New Website Launched for Paws Animal Rescue

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

logoAfter spending the last few months tied to my computer for reasons of work, entertainment or communication, I felt the need to look around for something worthwhile to do outside of my online world. Everyone close to me knows that I love animals, so my first step was to find a way to help with stray or feral animals locally.

Following my move to the States ten years ago, I spent a lot of time and money trying to help the local stray/feral cat population in Vermillion, SD. When I moved to Pierre over two years ago, I found the Paws Animal Rescue website at Since the website hadn’t been updated for years, I assumed the organization was no longer active. It showed an iframed version of PetFinder (which I assumed was also old) and a Google search only listed an unofficial Facebook page with a couple of pictures (there is a very active page that didn’t show).

Earlier this month, I decided to take a chance and send an email, volunteering my web development/design/update services. Recently-appointed board president Brenda Manning responded a week later. Over omelettes and pie at Perkins, she gave me free rein over the project.


My first step was to review the current branding. Paws’ logo was updated quite recently, so all that was needed was to put it into vector format. As far as colors, the existing website used various brown hues, which I decided to brighten up. The subject of animal welfare evokes strong emotional responses, ranging from positive and heart-warming feelings to negative and stressful. The new design takes this into consideration by using positive, vibrant colors to help balance these emotions.

The abundance of shelter animals meant there was a wealth of opportunities to feature beautiful, high-resolution images. I am against the use of unnecessary sliders on websites, but in this case I decided it was the best way to showcase the shelter and foster animals on the home page. The slider features no more than 2 or 3 images at a time. Thought-provoking words and a call-to-action are used, depending on the focus for that week or month. These images and words will be used throughout the rest of the site to encourage adoptions, donations and volunteering.


Fonts used are Open Sans and Indie Flower via Google fonts. Indie Flower is a fun font in a casual, handwritten style. I decided to use this throughout the site to denote the “voice” of the shelter and foster animals. It is also used in certain headings to add contrast.

Another issue with the old website was its lack of mobile-friendliness. This meant that the PAWS website would appear further down in Google search rankings. I created my first responsive site with VistaComm over 4 years ago, so an update to responsive design was long overdue for PAWS.


Funds weren’t available for a proprietary content management system since I was providing my services as a donation. I decided to use WordPress and develop a custom theme. I didn’t need to add any payment gateways (at least for now) since the donate functionality links off-site to Paypal. This meant security wasn’t a major issue.

availablepetsPAWS uses to add and update pet listings. On the old website, these listings were displayed in an iframe, with no control over the design. Clicking on anything within the iframe led the user away from the site. To save time while avoiding the use of a bloated, poorly styled plugin, I decided to utilize two javascript files found on GitHub, created by Chris Ferdinandi. They enabled better integration with the PetFinder API to display pet listings entirely within the PAWS website, which I styled to match the rest of the site.


Brenda Manning does such a great job of maintaining the PAWS Facebook page, but no one had updated the website for years. I added the three latest news stories in a prominent area of the homepage to highlight fundraising events, new pets and informational news stories. These stories are archived on a “What’s Happening” page. Alongside this is a “Pet of the Week” section to encourage interest in pet adoption.

The shelter location and contact information is now readily available in the header and footer of all pages.  The design features prominent links to adopt, donate or volunteer. The most recent information and documents are provided throughout the rest of the site.


Working on the new PAWS Animal Rescue website has been one of my all-time favorite projects. I will be continuing to update the website content and images on a weekly basis. Please check back to view the latest events and available pets! I am also now a regular volunteer at the shelter – something I find very rewarding and would highly recommend.

Thank you to Brenda and the rest of the Board Members for allowing me to work on this project. Thanks also to all the volunteers and donors for their invaluable contribution to local animal welfare.

  • President Brenda Manning -

    JOANNE — LOVE LOVE LOVE the new web site. You have done a fabulous job. Our homeless pets now have a better chance of being adopted by our web site being so inviting. Once a person sees it, they are mesmerized and have to keep looking within. Thank you!!! President Brenda Manning

  • Joanne – You do such great work!!! This site is great —as well as the one you did for the SD Safety KidZ Club. South Dakota schools now have a great free health and safety tool they can use thanks to your help!

  • Jenna Schiefelbein -

    Joanne, we have been so lucky to have you join our ranks at PAWS. Not just the website, which is AMAZING, but also your volunteerism, professionalism, and obvious passion for animals! Thank you for all you do. You consistently go above and beyond, and your time, energy, and talents are so very appreciated!

  • Kobi -

    Hi, Jenna. Great change for the new site. I am doing the same for a Miniature Schnauzer rescue site now. Trying to figure out how to integrate Petfinder API with WordPress as the per finder WordPress plugin is not working anymore. Maybe you can give me some pointers how to integrate the java script. That would help a lot.
    Again great job

  • Kobi -

    I mean Joanne Sorry

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *