Semiahmoo Arts Council — Website has Launched

Working in a creative industry, our entire team has a soft spot in our hearts for the arts. The arts have always been something that is extremely important to Chris too, who, for those who don’t know, is a musician and active member of the arts community. So, when Semiahmoo Arts approached us to design their new website, we were all excited with the new challenge. And, a challenge it was because we didn’t want to simply give them the website they thought they wanted, we wanted to give them the website that would be good for the long-term and that would give them an opportunity to fully, and easily, showcase the wide variety of activities and services they offer to the arts community. In short, we were ready to exceed their expectations.

We started by thinking big. As an umbrella organization with a mission to advocate for arts in all its disciplines, facilitate cultural endeavours, and provide affordable rental space for artistic events, the site would need to be very robust. We wanted to be able to showcase a wide variety of information – from call for artists, events and opportunities for organizations to membership benefits, registration, newsletters and blog posts. And, of course, as Semiahmoo Arts supports a wide variety of disciplines, we wanted to be able to sort the information so visitors to the site could find exactly what they were looking for in an easy and straightforward manner.

The second challenge was one of budget. Like many not-for-profit organizations, Semiahmoo Arts must remain quite careful of its existing funds, and, when it comes to updating and maintaining the new site, will have limited staff resources. By thinking strategically and identifying exactly what we wanted to do, we were able to remain mindful of these constraints. The solution was to start with a WordPress theme, which would save on the initial coding and design time leaving the budget to cover the customization of the look and the functionality of the site.

With this information complete, we were ready to begin. Our final site was launched last week and already is being populated with rich content. The homepage highlights upcoming events, call to artists and latest news (blog posts) and the slider provides a way to advertise upcoming events. The events displayed can be sorted by categories such as Visual, Film, Literary and Performance.

But the real power of the site can be found under the hood. We’ve taken advantage of the inherent functionality of WordPress for use-ability. Once the look of the website was polished and style sheets finalized, we began to re-work and adjust a number of plug-ins to meet the specific needs of Semiahmoo Arts.

For example, we:

  • Identified the most relevant items sought by visitors and customized the home page to reflect the information in a logical and well laid out manner.
  • Updated and repurposed original theme elements to function as an “Upcoming Events” and “Latest News” listings with improved functionality and introduced solutions to prevent month long exhibits or featured news elements from becoming stale on the homepage.
  • Streamlined the old multi-step/multi-form online registration system and introduced a single registration form with automatic PayPal integration.
  • Customized the Call to Artists page to function as a “bulletin board” by pulling in blog posts in the appropriate category and removing specific posts from that page once the deadline date in the custom field passed.
  • Introduced an events calendar and customized to display either events or programs.
  • Introduced custom fields for posters and re-styled how featured images and posters displayed.
  • Introduced custom fields to allow easy up-date of major sponsors

The end result is a site that has far more functionality than the previous site, offers a great deal of potential for marketing events and a streamlined CMS that recognizes that time is valuable.

Is our client happy? Well, here’s the thank you we received from them, in their own fun way:

Here is my attempt to express in a somewhat creative way my thanks for all that you and your wonderful staff have done to help Semiahmoo Arts get our message out there. Working with you all has been a treat. You define one-stop shopping, showing us the possibilities, helping us select what works best for our situation AND offering tutorials on how to keep the system up-to-date AND  teaching us by example how to shape our message. So, with apologies to Cole Porter, here’s a reworked and well-deserved accolade…

I hate parading my serenading 
As I’ll probably miss a bar, 
But if this ditty is not so pretty 
It tells without hesitation  
Folks at Thornley Creative Communication
How great you truly are. 

You’re the top! 
You’re the Coliseum. 
You’re the top! 
You’re the Louvre Museum. 
You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss 
With the job you’re on it.
Sweet as Shakespeare’s sonnet, 
The tech talk you espouse.
You”ve got style, 
You make it seem so easy, 
You’re the smile on the Mona Lisa 
In cyber space, you keep the pace, chop-chop.
Jumpstart the arts, and our hearts, you’re the top!


Chris Thornley