Web Development – Custom Fire Department WordPress Theme
This was a custom WordPress theme developed for an all-volunteer fire department in Pennsylvania. This non-profit organization needed an interactive website that not only displayed information about the fire department, but also featured public safety and awareness content as well as fundraising activities and fire training opportunities in addition to volunteer recruitment and retention initiatives. The fire department also desired a multilingual website in order to reach the non-English speaking and reading portion of their community.
By 2010, the fire department was ready to upgrade its website as well as update much of its corporate identity with better public relations, social media and a freshening up of its branding efforts.
The first iteration of the website was completed with static webpages using HTML/XHTML and CSS as well as a few scripts done in JScript. It featured nothing in the form of social media or dynamically managed/generated content but served to at least get a web-presence established. This initial project was started in 2002 and the first design work was completed, approved and published later that same year.
Unfortunately, the fire department also did little in the form of promoting the website as a means for disseminating vital information, so it was used mostly by the existing membership. As a direct result, site traffic was but a mere trickle of its potential and did little to inform the public or assist in their fundraising efforts.
In 2005, the fire department officials decided to allow one of its members to redesign the website. This second iteration featured little in the line of anything new save for a different graphical layout, but suffered even more in search engine ranking due to a number of unintentional but none-the-less inherent flaws that were part of the coding. The biggest shortfall of this design was the liberal use of graphical navigation buttons which many search engine spiders will not follow. It also still did not fit the fire department’s needs for an easily-learned/maintained content management system.
By 2010, the fire department’s website had fallen into a state of disrepair, lacking any sort of updates after the member resigned. RVHWD was once again tasked with the project to bring the website back up to date. However this time, it was recommended to the department that a CMS be used to develop the website, making it possible for any of the officials or members to add, remove or update content. It was also proposed that the new website feature social media content. These recommendation were accepted and the third iteration of the website was published using the WordPress CMS platform and a custom-designed theme later that same year.
But even that version still did not fit all of the original specifications, so in late 2011, the site was redesigned from the ground up, yet still using the WordPress CMS platform and a more versatile custom-designed theme. This extensive refit to all department related materials both digital and printed would take another two years to complete. However this time around all of the specifications were met by the site featuring an events calendar, public fire prevention and safety content as well as the site being available in more than fifty different languages. Additionally, branding was completed with the fire department web address included on the official department letterhead, all printed promotional materials and even placed on the fire engines.
Additional content was added utilizing a news ticker that scrolled across the top of every page, an improved version of the contact form, cross-linking to and from social media websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and many more. The site also featured dynamically generated content from the National Fire Academy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather service to name just a few.
This version of the website, along with all of the other branding efforts, resulted in an average monthly rate of more than 4,500 unique visits, more than 13,000 page views and hundreds of RSS Feeds/subscriptions by the end of 2013. This was approximately a 1,000% increase over a two year period that produced considerably better results in fundraising, volunteer recruitment and public safety education programs reach. The website was also featured by one local news agency that lauded it as a model for what all fire department websites should be.
Below is just a tiny sample of the complete re-branding efforts completed by RVHWD from 2012 through 2013.
- Web Hosting: RVHWD, Enterprise Package
- Cost of Project(s): $12,850.00
- PHP, XHTML/HTML5, CSS, XML, JScript
- Photo Gallery, Run Stats, eDocs, Membership Directory, Events Calendar, etc.
- Languages: English, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Russian, etc.