Hi, I’m Scott Lewis, founder of Trail Websites. I’ve been a volunteer and trustee of my local conservation trust for several years and met many people involved with other trusts that found it difficult to find and keep volunteers with technical skills to build and operate their websites.
In further discussions and evaluations of some of their websites, I found that they suffered from duplicated data about their properties and trails. This data was scattered around the site to solve different needs such as browsing a list or table of all the properties to look for specific features or being able to download a PDF trail guide. Detailed pages were often offered for each property, adding another copy of the same data. There were other instances of the data as well and all these copies made it a nightmare to find and update each instance when data needed to be changed. There had to be a better way.
I started by helping some trusts move their websites from hand-built HTML pages to the WordPress web content management system. This made it easier to add and change content since authors could use the word processor-like editing interface instead of crafting HTML code. WordPress also offers site visitors a search capability that editors and authors could use to find pages and posts that referenced a property name, reducing some of the duplication errors but not the duplicated typing. WordPress offered additional value in that it enabled mobile friendly sites with no extra effort, revision history, a publishing workflow where authors write and editors publish and powerful plugins for things like event/calendar management.
As good as WordPress is, we were still replicating too much content in too many pages and posts when working on trust websites. I realized that WordPress is a great tool for managing the general content of a website but conservation and land trusts could benefit from a tool specifically designed to manage and present property and trail content. Further, it became clear to me that such a tool should integrate with WordPress rather than attempt to duplicate WordPress’ functionality completely. Fast forward about a year and the result is Trail Data Manager™, a toolkit we use here at Trail Websites to build websites for conservation and land trusts. Trail Data Manager is a database and user friendly content management system for managing content about properties, trails, land stewards and markers along with the associations between these elements. By entering data into Trail Data Manager once, it can be presented in a WordPress powered website as an overview table, detailed pages about each property, downloadable PDF trail guide, dynamic Google Maps®, a menu of properties inserted in any sidebar and more.
Online donations were another painful subject when talking with land trusts. Many trusts avoided the complexity altogether. Others settled for simple Paypal Donate buttons (sometimes many buttons) but were disappointed that they didn’t get a lot of donations. We’ve paired the GiveWP online giving plugin with Paypal’s credit card processing services and our Trail Data Manager / WordPress powered website platform to give trusts a great way to improve their online fundraising. We’ve seen clients raise $6,000 – $10,000 in as little as a week for targeted campaigns using these forms that make giving easy and incent generosity through progress bars and integrated storytelling.
If you’re interested in our services or want to follow the progress of Trail Data Manager™ in the future, please sign up for our email list or explore the rest of our site today.
Thank your for all you do for conservation and thank you for your interest in our services.
PS the bobcat that decorates much of our marketing material was photographed right in my backyard. I am fortunate to live close to some great conservation land and have a variety of wildlife stroll right by while I’m working in my home office. I keep a camera handy and sometimes I get rewarded with a great photo.