Calgary-based charity and artist-run centre The Quickdraw Animation Society is seeking a developer or development team to redesign our website. Our current site is functional, but barely. It’s slow as molasses, doesn’t integrate into the database systems we use to manage our membership and inventory, and has a back end full of unnecessary features. Basically, it was built around a different set of goals and aspirations, and we’d like to rethink the site to suit who we actually are instead of who we thought we might be.
What we’re looking for shouldn’t be too fancy, or at least we don’t think so. We’d like to stick to a WordPress build, or at the very least an option that lets us keep the majority of the content we’ve created and will allow our staff to regularly update the site. We want it to be straightforward to navigate, without getting bogged down in sub-menus and sub-sub-menus. It should make it easy to view and sign up for our classes and workshops, showcase our equipment and studio resources, and understand how to get involved with Quickdraw. Ideally, it should integrate in some way with https://amsnetwork.ca/, the platform we use to manage our membership, course registrations, equipment library, and more. And it should reflect the rebranding we introduced in 2018 — see https://www.sajedamen.com/quickdraw for a more detailed look at that.
Quickdraw is an artist-run centre based in Calgary, Alberta. We exist to advance the art of animation, through educational opportunities, production resources, affordable equipment and studio rentals, and screenings and events that showcase artistically adventurous independent animation. We offer animation courses for professional and aspiring artists, as well as for youth. Our selection of animation equipment spans the history of the medium, including classic analog animation equipment and the newest generation of digital drawing tablets, offered for rent at well below market rates. We host an annual production residency and scholarship program that helps artists create their first animated short, an annual “Animation Lockdown” each May long weekend where up to 30 artists create new works over a few frenzied days, and host an annual animation festival, GIRAF that shares some of the world’s best animation with local audiences.
Our primary focus is local. We were founded in 1984 to address the lack of animation resources in Calgary, and we’ve stuck around because that gap still exists. With no educational institutions in Calgary offering an animation major and only a limited animation industry in the province, we see our main role as fostering and supporting the city’s animation community. Recent online programming has allowed us to expand our reach to the rest of Alberta and beyond, but we always want to be focused on the Calgary community.
That said, we take a pretty broad approach to that goal. In addition to offerings that directly support artists, like our 12-week courses on a variety of animation tools and techniques, our production scholarship, and our rental offerings, we also aim to connect artists to the broader Calgary community through screenings and events that showcase local work alongside national and international artists. And we believe that a sustainable community involves looking to the future, so youth education has been a core part of our operations since early in the organization’s evolution.
We also believe that part of supporting the local arts community is connecting it to the wider world of independent animation, and for that reason, we’ve also built relationships with artists and organizations across the country and around the globe. We want Calgary to be part of the international conversation when it comes to animation, and so we’ve developed events like our GIRAF festival of independent animation, publications like our On LGBTQ2S+ Animation book and screening series, and resources like our Monday Shorts blog series and Indie Animation Mixtape Vimeo channel to amplify our voice.
One other point worth mentioning is that we aspire to be a gateway into animation for anyone who wants to make a film. Our ideal goal is that anyone of any age, skill level, or background can walk into Quickdraw and find their path to becoming an animator; that they won’t be held back by any barriers, financial or otherwise. This philosophy would extend to our website, too—accessibility should be core to the site’s design.
Quickdraw takes on many roles in our community, which means that we serve a range of audiences. As our current website shows, that can make it tricky to include everything we do on a single, easy to navigate layout. We’ve currently broken the website down by what we see as our main areas of focus (education, programming, and production), but if we were looking in terms of audience, the core four are (in no particular order):
- Audience 1: Established artists, who primarily use us to access studio and equipment rentals, and to take part in the occasional advanced workshop or production event. They are primarily non-commercial artists, working on long-term projects funded through government granting streams
Goals: Make our equipment and studio resources as visible as possible; make it straightforward to register as a member or renew their membership; make it easy for them to see what we have and request/book it
- Audience 2: Emerging artists, who take part in our courses and workshops, as well as our drop-in resources (at least in more normal times when we’re allowed to open to the public). These artists are primarily self-funded, often students, and tend to be working on shorter-term projects and building towards larger, grant-funded projects
Goals: Make it as easy as possible for them to register as a member or renew their membership, register for our courses and workshops, keep on top of upcoming workshops that are related to their goals, and know when our studios are available for drop-in use
- Audience 3: Parents of young artists and animators. We host regular courses, workshops and summer camps aimed at young artists (aged 8-18). While the youth are the ones who access our services, their parents are the ones who use the website to sign up for those courses, and to decide if we seem like a trustworthy organization
Goals: Convince parents that we’re legitimate while still making sure our programming actually looks fun for youth; make membership and course registration as easy as possible
- Audience 4: Calgary animation fans, who have no interest in making their own films, but want to see our screenings and artist talks. These people are interested in independent arts and culture, and films that fall well outside of what mainstream animation showcases.
Goals: Our upcoming screenings and events should be visible and easy to register for, and there should be pathways to staying on top of all our upcoming events. Our other animation content (Monday Shorts, Indie Animation Mixtape, etc) should be easily discoverable and appealing.
Other audiences that are likely to access this page include:
- Animation fans from outside of Calgary, who are interested in things like our Indie Animation Mixtape Vimeo channel, Monday Shorts blog series, and On LGBTQ2S+ Animation publication
- Potential donors (who likely come from one of our four main audiences as listed above)
- Teachers who want to know more about our in-school programming, like our Portable Animation Workshops, flipbook workshops, and other offerings
- International artists looking into us after we approach them about an event or workshop
- Prospective volunteers
- People with an idea for an animation but no idea where to go from there
- Press and media
- Potential sponsors of our courses, events and workshops
- Funders checking up on us
- Animation scholars and researchers
From a staff/administrative perspective, one of our main goals with the site is to better integrate it with the Arts Management System (AMS), the database system we use to manage our membership, invoicing, course registrations, equipment inventory, library, etc. If it is possible to use AMS’ API to have registrations automatically go into the system, it would cut down on a lot of administrative time spent porting over data and double-checking payments over multiple platforms, to name one example. This integration wouldn’t have to be something the website users are aware of, but it would make our lives a whole lot easier on the back end.
We also want to avoid losing all of the content we’ve created over the past few years. Our Monday Shorts blog series and “New to the Indie Animation Mixtape” posts in particular are sometimes one of very few pieces of critical writing available about a given short, and we don’t want to lose that. There is a fair amount of Quickdraw history in the news posts and other archives, and being able to search that in some form or another is also helpful. And given that we add new initiatives or shift programs around fairly frequently, especially in a post-COVID landscape, we would like the site to be flexible enough that our staff can make the occasional adjustment to it without needing to go through the developers.
We have a lot of video content available, with most of it hosted on Vimeo. This mostly includes promotional films (trailers for our PAW workshops, a decade+ of promo films for our GIRAF animation festival, films made at our Animation Lockdown…), and most of the blog posts above are based around videos, too. We’re not looking to make a streaming platform or anything, but if there’s a way to showcase that content in a compelling way without going too over the top, we’re open to hearing about it. Our whole medium is about motion, after all.
One last goal, though this one is more tentative: As we’ve started running more online courses, we’ve become curious about open-source learning management systems like https://moodle.org/ or similar platforms. Integrating Moodle into our website design is probably outside the scope of this project, but linking to a Moodle install that functioned outside of our main template is something we’d be very curious about.
The following is a rough map of our current website, which reflects an attempt in late 2019 to organize the site in a more intuitive way, and to eliminate some of the nested sub- and sub-sub-menus that had built up over the years. We are definitely open to suggestions on how to improve it.
One other piece of context: right now, we handle online registrations using GravityForms and payments are processed externally through Paypal redirects.
We are seeking someone to handle the following areas:
- Project Management
- Oversee the development of the new website in coordination with Quickdraw’s executive director, delivered on time and within budget
- Information Design
- Refine sitemap based on the above mapping, as well as additional information-gathering as necessary
- Visual Design
- See note below
- Front-end coding
- Integration with Arts Management System API
- We manage many of our day-to-day tasks, memberships, registrations, and inventory through AMS, and we are hoping to better integrate that into the new website to cut down on duplicated effort
- Mobile device optimization
- Accessibility audit
- Accessibility should be core to the site, not an afterthought. We want the site to look good, but not at the expense of functionality
Copywriting will be handled by Quickdraw staff, although feedback or guidelines regarding SEO could be part of the proposal. Visual design of the site itself will be handled by the web firm, but elements like custom illustrations, icons, and similar assets could be handled by QAS staff, members, or contractors, depending on the proposal—in which case the budget should reflect our need to pay those illustrators for their work. In any case, the overall look and feel of the site should be guided by our recent redesign (https://www.sajedamen.com/quickdraw). A style guide is available upon request.
We may have missed some items in this listing of scope and deliverables. We don’t really know how to make a website! If you have questions for us in order to put together a proposal, just ask.
Again, we’re less familiar with this area, but a few things to keep in mind:
E-commerce: We currently handle course registrations through GravityForms with a PayPal redirect, and steer potential donors to giving platforms like CanadaHelps for tax-deductible donations.
CMS: Our staff are quite familiar with WordPress, and we have a fair amount of content that we’d like to migrate to the new site, but we are open to other options if there’s a good reason.
Third-Party Integrations: As mentioned above, we would like the site to integrate with Arts Management System. We currently use MailChimp for newsletters, and we’d be open to integrations there, too (or to proposals of other services that might work better for us). We also host a number of one-off and recurring events, and being able to promote them more easily on social media without a ton of duplicated effort would be handy.
Accessibility: The community we serve includes people who engage with the world in very different ways. We are neurodiverse, range in age from 8 to 80+, welcome members of deaf and disability communities, and have members with vastly different comfort levels around technology. We want to be sure our site does not create unnecessary barriers to anyone looking to take part in our courses, workshops and other offerings.
Mobile Responsive Design: Our current site is just barely functional as a mobile site; we’re sure you can do better.
Google Analytics: We’ll need to be sure everything is set up for our staff to be able to monitor analytics through our Google for NonProfits account.
We’re hoping to keep the website development in the $10,000 – $12,000 range (not including ongoing costs like hosting). We know that isn’t a huge amount, so please be realistic in what you’re proposing and what timeline that allows for. In an ideal world, the new site launches in time for our fall semester courses in September, 2021, but we’re open to discussion.
Please send us your proposal, along with examples of past work (with contact info for past clients, if possible) in PDF format by email to email@example.com with the subject line “[Your Company Name] RFP for website redesign.” Your proposal should include a budget and timeline, information on the team involved, details on your approach to development, an idea of how you will approach the project goals listed above, and any other details you believe would be relevant to our decision. Assume that we have some basic familiarity with web design concepts, but that we’re far from experts—clear, jargon-free language is preferred wherever possible.
Make sure to submit your proposal by March 31, 2021 at 5pm MST. We will follow up with a shortlist of vendors by April 9 for a more detailed discussion, and a final selection will be made by April 30. Only selected vendors will be contacted.
Please familiarize yourself with our main website (https://quickdrawanimation.ca), our festival website (https://giraffest.ca), and our social media for a sense of how we present our organization to the world. If you have any questions about what we do, please feel free to ask, and we’re happy to clarify.