Posts tagged web design
Creating an Engaging Journalism Website

As the power of creating content transferred to the individual, the Internet has exploded with information. The type and way that people prefer to consume media is also changing. According to a study by Pew Research Center, trends point to more news being consumed through digital channels (particularly social media) on mobile devices.

This has created a demand for quick, digestible content. Companies like Buzzfeed, HuffPost, and theSkimm took advantage of the changing landscape to rise up, and established companies joined the online world to fill these new demands.

With all of this information at our fingertips, comes a lot of noise and misinformation that people like you and me need to sift through on a daily basis. We saw this throughout the most recent US election, with fake news stories circulating like wildfire on social media. The need for reliable news sources is at an all time high.

That’s why we love supporting organizations like WitnessLA, who are committed to verifiable facts and ethical reporting. Investigative reporting has real impact in our communities. It exposes wrongdoing, sparks reform, changes minds, and changes lives.

To better engage with existing and new readers, we worked with WitnessLA to give their website a new look and feel. Our goal was to create an easy to navigate, engaging website so readers can stay on the page longer to stay informed. Since articles with images get 94% more views than those without, the largest improvement was showcasing breaking news more visually. Check out the transformation below!

We’re really proud of WitnessLA for taking this important step forward in staying relevant within the digital world. Interested in never missing a beat? You can sign up for the California Justice Report, their weekly roundup of news and views from California and beyond.

Old Website

New Website

Some exciting updates include a more engaging layout, imagery, color, sections with curated content, integrated social feed, and clear calls to action to drive people to their newsletter. 

Building a Website? Let's talk about Information Architecture

You don't have to be a technical designer to understand the management of design. Let's talk about websites. When approaching a web design project, it's important to begin with a discovery phase that involves a deep dive into strategy, content, and user needs. From there we move into the fundamental challenge of building the structure of information that will ultimately serve as the map for the design team.

In design terminology, we call this information architecture or IA. Before deciding on colors, icons, and layout, we should know what the user is hoping to achieve, and how we can make it easy for them to find the information they seek, and help them understand it. Similar to the design of a book or magazine, starting with the table of content and an outline of what the content will be can help inform how it will be presented in the subsequent design phases. 

IA has two primary goals:

  1. Helping users find information
  2. Helping users understand the information

Understanding What Users Seek 

Design thinking always begins with people. Complemented by web analytics which studies behavior, understanding a users needs is done by creating personas. At verynice, we collaborate with our clients using fun and engaging methods to identify who these stakeholders are and what their journey to the end goal looks like. Take a local library for example. What types of people are visiting the website? What do they hope to achieve? For Jaime, student, age 13, it may be how to get a library card; for Marta, retired teacher, age 66, it may be whether they take book donations; and for Jerome, 20, student, it may be about finding a book before he makes the drive. These are just a few general examples of user needs within the context of information architecture on a website. Can you think of others? 

Organizing the Information Your Already Have 

In many cases, we work with an already existing website that needs to be improved. In this case we use a method called card sorting that enables us to think collaboratively with our client in order to keep, consolidate, or discard particular pages and content. Think of it as cleaning or reorganizing your bedroom. At a certain point it makes sense to toss things out while organizing items in a way that makes them easy to find later on. 

Sitemaps

Site maps are a useful way of looking at the structure of the information, how it is labeled, and what the relationship is between content. While easy to confuse for a layout, the sitemap is meant to be a lean and functional blueprint, not an abstract rendering of the website. This is important to keep in mind as you begin a web design project so that expectations are clear.  

Information Overload

With the increase of information comes a reduction of attention span. Futurist Alvin Toffler talked about this phenomenon within the context of increasing speed and scope of technological innovation in his book 'Future Shock' back in the 1970's. And here we are today – living in a world of search engines and e-commerce. As more and more information is created, designers become the custodians of information. Taking it a step further, great information architecture can lend itself to benefitting better systems and artificial intelligence as structured information is required to produce the complex networks for automation. That said, it's important for all organizations to take this phase of web design seriously. The world is a card catalog.


Looking for a partner to help design your system or web site? Let's talk!

UX Design for the Greater Good: The Climate Registry

It seems intuitive that the websites most pleasing to use are also the most minimal. After all, when you visit a site, you don’t want to sift through a bunch of superfluous content to find what you need. However, these two characteristics aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have a multitude of content serving many different users and still have a clean, easy-to-use website. How? A good UX design. When a website allows its users to easily locate the content that is relevant to them and bypass the rest, it doesn’t matter how much information it contains.

A sample of our finished product for TCR

A sample of our finished product for TCR

We recently had the privilege of working with The Climate Registry (TCR), a nonprofit organization that designs and operates greenhouse gas reporting programs all over the world and assists organizations in measuring and reporting their carbon usage. The information that TCR provides, such as toolkits, webinars, and best practices in reporting, is vital to helping its members manage and reduce their emissions. All of this information is accessible through their website. However, when TCR approached verynice, their website was complex and difficult to navigate, so it was not serving as the valuable resource it needed to be.

When a website contains an overwhelming amount of information that is not translating to its users (despite being very valuable)— this is where UX design comes to the rescue. To make sure users would easily find the content that TCR indented for them, we completely overhauled the site’s information architecture. This began with a conversation about the content itself, so we could gain at least the high-level understanding we needed to better organize it.  It was also vital for us to understand the hierarchy of the information: What content would users need to access more frequently? Which was more specific?

Once we had a full grasp on the content and how each item was related, we created simple, clear design direction that reflects TCR’s focus reducing emissions and improving the climate. By using three levels of navigation, we were able to prioritize information according to users’ needs. This enabled TCR’s members to access their most needed content without having to sift through multiple, irrelevant pages first.  

We were also able to implement an infographic to help members better understand their programs and benefits without having to sift through paragraphs of text. In areas that are particularly information-dense, serving multiple purposes, we recategorized information and made it searchable. For example, we created an easy to use search function for TCR's list of members, also organizing it alphabetically and by sector. In order to help organizations understand relevant government protocols more efficiently, we also organized the downloadable government protocol docs in reverse chronological order.

The Climate Registry website is just one example of how good UX design can be impactful beyond its direct effect on website users. A UX design that streamlined TCR’s academic, information-dense website, allowed them to better serve their members, helping them reduce emissions and be more transparent in their greenhouse gas reporting.

To see what else we can do with UX design and for more samples of our work in general, please visit our website

Capturing Vibrancy through Design: PMCA

We recently had the privilege of working with the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) on their brand identity and website. Most of our staff had already been fans of this museum that features only California artists and designers in order to explore culture, influences, and issues that are unique to California. Having explored PMCA a little on our own, we knew they had already had a fresh, vibrant personality that should easily translate into a strong brand.

However, PMCA's personality  was not reflected in their website, which was nonresponsive, difficult to navigate, and hardly displayed any of the art and design featured in their exhibits. Because of this, PMCA’s website was causing potential new members to leave the site and lose interest. In order to resolve this, we first had to look closely at the needs of their current and desired membership and work to create a brand identity that both served this audience and mirrored the energy of PMCA’s exhibits.

Part of PMCA’s appeal is that it doesn’t have a permanent collection; rotating exhibits keeps the museum dynamic and fresh. In order to reflect this, we created a logo that acts as a frame— its thicker font allows the artwork they’re currently exhibiting to show through. In the website itself, we created custom headers for each page, which incorporates the logo and a large paneled photograph that both relates to the page content and features the artwork currently on display. This way, we let their exhibits speak for themselves without letting the navigation or additional design elements interfere.

In order to address PMCA’s audience, we had to merge two very distinct needs— those of their older members (above age 60) and their younger, twenty or thirty-something audience. The older members are used to a more traditional website design and system of navigation while younger members find minimal design and navigation to be both intuitive and more pleasing. In order to create a very modern, pleasing site without alienating a portion of PMCA’s membership, we created a minimal design while incorporating features that would make it more intuitive and accessible, such as larger font size and prominent arrows that indicate where to click and scroll.

To recap the process from PMCA’s side, we asked their Marketing and Outreach Associate, Alex Kaneshiro, to tell us a little about PMCA, their California-focused mission, and what working with verynice has meant for them so far. Check out what Alex has to say below!

Hi, Alex! Can you tell us a bit about the PMCA's mission?
Our mission is to present the breadth of California art and design through exhibitions that explore the cultural dynamics and influences that are unique to California. This means that our programming encompasses both historical and contemporary art, celebrating in equal measure plein-air painters inspired by the region's mountains and deserts, and experimental artists who choose to use the building as canvas.

Before you approached verynice, what were some of the barriers PMCA was facing in terms of reaching your potential audience and achieving your mission?  
While our website had served us well in the past, it was clear that our website had become outdated, and that there was a disconnect between our current PMCA voice/sensibility and our brand identity/website. Our old website no longer registered as accessible and vibrant—in fact, our analytics reported a high bounce rate and increasingly low engagement. We found that our site map and non-responsive design discouraged users from spending more than a few seconds on the website.

How has the new website opened up room for PMCA to grow?  
The new website has really opened up a whole new world for us. Now that the site is user friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and perfectly encapsulates the PMCA, visitors are immediately drawn in and are more likely to convert to first-time museum visitors / become more involved as members, volunteers, repeat donors.

Donating is now made easy AND visible literally on every page—an important detail as individual giving composes over half of our revenue.

The new website also enables us to create dedicated spaces for exhibition-related materials, from brochures to shop items to educational materials, which simultaneously archive all of our temporary exhibitions.

How has our work around brand strategy helped clarify PMCA's next steps or opened up room for growth?  
As we move forward with marketing collateral and gradually roll out updated on-site/wayfinding signage, I’m realizing just how helpful it was to have identified qualities by which to measure brand success: Is it accessible and engaging? Is it dynamic and fresh? Etc. etc. Prior to our rebrand, we didn’t have identity guidelines in place to serve as checkpoints—so for consistency’s sake, working with verynice on brand strategy was eye-opening and a huge leap!

What does the future look like for PMCA? Any key goals in the works you can share?  
The future looks bright! In mid-June, we’re opening two new exhibitions, Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent and Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language”in addition to transforming our Project Room into an educational space inspired by Corita’s Immaculate Heart classroom. Our schedule is packed with dynamic programming (Poetry! Performance! Zines! Children’s workshops! Play reading!), and I’m aiming to make as much of it available online as possible. Lesson plans and educational materials, video/audio recordings of panel discussions and the like—basically playing around with engaging interactive content, since Wordpress allows for such beautiful, seamless integration. Stay tuned!

We can't wait! If you live in Los Angeles or have plans to visit, check out what's going on at PMCA right now. 

Time Travel Mart: Mimicking the Creative Experience through Web Design
 

826 LA is a nonprofit writing and tutoring organization based in Echo Park and connected to the larger 826 family, which has operations across the US. The Time Travel Mart is 826 LA’s store and e-commerce site. Aside from bringing in significant revenue to support their programs, the store carries items like Forgotten Science Project in a jar and bottled Famous Last Words, which reflect the same sense of possibility and wonder that 826 instills in its students.

 I had the pleasure of volunteering with 826 at another one of their locations in San Francisco last year. Having tutored writing in college, I expected a similar experience assisting with outlines, grammar, and generally helping students get their English homework done… but I found that the students had finished their homework. Instead, they were writing pieces for themselves. And the work was good— open, messy, and wild—not what you’d expect from pre-teen writers, who unfortunately learn to judge their own work by that age.

 This is the magic of 826. Stepping into 826 LA and its Time Travel Mart is like stepping into a world where the void of judgment opens infinite space for possibility. It’s a feeling similar to the writers’ phenomenon of “stumbling upon” an idea. When 826 LA tasked us with designing and developing a new website for Time Travel Mart, we knew that capturing its magic would be our biggest challenge. How was it possible to capture that feeling of “stumbling upon” in a website?

 Our first answer was to recreate the information architecture of the site, which previously categorized merchandise in a way that site users could not search or easily locate what they wanted— not a very magical experience. By bucketing merchandise into distinct categories and designing a clean user experience, we were able to change this. Developing the site using e-commerce platform, Shopify, we were also able to turn viewing product details and checkout into a streamlined experience for customers. Using Shopify also made the new e-commerce site sustainable for 826LA, who can easily update their merchandise and product availability.

 Once we were able to streamline Time Travel Mart’s ecommerce experience, the second part of our solution was all about embracing that “stumbled upon” feeling. One unique feature we incorporated to achieve this is called “Easter eggs,” which partially blend into the site design, but allow users to virtually stumble upon different, colorful gifs when clicked. The purpose here was to mimic the writing experience, during which creativity and inspiration can strike suddenly and take a writer down unexpected paths. All the gifs in this post are "Easter eggs" from the time travel mart website. 

 The result is the first phase in a brand new e-commerce site for Time Travel Mart that fully captures the wonder and inspiration we feel at its physical location, and that I felt while working with the student writers at 826. Because a significant percentage of their revenue comes from the Time Travel Mart, having a more robust and easy to use site is a powerful step for 826 LA. This will make the difference in scaling their overall impact by including more students in their programs and better serving their current participants. 

verynice is proud to have worked with the time travel mart on this awesome project. See more of our work at verynice.co.

My Municipality 2.0
 

What will life be like in Macedonia in 2030? What futures do Macedonians want to build over the next 15 years? How can Macedonians imagine better futures, together? 

UNDP Macedonia and verynice, a design and foresight studio, will be collaborating on an exciting project to engage citizens all across in the nation in a shared experience in civic imagination. 

Complementing the UN’s MyWorld survey, and building on the success of My Municipality, which brought the UNs survey to people at the local level in Macedonia, My Municipality 2.0 will allow citizens to explore four alternative futures for the country and then contribute their own visions and priorities to a national conversation about the world to come. 

Images of the future are often clouded by the news, events, and challenges of the present, or often being colonized by the visions of those already in power.  It is natural to be more concerned with the present, but this focus can narrow one’s view of possible futures, possible opportunities, and possible new approached to old dilemmas. No one can create better futures when their dreams of tomorrow are prematurely constrained. 

Even more fundamentally, no one can create better futures when their dreams, fears, and voices aren’t even heard. My Municipality 2.0 is built on the values of inclusivity, transparency, and broad participation. Not only will it utilize local online portals for feedback, we will also be designing and distributing printed postcards in cities around the country. While no platform and strategy can reach everyone, we hope to create opportunities for constituencies to participate through diverse forms, and continue to expand the feedback pipeline. 

We are trying to inspire and gather ideas, fears, challenges, priorities and visions from the public that we don’t already know. This is a tricky and often unpredictable process, but there are tools to help. Many methods of public outreach, such as polling and surveys, can effectively capture public sentiment in the present, but are often limited when projecting out into the future. Over the last decade, new methods of engagement that harness experience design, storytelling, new media, and digital networks have expanded the toolkit of approaches to high-quality engagement. For example, earlier this year, thousands of leaders in the UAE were treated to a hands-on exhibit showing how government services might be delivered in the future. In Tunisia, following the regime change and turmoil of the Arab Spring, a group put together a campaign imagining Tunisian life three years after the revolution. It was a powerful statement, and shifted the conversation in Tunisia from the muddled present to a compelling post-revolutionary vision of a better future. 

The examples and successes of experiential approaches to citizen engagement are growing. While these approaches should not be seen as replacements to traditional methods, they do offer new and effectives way to educate, provoke, and engage with citizens. 

Through the online platform, My Municipality 2.0 can be reached through any internet connection and through kiosks around the country. Citizens will have the chance to explore digital artifacts from several alternative futures. After this bit of mental time-travel, participants will then have the opportunity to tag on a digital map places in Macedonia where they see signals of the future—both positive and negative. They can then express their own priorities and preferred future for their community and the country. This process will generate a “heat map” of local signals and future visions. 

Finally, after exploring alternative futures and mapping their visions, participants will have the opportunity to expand upon their visions in more detail, and even begin to commit to certain actions to bring about their preferred futures. 

My Municipality 2.0 is an experiment in public foresight that offers a diverse group of participants the opportunity to contribute to this critical conversation around local development priorities based on the actual needs and desires of people in these localities. 

Stay tuned for updates on launch date and other logistical details, and get ready to share your visions for a better future for all Macedonians. 

Jakepressrelease, web design
Welcome, veryniceTX and Jake!
 
jake.png

Have you heard about #veryniceTX? That’s right. Our Austin, TX office is officially up and running— thanks to the newest verynice team member, Jake Dunagan. Jake is joining us as Managing Director [Austin] and Global Foresight Lead, adding a background in futurism and foresight to the verynice skillset.

Like any good first day, Jake’s included a full interview in which we pressed him for information on everything from his background in Future Studies to his Austin-favorites to his fondness for bad puns. See below, and join us in welcoming Jake to verynice!


So, you have a PhD in Future Studies can you tell us what that is, exactly?

Futures studies is a discipline that attempts to make sense of change so that we can make better choices as individuals, organizations, and as a society. It is a quintessentially modern discipline, and a strange one, in that what we study is inherently ineffable (i.e. alternative futures). But although there are no "future facts," it doesn't mean we can't improve how we understand and navigate change. We use design and tools for prototyping alternative futures to help people experience the otherwise inexperiencable. 

The necessity and the stakes of systematically looking ahead have never been greater. Futures studies is one adaption to the chaotic and uncertain futures we are facing, and an approach that, while not predicting a single future, gives us some practical tools for making better futures for all of us. 

 

Wow, fascinating! So how does that translate to your work with verynice?

verynice.co has been at the forefront of design and strategy for quite some time, and has shown how successful a socially-minded enterprise can be. I've been working at the intersection of design and foresight for almost 10 years. It is clear to me that the time has come for future-oriented design and design-oriented foresight to make a bigger and more lasting impact on society, business, and our basic systems. In my role as Global Foresight Lead, with the combined skills and experience we are bringing together, verynice futures is immediately positioned to be a leader in delivering meaningful, impactful and unique work to clients and partners around the world. 

 

Why Austin? Give us three reasons we need to visit the city ASAP.

 In Austin, you might talk to someone for an hour about music, or food, or places to go kayaking before you mention your work. And yet, people are doing incredible work here, just like in NY or the Bay area, etc. The focus here seems to skew toward things that are socially inclusive and life affirming. It is right in the heart of Texas, but the "keep Austin weird" slogan rings true. And for a futurist, you want to surround yourself with weirdos, because they are often the harbingers of things to come. And it helps to be weird yourself!

 Three reasons to come to Austin:

  1. to be able to hear good music anywhere, anytime. 
  2. to have good beer anywhere, anytime. 
  3. to have a memorable conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime. 
  4. (bonus) to come visit our verynice futures office!

 

Not gonna lie, Austin sounds really cool. Speaking of weirdness, tell us something odd about yourself.

I have an uncontrollable compulsion to make bad puns (which I think are good). My lifelong goal is to make not a double or triple entendre, but the elusive quintuple entendre. So, wordplay is a habit (or disease if you ask my friends and colleagues). But it comes in handy in futures work, because we are often making tomorrow's clichés, today!

 

Thanks, Jake!

Stay tuned for regular updates from Jake and veryniceTX.