The brief asked for a solution that will enable all relevant demographics – including the organization’s members, stakeholders, and wider audience – to engage with IWA and its programs and initiatives directly. Additionally, we needed to enable the organization’s staff to easily manage and publish information and content in different formats, as well as to coordinate and communicate with members and visitors directly.
Knowing that every project and every product is ultimately about people using it, we started by interviewing representatives of different departments inside the organization itself.
We looked for specific goals that the website can help users accomplish, and we spent a lot of time discovering their own workflow, how the website fits into their day-to-day work, and how we can make that work easier for them.
With this knowledge, we proceeded to analyze all available website visitor data to understand the problem from the visitors’ perspective – that is, to identify the main obstacles that make it harder for visitors to engage with the website in a way that is aligned with IWA’s objectives.
Having correlated that with the wants and needs of the staff who will be in charge of creating content, engaging with visitors, and managing the website, we embarked on a complete redesign of the website, enabling users to engage in numerous ways to help the client get their message across.
We believe that content is still king, and in IWA, we were fortunate to work with an organization that shares our belief. As the forefront thought leaders in the water sector, IWA and its contributors create highly relevant, unique content on a daily basis, which made our job that much easier.
Deciding early on in the process that both the structure and the tone of the website are going to be about the content, we created the first and central element of the new IWA Network – the “featured content area.”
This modular element can be placed on various pages as needed and allows the website administrators to quickly place the content that matters the most, including blog posts, news, videos, and events exactly where it will have the most impact.
Having a steady stream of new events, programmes, videos and initiatives to present and promote over time made us understand from the beginning that we had to plan for flexibility, instead of introducing a rigid structure that might not fit the needs of the client and visitors down the line.
To prepare for this, we structurally designed the website to be modular and created distinct elements which can both be used to establish the architecture of information on specific pages, as well as present various types of content natively.
Virtually all users we interviewed, both inside and outside of the organization stressed the importance of an efficient and dependable search system. However, the web data we analyzed showed that the existing search functionality was used by less than 10% of the visitors – and even then, most of them exited the website on the search results page, without finding the information they we’re looking for. This meant only that the search is not good enough.
To address this, we created a completely new search system, featuring localised search results for specific pages that ties into deep search within the website thematic areas. The search result pages – one of the major pain points for the users of the old system – we’re redesigned as well, offering categorized display of results based on the type of content. This enabled users to quickly find exactly the information they we’re looking for, which was reflected in the data we analyzed after the website launch.
The top feature request that came from inside IWA’s organization was for a way to logically manage and publish significant amounts of content (including guides, whitepapers, blog posts, images and videos) created by organization’s various departments and members.
At the same time, we understood that we needed a system that is both well supported and familiar to it’s intended users – since the new website needed to be fully utilized from the first moment after it’s launched.
Choosing WordPress, an open source CMS that powers over 43% of the world wide web (as of April 2023) as the backbone for the new website provided an environment many of the intended users we’re already familiar with and enabled us to build on it’s proven content and document management capabilities. Working with the staff members that actually deal with the content every day, we established a document management system (DMS) – a centralized depository for all types of documents and files produced and used by IWA’s and it’s contributors. The website administrators can use and re-purpose these across the website and other IWA digital channels with ease.
IWA organizes and supports a number of worldwide events every year – from major international meetings to small specialist conferences. To support these efforts, we created a fully featured event management platform that allows the client and it’s partners to showcase, promote and coordinate a number of complex events.
When treated as content, events have their own specifics which need to be taken into account. These include important deadlines, ability to add them to visitor’s personal calendar, tools and information for event organizers, and of course – all of them are indexed and searchable by date, location or keyword.
One of the major advantages of building digital products is the ability to precisely measure the effects of the efforts, learn from the results and optimize on them. Since the website was launched in July 2016, we’ve seen a sustainable improvement in all relevant metrics – including the number of monthly visitors, time spent on the website, and the number of pages each visitor has seen.
And even more importantly, we’ve seen measurable results in visitor engagement, which was exactly what our client was most keen on improving.