Website History


Beginnings: January 2010 to January 2011

In early 2010, the members of the Whittington Valley Neighborhood Association began weighing the idea of creating a presence on the web. Our initial goal was simple: we wanted a website that would tell those outside the Valley about our neighborhood. Over time, the role of proposed website changed.
We still wanted to promote our neighborhood to a larger audience; however over the intervening months we discovered that email could be used to keep our friends and neighbors informed about events in the Valley. We considered the idea of producing a quarterly newsletter; however, postage and printing expenses were deemed too high. And while email is great for short messages to our members, it is not a practical means of telling others about our neighborhood.
The design and content of our website quickly evolved. Some suggested that we post recipes from our fund-raising cookbook online as a way of promoting both our cookbook and our neighborhood. Other members felt it important to post photos showing the Valley’s natural beauty. And someone suggested that we should post all our meeting minutes and other Association documents online. After listening to all these suggestions, we settled on a simple basic website design with a simple menu structure.
To host our site we opted for Microsoft’s "Office Live" web service--largely because the price was right: free. We coded our website over the course of three weeks, going live on May 28, 2010.
For the next seven months we continued to expand our online presence.  Fairly early one we created a dedicated "News and Updates" page with all of our previous news postings.  In June 2010 we added a "Free Wallpapers" page (which allows visitors to download photos and use them as backgrounds on their computer screens).  About the same time, we also added a page listing the Valley’s numerous public amenities, churches, and businesses.  The next month we added a "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) page.  In October 2010 we posted photos of the Valley’s colorful Fall foliage.  In December 2010 we added a "live weather" page showing forecasts and storm tracks because here in Arkansas the weather is such an important--and sometime dangerous--part of life.  And all the while we continued to report on events in the Valley, making our "News & Updates" page one of the most popular (and largest) on our site.
In mid-January 2011, Microsoft announced that it would be discontinuing its "Live Office" web service. In its place, customers would be offered the use of a new Microsoft hosting service--however the new service came with an annual price tag of $84.00.  As you may recall, one of our goals in creating our website was to keep our expenses down.  And while the proposed charge was not especially onerous, we are a small nonprofit Neighborhood Association with about fifty members who pay only $10.00 each in annual dues.
So began our hunt for a new web host--preferably for one that would be free.
We quickly discovered that Google offers a generous array of free services, including a web hosting program called "Google Sites."  Throw in Google’s free online photo archiving service, "Picasa," and the ability to link the two services, and well, we knew we had found a new home.
In mid-December we began the process of moving our website over to Google’s servers.  One thing we quickly discovered is that we would need a new web address.  We quickly settled on to our old address except for domain designation (the three letter tag at the end).  Since we are a nonprofit organization, the ".org" moniker is probably a better fit than the ".com" tag--which is intended for companies and businesses.
The move over to Google also required a great deal of manual coding.  All of our pages had to be retyped and reformatted to Google’s standards.  It turns out that we had, over the previous nine months, expanded our web presence to more than 10 megabytes of data. All that information had to be reformatted and uploaded to Google’s servers.
The good news is that Google’s hosting services offers a wide array of innovative features.  The navigation menu, on the left, allows for sub-menus--which makes it easier to find a particular web page.  Each page can be divided into several "panes," which allows for better organized and visually more creative page layouts.  And Google also has in place many inventive usability tweaks (including a website search feature and a "Table of Contents" gadget which allows for quick navigation on some of our web pages).
So now in mid-January 2011, we say good-bye to Microsoft but with no hard feelings. For more than nine months Microsoft provided us with a safe home on the web; we learned a great deal about website construction and design thanks to Microsoft’s online tools.  And we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Google well into the future.
- WVNA Board of Directors, January 18, 2011

First Anniversary: May 2011

A little over one year ago, on May 26th, 2010, the website for the Neighborhood Association went live.  It began with a low key announcement: “After much planning and discussion, the Whittington Valley Neighborhood Association now has a website. ”  The muted tone of our announcement mirrored our website’s then meager content.
Over the past twelve months the Association’s presence on the web has expanded significantly. Our Recipe Archive now boasts over ninety recipes. Our “Online Documents Library” offers realtime access to numerous Association materials, including our press releases, our Articles of Incorporation and our Meeting Minutes going back nearly three years. We’ve also posted many pictures from events here in the Valley over the past year. Among the more popular photos are scenes from the 2011 winter snowstorms that transformed the Valley into a “White Winter Wonderland.”
Over the past year our “
News and Updates” pages have covered a wide range of stories. We’ve reported on the mundane--vehicle accidents, power outages and road closings. We’ve also covered cultural events such as upcoming concerts and musical performances featuring Valley residents. Important city and state-wide news stories, originating here in the Valley, were also prominently featured on our website, such as the groundbreaking for the new dorms at the Math and Science School. We’ve even posted a story about how Babe Ruth, in 1918, hit a home run in the Whittington Valley that many historians claim changed professional baseball forever.
In our reporting, we strive to provide interesting and timely information for both Valley residents and visitors alike.  As one might expect, a fair portion of our reporting has focused on the Neighborhood Association.  We’ve reported on the Association’s ongoing efforts to promote and revitalize the Valley, including obtaining funds to improve one of the Valley’s municipal parks.  We’ve covered the Association’s charitable endeavors.  Most recently we reported on the Association’s success in getting a Valley road added to the City’s 2011 Paving Program.
And when the Valley was hit by three snowstorms in quick succession in late-January and early-February 2011, we provided up-to-the-minute information about travel conditions, school closings and the storms’ impact on Valley residents.  We want to be the modern-day version of the monthly neighborhood newsletter--but with the added advantage of presenting our stories nearly instantaneously over the internet.
Over the past year, maintaining the Association’s website has, at times, proven quite a challenge.  Outside demands meant that updates were not always posted as quickly as we would have liked. But the single most daunting test came in December 2010 when we learned that our web host was being discontinued.
Fortunately we quickly discovered that Google offers a generous array of free services, including web hosting and online image storage. It was a great deal of work, but by mid-January, the move was complete.
All in all, it’s been an exciting, fun and frequently challenging year for our website (and for the people who keep it up and running).  We continue to update and expand our site, adding news and information about happenings in the Valley, posting new recipes from our cookbook and adding photos of the Valley’s natural beauty.  We hope you enjoy the opportunity this site offers to learn about our neighborhood and, if you are in the area, we encourage you to stop by the Valley for a visit.
                                                                                                               - WVNA Board of Directors, June 4, 2011