Recently, I participated in a unique event entitled the Overnight Web Challenge. The idea is to pair groups of web professionals with non-profits in need of a new or updated website. While the development teams are formed prior to the event, the parings aren’t announced until the very start of the event so no one can get a head start. There’s also a catch; it must be done in 24 hours.
This year, I captained the Ruby.MN team who was paired with Homeward Bound. Homeward Bound provides group homes, services, resources, and support for those who have a family member with a mental illness. They have lost massive amounts of funding over the past couple of years and have struggled to maintain existing infrastructure and services. Because of this and the fact that many of the people they help aren’t able to use the website, we focused more on the business and bringing some of their paper processes online.
Some of the tools we gave them included the following:
- A fully CMS driven website
- An area to post news and events with custom layouts for their 2 large annual events
- An careers page with an application form and requirement to watch a video beforehand
- A private area for staff
- A private area for board members and board meetings
Being that we were the Ruby team, we chose to use our favorite web framework, Ruby on Rails to build the site in. The base of our project was Refinery CMS. Refinery was a joy to work with and provided much of the back-end admin interface we needed out of the box. Of course we didn’t stop there; many customizations were made. Some of those changes may even make their way back upstream into Refinery itself.
The new website will be hosted on Heroku who graciously donated $300 in credit to Homeward Bound. However, our team kept the project lean enough that they will fit into Heroku’s free hosting plan. We plan to use the credit to pay for add-ons such as Exceptional exception notifications. In addition, a number of online services were leveraged such as Amazon S3, Wufoo, Google Checkout, Google Site Search, Mailchimp, and Flickr.
When the dust settled and judging was complete, our team was awarded second place! A special thanks goes out to Joel and Cathy at Homeward Bound for being well-prepared and providing our team with any resource we needed. Congratulations especially to Team Placeholder and Dakota Wicohan on a well-deserved win and to all the other teams and non-profits who participated.