I am proud to announce the launch of A Voice for Female Students 2.0, a radical structural and aesthetic overhaul of the world's largest platform dedicated specifically to educational equity for women and girls (see a screenshot of the old website here). There are implications in this change beyond a few pretty bells and whistles, however; we are transitioning from a blogging-oriented model to a service-oriented model, and while we will still be publishing blog posts from site staff and contributors our main focus will now be research, networking, special projects, counselling, and direct action.
Outgrowing our old model
AVFMS website was launched on August 20, 2013 with a focus on blogging about men's and girls' education issues. During the first twenty-two months, however, we occasionally created highly useful resources that went beyond simple blog posts. This includes graphs and charts developed in-house, a scholarships database, a lawsuits database, vast compilation pages (such as "The Language of Misogyny in Academia"), a conferences page (which is now a database), and more.
All those were the products of rigorous and meticulous research.
Because these resources were often featured as blog posts they were quickly buried by regular blogging. In addition, since many of them were regularly updated "behind the scenes," expanding them increasingly took up more and more time – something that was also not readily apparent to site visitors.
In addition, because these resources (and the networking and relationship-building with other groups who requested them) grew over time, they collectively became such a big part of the AVFMS pie that it became difficult to justify presenting to the world that blogging was our primary focus.
As our resources grew, so too did the urge to place links and references to them on the front page. In time these references became so numerous that the front page began to appear as one vast smorgasbord, short-circuiting new users' experience by creating a "paradox of choice" whereby visitors had so many choices they did not know which path to take.
Some site visitors, for example, came from more academic backgrounds. They were just interested in education resources and didn't quite know what to make of resources regarding false accusations presented right beside them. And vice versa: visitors interested in due process issues had to sift through other resources they weren't particularly interested in. I have uprooted almost everything on this website and restructured it in a way that solves this problem.
A radical restructuring
The new structure now tailors your path through the site to your background and interests. For example, after either clicking on the "Key Resources" tab at the top or briefly scrolling down you will now be presented with this simple section:
By clicking on an icon you will be taken to a section dedicated to that area of interest. Visitors interested in education issues, for example, can click on the mortarboard hat icon and be taken to this section:
As you can see, the new site layout not only allows you to more easily focus on your particular section of interest, it now presents our key resources – proportionate to their value and the work that goes into them – in a gallery fashion rather than as just another blog post.
And of course, you can now see all blog posts relevant to your section of interest by clicking on the "blog posts on this topic" button rather than sifting through the blog.
A visual makeover
As you can probably tell, I love "talking shop" about web design. Those who remember the old website layout will remember how "busy" it looked. As you can see, it has undergone a radical makeover. The front page now features evocative high-resolution imagery. This same approach – to make our resources more visually appealing – is suffused throughout the entire website. For example, in addition to presenting a much tighter and cleaner look, I have added over two hundred images to various blog posts, pages, and so forth.
Another example of this makeover is the Mission and Values page. Previously, each of our Nine Values was followed by an average of four paragraphs describing it. It took about thirty-six paragraphs to make it through the page – almost like reading a research paper! This is what it used to look like. Well, now look at it:
Sometimes less really is more.
Mission forward: the blacksmith philosophy, and our return to academia
I am planning on 2016 being a year of great expansion into academia. I plan to do this by first developing three critical resources. By forging these resources we will lay the groundwork to network with various academic groups:
Each of these databases is ripe for expansion. If you would like to work on them with me be sure to message me.
You may notice our new tagline as well: informing, connecting, empowering. These verbs encapsulate the heart of what we do. As I wrote in a new page describing our philosophy, we have truly become the blacksmiths when it comes to educational equity for women and girls. We do not fight all the local battles, but we are able to fortify and arm advocacy groups across the nation with effective tools to get the job done.
Below are some of the other additions to AVFMS 2.0.
New database: Conferences, Symposia, Workshops, Webinars, etc.
This was previously a simple list containing academic events that – too frequently – did not fit the topic of educational equity for women and girls. Irrelevant events have been pruned, 20+ events have been added, and the list itself has been converted into a database – view it here.
New position open: Conference Coordinator
To facilitate our goals we are currently looking for a Conference Coordinator who possesses good people skills, attention to detail, and believes in this site's mission and values. Along with our education research databases project, the Conferences project will be critical elements of our expansion into academia. Please use the contact form if you are interested in this position.
Many people would like to attend conferences, workshops, webinars, and so forth regarding girls' education issues, but are simply unaware of their existence. Organizations hosting such events are not networked nor synergized with other organizations, complicating logistics and reducing turnout. This isolates advocates and reduces the overall momentum of the advocacy community.
With the help of a Conference Coordinator we will create a solution by maintaining an updated database of events, networking with other groups, and promoting awareness of upcoming events. Here are a few of the Conference Coordinator's roles:
- Network with and maintain good relationships between AVFMS and other organizations
- Update conference database regularly
- Create and maintain email lists to send timely notifications to subscribers of new and upcoming conferences and other events
- Send notice of updates to relevant parties (advocacy organizations, news director to tweet/post on social media)
New posts and pages
Along with the release of AVFMS 2.0 come five new posts and pages, some of which are essential for solidifying our platform. Explore them at your leisure:
Overhauls of old pages
Several key pages below were radically overhauled. If you have never seen the first link, I suggest you do so; you will find a wealth of statistics and resources not just for female students, but for the broader Men's Human Rights Movement.
The fall semester is rapidly approaching, and those who stand in our way have shown no desire to slow down yet. But we're just getting warmed up. I'm excited about what lies in store, and I can't wait to share more of my vision for this platform with my friends and fellow advocates.