The Brown Market Shares Program (BMSP) is a student-run, campus-based food distribution program that connects the greater Brown community with regional producers through affordable weekly shares of local, sustainable produce, dairy, eggs, bread, and meat.
Check out the website here.
BMSP runs three 10-week seasons based on the academic calendar: spring, summer, and fall. Shareholders (200-450 per season) sign up for a season, and purchase shares of produce with optional additional shares of dairy, eggs, bread, and/or meat. BMSP has a unique financial model that allows us to provide a percentage of our shares at a subsidized price to Brown grad students, faculty, and staff in need. Each week, we order a selection of produce from our partner farmers and producers, which is determined by the growing season and what they have in the quantities we need. On Thursdays, we run the Market Day pick-up. Farmers drop off the produce items in that week's share in the morning, and shareholders come in the afternoon to pick up their shares. All of this is planned by a team of seven Brown student coordinators: communications, finance, operations, public relations, purchasing, program development, and subsidized.
Public Relations Coordinator
January 2014 - December 2014
The Public Relations Coordinator communicates with shareholders, writes the weekly newsletter, maintains and updates the blog, website, and social media accounts, and manages the BMSP brand and image. During the three seasons I was PR Coordinator, I put out almost 50 newsletters through MailChimp, wrote vegetable spotlights and other posts for the blog, and produced weekly content for the group Instagram and Facebook accounts.
As a team, we pushed BMSP to be better in every way we could. My personal accomplishments include:
- Produced the creation of BMSP's new website
- Redesigned the information architecture for the new website (below)
- Wrote and edited the content for the new website
- Created Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts for the group
- Wrote a 10-page Role Guide document for future PR coordinators to use and refer to
- Raised the weekly newsletter engagement rate from 60% to over 80%
Market Day Coordinator
January 2013 - December 2013
The Market Day Coordinator, now called the Operations Coordinator, works with the farmers, volunteers, and shareholders to organize share pick-up and distribution, plans all BMSP special events, and manages the BMSP brand and image. The program relies on the help of 30-60 volunteers per season to run Market Day pick-ups and work on extra projects for the program, such as a cookbook, blog posts, or cost analyses. My biggest accomplishment in this role was that I formalized the volunteer processes, including recruitment, scheduling, training, and management.
BMSP needed a new website, desperately. I produced the creation of the new website, working with our graphic designer, a web programmer, and my successor as PR coordinator to design, develop, write, and curate the new content. We switched from Wix to Squarespace so the backend would be easier for us to use. There were also three major problems with our old site on the user end that I wanted to fix, detailed below.
A) Information Architecture
The website was ineffectively organized. Here is a model of the old website's architecture:
There were three main problems with this architecture:
Needs of Users
The old website was not organized to meet the needs of any of the site's three user profiles.
(A) Current participants come to the website for one main purpose: information on how to use the items in their shares. Our recipes were all contained in posts and on a page on our blog - a different website entirely.
(B) Prospective participants want to know what it is like once you have joined, how much it costs to join, and how to get involved with the subsidized program, none of which could be found intuitively unless you already knew how the website was structured.
(C) General interest wants to know what the key aspects of the program are, like what we do, how it works, etc. which was not easy to find or really ever articulated.
The hierarchy and menu were disorganized, and greatly overvalued some aspects of the program while undervaluing others. For example, the entirety of our subsidized program - a massive piece of BMSP that affects many shareholders and gets a lot of traffic - was one page when it easily could have been three. We had an entire page dedicated to one paragraph about our bread supplier, a local bakery that most participants already knew about. Furthermore, those two were placed at the same informational level. There were also too many main menu options each serving a different user in no unifying order, with an uneven distribution of secondary menu items.
There is a lot of information that we want to be sure participants have read before joining (certain caveats, policies, etc.). There was no logical place on the old site for language like that, which meant that certain pages were overloaded with text. Our About section was not built to include important information like our mission or our impact. The Subsidized page was missing crucial pricing and application information because it could not have a menu of its own.
Above is a model of the architecture I created for the new site. See it in effect here. It is more immediately clear for new users, more succinct, and more comprehensive. It solves the problems listed above in the following ways:
The needs of all three user types are met. Current participants have a clearly-titled section built specifically for them that houses the redesigned Recipe section, as well as other new resources. Prospective participants can gain a clear understanding of what joining the program would mean from the new About section, and the subsidized program is easier to access. Finally, it is very clear to general interest visitors what the components of our program are.
The hierarchy better reflects how we value different aspects of our program. The menu is more clear and not overwhelming, and there is an even distribution of secondary navigations.
We now have the space to add the information we were missing. The Things to Know and FAQ pages are titled and placed such that participants will be sure to read them. The new About section organization clearly details important aspects of the program. The old Farmers menu was combined to one page, so that the Subsidized section can have the space it needs.
The existing content was outdated and uninformative. With the help of my successor as PR Coordinator, the lovely Taylor Schwartz, I rewrote the content for almost every page of the site. This included both updating old language and producing original content for the new pages. The
Farmers, Apply, Buy A Share, Market Day, and FAQ pages all needed serious language overhauls. The Program and Things to Know pages are both entirely new. We also replaced all the old photos with images from more recent seasons.
The design of both the old website and the old blog did not match our branding, and was generally unappealing. The banners of the two old sites needed to be re-done, as did the menu, fonts, color scheme, formatting, etc.
Here are the two designs, with images of the corresponding content from each site. The old site is on top, and the new site is on the bottom.