Good websites are like good automobiles. They look contemporary and attractive for a few years until designers introduce a redesigned model that features greater functionality, advanced technology, and a more aesthetically pleasing look. Then it’s time to trade old for new.
Old websites are like old automobiles. They make us chuckle when we look back after a number of years and realize how simple and limited websites were in their infancy and how dated they look today. That’s as true for Facebook or Google as it is for the Rivard Report.
Welcome to Rivard Report 4.0, which comes a long four years and eight months after we published our first article on Feb. 13, 2012. WordPress, the world’s number one web publishing platform, has come a long way in that same time. Most of the nonprofit news websites that are members of the Institute for Nonprofit News publish on WordPress.
Rivard Report 3.0 was showing its age. The plugin that imported comments from Facebook posts no longer functioned, and neither did the social media share counter. A story could be shared 1,000 times while the counter said zero shares. As our staff grew and our story, photography, and video production grew, the lack of landing pages (think newspaper section front), made it harder for us to give the best display to the work of our staff, freelancers, and the hundreds of community members and civic leaders who have published on the Rivard Report.
The redesign of the Rivard Report we are introducing this morning is the work of Adam Schweigert, the INN’s senior director of product & technology; Julia Smith, the INN’s lead designer; and Ben Keith, the news applications developer. You can read more about them on INN’s Meet the Nerds page. More than 100 nonprofit news websites are running on the Largo Project, a responsive WordPress theme designed by INN’s tech team.
“The INN team is pleased to have had the opportunity to partner with the Rivard Report on the design of its new site,” said Schweigert. “The site builds on a WordPress framework (Largo) that we’ve written for news sites and includes some new work for the Rivard Report to make its content better organized and more easily accessible for its increasingly mobile audience. We’ve also re-worked the donation process to make it much easier for you to support its work and help them bring you more of the news that matters to you.”
This is the first time the Rivard Report has reached beyond San Antonio for design and programming work. We invited Adam to visit San Antonio for one week earlier this year so he could gain a fuller appreciation of the city, its culture, colors, sites, and sounds. He had been here once before to attend a convention and had never ventured farther than the River Walk. The Rivard Report, we told Adam, is committed to expanding the visitor experience in San Antonio. We couldn’t imagine him designing our new website unless he first came to know our city better. Actually, we worked him over pretty hard, trying to convince him to move here, and we felt he wavered before boarding his flight home to Columbus, Ohio.
We couldn’t have afforded the services of the INN design team without the generosity of our board of directors and our growing number of donors and members, both individuals and businesses. Since turning nonprofit in late 2015, the Rivard Report has experienced remarkable support and growth. We hope to continue that growth as we build a solid foundation of sustaining members who believe our commitment to community journalism is a cause worth supporting.
If you have been thinking about membership, please act today on the occasion of our new design. It’s an easy process, whether you become a $5-per-month member or can afford to give $1,000.
There are more than 110 local nonprofit news websites operating in U.S. cities today that are members of the INN, some with as few as two or three employees, others, like the Texas Tribune, with dozens of full-time staff. The Rivard Report is in the middle with 11 talented, passionate team members and two full-time paid interns. Most of the sites are urban, although several are statewide. Virtually all of them were launched in response to the shrinking newsrooms of corporate-owned print newspapers. Most of the nonprofit online news sites, like the Rivard Report, were started by former newspaper editors who experienced newsroom downsizing before making the leap to the web.
Back to the redesign: We hope you find our site now loads faster, is more responsive than ever, and offers a more coherent and intuitive organization of our content. Improved search and share functions will help readers, too. The cleaner, more elegant page design should make it easier to read and view visuals. Advertisers and sponsors will now be able to buy targeted placement on landing pages devoted to specific topics, be it Education, Business & Tech, Sports, or Health & Wellness.
We’re still working out a few kinks, but keep your eyes peeled for more interactive tools, better page layout, and functionality in the coming weeks and months.
Please let us know what you think. We value your support, and we value your opinion. If you’d like to tell us in person and meet the Rivard Report staff and some of our board members, please drop by Hot Joy in Southtown this Tuesday between 5:30-7 p.m. We will be welcoming new donors and members, and we’d like you to be one of them.