In June of 2022, NIPCO Communications staff met with member distribution cooperative website administrators to contemplate the future of existing public-facing websites. Website administration is a communications resource NIPCO provides to its Class A members to assist in engagement with their consumer-members.
Earlier in the year, NIPCO was notified that the current Content Management System (CMS) that supports the NIPCO and member websites is six years old and has reached end-of-life. Industry standards indicate that website life spans average three to five years, thanks to the continual evolution of digital technologies and innovations that improve CMS platform software and cloud-based systems.
Relative to the advances in digital technology and how web-tracking services measure interactions with websites, current web-tracking services will become obsolete on July 1, 2023. Since 2012, Google has measured insights using a tracking service known as Universal Analytics (UA). UA has served as the go-to web statistics program for millions of websites across the globe for a decade. Insights gathered using UA have assisted with website development (including NIPCO and its member cooperatives) to understand better how users search for content, programs, and services on websites. Through these insights, site admins can measure, report, and refine the user experience, tailoring their content to serve them best. On July 1, 2023, UA will permanently transition to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which is fundamentally a different platform from UA. Not only does it collect data differently, but the data collected in UA cannot be transferred to GA4.
Because the existing CMS platform and the means to measure how websites are utilized will soon become obsolete, the need to move NIPCO and its member websites to a new platform became abundantly clear.
After much discussion and a robust decision-making process, the NIPCO member site administrators opted to migrate websites to a new, cloud-based CMS platform hosted by Wix.
Wix offers significant overall savings compared to any other platform considered in the process. Wix provides more functionality and capabilities, constant security updates, compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines, and real-time access to site insights. Further, the Wix CMS offers a clean and modern design with features that consumer-members have come to appreciate, including access to online bill pay, Iowa REC Outage Map, Peak Energy Demand Guage, and local news and Smart Choices articles.
Rachel Rogers, NIPCO Communications Specialist, serves as the project lead for the website transition. "With advances in website hosting, CMS, and cloud-based technology," says Rogers, "NIPCO and its members have an opportunity to transition to a more efficient and cost-effective solution for its website services. It will allow members to get more value while cutting significant costs, ultimately benefiting the member-consumer at the end of the line."
Rogers built a site framework from which members can develop customized content. Throughout the fall of 2022, NIPCO provided members with several learning opportunities and hands-on site-building workshops. Further, Rogers has worked with members to assist them with questions as they develop their new websites, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2023.
As co-ops transition, users can expect a new look and easy-to-navigate experience with few changes and improvements to site content. With websites often providing "curb appeal" for their organizations, NIPCO and its member cooperatives are excited to launch the next generation of digital services to its members.