A couple of weeks ago our members experienced a shift in how we communicate within the community.
As a collection of tech businesses spread across Aotearoa, the most effective way to communicate is, of course, online. We’ve tried various tools over the years and all of them had their pros and cons. This time we looked through about 15 options to find one that was most suitable for us, with the features we need and not too much we don’t. There are plenty of communication tools out there, from the chat based ones like Slack through to the full systems including member management and billing integration like Wild Apricot, so comparing them was a challenge.
In the end, we boiled down our needs to the following and assessed all the tools against their ability to meet these needs –
- up to 200 users can be added to the community
- any user can add content, including attachments and tags
- content is categorised for easy searching and contribution
- content is easily searchable
- content from previous platforms can be imported so no information (including comments) is lost
- users can be imported and easily activated
Once we had these as our criteria it became clear that most systems wouldn’t actually work for us (especially on the content migration point). This is when we started focusing on more customisable tools. As our website is already run on WordPress and the plugins are mostly open source and easily tweak-able we landed on bbPress as our tool of choice. It’s very basic straight out the box, so plenty of customisation was needed. We are lucky enough to have very clever techy people in our organisation, and one such person (Thomas Mitchell, also a board member) volunteered to do the build and migration for us.
The version of our new the Messageboard that is currently available is still quite basic, as Tom is working on it in his spare time, but we have a roadmap of updates that will be coming in the near future. These updates include the ability to interact entirely by email, member mentions, and a more visual experience.
If you have any ideas for things that would make the Messageboard work better and be more accessible please do let us know.
Thanks for all your patience and feedback throughout the project. Every suggestion helped to shape the final product.
See you all soon,