We are excited to finally be sharing some of the changes we have been working on lately for iww.org! As a member you might have heard a bit about this project from recent reports in the General Organizing Bulletin (GOB) or participated in some of the site usability testing, but we wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about some of the changes and the motivation behind them.
Overall we think the site is a significant improvement over the previous one but it is also still a living project. We want to be as responsive as we can to the needs of the members of our union and are eager to hear your feedback on the new site. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any thoughts you'd like to share with us.
Reasons for a change
Our previous version of the site that went up in 2020 was a huge improvement over our old and now archived one - but the union's IWW.ORG Administration Committee (IAC) was already starting to think about replacing it in the months following its launch. When I started this position as Web Director back in July and inherited the IAC's old responsibilities and projects after it dissolved itself, some work on this project was already underway. This new site represents following through on that project and building on that work.
The new site aims to have:
Improved user experience
Better search engine optimization (SEO)
A better foundation for building other union tech on top of it
Our main focus for this new site is to improve the user experience both for people thinking of joining or organizing with the IWW who are not yet members and current members. Our old site (archive.iww.org) had a ton of interesting historical material but had become bloated and confusing to navigate for people unfamiliar with the IWW. The site that followed that was a big upgrade in a lot of ways for prospective members, but I heard from a number of existing members that it felt like it was difficult to find some of the resources they were looking for. The new site aims to have a streamlined experience for those looking to start organizing with us, an informative experience which straightforwardly leads to contacting our Organizing Department or joining for those who are curious about us, and a well-structured experience with easy access to resources for existing members.
One of the biggest changes to site layout is moving access to a number of important resources for members to the top navigation bar of the site. We have also re-organized some digital resources to improve usability, such as providing descriptions of what forms are used for or what the responsibilities are for some position in the union.
Another outcome of this re-organization and these changes to layouts is giving people more of a sense of what is important to us as a union, such as the preamble to our constitution. Instead of only being found at the top of a long and technical PDF on a page with a ton of other links which had the same visual weight, we now have a dedicated page with a design intended to communicate the punchiness of each line of that famous document in a format that is easy to share and take in the importance of. We have also improved the usability for the constitution itself, which now has a (comparatively less flashy and significantly more lean) dedicated page with improved navigation.
For prospective members we have added a number of pages which give a bit more info about how we approach organizing at the workplace and the structure of our union. These are designed as part of the main user-flows leading up to contacting the Organizing Department or a local General Membership Branch.
To get this part of the user experience right we conducted a number of usability tests over the last month and a half with members of the union as well as non-members. These helped us get a realistic sense of what that prospective member experience might look like: what sort of info they were looking for, where they might navigate to on the site first when given one layout or another, and so on. We are currently considering a few additions to these sorts of pages with the overall goal of keeping this part of the prospective member experience as lean as possible.
There are a ton of other user experience improvements big and small as well - such as an improved union directory, but we'll leave you to see them yourself. We have tried to focus on maintaining and improving on the accessibility of the old site as well, but this is also a continued project which we will be working on in the coming weeks.
Oh also the site is now available in Spanish and French.
Better Performance / SEO / Maintainability
We won't bore people with the technical details of what is going on under the hood of the new site, so reach out to us at email@example.com if you are really curious. In brief: we moved from a Wordpress site to a NodeJS / NextJS / React / Material UI based one. The relative merits of each of these approaches is a complicated topic, but the gist of it is that the new site has a bunch of fancy things going on behind the scenes to speed up the performance in many areas, make it easier to develop for, and is using some hot new frameworks in web development.
A Better Foundation for Wobbly Tech
One thing that we have consistently heard from new and older members alike is complaints about Redcard, our union's membership database, signup, and dues payment platform. Unfortunately, none of this recent site update touches Redcard. However, we do plan on making some improvements to Redcard (or possibly replacing it) over the next year or so. We are still in the early planning stages of this project including figuring out what our requirements are and what resources we might have for pursuing different options, so we don't have any more details for you right now, but you will be hearing more about this in the coming months as we consult with the membership about it.
One of the advantages of this new site is that we expect it to make future improvements or changes to Redcard easier as we can possibly move some of Redcard's functionality onto iww.org. For example, basic user experience wisdom says that sending our users to a site with a completely different layout and look and feel in order to sign up is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, that is still the case with this new site right now, but we might be able to more easily move some parts of that clunky sign-up process onto the new site rather than in Redcard (while not necessarily messing with the administrative work involved in processing those sign-ups).
While it has certainly been incredibly helpful to be able to dedicate the time to analyzing and upgrading the site as part of the union's new Communications Department, where all of this ends up will depend on the rest of the membership. Having the design of technology that members interact with be responsive to that membership and designed to suit the needs of all of us in the union is something that requires input from members and work from those who can do it (or might learn to do it). We have been thinking a bunch lately about how to follow through on and structure something like that, so stay tuned for more details soon. If you are interested in volunteering to help out with tech around the union, want to talk about something you think we can help with, or have feedback on any of this, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a labor union representing nearly 9,000 workers across North America. Established in 1905, the IWW is known for its high standards of democracy, transparency, multinationalism, and active use of the right to strike.