Eric Hersey Web Design and Development

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Volunteer Recruitment WordPress Website

The Volunteers of Marshall County (West Virginia) were looking for a way to get new recruits for their teams. Karen from Em-Media gave me a briefing and it was clear that the money should go to the recruitment efforts and not in a lavish website. We found a great solution and had the client speeding with their lights on. Knowing how to make a Free WordPress Theme look like a thousand dollar website is one of my specialties.

The Price was Right – Free WordPress Theme

Not all clients have pockets and pockets full of money to spend on a website. Sometimes as a web designer, you have to remember that all websites are not created equal. Some websites require thousands of pages. You might need to create something from scratch and customize functionality to achieve the client’s goal. Other times – you need a pretty website with a contact form.

The Volunteers of Marshall County was looking to spend some money on recruitment. The bulk of the money would be used in creating a compelling television commercial and display marketing online. They had a total budget, but most of it was going to be gobbled up in those two avenues.

I know how to make something free look good. When I was doing a lot of trial and error development, I started with free WordPress themes. You can find them all over the web. Most of these themes have their companies logo or web URL in the footer. Sometimes you can remove easily and other times you just have to advertise their service. If I could save the Marshall County Volunteers a few bucks, I was on my way to search for a free WordPress theme.

Free WordPress Themes and Where to Find Them

Do a Google search and you will find all types of blogs and resources.

  • Top 75 Free WordPress Themes
  • 89 Amazing WordPress Themes for Free
  • 2,357 WordPress Themes that will Change Your Life Forever
  • 397,207 Responsive, Mobile-Friendly, Self-Driving, Marketing WordPress Themes for FREE
ColorLib WordPress Logo

Needless to say, you have to do some digging to find an actual theme of value. I find that I trust often. ColorLib index’s well for many of my WordPress related queries. I can’t remember exactly if they pushed me to the theme I used, but it’s probably over a 75% chance.

My search landed me at a subpage for I was looking for a theme that would be able to showcase some basic imagery, display all of their locations in Marshall County, offer some testimonials, and most importantly – handle contact forms on the front page. I found the solution in a theme called Zerif Lite.

Should You Pay for the Deluxe Version or Stick with the Free Theme?

The good thing about getting a free theme is that you can easily upgrade if you need additional features. It’s almost like a free sample at Sam’s Club. Sometimes the backend of the WordPress theme is a bit clunky and doesn’t give you the desired functionally you need. Most of the time, if you look at the demo version of the theme and you like that – you can easily create the same look for the client and won’t need the upgrade.

Zerif Lite Free WordPress Theme

The Zerif Lite Theme was perfectly fine. The footer would have the credits but we weren’t trying to hide the fact that this website was a hub for all of the local fire departments and volunteer locations. We needed users to volunteer by clicking on the form – not spending hours on the website.

WordPress Customization

Free themes are sometimes tricky. They often force you do do everything in the Customizer or develop the homepage in the WordPress Widget sections. If your customer is very specific about what they want to see and do on the homepage, you might want to buy a site with a Drag and Drop Builder or make a custom theme. In the case of the Marshall County Volunteers, we had full reign.

Our graphic designer Jill created a fantastic logo for the client and I was ready to start creating the site. Sometimes you have to do some severe CSS alternations, but the logo and the content let us move forward without forcing a ton of color changes. You can avoid a ton of customization if you just pick the right theme for the start.

Marshall County Volunteer Locations

One of the major focus points for the site was to give access to all of the local fire departments and EMS locations. There were over a dozen locations throughout Marshall County West Virginia and it would be ideal if we could get images of each one. The account executive Karen lives in Marshall County and went for a road trip. Life is so much easier when someone gives you images right from the start.

Marshall County West Virginia Volunteer Locations

The theme had a customized section for “team members”. This allowed for a Name, Title, and Social Media links. You would hover over the team members image and it would provide additional biography information. This was perfect for our locations. We could supply an image and when could give contact information when you hovered.

Developing the Content

If this client came to us and asked to be #1 on every search engine, I would have politely declined. You have to be something special to get ranked on the first page without content. Especially if the domain is brand new! This client knew that web traffic was going to come from the power of television and online advertising.

Karen and the video department had many meetings with the leaders of the Volunteers of Marshall County. She had pages of notes that I went through and broke out into major talking points for the site. A few hours later, I had some copy ready to load to various parts of the homepage. Better yet, she provided me with some testimonials (sometimes hard to get).

We had enough content to help potential volunteers make the decision to make contact.

Final Thoughts – Easy and Affordable

This customized solution worked perfectly. The money, time, and effort went to the portion of the project that would create the most return on investment for the Volunteers of Marshall County. We saved them a few extra bucks on a WordPress theme and saved even more time on the actual development. The site looked professional, was mobile-friendly, and had all of necessary content. The client was able to recruit volunteers to help the community.

Em-Media, Inc.
Marshall County Volunteers
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