By Julia Kurnia, Director
We’re incredibly excited to announce the launch of a new and improved Zidisha.org. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the history of the redesign project, and an overview of the new site.
Why redesign Zidisha?
The original Zidisha.org was developed on a shoestring budget. At the time I was in my early twenties, and we were all volunteers without enough funding to hire a web developer. In order to get Zidisha off the ground, I managed to save a couple thousand dollars from my day job to have a small contracting company in India build the first working version of our website.
The Zidisha homepage, 2011
The original Zidisha.org was adequate for a small nonprofit with limited transaction volumes, but was not designed to support as large a community as we have become. With over 15,000 members and $2 million worth of loans, we were overdue for an upgrade. Zidisha’s acceptance into the Y Combinator technology startup incubator program last winter gave us access to the expertise and funding we needed to make that upgrade happen.
The redesign project
Our new website project began four months ago, when our new web developer, Jonas, relocated to India to collaborate in person with two other programmers, Hardik and Bhargav. Hardik, Jonas and Bhargav rewrote the “back end,” or processing core of the website that handles the loan transactions and other functionality. At the same time, I studied web design and learned “front end” programming so that I could upgrade the website’s aesthetic appearance.
The website rewrite project team (from left to right): Hardik, Jonas and Bhargav
Our new website code follows the most recent programming best practices, including a Laravel framework that is designed to handle high-volume activity, and incorporates automated tests and other tools to improve accuracy and flexibility.
The new site incorporates some new functionality, and retires some older features that no longer add the value they once did. Here is an overview of what has changed:
- The new website is “responsive,” and automatically adapts to facilitate use on mobile phones and tablet devices.
- Lenders can now change their display names, and incorporate multiple words in their display names to enable use of real names if desired.
- Lenders can now sign in with Google and Facebook, instead of creating separate accounts.
- The borrower version of Zidisha.org that displays in the countries where we offer loans now uses localized information and currencies, and is designed to load rapidly with low-bandwidth connections.
Features pending incorporation
- Purchasing gift cards
- Sorting tables in the “Your Loans” page of lender accounts
- Ranking of lending groups by impact
- The new site does not display lender karma scores, pending development of a more accurate way of honoring lender contributions to the community.
- We no longer support editing loan bids, because the feature has not been used frequently and requires substantial programming resources to support.
- The “Lend” page no longer displays tabs to view all active and expired loans, because their number has grown too large for easy browsing, and because we would like to keep the loan sorting interface as simple as possible for prospective lenders.
- To better protect our members’ privacy, we are no longer displaying borrower Facebook accounts or amounts bid by lenders in the public loan profile pages.
A word about the design
Our new website uses a minimalist design and color scheme, in order to keep the focus on the entrepreneurs, lenders and their stories. The original Zidisha blue is preserved in the buttons and links, while the color-free logo reflects our simple vision of a geography-neutral world, where deserving people can access the opportunities they need to achieve their goals regardless of their nationality and location.
A special thanks to Esther Wanjiru, who graciously allowed us to use her profile image in our new homepage. A self-described “teacher with a knack for business,” Esther operates a small grocery shop in in Mombasa, Kenya. Her store employs two assistants, and the revenues are supporting the education of Esther’s two children. Upon repaying her first, loan, Esther wrote:
I have found the Zidisha loan to be very affordable and I believe I have finally found a good place to get the much needed credit for my fledging business. I used the loan to purchase some empty gas cylinders [to sell environmentally friendly cooking fuel] and the results were amazing. I was able to satisfy my clients’ needs and my profitability improved drastically… I am so much inspired by the loan and it is already changing the outlook of my business. Thanks a lot, Zidisha community.
Thanks to our new website, we are better equipped than ever to connect lenders to many more entrepreneurs like Esther. The returns – in life trajectories transformed, improved well-being and better opportunities for the next generation – are immeasurable.