A Better World by Design

Website Redesign and Relaunch


A complete redesign and relaunch of the web presence of A Better World by Design, a prominent student group at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.


The wonderfully talented Jia Lee of RISD designed the first several iterations of the site. As co-chair of ABWxD, I worked with Jia to ensure the site spoke to our recently renewed logo and brand. Jia developed a design language, which we then took to begin development.


The redesign was developed as a WordPress theme, using Custom Post Types to handle the various forms of content we needed to display. For filtering and layout, we used the Isotope jQuery plugin.


Aside from development, a major component of the relaunch was a transition of the site from HostGator to MediaTemple hosting, as well as transitioning our testing environment from Subversion to Git.

Our previous testing environment had three separate WordPress installations deployed across three servers, with the entire WordPress core included in the SVN repository. This prevented automatic WordPress upgrades, and made our versioning slow and clunky.


I decided to reconfigure our environment to use Git and version only our theme files. Additionally, we would consolidate the three servers onto one distributed server within MediaTemple. Test and Stage sites would be accessed from subdomains instead of IP addresses, and the WordPress core would be released from needless version control. This would drastically reduce the size of our repository and simplify our deployment process.

By pre-populating MySQL databases on MediaTemple, we were able to distribute our new website across our new Git testing environment while maintaining our old site on HostGator. Then, using a script to rewrite key URLs in the databases, we were able to switch our domain name to the new MediaTemple servers with absolutely no downtime for viewers.

In one stroke, we were able to reroute users to a completely redesigned website, while simultaneously deploying two new testing sites for tracking and evaluating future updates.