Think Tank: AEGEE-Groningen Website

Becoming an AEGEE Groningen member can be harder than one might expect. Especially for a mobile phone user. The sign-up button on the mobile website seems to have a mind of its own and refuses to accept requests. Most of the new AEGEEans this year said that the website was their first point of contact with the association. Almost a decade has passed since its creation, but unfortunately, the AEGEE-Groningen website has hardly been altered during that time. Something had to change, and thus on October 15th a Think Tank convened to discuss adapting the website.

The main issues with the current website quickly appear. First, Think Tank attendees addressed its representational value. Instead of a clustered layout, visitors should first meet pictures and photos which help them find their way around the website, especially for the annually changing board members, it can be quite troublesome to become acquainted with the forms and functions of the website. But adding a lot of pictures is easier said than done, because storage for large files like photos is limited, potentially a serious problem. Moreover, an inactive AEGEE-member currently runs the website, so retrieving all the passwords might be difficult.

On the plus side, the current WordPress website is donated, so it’s free and comes with the standard @AEGEE-Groningen.nl email accounts, which might get lost when switching platforms.

Some long-term AEGEE-members might recall a discussion from a year ago about developing an app. They might also remember a survey that showed that, although many criticised the current state of the website, interest in an app was not overwhelmingly large. Instead, the idea of a closed-off section was discussed during the Think Tank; this could make the website more member friendly. It also could offer some additional functions like an online signup option for activities. Members could easily update their personal information; this would lessen the board’s workload. This area also could become very social. Sharing photos and chatting might become options, and so could lively committee interactions and collaborations. Alongside generally positive feedback, attendees raised some additional suggestions during the Think Tank. Such a section could also include an AEGEE travel counter to tally the miles or list all the events a member joined in the past.

Nonetheless, the current meeting primarily addressed a  general redesign of the website, so calculating the costs of a closed-off section and investigating its general desirability might fall to next year’s board.

For now, the primary goal is finding a fitting hosting option. During the Think Tank, besides the current platform WordPress, members considered Squarespace and Wix. While WordPress is free, the other platforms are more intuitive and therefore cost users less time; they also offer an unlimited amount of storage, useful for all those photos. Wix also offers a ticket sale option. Some drawbacks of switching besides the increasing costs might be the loss of some email accounts and the need for adjusting the methods for sending out standard emails.

Further research will determine whether the additional costs justify a switch, how easily subscriptions can be up- and downgraded, and if other factors need to be considered. The next steps are to further investigate these questions, to send out a survey to grasp the general consensus and to give Wix and Squarespace a try.

So, what could the future AEGEE-Groningen Website look like? First, it wouldn’t be a long block of text anymore but rather a continuous page without any sidebars. Important content will be visible on the main page and important events will be clearly displayed. The most important function will still be the sharing of information, both in Dutch and in English. Thus, the Gronoloog will still have a place on the website, alongside sponsors and the webshop. The agenda also will see some improvements and might be expanded. The red, black, and white colour-scheme will probably remain but there might be some room for playing with different shades. After the general redesign, some new features might pop up during the next couple of years. And of course, there will be a shiny new sign-up button that works from every device.

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