Since 1974, Westside Family Health Center (WFHC) has grown from a grassroots women’s clinic to a Federally Qualified Health Center that annually cares for nearly 9,000 under-served patients of all ages and genders in the in the Santa Monica area. Yet while their clinic grew in size and scope of service, it often lagged behind in terms of technology. But they knew that the right use of technology could help them better serve and educate their patients, as well as assist the organization in fundraising and volunteer recruitment. So in 2009, WFHC set out to develop its first ever information technology strategic plan.
High on their list of priorities was to update their Web site. They’d owned a URL since 1999 that, at worst, had lain dormant for long stretches of time and, at best, was updated once a month by an off-site volunteer.
“It was pressing, but also the thing we didn’t know how to do,” explained Michelle O’Donnell, development director for WFHC. “Marketing, if we had to, we could fake. Web sites we couldn’t fake. With all the expertise on our senior staff, not one of us knew a single thing about Web sites.”
So when Michelle heard about Taproot, she applied for their Advanced Website Grant and was awarded a pro bono team in April 2009.
During the discovery process, the Taproot team assessed the state of Westside Family Health Center’s current website, as well as their hopes and goals for the new one.
“It required quite a bit of finessing,” said Nora Hansanugrum, marketing manager for the Taproot team. “The original design did not take into account the audiences they were trying to reach. It was not organized in a way that was easy for users to find information. It also didn’t have a lot of branding to it, and that’s something we wanted to fix. We wanted to make sure that their Web site represented an extension of who they really were as an organization.”
Given some of WFHC’s primary goals for the new site, such as making forms available for clients to fill out prior to their visits and updating the site in a timely manner with news and events, the Taproot team realized that WFHC would be best served by a simple internal content management system that would allow them to easily refresh their content without needing too much technical knowledge.
In addition to building the new Web site, the Taproot team spent many hours educating Michelle and other WFHC staff on how to use the site once it was live. The team conducted workshops on topics such as how to write and take photographs for online channels.
“They were very good at understanding that we weren’t experts in this but that we were willing to learn,” Michelle said. “They gave us resources, places to go to get more information, classes we could take. Our volunteers were good at understanding our limits.”
The finished design addressed the needs of all three of Westside Family Health Center’s target audiences – patients, volunteers, and donors. Three prominent tabs on the homepage addressed each of these groups, and the Taproot team went so far as to incorporate color-coding into the design to further differentiate whom a given page was speaking to.
The Taproot team also discussed with WFHC future goals and plans for their site that fell outside the scope of this particular grant, such as incorporating an employee portal or integrating social media. Not only did the team keep these potentialities in mind while designing the site, but they also provided WFHC with strategy, design, and writing guides to help them with future updates and changes.
“We really wanted them to become self-sufficient in managing their website and understanding what the function and purpose of it is, so they knew what considerations to take into account should they want to enhance it later, and so they can accomplish what they ultimately want to achieve,” Nora said.
Their efforts have paid off. Michelle has trained two additional staff members in the use of the content management system and continues taking classes herself. Nora and other members of the Taproot have stayed in touch with WFHC to answer questions and see them across the finish line.
“It’s really pretty. It’s really clean,” says Michelle. “We love the art they selected. We can’t wait for the world to see it.”
After successful completion of the Advanced Website Grant, Westside Family Health Center was eager to take advantage of Taproot’s other services. In September 2010 they applied for a Key Messaging Grant and received that award in March 2010.