CALCOG Executive Director Bill Higgins and I spent many a Fall afternoon watching our boys play soccer. Standing on the sidelines, Bill would often tell me about the issues facing his website, primarily the lagging response-time of his developer. Finally, in the Spring of 2020, he asked me to take the existing website and redevelop it in WordPress.

CALCOG, or the California Association of Councils of Governments, is a nonprofit, social welfare organization formed to serve regional governments, currently serving 47 members agencies. His website highlights stories about those members, and tracks important policy news and legislation those members need to keep an eye on.

The Problem

While the existing content management system allowed Bill the freedom to post stories and track bills, the communication breakdown between him and the development team did not allow the website the ability to grow to meet his vision. CALCOG needed a development team that would prioritize their needs when tasked.

Hoerl Design’s mission was to take the existing content and style, and move it over to WordPress. Concerned with site performance, we had to find a framework that would allow us to quickly reconfigure the existing website, while also not gumming up the works with bloated features. On top of that, we had to find a solution that would allow us to present the cornerstone features of, the stories, policy tracker, and members.

View of the CALCOG stories grid, utilizing Essential Grid
View of the CALCOG Stories grid, utilizing Essential Grid.

The Solution

With speed in mind, Hoerl Design set CALCOG up with SiteGround hosting. A favorite hosting solution due to it’s ease of use, super-friendly support, and myriad of perks (included SSL certificate, backups, SG Optimizer plugin) this was a no-brainer. With WordPress installed, the search for a lightweight theme framework began. We knew that plugins would handle the brunt of the work, so CALCOG needed a theme that met the basic needs, but did not go overboard like most themes do.

Enter GeneratePress. GeneratePress was the speedy solution we were looking for. The theme is not only lightweight, it utilizes hooks making it easy to change layouts, and insert content where needed. Yet it is robust enough to deliver a modern user-experience.

With the framework in place, the next key to realizing the Executive Director’s vision was finding a plugin that could handle visualizing and sorting stories, members, and policies. After an exhaustive search, we were happy to find that Essential Grid by ThemePunch offered everything we needed, Essential Grid, or ESG, allowed us to populate a grid from various custom post types, with custom skins setup to style each. Shortcodes allowed us to place a grid wherever needed, including a recent stories showcase in the sidebar.

View of CALCOG's Policy Tracker grid, utilizing Essential Grid
A section of CALCOG's Policy Tracker grid, utilizing Essential Grid.

To add additional functionality, plugins like EventON and FooEvents were installed to help CALCOG mange events and ticketing. WPBakery Page Builder (or the “Chef” as it is now referred to) was also installed to allow complete customization of various page layouts.

View of EventON upcoming events list
View of the CALCOG upcoming events list, powered by EventON.

The Outcome

With so many plug-and-play solutions, it was a challenge to ensure everything reflected the CALCOG brand, but not a difficult one. All in all, the solutions were easy to find, and made realizing Bill’s vision a reality. As for the continued evolution of post-launch, Bill adapted to WordPress quickly and has been thrilled with the flexibility it offers him. Most importantly, he knows he no longer needs to worry about his developer returning his phone calls.

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