Designing and validating tools to help save time and money
We Are Vital is a grassroots neighborhood association. In mid 2015, donor associations around the city teamed up with land developers and started an effort to rebrand a neighborhood in preparation to begin massive redevelopment in the area. We Are Vital formed from a group of concerned residents who wanted to maintian a voice for the neighborhood.
As members of the group, we wanted to create a online space for members and interested parties alike to find information. The website acts as a digital presence for the association.
We determined that most users are going to be new users as opposed to returning. So the most appropriate place for a user to land when accessing the site was the page that explained what We Are Vital actually is. The copy from the ‘about’ page became the home page and the acutal copy was used as navigation into the site.
The site’s linearity is pretty shallow. Every interior page has a specific goal of giving the user access to resources to stay informed or participate.
The site was built using Jekyll in order to house it on Github Pages. There are multiple benefits to this:
Jekyll generates a static website being which makes no need for a backend. This just makes everything very lightweight and very fast. The We Are Vital site is designed to deliver information and direct people to pertinent pages or newsletters to keep them informed. Static pages and minimal stylesheets equate to quick loadtimes which means visitors can get information they need without having to load large CSS files, which can either weigh on loadtimes or use more phone data.
Another thing I especially appreciate about Jekyll is how all your posts are stored locally. You can write your post in markdown in and push to Github to post. Also, its implementation of drafts is extremely useful because you can see how they look locally before making them a post. Multiple users can remotely edit a single post by pushing a post to Github while using published:false. This means the post’s code is there but it isn’t generating as a published page.
Hosting is free so long as the organization or user keeps their code in a public repository. Housing the We Are Vital code in an open-source space follows suit with We Are Vital’s transparent philosophy. Publishing new posts or making edits is painless and is as simple as pushing code to github.
Anyone can clone the site’s code or contribute to it if they’d like. Creating a Github organization allows us to offer a space for other programmers to utilize their skills in building things for the community or just building things in the community. It’s a space for us.
Along with the conceptualization and front-end implementation of the site, I used this as an opportunity to explore my own fascination with the neighborhood I am currently living in. I spent many mornings in Cultiva, DaVincis, Pan Dulce Bakery, on the stoop, or on a walk. I experimented with different ways of sketching the characters of the neighborhood.
It was very intentional to want to display people on the site. We Are Vital is all about people. While the city is focusing so much on the buildings of the neighborhood, We Are Vital is examining the people inside those buildings.
More than just the people, I wanted the imagery to feel very hand drawn. A heavy handed approach meant that the imperfections, the human-ness of the neighborhood is apparant. It also provided a unique opportunity to experiment with color. The neighborhood is indeed colorful but using overtly bright and vibrant colors we could extend this metaphor into the artwork.