Open your browser and type in “NIRSA.org” or “NIRSA.net” and you will automatically be directed to the NIRSA website where the Association is open for online business. Here you can find timely resources, connect with colleagues, join or renew membership, and register for NIRSA events.
So what’s really going on?
In December, the NIRSA website crashed while undergoing maintenance to improve speed and performance issues. Since the redesigned NIRSA website was first launched in early 2013, we have experienced a performance issue that made the website load more slowly than it should have. By late fall of 2014, the website was taking an average of 30 seconds to load. So we intensified our efforts to fix this problem, and in the process the website unexpectedly collapsed.
How could this have happened?
Imagine the NIRSA website is like a brand new recreation facility with an inherent design flaw that showed itself as a small leak. On the list of issues that plague a new building (or website), it seemed minor to our building partners. Over 21 months, the problem grew. Ironically, when we brought the full force of our collective investigative powers (including our external experts) to bear on this leak, we busted all the pipes and flooded the facility.
This is what happened in early December when the website crashed.
For the technically inclined, we poked the system until it failed. NIRSA’s website is a sophisticated blend of a powerhouse database (iMIS), facile discussion groups (Higher Logic), a secure marketplace, and richly-linked content all enabled by a proprietary content management system.
NIRSA employs the best external service providers in the business to help us manage these valuable resources. Our technology is considered “mature,” well-integrated, and even award winning. The design flaw that ultimately crashed our system occurred despite the best efforts of experienced experts and dedicated staff. To say no one saw this coming is putting it mildly.
What do we do right now?!
Internally, NIRSA HQ faced a dilemma familiar to many of our members. How does the Association conduct business when our facilities are not usable? In true NIRSA fashion, we assembled our team, assessed our resources and figured out a viable alternative. Even though we could not link to our database or other technology attributes, within 24 hours the NIRSA.net website went live. We focused on providing information and low-tech solutions to NIRSA Member’s most immediate needs.
Members responded by demonstrating their willingness to pick up the ball and play with all their hearts even under these sub-optimal conditions. For example, a record-breaking number of NIRSA members expressed their interest to serve the Association through the Committee & Work Teams by completing an online Google Form. Also, we immediately posted a downloadable application pdf for the Region III Student Lead On which sold out before the deadline for registration.
We pressed our technology experts to quickly restore the transactional functionalities that would most help our Members. As soon as it was possible, we reconnected these functions to our NIRSA.net site. In early January, we restored the database, allowing members to register for events like the 2015 Annual Conference and 2015 National Basketball Championships, and submit online membership renewals.
Early last week we established an automatic redirect from NIRSA.org to NIRSA.net. The intent of the redirect is to make your experience on the NIRSA website as secure and easy as possible, regardless of the URL. Immediately after the redirect, analytics showed a spike of over 5,000 users, confirming our hope that this step would prove useful.
While the full breadth of NIRSA’s online content is limited, most technical functionality has been restored and is accessible via the NIRSA website. Members continue to register for the 2015 Annual Conference at an encouraging clip. And last week, registration for the 2015 NIRSA School of Collegiate Recreation, Level I filled within 35 minutes of opening!
The long road home
In the meantime the website malfunction has been diagnosed as an information architecture problem. The configuration of the site’s navigation overwhelmed the content management system until it just wouldn’t load anymore. Restoring NIRSA.org functionality required us to take the bold step of cutting approximately 2,000 page links. Those pages cannot be reattached using the same architecture that led to the system crash, so a new site design has been developed, which is now being testing. Within the next couple of weeks we will have a better sense of when the NIRSA.org site will be ready for release. NIRSA will continue to update you as soon as we know more.
During these past weeks, it has been all too easy to ask ourselves, how can things possibly take so long?! Then we take a deep breath and focus on getting the next task done. The team at NIRSA HQ is energetic and solution oriented. We are empowered by experts and resources to solve this problem. While these transitions may not have been seamless, you can be sure that restoring the website is a top priority. And your team at NIRSA HQ is doing everything we can to provide you the best service possible right now.
Whether you are looking for a particular research resource, sample rules for an intramural sport, or anything else you are used to referencing online, staff at NIRSA HQ stands at the ready to get you what you are looking for. If you can’t find what you are looking for, please tell us! We’ll do our best to get what you need in a timely manner. Give us a call or send us an email. We are here to help.
Stay tuned and look for more updates as we continue to mop up.