We are pleased to present the new website of the Carnivorous Plant Society. We hope you like our new look!
The new site is about more than just a more modern public face for the Society. It also represents a significant technical step forward and – we hope – reflects a more professional approach to the operation of the Society under the new Trustees.
In that spirit, we want to share some background relating to the new website and explain our thoughts on how we’ll take it forward from here.
To summarise the key points:
- We’ve exited a contract that the Society had been committed to for a new website at a cost of nearly £6,000, saving half that amount
- The new website is based on the work the provider had done to date, plus further additions by the committee
- The new site uses WordPress and off-the-shelf plugins, so it’ll be easy for us to keep it up to date without external assistance
- We hope this’ll mean the new site has plenty of fresh content – and we will also avoid spending a few hundred pounds a year on technical changes/updates
- We have obtained free charity web hosting, saving the Society a further ~£250/year
- We have adopted Membermojo, a purpose-built membership management solution, which will offer an improved experience for administering membership (including self-service account management for members)
Read on if you’d like to understand a bit more of the detail
If you attended the 2022 AGM you will have heard that we weren’t able to accept the Treasurer’s Report and Accounts for 2020-21 and 2021-22 at that meeting. The previous Treasurer presented the accounts to the Committee only very shortly before the AGM and there were a number of unresolved queries, especially regarding website costs. We have subsequently been able to gain a better understanding of the overall situation, which we describe below. Revised accounts were accepted at the SGM in August.
It transpires that the Society had been committed to an expenditure totalling nearly £6,000 for work on a new website. This is a very significant outlay representing around two-thirds of the Society’s income in 2020, but unfortunately records of the decision-making process to support this are rather weak and there is no evidence of any attempt to obtain multiple quotes to ensure value-for-money. A deposit of nearly £3,000 had been paid in February 2021 and work had been started by the provider, but then nobody from the Society had been available to receive training or handover of the new site so it was still not live more than a year later. In addition, various aspects of the original scope had proven difficult for the provider to implement and had not been taken forward.
Having reviewed the situation thoroughly, we have now negotiated an exit from the agreement with the original provider whereby no further payment is due, and have received a handover of the content they had produced. The new website reflects the work undertaken by the provider to date, upon which we have built further content and some additional functionality.
To be clear, the current committee agrees that a new website is needed – the old one was dated, complex, insecure and hard for the Society to update without chargeable support from the provider. However the majority of the committee are of the view that the new website project was overcomplicated and excessively costly, represents very poor value for money and lacked transparency in the procurement process. In short it should not have been started. We believe we have made the best of the situation given that funds had already been spent.
The new site is based on WordPress (a very widely-used platform) and various off-the-shelf plugins, meaning that it should be cost-effective and straightforward to maintain and update in future. Members of the new committee have the skills to keep it up to date without external paid support – whereas the previous site had incurred annual costs of a few hundred pounds each year for technical changes and maintenance. WordPress is a user-friendly platform meaning that all the committee members who need to should be able to add/update their own content – for example, event details – without assistance, which we hope will result in a much greater frequency of updates and avoid the site becoming stagnant as had happened with the old one.
In addition, we have now arranged a permanent free charity hosting solution which gives us essentially the same package of server capacity, certificates, database etc. that we have previously paid for. This gives a further saving of around £250/year compared to using the previous provider, on top of the £2-300 annual savings from not having to rely on external assistance for updates.
One of the factors contributing to the complexity of the previous project was the inclusion of a bespoke membership database as part of the new website, to replace the Society’s (creaking!) Access database. We have instead arranged to use a professionally-hosted and purpose-built membership solution, Membermojo. This is a subscription-based service which at our current membership figures costs around £75/year – vastly cheaper than developing and maintaining a bespoke solution, and with the benefit of professional support and built-in compliance with privacy regulations. Membermojo integrates with our website so new members can join the Society via an embedded form, and existing members can link out to Membermojo from our site to manage their membership on a self-service basis.
Overall we look forward to providing an improved membership experience through the combination of our new website and Membermojo. We’d be delighted to hear what you think via the comments.