• Shadow, a black labrador retriever

    A New Website Brings New Hope for Old Dogs


    Throughout the years, there has been a lot of charitable work committed to rescuing and adopting out animals. And with good reason – rescue services will evaluate the potential pet, rehabilitate it if necessary, and provide you with a great companion for life. And let’s face it, there are way too many homeless strays out there that need a good home.

    We at BlackMesh love dogs as much as we love hosting nonprofit sites. So when the opportunity came about to help a nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of dogs, we couldn’t resist.

    The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk – and often overlooked – senior dogs by delivering funds and resources to shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit organizations across the country.

    With a goal of enabling animal welfare groups to provide proper care, comfort, and housing for older dogs (hence the grey muzzles), the organization raises public donations through their website and distributes them accordingly. These donations build national programs to meet the special needs of senior dogs (e.g., food, hospice care, medical assistance, beds, and blankets).

    As we know through our work with countless nonprofits, these organizations don’t always have the resources to develop innovative websites to meet user needs and achieve desired donation goals.

    Such was the case with the Grey Muzzle Organization, when in late fall of 2015 its board of directors decided its website needed to be revamped … completely revamped, and soon.

    The board concluded the site was:

    • Designed with a hard-to-use CMS
    • Difficult to navigate
    • Lacking technical/development support
    • Not designed for mobile phone and tablet accessibility
    • Outdated

    All of these issues can be devastating for an organization that accepts online donations; by operating a cumbersome site clearly detrimental to the user experience, Grey Muzzle was potentially garnering fewer funds than it should have been.

    Just what a nonprofit needs …

    Once deciding a redesign was necessary, the Grey Muzzle team assessed what it needed in launching this new site:

    • A user-friendly system – preferably a CMS that is simple to use, flexible, and can be picked up quickly by Grey Muzzle volunteers.
    • Managed hosting services within budget – costs need to be carefully watched, but the important work of Grey Muzzle needed more than just a “bare bones” platform.
    • On-demand technical support – Grey Muzzle has no system administrators on staff and would need to be able to get site assistance any time of the day if a problem occurred.
    • Dependable web development services – it was important that the organization work with a trusted development group that could not only design to specifications, but support and educate volunteers operating the site.

    Around this time, Drupal website developer Mediacurrent was searching for a nonprofit organization to work with for the 2015 OpenAIR hackathon – an annual event organized by Knowbility in which web designers and developers build accessible websites for non-profit organizations. As Mark Casias, Sr. Drupal Developer at Mediacurrent says, “Website accessibility for the impaired is something all sites should strive for, and is very important to consider when developing a site the first time.” (For more information, check out Mediacurrent’s accessibility blog post.)

    Mediacurrent and BlackMesh decided to team up in the Grey Muzzle endeavor, and it was the perfect fit. BlackMesh and Mediacurrent not only met all the technical requirements for creating and hosting the Grey Muzzle Organization’s new and improved website, but were eager to assist the nonprofit achieve its mission … and who wouldn’t want to help dogs? Seriously? Just look at that face!


    BlackMesh put the hosting effort in motion by first setting up a virtual machine (VM); this would allow the software developed by Mediacurrent to operate. Once installed, BlackMesh’s technical support team began continuous monitoring of the system and providing on-demand support to the Mediacurrent team and Grey Muzzle staff. Fully aware of cost restrictions, BlackMesh decided to offer Grey Muzzle free hosting services – something that will certainly help the nonprofit disperse funds elsewhere and better carry out its mission.

    While the hosting capabilities were being put into place, the Mediacurrent team was creating a local development Drupal site that would cover the wide range of issues with the old site. “BlackMesh provided the hosting, and we provided the development site, said Mark. “BlackMesh gave us the ability to quickly stand up a public development area so we could display the site to the Grey Muzzle team and they could input content before the official launch.” Mediacurrent developed applications improving navigation, donation processes, and more.

    An old dog website can learn new tricks!

    Setting up the hosting structure and implementing Drupal applications was seamless. However, the overall process did have its challenges …

    The board at Grey Muzzle had never taken on a task such as reconstructing a website; with a goal of launching the website within just a matter of weeks, the group had to quickly reach a consensus on what functionality it wanted for the site. This was initially straightforward, but upon discovering first-hand the technical capabilities offered by Drupal, the board’s requirements grew, with a shifting set of technical priorities and focus.

    However, an ever-expanding list of requirements was nothing the Mediacurrent team couldn’t handle; the group eventually came up with a solid plan for site development and design that would best suit their visitors, organization, and dogs.

    The tail continues …

    The endeavor was a complete success! The new and improved website for the Grey Muzzle Organization was launched on February 29, 2016. The group continues to assist helpless dogs, promote adoptions, and raise much-needed funds. Check out the site at www.greymuzzle.org – peruse the optimized features, read about the dogs, and feel free to make a tax-deductible donation!

    The team at Mediacurrent put in a significant amount of time and resources to the development effort. But if you ask them, it was worth it – and they couldn’t be happier with the results. “This project was originally just a task for the OpenAIR hackathon,” Mark said. “But since it’s a cause I can relate to, it turned personal … I would love to see Grey Muzzle gain more traction with the launch of their new site.”

    At BlackMesh, we believe organizations such as Grey Muzzle best serve others by focusing on doing what they believe in – not spending their time searching for affordable web hosting support. Whether we’re partnering with website development experts like Mediacurrent to provide nonprofits with new website capabilities, or migrating an organization to new servers free of charge – we continue to make nonprofits’ missions our mission.

    And if, after reading this blog, you can’t stop thinking about dogs, feel free to spend the rest of your day at the office looking at dog photos instead of working: www.greymuzzle.org/about-us/meet-the-dogs.

    Visit www.blackmesh.com to learn more about our nonprofit work, services, and solutions.