Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Newest UPRRC Members

Welcome to our newest members!

  • Joyce Gayon - Gile, WI
  • Gladstone Senior Citizens
  • Westley and Ewa Papciak -Florence, WI
  • Richard Anderson - Marquette, MI 
  • Karl, Susan & Emily Johnson - Kansas City, MO 
  • Andria Nicholas - Iron Mountain, MI
  • Jake Palomaki - Ishpeming, MI

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cold Temperatures Spark Hot Ideas

Having spent the majority of my life in Upper Michigan and Northern Wisconsin, I know what it means to have a cold winter.  As a college student at Michigan Tech, I lived through the winter of 1995-96 when we had nearly 12 feet of snow.  So while it may not be as cold in Alabama during my current winters, I understand what cold is and know it is also relative to what you are used to.  So when temperatures dipped into the single digits in January 2013 in Huntsville, the city basically shut for a few days.

During this cold snap, I began to plan my annual visit home to the U.P. to spend some time with my parents.  I was especially looking forward to being in Michigan during July and August so that I could escape the heat of the South.  As I was planning my trip, I decided to check out the UP Road Runners Club website to see what the date was for my favorite hometown race, the Lake Antoine Classic.  I try to run either Lake Antoine or Norway Classic during my yearly during visits back home.  While browsing the site for these race specifics, I thought I could offer my services as a web developer as a way to give back to my hometown club.  So I spent those bitter cold days in January of 2013 coming up with the basic framework for a new website and pitched my idea to Melissa Wentarmini, a good friend from back home, who is not only an accomplished runner, but a liaison for the UPRRC.

Having built a few websites in the past, I have learned (painfully at times) that it makes sense to know and understand all of the requirements before starting a design. First, I determined the objectives of the new website project.
  1. Provide a single starting point for everything our club members need in the digital world
  2. Provide more value to our club members by leveraging current technology of web design
  3. Grow membership through promotion of the club beyond the newsletter through the website, social media and other channels 
  4. Provide more real time content from Club Offers and Staff
  5. Consider that some members will want to access the site from a mobile device, while others will have limited bandwidth to access the website from their home computers
  6. Help to control or reduce the cost to develop and maintain the website
  7. Streamline processes to make the management of the club easier
After determining a clear set of high level objectives, the next task is to put together a plan to accomplish the goals.  Since my job is an Electrical Engineer by trade I have only dabbled in web design as a hobby.  Admittedly it has taken a lot of late nights with my eyes barely open and Google at my fingertips , but I am proud that it has all come together.

Here is some of the functionality of the new club website.
  • Refreshed user interface featuring a navigation menu and modern styling
  • A race calendar containing details with links to race websites, registrations and an electronic form for race directors to submit races for inclusion
  • Real time membership list and surrounding processes to streamline maintenance of list management
  • Viewing the club constitution and hall of fame documents within the browser (no downloading)
  • Reference information for race directors, including UPRRC sanctioning details, requesting a race brochure inclusion in the newsletter, a form to reserving equipment and link to download club logos
  • A blog with content delivered by our Officers, Staff, Trustees and Regional Representatives
  • Real time feed from Twitter (which is linked to Facebook) for latest information from the club and quick clinks to all social media appearing  on every page
  • Headlines from this month's Running Amuck
  • A forum for our members to share stories, ask questions and discuss other club matters

During the design, I made sure that our members will have the same user experience regardless of how they view or connect.  So while I recommend using Google Chrome, the website has been tested using the latest versions of the top 5 most popular internet browsers. 
  1. Google Chrome Version 32.0.1700.107
  2. Firefox version 27
  3. Safari version 7.0.1
  4. Opera version 12.15
  5. Internet Explorer version 9 and 10
The website has also been tested using these browsers on both Mac and Windows computers as well as Apple iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Google Android. 

Pages were designed to present the majority of the content within the visible screen to limit the amount of required scrolling.  This design works best when viewed at resolutions of 1280x1024, 1400x900 or even 1024x768.  For pages with more content, I added a button that only appears when scrolling down.  It will quickly take the user back to the top of the page. 

For those members who have very limited or slower connections, I tried to minimize the amount of design fluff that makes some websites difficult to load, while still presenting a visually pleasing yet user-friendly experience. During testing at various network speeds, I found the main page loads in 1.25 seconds and features some browser caching, which makes pages with static content load faster. . 

I have been working very closely with the Officers and Staff on this project to ensure that we best meet the needs of the general membership.  I want to give a special thank you to Gary Barrett for helping me with the content and requirements and Melissa Wentarmini and the Board for the opportunity to help. It’s been great fun!  I am glad that it was so cold then, and that it is so cold now as it was a pleasure to sit in front of the fireplace and code away! It goes to show that even in the coldest of temperatures, you can have the hottest of ideas.

We plan to launch the new website on by the end of February, so be sure to stop by and check it out.  As always your feedback is welcome as this website is for you, the members of the Upper Peninsula Road Runners Club.  Please send your comments to

So just a year after suffering through a cold winter when this project started, we are all amidst an even colder winter this season as the fruits of our labor and the vision becomes a reality.

Eric Charette
UPRRC Web Master