Business

Designathon helps Modesto nonprofits with websites, app

ModSpace hosted the Valley Designathon on Saturday to develop or redesign websites and an app for three Modesto nonprofit organizations. The 10-hour competition was held at the Kirk Lindsey Center on 10th Street. Among those watching teams at work are, third from right, Jose Sabala of South Modesto Partnerships and, second from right, Darin Jesberg of the Dry Creek Trails Coalition.
ModSpace hosted the Valley Designathon on Saturday to develop or redesign websites and an app for three Modesto nonprofit organizations. The 10-hour competition was held at the Kirk Lindsey Center on 10th Street. Among those watching teams at work are, third from right, Jose Sabala of South Modesto Partnerships and, second from right, Darin Jesberg of the Dry Creek Trails Coalition. jfarrow@modbee.com

Three Modesto nonprofit organizations came out winners in the first Valley Designathon, a competition in which teams of techies raced to develop or redesign websites for the groups.

In one case, which turned out to be the overall winner, a team created a mobile app for its nonprofit.

Each of the nonprofits – the Dry Creek Trails Coalition, South Modesto Partnerships and Enterprise ReStart – was able to connect with its Designathon team weeks ahead of the event to assess needs, brainstorm and gather site content. The Dry Creek coalition worked with two teams: one for its website, one for its app.

On Saturday, the teams had from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to design any desired graphic elements and build the sites and app. Each three-person team consisted of a designer (responsible for creating a site layout and design elements) and two developers (responsible for coding the site). The event was hosted by ModSpace, which is fostered by the Stanislaus Business Alliance’s Small Business Development Center.

“I’m very pleased,” said Dry Creek Trails Coalition coordinator Darin Jesberg, “especially given the time frame they were allotted.” He recently spoke with an app developer who said such work typically takes about a month.

This is really to bring our tech community together and to create opportunities for networking, as well as to introduce each other to the business community. Hopefully, we are creating opportunities to work together, to form teams, to help clients as needed and hopefully bring in opportunities for students as they graduate and enter the work force.

Phillip Lan, a Valley Designathon organizer

The coalition formed five years ago and advocates for the Dry Creek Regional Park system and promotes recreation and a healthy outdoor lifestyle, Jesberg told the Designathon participants and spectators Saturday.

The app for his group was designed by Arvin Tehrani and Steffanie Fowler of Contrast Media Labs in Modesto. It works on both Apple and Google Android platforms, Tehrani said. Jesberg wanted a simple way for anyone who sees issues or problems along Dry Creek to upload a photograph and comments and share it with him.

Designathon organizers asked Contrast Media Labs to join the event because Jesberg already had a website design team in the competition but also was hoping for an app and knew his company did such work, Tehrani said. “We were looking for a way to get connected with the community, especially the developer community,” he said. “I’m happy things like this are happening locally,” so people know they don’t have to look to the Bay Area for such services.

“It was a great opportunity for us. We love to be able to show people we can build technology here that can solve real problems locally.”

Designathon teams included professional developers, programmers and graphic designers and Modesto Junior College students and faculty. A panel of three judges evaluated the websites and app on how well they addressed the charities’ needs, the beauty and effectiveness of design, the usability and the “cool factor.” The evaluation form asks the judge: “Did your jaw drop?”

One of the judges was Alliance Small Business Development Center Director Kurt Clark, who said he was impressed with how quickly the teams were able to work from scratch to develop high-quality products. About picking a winner, he said, “There was a lot of discussion because each judge had their own favorites. But we agreed that given what the nonprofit was looking for and the complexity of what the team was asked to do, the mobile app team made the most progress and did what was most benefit to the nonprofit.”

Jesberg also had praise for the team that did the coalition website. The site had been under construction for some time and he hadn’t done much on it, the coalition coordinator said. “The biggest benefit I see they did for us is integrating Facebook with our website,” he said. “So when I create an event for Facebook and invite members to join in, it gets synced with the website automatically,” getting to a broader audience including potential members.

Jose Sabala of South Modesto Partnerships – which mobilizes faith leaders, residents and private and public partners to support the health and well-being of the community – called his Designathon team “amazing.”

“They provided great exposure to our organization,” he said. “... South Modesto Partnerships was truly blessed by this past weekend’s Designathon. With this website, our organization will be able to establish more partners to align with the residents of south Modesto and the broader faith community, all working together for the common good.”

And Geni Boyer of Enterprise ReStart, which helps the homeless and individuals in recovery, said, “I’m very excited to receive this gift from an amazing team.”

Anyone who goes online looking for the newly created sites and app won’t find them quite yet. They’ve not yet gone live, said Heather Rapinchuk, a Designathon organizer and ModSpace chairwoman. “We’re planning to schedule an informal ‘Finish-a-thon’ in the near future, where we hope to wrap those up and get them launched.”

The Valley Designathon was free to the nonprofits, Clark said. The aliance would like to hold another one, but perhaps not until next year, he said. “At this point, we want to have another hackathon,” he said of the coding competition held in January. “We want to make that annual event into a biannual event.”

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

To learn more

Dry Creek Trails Coalition current site: drycreektrails.wix.com/drycreektrails

Enterprise ReStart: www.enterprisenow.org/#!programs/c21kz

South Modesto Partnerships’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SMPModesto

Stanislaus Business Alliance: www.stanalliance.com

Alliance SBDC: www.alliancesbdc.com

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