What was the problem?
With all organizations, the creation and maintenance of their website can be a huge undertaking! What CMS did they pick? What level of customization did the organization plan for? What team members and skills did they have access to?
The Museum of Life and Science faced a set of challenges that certainly aren’t unique, but can be very frustrating to both end users and internal clients. Their current CMS is a proprietary software, and the company who designed the website also hosts it. They’ve restricted access to some key functionality (the homepage, the footer, the header, and stylesheets) and prompt users to submit tickets if those things need changing. On top of that, the theme used to build this website is running on an outdated version of Bootstrap and the Jquery library. To add to the challenges, the Museum’s has multiple POS software that doesn’t play well together, and can’t be integrated into the current website.
Finding meaningful conversions, following the flow of traffic and the sales funnel, as well as basic updates and new page creation, can be a herculean task!
While there is a design and hosting change in the pipeline, quality website design can take at least a year. In the meantime, what can we do to keep end users happy and make life as easy as possible for internal stakeholders?
What was the solution?
While the solution for each individual page is detailed more thoroughly in the caption, the main fix regarded UI and UX. We focused on streamlining processes and creating mobile-centered designs by stripping down a lot of unhelpful, gimmicky options. Tabbed browsing wasn’t optimized for mobile devices, and neither were the accordion options, so as pages need their yearly updates, we take those modules out and substitute them either with responsive, clickable, sort-able info-cards, or an entirely new nested page.
Knowing that all significant conversions happen on outside sites that we can’t integrate into our own tracking efforts, registration button clicks are used as a key metric, but not conflated with the current number of sales because we can’t promise where each click is coming from without access from a complete behavior flow. Some of the solutions rested in educating key stakeholders about the nature of tracking these metrics and how individual sites interact with one another. This was an important step in getting a design change approved.
What role did I play?
I play the role of project manager, as well as primary producer for web pages. I don’t supply the copy, but I do selectively edit, collect images, and set the page up for its final presentations.
For all new pages, I meet with the internal stakeholders and suss out three things: what’s the driving story, who’s giving me the copy, and who out of the group do I get my final approval from? It helps to know who has final decision making power when you work in a group.
Depending on how fleshed-out the story is, I might walk the group through thought exercises help them figure out their needs and expectations. I try to get everyone together in the same room, and I spend as much time as possible learning the background, ideals, and needs for the new project. After that, I break away and create wireframes, timelines, and a prospective budget (if needed).
Once everything is approved, I work out a rough-draft that has as much of the working copy as I can get. I don’t focus on image selection yet, and try to keep the colors limited to black and white, because I find that a lot of clients can get stuck in “fixing the details” before we get the bones taken care of. I get the working team together again when the rough-drafts are done and walk them through how the page will function. I invite them to click around and play with it. With a group document set up, we decide a deadline for feedback and I leave the approving team to their work.
When all of the feedback has been collected, that’s when I work on revisions. This is the stage where I make initial image selection and color choices. I collect finalized copy, selectively copy edit it, and lay it into the page. With every major stage, I work hard to bring the team back together to have a chance to look at things, ask questions, and explore things with people and away from people. This presentation and feedback cycle is where we finalize images, colors, and other brand essentials. Before the page is set to go live, I pass around the page one last time and get final approval, before publishing the page.
What was the outcome?
Compared to metrics used before I started working here, the bounce rate of the website has gone down 9.97% (That means fewer people are getting to the website and then fluttering off into the internet ether.) The exit rate dropped by 4.69%. (Fewer people exited our website from the same page they came in on.) Time spent on our website is up by 4.8% and the number of pages visited is up 5.6%.
Considering we get over a million hits in a year, this is a definite improvement!