Good Developers Doing Good in the World with Meals on Wheels

Press Release

A more accessible experience

Currently, over 16,000,000 seniors aged 60+ are moderate to very food insecure. Dakota County Meals and Wheels has been around since 1978 and serves four suburbs of Minneapolis – Egan, Burnsville, Apple Valley, and Savage. As of 2022, they currently deliver approximately 1,600 meals per month.

Build Labs connected with Michael Oliver, the director of the Dakota County Meals and Wheels branch, to help provide a communication solution. Oliver noticed that without a direct web presence for his branch, there was missing information for those looking for meals, those looking to volunteer, and those looking to give. 

The typical way that individuals were requesting meals went through the main Minnesota Meals on Wheels website. Once someone submitted a request for meals, the main Meals and Wheels headquarters would contact the local branch that provided meals and hand off the request to them. 

By having a dedicated website for the Dakota County Meals on Wheels branch, individuals can now make a direct request for meals. This shift allows for more immediate service and reduces work at the main Minnesota office. 

Additionally, Oliver expressed the excitement of allowing direct responses for those who want to volunteer at Meals on Wheels or those who wish to donate directly to this branch. These new systems, combined with more awareness of the Dakota County Meals on Wheels, will allow for unprecedented growth. 

Designed specifically for Dakota County Meals on Wheels

When working with Oliver, the Build Labs teams sought to reduce pain points while providing a website that fits Dakota County Meals on Wheels as an organization. Each Meals on Wheels branch effectively acts as a franchise of the primary Meals on Wheels organization. 

Build Labs chose a design that closely resembled the parent organization. Designing around the Minnesota branch of Meals on Wheels was particularly useful for users because it is likely that users will click through either website and land on the other. This type of handoff can be confusing and frustrating. Build Labs, and Dakota County Meals on Wheels minimized this pain point by echoing the design elements across the site. 

A cost-effective CMS

When working with a non-profit like Meals on Wheels, choosing a CMS that would work well for the organization was critical. There were a few requirements for selecting the suitable CMS:

  • Inexpensive – a non-profit needs to carefully consider the cost
  • Modern – using the latest technology to provide the best experience 
  • Easy – Dakota County Meals on Wheels does not have unlimited resources to manage the website
  • Customizable – there were specific goals that needed to be accomplished for the end users
  • SEO Friendly – it is imperative that the elderly and disabled find this site

The original proposal was to build on Strapi, a Node.js headless CMS. Though Strapi is inexpensive, due to the size of the platform, the hosting costs were too high for Meals on Wheels. 

The team determined that a newer platform to the scene – TinaCMS. An open-source tool launched in November 2022. It was in beta for three years, continually improving through 100s of contributors. Further, TinaCMS is a more lightweight platform that was cost-effective for Meals on Wheels.

Built with a non-profit organization in mind

TinaCMS met the three latter requirements: modern, easy, and customizable. Once design comps were signed off on, Build Lab develops quickly got to work implementing the designs. 

TinaCMS is built on NextJS and is a component-driven architecture. Using NextJS allowed faster development time while still allowing Meals on Wheels to customize their images, copy, pages, and layout. Further, this modern framework is quick to load, meaning a great experience on the website.

Since handing off the website, Michael Oliver has expressed how simple the platform is to use. “I love that we can make changes and have direct access to the content. It is easy to update, and Build Labs even took time to train us how to use it.” Overall, this platform is a tool that can help Dakota County Meals on Wheels grow – which means more meals getting delivered to those who need them most.

Build Labs
Build Labs is a custom software development firm based in Minneapolis. We focus on client transparency and have boiled our process down to a science to give you high-quality code. Our developers are experienced across various languages and technologies to partner with you on your next project.