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Redesigns: Behind the Curtain

A well-used mechanic's stop with every tool, tire and hose and clamp, but no car
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The Center for the Developing Adolescent champions science-based, equity-driven innovations that positively impact the lives and futures of all young people. In late 2019, they needed to completely rework their website.

The goal of the redesign was to incorporate a new brand identity, but it was equally important to put more control into the hands of the site’s editors. The previous site made it especially difficult to change text and images, effectively hobbling a vibrant active research group with a website they couldn’t update.

Solving this problem was right up our alley! We love to work with clients that want to revamp their public-facing websites, and we especially love when we can pair a visual transformation with a process transformation.

It’s easy to understand that websites need to serve an organization’s audience, but a website must equally serve the folks who are actually creating content. Editors need easy-to-use, quick, effective tools or the site essentially becomes nothing more than a static brochure. Brochures are great, we love brochures! But an organization whose mission is to “distill and share the most up-to-date developmental science” about adolescents must have a dynamic, updated website.

And while it’s rare for an organization to embark on a site redesign solely because the publishing tools are hard to use, it’s even more rare for an organization not to have a list of tool grievances, things that could work better or more efficiently. Websites are ever-changing, and the backend publishing tools can get just as stale as the public-facing site.

Hop Studios was founded by folks who came to the web from journalism by education and experience. It’s one of the aspects of working with us that we feel really makes us different: we understand exactly why it’s important for a website editor to be able to publish and create content as quickly and smoothly as possible. An editor on a news website hamstrung by publishing tools is not a happy editor. Moreover, a news website that is slow and cumbersome for editors to use translates directly into a less-satisfied and engaged audience. (Which eventually means less audience.)

This is true for all websites, not just news websites—if you make it hard for the site’s editors to create or add content, the website won’t thrive. A beautifully designed website that never gets updated is just as stagnant and unwelcoming as one with a poor site architecture.

It’s an interesting puzzle for website designers and developers. Of course you must focus on creating a website that is appealing and usable for the organization’s audience(s). But at the same time, you must focus on the organization’s publishing needs and habits when you configure the content management system.

When we hear editors complaining about site slowness or difficulty in publishing certain types of content, we start asking questions like:

  • Are the editors technically savvy, and to what degree?
  • How long does it take to add a new blog post/news article/quiz/section?
  • How frequently do editors add new content or update existing content?
  • How many editors are using the content management system at once?
  • To what degree are website editors publishing under time pressure?
  • What areas of a site have been neglected? Are we sure that’s because of lack of visitor interest, or is it because that type of content is just too hard to create?
  • Are there editors who should only have access to certain areas of the website, or certain types of permissions in the content management system?
  • What is the current process for publishing content, and can any of that process be built into the content management? (A good example of this might be a publishing process where some editors create content, others edit it, and a third group actually does the publishing.)
  • Are there time-consuming tasks that could be automated in full or part?
  • Where do editors spend the bulk of their time when using the content management system?
  • Are there things editors can’t update but need to be able to?

Of course once you pop open a can of worms like “Do you like your admin tools?” you can get more than you bargained for! We’ve had some “interesting” meetings over the years at which a roomful of highly irritated website editors take turns telling us about their least favorite grievances with the content management system they use every day. It’s pretty thrilling to make a list of such problems and then solve them all!

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