February 2024 – Ramping up the roll-out

January saw us start our ‘Phase 3’ testing that focused on the team’s processes and general familiarisation for team volunteers. One change that has resulted is that we are now contacting Web Managers to invite their u3a’s Chair/Secretary to sign the Terms & Conditions and join the programme. For reference the T&Cs are available here

There are now 38 production SiteWorks sites, with around 69 booked to join the latest (early February) Zoom Introduction sessions.

February 2024 – Project update presentation (Let’s Talk Tech)

Nick Talbott and Frances Kilburn presented at the u3a ‘Let’s Talk Tech’ Zoom lunchtime talk on 6th February. Nick updated us on roll-out and developments while Frances talked candidly about what it was like to be a Pioneer to get us this far. The slides (PDF) are available now with a video of the session to follow.

Let’s Talk Tech is a nationwide u3a Facebook group for any topic with a technical aspect.

January 2024 – Team rehearsals started and queue published

There are now 30 live sites with two in preparation on the Trust’s production server. We are now in the rehearsal phase to familiarise the team with the on-boarding and migration process. This kicked off with a Zoom Introduction session with Web Managers from the SiteWorks team who were not the Pioneers sites. This phase is expected to evolve into production roll-out and batches of u3as have already been invited to sign the Terms & Conditions.

We have also published our roll out list of u3as, Networks and Regions to give an idea of when invites to join the programme are likely to go out.

November 2023 – first production sites are live

Following the invitations going out to our testing Pioneers to sign the T&Cs we now have 19 sites hosted on our production servers. Several of these have already made their content publicly visible. This is certainly our most significant milestone this year.

The next phase will be to take what we hope are patient Web Managers through a test of our complete end-to-end processes and to familiarise our volunteers with the steps involved. Unfortunately we are expecting a pause before this starts while we wait for the Trust to setup our Help Desk software. Once more is know we will make a call on how much to embark on before the Christmas and the New Year break starts.

November 2023 – first T&Cs go out

On 3rd November the Trust sent out the first batch of SiteWorks Terms and Conditions to the Business Secretaries of our Pioneer sites. Our early Pioneers have sites created as a result of months of software testing by their Web Managers and u3a colleagues – they are ready to go live. We are anticipating there will be a dozen or so publicly visible SiteWorks sites by mid-November.

This is a tremendous milestone for all concerned. The dispatch of the T&Cs also means the next step involving the rest of our Pioneers has started. Their role will be to help us try out and practice the Team’s end-to-end processes, all the steps from recording signed T&Cs through training to a live site.

October 2023 – we’re recruiting

As the SiteWorks project moves into the rollout phase the Implementation team needs volunteer help. Details here siteworks.u3a.org.uk/the-team/volunteer-opportunities/ (menu ‘The Team’ > ‘Volunteer Opportunities’).

Update: September 2023 – T&Cs agreed

The Third Age Trust Trading Limited (TATTL) board meeting met as planned and have agreed Terms & Conditions for SiteWorks. We expect the full text to be made available soon. An external code review with a focus on the security of SiteWorks has also been completed. As anticipated, the development team are making a few minor tweaks to address points made in the report. This will be followed by the usual testing that follows any code change.

The Trust will be using their u3a Officer contacts to mail u3as with instructions on how to sign the T&Cs. Other arrangements will be made for Regional, Network and subject advisor sites.

As acknowledgement of the Pioneer sites signing the T&Cs reaches the team we will be able to make those sites already testing the hosting server public and hence live.

Update: August 2023 – Building Momentum

The new website platform – SiteWorks – is now almost complete and is expected to begin rolling out in the autumn.

The team are very proud of what has been achieved and it has taken many hours of on-line meetings, designing and documenting processes, testing and re-testing all aspects of the product including the migration process to ensure the new web platform is a valuable resource and is fit for purpose.

Part of the on-boarding process will involve training. There is a comprehensive training workbook that has been prepared to support web managers in readiness for their move across to SiteWorks.

As with any website platform there are a number of contracts, terms and conditions, legal notices and agreements than need to be finalised and once these have been signed off roll-out can proceed.

Before any u3a can join the programme, it will be necessary for the u3a committee to agree to the SiteWorks Terms and Conditions.

Note that the Terms & Conditions are on the agenda for a Third Age Trust Trading Limited (TATTL) board meeting around the 3rd week of September. We are hoping these will be agreed and communicated soon after.

The Implementation and Engagement Team will then contact the Web Manager to begin the process. Please be aware that will over 700 Site Builder sites and roll-out expected to take 18+ months it may be some time before contact is made.

  • The Web Manager will attend an Introduction session that covers the project and SiteWorks. They will be issued with a self-paced workbook suitable for all to learn WordPress and SiteWorks. To get hands-on experience they will be taken through how to create a SiteWorks demo site on their computer.

  • Only when they are comfortable and confident to move to the next phase will they be allocated a member of the Migration Team. Their role is to advise, provide some assistance if necessary, and set your u3a up with a live SiteWorks site.

  • At this point the Web Manager can decide whether having content migrated from Site Builder matches their requirements or it makes sense to proceed with an empty ‘Starter Site’.

There have been a number of Pioneer u3as helping the project – for which the SiteWorks team are very grateful – and these are expected to be the first to go-live.

The process in more detail:

  • Web Managers will attend the Zoom ‘Introduction to Training & Migration’ session and will be issued with the self-paced training workbook. Using an industry standard WordPress tool called Local on their own device plus a standard u3a training demo, they will learn the u3a SiteWorks product. This includes practical elements for them to check transfer of learning.

  • Web Managers will review their own Site Builder data, consider how they want their site to look, and use Local to apply what they have learned to test out different page layouts. Each Web Manager can then tidy-up their Site Builder site and/or create offline content in advance as required. Each Web Manager should be comfortable and confident before moving to the next part.

  • The Migrator will arrange a server site on the agreed day along with a final copy of the site’s Site Builder data or a Starter Site if applicable. The Web Manager edits/creates site content and when satisfied will request that the site goes live.

  • Following final checks the site goes live, a redirect goes onto the redundant Site Builder site, the Web Manager advises all users of the new site address including the Secretary who needs to report this change to the Trust.

  • The role of the Migrator is to liaise with other SiteWorks team members, keep records, advise the Web Manager, provide assistance, if necessary, set each u3a up with a live SiteWorks site, arrange the redirection from Site Builder to SiteWorks, complete final checks and handover the site to the Web Manager.

Update: July 2023

The recording of a u3a Let’s Talk Tech FaceBook ‘drop in’ session of 14th June on SiteWorks is now available via this YouTube link (opens in new tab).

Lead Developer Nick Talbott gives an articulate demonstration of SiteWorks and fields participants questions. The video hasn’t been edited so catch-up viewers may wish to skip to 9:25.

Update: mid-June 2023

We have 20 Pioneer migrated sites with potentially 8 more joining. They have been selected to represent a range of site complexity along with a balanced regional representation as shown here https://siteworks.u3a.org.uk/our-pioneers/ The testing of the current beta release is reaching completion with the next step to test what will be the first production release.

We now have live site hosting arrangements in place. During July it is planned that the pioneer sites will become the first live sites following a refresh of migration data from SiteBuilder.

Hosting and website name change

We have adopted a simplified efficient approach by registering a new SiteWorks dedicated domain u3asite.uk. Taking Cheshunt u3a as an example, their SiteBuilder URL is u3asites.org.uk/cheshunt and on SiteWorks it will be cheshunt.u3asite.uk.

On setting up your SiteWorks website we will ask you whether you wish to use your SiteBuilder u3a name (cheshunt in the example above) or change it to something else. Whatever name you choose, when you go live visitors will automatically be redirected to your SiteWorks site from your SiteBuilder URL.

If your u3a has their own domain name then you will need to arrange for it to redirect to your SiteWorks URL when that goes live.

WordPress on your computer

In contrast to SiteBuilder, WordPress is a much more flexible platform in the way pages can be organised and laid out. This implies a need to try things out, or just to gain experience, away from a live site.

The Local WP product can run a WordPress site on your own computer (Windows, Mac and Linux). It will also be used for the training induction and migration planning. Details on how to install it are now on the website here https://siteworks.u3a.org.uk/u3a-siteworks-training/install-local-wp/

Update: mid-May 2023

This email was sent to those registered with the Trust as Web Managers. We have recorded your name and email address – please let us know if this changes using the form here https://forms.office.com/e/vkMtZi67EJ

Project status update

We are now coming to the end of beta testing the migration program and the site layout, u3a functionality and content on the 10 Pioneer SiteWorks WordPress sites. There remains about another 4-6 weeks testing to complete.

We will be setting up a list of all migrated sites on this website to enable you to identify your nearest neighbour to answer your questions about the migration. We are encouraging all web managers to form mentor groups around the country to help each other in this bold new venture.

We have not decided on a formal selection process for the rollout across the 700 u3a websites now running on SiteBuilder, but we are aiming to implement at least one u3a in every region and will then try to build local centres of excellence comprising the web managers who have already migrated.

We have identified 5 types of SiteBuilder websites:

  • Starter sites – which do not require the migration of their SiteBuilder site content
  • Regular sites – the majority of u3a SiteBuilder sites that require full migration from their SiteBuilder site
  • Networks – these usually don’t have many if any Interest groups
  • Regions – these have their own format
  • Subject Advisers – there are about 9 of these with relatively straightforward content.

Next Steps

We intend to identify a further 10 Pioneer sites for testing, to ensure we have covered more diverse types of application, and then, with your agreement, we will set up the full program of implementations.

With many thanks,
Rob White
The SiteWorks project team

Update: April 2023

An update was sent to all Web Managers at the end of April. You can read the PDF here.

The general FAQs have been updated and greatly extended

The Alpha testing stage of the project, is now complete and the Beta testing phase with 20 pioneer u3as has begun.

A ‘Starter Site’ version is still under development and testing will follow.
When ready for distribution, it will be made available to new ‘start up u3as’ and to u3as who do not want or need to migrate data from a SiteBuilder site.

u3a SiteWorks was upgraded to WordPress v. 6.2 at the end of March. The Beta version of WordPress will be issued to the pioneers once any bugs have been fixed.

Resources: Please see Resources and Volunteering below

Hosting: Arrangements have been made to set up 10 testing sites and a first batch of 100 production sites using the same hosting supplier as Beacon and approval is being sought to continue with them. A website management tool will be required to handle the automated implementation of system-wide upgrades in the future.

Prioritisation: Despite the apparent straightforward design of SiteBuilder, many u3as have been able to add their own features. This means not all websites will migrate in exactly the same way, and, to get this information and to obtain an up-to-date list of u3a web managers, we have written to all u3as using SiteBuilder. The communication has prompted interest from u3as to find out more about WordPress and their place in the migration queue.

Training: A great deal of work has been and is being undertaken to set up training materials. Some of these are published here on the SiteWorks website.  One challenge will be to keep it up to date whenever an update is released centrally by WordPress (about 2-3 times per year)
One of our volunteers who has a teaching background has offered to give 28 training sessions to groups of 20-25 people from the u3as. the purpose of the training programme is to familiarise u3a web managers with the new WordPress environment before migration and to assist them in the migration process.

Resources and Volunteering

Despite having over 70 volunteers we still need expertise to co-ordinate or lead in several areas including:

  1. Training and Documentation lead
  2. Risk management lead
  3. Open project coordinator
  4. Resources coordinator

All volunteers will be required to register as Trust Volunteer and attend a 2hr Zoom induction session, this is a Third Age Trust insurance requirement.

If you have technical skills, organisational skills, communication skills or experience using WordPress and would like to volunteer in the project, please contact – chris.winner@u3a.org.uk

Implementation

We expect the process to be along these lines.
In the months ahead, volunteers from our Migration team will contact all SiteBuilder web managers to agree a migration sequence number. Your u3a will be added to the migration schedule. A few weeks before your migration date, we will add the names of your web managers and their nominees to the training and induction timetable and you will be allocated dedicated migration support.
Our support teams will then provide documentation, training, FAQs and a Help Desk.

N.B. The SiteWorks Team reserves the right to modify the process as our learning and experience builds up.

Other information


Every u3a SiteWorks website is expected to use only the approved software and plugins.  We appreciate that this may be frustrating at first for some u3as, but going forward, it is planned to have a programme of rolling improvements, once most sites have been migrated. One hope is that eventually it will be possible to link into Beacon.

It has to be noted that there is nothing to prevent an existing u3a that currently uses SiteBuilder website from converting or migrating to an entirely different supplier outside the SiteWorks programme.

The u3a theme and plugins can be made available to u3as who wish to do this although only limited support will be available as our focus will be on those who want to migrate from SiteBuilder to the new u3a SiteWorks system.

If you have any question please visit the FAQ page on this website FAQs – SiteWorks (u3a.org.uk)

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