Here's my official write up of Groupleaders.org, a site I was the lead developer on with North Point Ministries.
Recently we had the privilege of working with our Leadership Training and Resources(LTR) team to release a new version of groupleaders.org.
LTR is one of our many behind-the-scenes ministries that serve our churches. One of their responsibilities is to create content to help small groups.
GroupLeaders.org is a website that provides resources for people leading a small group as well as small group members looking for new studies.
As an organization, we believe God has a habit of inspiring life change for people who are in community with one another. This is why we prioritize small groups.
The ministries of North Point love to dream big and the LTR team is a shining example. They had a vision for a website that could enhance the effectiveness of our small groups. In a nut shell, group members need a diverse range of group-related content in one place with an easy way to find what they are looking for.
The Leader Training section helps equip group leaders to navigate common situations in a group like creating a long-term plan, handling difficult conversations, and celebrating life change.
If someone is seeking out a curated list of studies and videos they can head over to the Studies & Resources section. Users can either download free content straight from the site or be directed to our online store.
And to round out the site there's a collection of monthly blog posts in the Articlessection. Visitors can opt to have articles sent directly to their inbox by subscribing to the monthly mailing list that's located in the footer.
SQUARESPACE IS EASY, RIGHT?
In an attempt to find a platform more secure and supportable than WordPress (WP) our team has begun to build lightweight sites on Squarespace (SS). When it comes to SS we usually stick to small "brochure style" sites that are simply promoting content, but Group Leaders was our first venture into a more complex set of content.
As the lead developer of this site, I leveraged AddThis to handle sharing on every applicable page and blog post. SS actually makes this really easy by going to the blog settings and dropping it in the Footer section.
The native styles didn't do the content justice so I implemented some pretty intense custom CSS to improve the appearance of the blog feeds.
I didn't want the Studies & Resources product feed laid out in the same way as the more traditional Articles blog. While SS allows you to knock out simple content quickly, learning to navigate it's element structure to apply consistent CSS styles is almost always tricky.
While we don't like to break away from native SS functionality when we build a site like this, I believe these concessions were necessary in this case.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
In general, this site totally works on a platform like SS but we did have to sacrifice a few desired features. The end product is probably as customized as our team would ever go with SS. If we decided to build a site with one more degree of complexity, we would probably build it from scratch.
I learned the value of estimation in a project. Glazing over something like "creating an email drip campaign" from scratch really put a massive dent into my productivity. It's easy to lose sight of just how complex a solution can be when you're using an all in one tool like SS.
In the end, the effort was totally worth it. We learned more about the limitations of our tools and provided our ministry with a site that fits their needs and provides a rich, flexible environment for their life-giving content.
I'd say those are both huge wins.