AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Initially ARASA requested that Ewing craft a new
approach to the organization’s online presence and
capabilities. Soon after his arrival the NGO presented
several other pressing design and technology
needs. Email was far from stable; automatic backup
was erratic; and the intranet (a crucial connection
between the office in Namibia and the two offices in
South Africa) was underutilized.
The existing site had several fundamental problems. It lacked a logical hierarchy for its content, making navigation haphazard. In addition, it was custom built, which made continuing development costly in terms of both time and money. The site neither functioned well nor adequately represented the core values of the NGO. Its homepage did little to give a strong sense of ARASA’s identity.
The NGO and Ewing decided on two primary objectives for his summer work. His main task would be to overhaul the current web site, providing greater clarity, clear branding, increased functionality, and tools for community building. The second priority was to improve the email system, as it was the organization’s central mode of communication. A third undertaking was accomplished even before the two main projects began — the design of two essential templates. An intranet form was created that staff could use to file information on workshops conducted across Southern Africa for reports to the home office. In addition, Ewing created a master template for branded PowerPoint presentations.
Ewing recommended scrapping the current site and
creating a new one with Drupal, an open source
content management system. Drupal’s taxonomy
affords clear points of entry to the two main streams of
ARASA’s work, advocacy and capacity building. Both
streams can be accessed through a geographic model
— regional, national, or international — or at the level
of specific campaigns. From either of these points
the user can find events, materials, workshops, news,
and presentations. Drupal also provides a turnkey
approach that would enable ARASA to maintain and
develop the site after the Fellow returned to the U.S.
To better convey the organization’s identity Ewing
designed the new homepage to showcase the
ARASA Mission Statement and to feature highlights
from a recent campaign, as well as the latest news,
publications, and events.
The NGO analyzed findings from a communications assessment survey; it was clear that the staff wanted to expand web capacities with an electronic discussion forum, as well as an improved email system. Ewing implemented a forum on the new site, a strong community-building tool. He migrated email away from internal hosting to Google for a web-based system with a redundant local back-up on each individual computer. An added strength to this approach was to free up bandwidth in Windhoek to better map to the faster systems in Cape Town and Johannesburg.