the ease-of-use concerns are insumountable and we’re working with a slightly more tech-savvy user base given the nature of CoTech.


#10

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#11

I don’t really mind what tech we use for the site, but I do feel quite strongly that we should work out what the next version is going to do before choosing new tech.

If a client came to us and said they wanted to rebuild the site exactly the same but using a new technology we’d reject the work on the basis that they’re focussing on the wrong problem.

Issues that I think are important to address in the next iteration include:

  • 300 client logos is not a friendly or good way to introduce what we do and makes the site really slow
  • there are dozens of overlapping “services” with very significant overlaps and no hierarchy or order which makes it unclear what we do
  • it’s really hard to find the links to Join, About and Manifesto
  • the link to this community are even harder to find
  • the copy on the site is really out of date
  • there is no way to search for a company or person that delivers the thing you need
  • there are no case studies of the work we’ve done together (or even separately)
  • there’s no news about what we’re up to - it could be defunct from what anyone can tell
  • there are no pictures on the site - e.g. https://www.coops.tech/manifesto which might help people understand what we’re up to
  • the 250+ people are not listed on the site and there is no idea of who they are or what they do

We may discover that the next version of the site would really benefit from having an API for some reason (or using decentralised data as proposed by the Happy Dev/Startin’ Blocks team. In that case a static site generator would probably not be appropriate.

I think we should at least wireframe the next iteration before undertaking the fairly significant task of getting 35 co-ops to re-enter their data. We should probably also vote on the new wireframes before going ahead and making them, so it’s not a technical barrier that is preventing us updating the site - it’s that no-one has suggested what changes we should make (other than bug fixes).


CoTech Space4 gathering 29-30th November 2018
#12

As I mentioned on the other thread, I’d be happy to help work out a way in which we all can learn as much as we (variously) need about Jekyll, or whatever we decide on. I would be a learner here, not starting as a teacher! But I do appreciate the virtues and the co-operative spirit of peer learning. I’d like to see if we can build up a network of knowledge sharing at all levels, much in the spirit of Principles 5 and 6.

WordPress seems OK if one uses a simple theme that isn’t going to be messed about with updates, but the problem in my naive view is that the whole WordPress system is now highly complex, requiring specialists with deep knowledge (and significant time) to resolve non-trivial issues.

Having just now seen Harry’s input, I agree that we should first decide what we (might) want to do with it, and what can be done without excessive time and effort (which then risks not happening at all). I’m not so sure about the somewhat “waterfall” idea of doing a wireframe before building. Some iterative conceptual design would seem essential to me, though.

One thing that we might consider links to the discussion which I hope we will have at the London gathering, on skills mapping. It would seem to be a great idea to be able to find who (at the co-op and the individual levels) has what abilities / experience. I would hope that we would then be able to use our own experience of skills mapping and integrating this with a website as a service we can offer clients outside CoTech.


#13

Yep - good discussion with @asimong

As I understand it we’re going to be in a joint hack team which will be about “how do we expose the people (and their skills and experience) to potential clients and collaborators?”

It will include a skills mapping session (see here CoTech skills mapping session at the gathering) run by @asimong and @jdaviescoates.

I will be wireframing (and maybe prototyping) how the feature would appear on the site (e.g. a skill search, featured people, a listing on the relevant co-ops page, etc).

It’s worth noting that there is already a proof of concept skills listing if you are logged into WordPress (e.g. login to https://www.coops.tech/wp/wp-admin/ and then visit e.g. https://www.coops.tech/co-op/outlandish). You’ll get a table that looks like this at the bottom:

image

It’s obviously not supposed to look like that - it was just a hack I did to show that the data is there and can be displayed.

If everyone can enter their members and their relevant experience before the hack that would be a great help. No doubt it will need refinement, but it will help our hack team work out what we’re doing.


#14

It would also be good to get all the CoTech collaborations to date inputted here: https://www.coops.tech/wp/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=collaboration

Even if we move to a different back-end solution in future, it will be useful for the hack teams to be able to prototype the new pages, and will be a lot easier to migrate the data once we know what it is.

(note they don’t actually appear on the site yet, but hopefully someone will add them during the hack - either to the existing system or a new one)


#15

There’s lots of good feedback and ideas here, thanks everyone!

I agree with @harry that we should spend our time working on and adding content and features to the website, and it sounds like we’ve got a really good “backlog” of ideas there. I suggest we look at those and others early on in the session and try to break them down into tasks that folks can work on in parallel. I’ll be happy to faciliate that process.

I also feel like we’ll move faster and be able to add value to the site if the people who have the time and inclination to get involved in the hack are also comfortable with the technology we use. I’m afraid my knowledge of wordpress and how to extend it (and fix the current issues) is very minimal and I probably wouldn’t choose to spend my time at the gathering learning what I need to know.

I’m reasonably confident that we won’t have to re-enter any data if we move to a static site solution as we should be able to pull the data from the existing site or its database. There’s been quite a bit of work already that we might be able to build on.

We could probably use some folks with CSS and UX skills to join the hack too, so make yourself known if you’re keen. There’ll be some content design/writing to be done too I think!

And if there’s some wordpress-wizards out there who are keen to get involved maybe we can try that approach instead.

I’ll go through this thread and put the ideas/problems somewhere (gitlab issues perhaps) so we have something to work on.


#16

Yep - fully agree that we should use whatever technology is expedient for the hack (and going forwards).

Outlandish hasn’t really had the money/time available to put love into the site, and would appreciate someone else adopting it, assuming that can be done.

A static site generator probably gives the broadest range of people the change to contribute. Maybe the less static data should be stored somewhere else and pulled in if/as needed.


#17

Thanks for that @harry, I suspect that no other other co-op is willing to take on further development work on the WordPress site and given that we haven’t been able to upgrade it to a version since 4.9.4 (4.9.5 came out on 3rd April 2018 and there have been three WordPress versions since then), we should move on.

I have run HTTrack against the site to generate a static copy and hosted the results at coops.tech.archived.website so we will have a record of this version of the site.


#18

In preparation for the gathering I’ve finished migrating all of the existing data to the jekyll version of the site and moved the source code over to git.coop:

I did this this so that we can concentrate on features and improvements during the gathering rather than on the work to port the website. This version of the site is not “live” at the moment, but you can run it locally (see the README for details). I’ve added an issue to capture the work needed to switch over to this version of the site.

I’ve also gone through this thread and added all of the suggestions as issues so we can discuss them before the gathering and/or add detail when we get together.

Feel free to add any other suggestions and ideas to this thread, or directly to the issues list. If anyone would like to play with this version of the site before the event and gets stuck - give me a shout and I’ll help!


#19

Awesome!

Thanks so much @chrislowis - I hope everyone else is putting as much effort into their hacks!

Really looking forward to having a play and hopefully some of the Outlandish devs will join the website hack.


#20

ditto @chrislowis you are a marvel and inspiration to us all… Looking forward to seeing some great progress on the site


#21

Thanks @harry and @aaron! @james and @chrisroos did all the hard work about a year ago, I’ve just finished up migrating the data over. Thanks to @chris too who’s been helping set up the server for hosting.

@harry - it’d be good to coordinate with the skill share hack early on during the gathering so we can try and work out how to incorporate it into the site from the beginning.


#22

The static version of the site is now available here:

It is built and deployed following commits to this repo:

The git.coop GitLab server is available to be used by all members of Webarchitects Co-operative and if you are in a co-op that is a member then your email domain will have been whitelisted for for account creation — after you have created an account you can request membership of the Cotech group. If your co-op isn’t a member you can join Webarchitects for a suggested share holding of £10 for individuals and £100 for organisations.