Case Study: Building an Event Manager and Member Directory

by Bradley Gauthier


Here is a behind the scenes look at how we built a member directory, partner portal, video library, and event manager for the Starve Ups startup accelerator.

Background

Portland, Oregon is the home of many entrepreneurs, startups, and creative events.

There are numerous coworking hubs including two WeWork locations. With multiple accelerators and countless events, if you're interested in startups, this is a great city.

And the oldest startup accelerator in Oregon, founded by a group of entrepreneurs in 2000, is Starve Ups. One of the founders, John Friess, who is still the director of Starve Ups, asked us to build a platform for his accelerator.

This project was a perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate the wide array of capabilities inside of Sitecast.

Needs

The Starve Ups website looked outdated and didn’t reflect the quality they bring to the table. Entrepreneurs around the state of Oregon hold Starve Ups in high regard. Yet, their website made them appear amateurish and bland. Rightly so, as their current website was built many years ago.

The CMS they had installed was an old version of Mura and it lacked modern abilities. They needed high-quality image manipulation, straight-forward event management, and easy-to-use control of their member & partner information.

On top of that, they wanted a bolder look; big font sizes, more whitespace, and with images & videos scattered throughout. As well as a video library and a foundation for future strategies.

In short, their web presence refresh needed to clearly reflect the quality they bring to in-person events and partnerships.

Getting Started

The most difficult part of this project wasn’t building the site, because Sitecast makes that part easy. But the challenge was grabbing the old content from their current site. The uploaded images were all resized and saved in ultra low-quality formats. And the content created via the wysiwyg had all sorts of extraneous markup requiring a lot of scrubbing.

Once we had the high quality content available, our development team had a clean slate to build a pretty remarkable platform for Starve Ups.

Architecture

Constructing a database inside of Sitecast is incredibly simple. So this part was fairly straight-forward. We created a handful of tables (we call them item types): Chapters, Events, Members, Milestones, Partners, and a few others. Our team didn’t need to navigate tricky database migrations, as Sitecast does it all automatically.

Thanks to one of many built-in Sitecast shortcuts, the screens automatically generate when creating these item types, so our designers were able to solely focus on making them unique and creative.

At the same time, one of our team members uploaded the content inside of the Sitecast Hub. There were all sorts of fields required: strings, dates, booleans, etc. but was a simple task thanks to the Sitecast Field Generator.

Accessibility

Another major focus for our team was to ensure the new platform was usable by everyone, that it be search engine friendly, and most importantly, looked good on the smallest device up to the largest screen. As well as making sure those with a need for screen readers could easily navigate the site.

Usability was straightforward, the design would be segmented into its major parts: events, members, partners, videos, and everything else. Each aspect had its own requirements. The events, for instance, must include a map and timeframe. While the members and partners must highlight their key features, like when they joined, what industry they are in, and who are the founders.

Each page was search engine optimized to ensure Google and Bing would love the site. All of the key on-page optimization techniques were crossed off. We ensured images had alt tags, that links had the appropriate attributes, and that all of the meta tags were established.

And when it came to a mobile-first design process, we leveraged the Bootstrap framework and its amazing grid system. Each screen had upwards of 5 breakpoints to guarantee it looked good on all devices. The lists of member logos, the navigation states, and the various layouts like the timeline of milestones all look great on any width.

Once the design was complete, we made sure those who need screen readers would be able to navigate the site. We did this by making sure everything behind the scenes was text-based. It may look like an image on the front end, but it’s definitely all coded to look that way.

Speed

Once the general site was completed, we wanted to turn up the performance a notch. This again was easy thanks to Sitecast.

Utilizing the built-in integration with Cloudinary, we lazy-load all images. This is a must since there are around 200 logos on the homepage, numerous full screen images, and videos throughout the site. By lazy-loading the images, we first render a blank PNG in the place of all images. Once the document loads, then we initiate the loading of the images, hence “lazy” loading. This improves the perceived speed of the site by a TON!

We also utilized SVG where we could. Many of the Starve Ups logos and graphics are SVGs, allowing us to instantly render them with the initial document load. This had huge benefits for the perceived load times of the website.

Furthermore, when the site is deployed to the production environment, Sitecast compiles the entire website in a static site. This process helps speed things up as everything is precompiled before the website visitor hits the URL. We’ve seen huge performance gains thanks to this static compiling and it’s very exciting to see the ability to scale infinitely with the technology.

Once everything is compiled, Sitecast also automatically configures and optimizes a CDN for the site. This ensures the visitor will have the absolute quickest response times and won’t need to wait for long distance transfers of data. Everything about the site feels instantaneous and snappy!

Security & Reliability

One of the other major benefits built directly into Sitecast is its security measures.

Since all production sites are compiled as a set of static assets behind a CDN, there are no servers to directly hack. This allows the Starve Ups team to rest assured that their information and website is safe from bad people.

Also, since the website is basically static files, there is no risk of DDoS attacks thanks to not having any direct servers running the site.

Overall, the Starve Ups platform is incredibly secure and has a long shelf-life of worry-free uptime.

Results

By the time we launched the Starve Ups platform, the site was well received by the members, partners, and entrepreneur community in Oregon. We heard many praises and warm feedback from the site. Including this one from John:

“These projects have only been possible, at the level they are being tackled, because Sitecast is our technology partner.”
-- John Friess, Starve Ups Founder

An exciting outcome from the launch of their platform was the reassurance that a Sitecast site could power such a needs-intensive organization. Between the events, member directory, and video library, it is an honor to have the Starve Ups accelerator powered by Sitecast.

Check out the Starve Ups site and then sign up for Sitecast to build your own.

Bradley Gauthier

Brad is the founder of Sitecast. He's a life-long coder and entrepreneur. When not coding, he can be found outside exploring nature. Learn more about him on his personal site.