I was approached by L’Association canadienne pour l’apprentissage du français (ACAF), a Toronto-based non-profit organization dedicated to teaching conversational French to non-francophones. One of ACAF’s founding board members reached out to me to create a prototype website for the organization’s inaugural meeting and establish an online presence to support their grant applications.
Since ACAF was a newly established organization without existing members, the site development was privately funded by the founding member. This meant that we needed to adhere to a strict budget while still incorporating features that would attract and engage users.
The site was designed to be scalable and adaptable in case the organization’s grant applications were successful, allowing for future improvements and expansions.
- ACAF required a unique design that reflected both Canada and the French-speaking community, without resorting to clichés such as the fleur-de-lis. A subcontractor was hired to provide logo, branding, and a brief homepage design.
- The entire site, with the exception of one information page and parts of the billing page, needed to be in French as it targeted non-francophone French learners who already had an intermediate knowledge of the French language.
- The site needed to manage annual memberships and process payments for these memberships.
- A paywall was necessary for sections accessible only to members.
- A “Question of the Day” feature where users could submit responses.
- The ability to add journal articles with tooltips that displayed English translations when hovered over.
- Playback of audio clips accompanied by relevant text, including an overview, transcript, and appendix of translated words or expressions.
- Users should be able to track which journal articles they have read.
- A calendar of upcoming events with an RSVP option.
- A community discussion forum.
Considering the specific requirements and budget limitations, we opted to use WordPress as the content management system along with Elementor as the page builder. WordPress offered the following advantages:
- Plugin support allowed for easy and cost-effective implementation of membership management, forum integration, payment processing, and event calendar features.
- In the future, the WordPress front-end could be replaced with a Gatsby.js based front-end while maintaining the existing WordPress back-end functionality. This was crucial as significant time had been invested by ACAF board members in creating and curating content.
Forms were used extensively throughout the site for follow-up questions to be paired with content. These allowed the ACAF board members to mass export responses and follow up to provide guidance and feedback.
One of the main challenges we faced was ensuring accurate translation and interpretation of ACAF’s requirements. The subcontracted designer required more guidance since they couldn’t read or understand the requirements themselves.
Another challenge stemmed from the English bias present in many WordPress plugins and their translations. In several instances, I had to edit plugin files to provide accurate translations in Canadian French. This process proved to be tedious due to the lack of consistent documentation or standardized procedures across plugins.
Continual communication with the client was vital to ensure translation accuracy (my written French isn’t nearly as strong as my written English). Additionally, managing expectations and addressing any concerns promptly helped maintain a productive collaboration with the client.