2021 Project Closedown Report

Overview

Last year was hell. We planned two fairs but did not hold one because of COVID. We normally open for applications in March but this year because of COVID uncertainties we opened for applications in May. Applications were down slightly but this is probably due to COVID rather than competition from other fairs. The selection process and payment process were the same as in previous years.

The biggest change this year was that instead of having the online Fair Programme created by a 3rd party at an additional cost this was incorporated into the DCCF website. This worked well, however the scope of this feature was extended at the last moment to support the Raffle and Lucky Dip and the associated mailings. This caused a great deal of additional work and some friction with stallholders however in the long term the lessons learned will improve the product.

The Fair was a great success with numerous positive reports from stallholders and volunteers. The weather was fair which made for a good time. There were some complaints from stallholders about it being cold and in some locations it the flow was worse than we would wish. Some volunteers complained that first and last shifts were not adequately briefed or resourced. These issues were perhaps expected because we have lost the institutional knowledge concerning the use of Signup but should be better next year.

Lessons Learned

Commercial

Stall prices were not changed because we suspected that demand would be down this year. This was a good decision.

The gate cost was £5 per adult, children are free. The high attendance and occasional crowding showed that this was a good price (at least this year).

Some food vendors did not turn up on the day. Odd. It is necessary to advertise the Fair as "No Dogs except service dogs".

The take from Stallholders was £XX, the take from the gate was £XX and the costs were £XX. The fair generated a surplus of £XX.

Administrative

The greatest cause of wasted time is now chasing stallholders for compliance information. At present the three compliance requirements, Public Liability, Alcohol and Food Safety are implemented as separate requirements however Fiona treats them as a single requirement with 3 aspects. This makes sense and will require a substantial rewrite in 2022. A possible foundation for the change will be to create a "Compliance" section in the application form.

The process for collecting donations for the Raffle and Lucky Dip caused some discontent. The entire process both IT and physical should be redesigned to ensure that those who want to donate can do so effectively and those who do not are not hasselled.

Parking worked well and for the first time both "on application" and "ad hoc" parking was shown in a single report.

There was some confusion when a stallholder paid for one stall but was later moved to another. This will be avoided by different user interfaces next year.

Technical

Our mailing lists have grown and we are getting towards (and sometimes exceeding) the limits of a free Mailchimp account. Moving to an alternative provider is huge decision but one that might be beneficial in the long term (over 3 years).

WSDesk worked well most of the time but on two occasions stopped receiving mail. The WSDesk code is probably sound so I suspect that the problem may be that dccf.org.uk uses Ionos for its mail servers. Moving to an alternative provider is a huge decision but one that may be beneficial over the long term.

Site roles are enforced by the S2Member plugin. This worked well but has the occasional complete outage due the the random update bug. The benefits of S2Member far exceed its disadvantages but this issue could be investigated again

Sign-up worked well but users were confused by the excessive advertising in the communications (a known issue). It was suggested that we should pay the additional $200 for an ad free account next year.

Requests for Change

The system has developed ad hoc over several years and the application flow is now understood much better by Fiona and James.

Fiona has suggested that rather than having many screens for stages of the application it would be better to have a master view that showed,

  • Trading Name
  • Offer Status
  • Stall Code
  • Category
  • Email Address (searchable)
  • Full Name (searchable)
  • Paid Status
    • PayPal Receipt Id
  • Order Id
  • View and Send Offer
  • Stall has Power
  • Power Requested
  • Parking
  • Total Price
  • Order Notes
  • Actions (appropriate to Application Status)
  • Has the stallholder donated an prize for the Raffle or Lucky Dip

This data should be page, sortable and filterable.

I note that this might be possible in Formidable Forms but would require support from the vendor. It is possible in SmartClient forms but would require a substantial rewrite.

Fiona's full notes are available here.

Other features

It would be desirable to be able to sell raffle tickets online with the money going to the College's PayPal account. The tickets sold would be entered into the physical draw and the winner's details looked up on a mobile phone. Purchasers could potentially be added to other mailing lists.

Making and labelling maps for display on a website is onerous. We have to manually create and label PowerPoint images and upload them as .jpg. Unfortunately there were no commercially available solutions for this problem in 2021. It is worth reviewing whether technology has advanced (PowerPoint embedding, Visio?), data driven object rendering in JavaScript.

Mailing lists for Fair Visitors and Volunteers - would require an upgrade to Mailchimp or migration to Mailster.