In the autumn of 2018, PoLHA were not happy with their website. It was suffering a fair amount of the sprawl – a common issue where many stakeholders may request to add content without a great deal of central oversight leading to redundant and duplicate content and a poor internal linking structure.
This complexity meant that it was almost impossible to keep the site content up to date over time among other issues, this led to broken links, redundant pages and a poor user experience. Staff therefore lacked the confidence that customers would be able to find what they need when directed there.
The management team felt that the content did not accurately reflect the mission and activities of the Association. In short, instead of working for the organisation the site was becoming a burden to it. Add to this an outdated, niche CMS which could not be readily updated, and it was time for a fresh start.
Creating a website audit and content plan
Firstly, we ran through the client’s concerns and unearthed a few of our own. Our next step was to carry out a content audit of the existing site. As part of this, we examined the structure of the site, the popularity of individual pages and the quality and volume of content within those pages.
Once this was complete, we set to work identifying a plan of action. We redrew the sitemap (we love GlooMaps for this task) and trimmed the fat by reducing the page count significantly while retaining key landing pages. Most of this was achieved by simply consolidating relevant content which had previously been fractured over many shorter pages. This gives us broader pages, broken down by section headings which are more informative for readers. However there was also a certain volume of outdated content that we were able to drop altogether.
We backed our plan with analytics data from the existing website and a clear content strategy based on how we saw visitors interacting with the site. This meant that getting client buy-in was easy. By this stage, not a single pixel had been designed. Without properly understanding the way the site would be used and the content we were designing for it, there would have been to great a risk of designing ourselves into a corner. Now, however, we were ready.
Wireframing and design
We sketched out a simpler, de-cluttered site. The homepage now clearly set out the activities of the Association and presented prominent links to the most important activities. Imagery was focused on people, reflecting the Association’s role not just as a developer but as a part of the fabric of Leith society.
For clarity of navigation, we adopted a full screen menu allowing visitors to focus on finding what they want without distraction. We also wanted search to become a more viable method for navigating the site so we adopted the same format and introduced live search suggestions and the means to pin specific posts for common search terms.
Accessibility was a key concern for us as well. As we honed our designs, we were conscious of the need to:
- Start with a generous base text size with plenty of spacing
- Maintain a strong contrast ration between background and text
- Create clear hierarchies of text
- Use tables of contents in longer pages
- Ensure any icons were accompanied by text
We were also aware that the Association deals with a high volume of customer queries, and so we wanted to use a contact form to help direct queries to the correct team to help streamline responses. In small ways like this, the site could start to contribute to their operation rather than be a burden.
A new filtered document area was also needed to make sense of the many publications, forms and reports the Association publishes.
Lastly, the Association wanted to be able to really show off their new developments. A new brochure-style template was devised to address this.
Other nice touches included thumb-friendly navigation for mobile users and optimised coding that ensures the site is fast and responsive.
Parallel to the design process, our editorial team were reviewing the content of the site to ensure a common tone of voice and improved readability throughout. Old pages were improved, outdated information removed and gaps filled. We believe that clarity of writing is an accessibility issue. Visitors should not only expect to find the information easily but also be able easily absorb what they read when they find it.
The result of this process was a site that exceeded the client’s original requirements. They loved the approach, and because we’d worked with them through those early stages right through to working prototype there were no surprises and it was a very easy project to green light.
The new site was launched in May but of course our responsibility didn’t stop with the prototype; we also wanted to ensure the launch went smoothly.
One of the big risks of remodeling your website is that it can result in search penalties, so we took care to firstly address technical SEO concerns as part of our design and build. We also took the critical step of ensuring all redundant page addresses were handled with 301 redirects, dropping the visitor neatly at the right content.