ArkACRAO: a case study

NOTE: This isn’t a case study per se. I just couldn’t come up with a better term for it.

The Arkansas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, ArkACRAO, is an Arkansas professional organization in the field of education. The organization’s general purpose is “to promote the advancement of education, particularly higher education.”

They have been a client of mine since 2008 and I’ve been in business since January of 2008 making ArkACRAO my first and longest-standing client. I’ve done a lot of work for them over the last 10 years. Here we will be taking a brief look at the different things I’ve done for them.

In 2008, when I started working with ArkACRAO, they had no logo. As far as I know, they’ve been around since, at least, 1954. So, to say that they’ve never had a logo is a stretch. But, the first work I ever performed for the organization was a logo design. It is a very simple design containing the silhouette of the state of Arkansas with a word mark. There are a couple variations for different uses: one-color (white state and text), red state, blue state and a version for dark backgrounds that has white text instead of the black.

Website

I have reworked the website on three occasions. The first was the initial redesign. The second was simply a graphic only redesign. The current version was a ground-up rethinking of the site. This is also the first responsive version of the site. This means that the site changes the way it looks based on the size of screen on which it is being viewed.

One of the big features of the new site is the home page image. The site had been 99% text-only until the most recent rebuild. We asked the member institutions to submit images for use on the site.

We implemented Social Media for the first time with an integration of the news section with the ArkACRAO Twitter account.

Events

ArkACRAO holds five events annually. Originally we used a simple email form that sent to whomever was in charge of the event registration. This approach became problematic for so many reasons. My solution to this problem is a custom-built registration system that integrates with a custom-built invoicing and online payment system.

Registration

Currently, they use a custom-built registration system. The forms submit to a database, the registrant gets a confirmation email, they can view their registration and pay their fees online as well. I built a corresponding back-end for the ArkACRAO Treasurer and event planners to use to access and manage the registration information.

Online Payments

Online payments were a long time coming. With the newest reworking of the site, the choice was made to implement an online payment system. The organization still accepts payments in-person and in the mail but the majority of their payments have migrated online.

I built a system that generates an invoice and accepts payments. Then, as a payment is completed, it updates their back-end database with the payment data. I have worked with the organization’s treasurer to streamline the system as it has been used. That is always a nice benefit of a custom-built system.

We are currently in the process of adding additional items to the online payment system. It started out only accepting event fees but is now being modified to accept membership dues and product purchases.

Email

This is a relatively simple service. But, very early on, I setup custom email addresses for the executive committee. While is seems like a small thing, email addresses using “@arkacrao.org” just emphasizes their branding and professionalism that much more.

Institution Directory

The directory was an interesting project. ArkACRAO used to create a printed directory for high school counselors. The book contained information from every member college, took a long time to put together, forever to print and cost pretty good chunk of change.

The idea of an online version was presented to me a few years ago. With a lot of input from executive council members that year, we built a pretty cool little system. It presents all of the data that the book originally did. But, representatives from the institutions can log in and edit their own information at any time. While keeping the whole thing updated is still a struggle, many part of the system are updated ten times as often as it was before.

There have been discussions of developing a companion mobile app for the system as well. For now, the web-only version is doing exactly what ArkACRAO needs.

Conclusion

Well, if you have gotten to this point, congrats! No, seriously, thank you for reading. I know it was a ton of information. But, I wanted a place to send people when they ask the question “so what kinds of things do you build?” ArkACRAO is my longest standing client and, in turn, their site has changed and adapted in so many ways. Plus, I just like giving them a shout-out when I can.