August 13, 2017 Zimfest Association Board Meeting Synopsis
Board Members Present: Chris Halaska, Claire Jones, Daniel Lockley, Dana Moffett, Evelyn Mukwedeya, Alex Weeks, Janis Weeks
Board Members Absent: Rujeko Dumbutshena, Jacqueline Fallon, David Simon
Tech Committee Members Present: Nora Holmquist, Larry Israel, Paul Novitski, Alex Weeks (board member), Janis Weeks (board member)
Tech Committee Update
Nora and other tech committee members reported on progress by the committee towards selecting a registration system vendor for use by Zimfest 2018.
The goal of the committee was to establish a sustainable software environment for Zimfest, including registration and the website that
- is intuitive and easy for festival participants and the organizing committee to navigate and use; and
- can be used for multiple years without major technical interventions by entering new content but leaving the framework alone.
In the process of doing its research, the Tech Committee considered more than two dozen vendors. These were ultimately narrowed down to three finalists based on features, demo presentations by the vendor, and prototyping by committee members. These finalists were:
Detailed information about these vendors was provided, including projected costs based on participant counts at Zimfest 2016.
Key Findings by the Tech Committee:
- There are vendors who can meet our key requirements as long as we are flexible in our expectations
- Buying a service better fits the requirement to reduce Zimfest dependency on techie developers (compared to building our own)
- Call for workshops function will be separate from registration
- Workshop By Donation capability difficult to find
- Grid display not offered in registration systems, except through expensive custom development
- Search function limited, but workable
- Housing registration will be by category (single or double, floor) rather than selecting individual room. Roommate registration capability to be determined.
- Pricing formulas varied by vendor (yearly fee, ticket fee, credit card surcharge, gateway fee)
After considering the features and price for the three finalists, the tech committee recommends that Zimfest select RegFox as its registration system vendor for Zimfest 2018.
Because it was not possible to find an acceptable vendor that also supported teacher/workshop/performer applications, the Tech Committee recommends that we use Cognito Forms for this purpose.
After the presentation, board members asked questions:
Q. How does registration system being hosted on separate domain affect user experiences?
A. It is possible to skin RegFox using CSS to match the styling on the zimfest.org website, although it will be imperfect. Additionally, it may be possible to embed the form in a zimfest.org page in such a way that a user is not aware that a different domain is handling the form–this is only partially tested, however.
Q. How will we handle the lack of a grid view?
A. RegFox displays workshops by session, which will help somewhat, but ultimately we may need to live with the lack of a grid view. Only very expensive vendors supported this feature. The tech committee is also investigating the RegFox API to determine if it would be possible to fetch the data ourselves, and implement the grid feature on the zimfest.org website.
Q. What financial reports are available?
A. Basic reporting capability available.
Q. Will the board have the opportunity to do acceptance testing before the registration system goes live?
A. Nora plans to modify the tech committee schedule to allow for acceptance testing by board before they go live.
Q. Is there concern about how using multiple systems will increase the volunteer time required for the integration?
A. Yes, this is a concern. However, Claire reported that the most responses she received to requests for volunteers were for website editing work and other non-technical labor.
Finally, the board requested that the tech committee complete the following task:
- Prepare a budget for the registration system, application system, website, web hosting, and other tech needs, suitable for inclusion in grant proposals. This budget should also include an estimate of technical and non-technical volunteer hours needed.
After non-board members of the Tech Committee left, the board discussed its findings/recommendations. In particular Claire, who will likely serve as organizing committee chair, believes the Tech Committee has done an incredible job, and supports the choice RegFox.
- The board voted to accept the Tech Committee’s recommendation of RegFox as the registration system vendor for Zimfest 2018.
- The board voted to re-charter the Tech Committee to support the work of the Zimfest 2018 organizing committee (to be formed) by implementing the selected registration system, and assisting with other tech needs.
- The board voted to authorize $320 in spending by the tech committee, and additionally to spend up to $200 per individual tech-related expense without pre-approval by the board, provided that any expenditures are reported at the subsequent board meeting.
- The Board voted to approve Claire Jones to begin work as the organizer starting October 1, 2017, to facilitate testing of the Zimfest 2018 registration system. Claire abstained from this vote.
I hope I am not being too annoying by asking whether Regfox supports downloads to Excel, after which a volunteer could create grid format. This type of download is common.
Yes, RegFox supports exporting to Excel. A static grid can be built easily on our website. However, a dynamic grid with the number of open spots updated in real time is not easily built, and runs counter to a project goal to reduce dependency on scarce technical skill set.
Will the individual workshop pages show real-time registration openings? I find those very helpful in prioritizing my choices. Thanks everyone for all of your hard work!
Heather and all,
We cannot definitely say at this point whether the new registration system will include a grid and/or individual workshop pages that update in real-time to show numbers of open spots. Zimfest participants should be aware that this and a number of other features of the registration system we have been using were customized to fit Zimfest’s particular needs. Any third-party vendor system that we can afford to adopt is not likely to be as customizable as what we have become accustomed to.