For several reasons (see Background below) a complete redesign of the French Institute website has been decided. I worked over 6 months (1 month development) as the sole designer and developer, with over 12 stakeholders, to analyze, design and develop a new version of the website.
– The institute activity had widen and broaden and the website wasn’t representing its variety or respecting the balance between the different departments
– The majority of the content was presented and organised in an administrative way (not in a commercial / communication way or through users viewpoints)
– Key features were missing
– Some information was out-of-date, duplicated, misplaced or not longer relevant
– Some key information was only in pdf not on web pages
– The CMS was not adapted to the technical needs
– New graphic guidelines have been released by the main institute and have to be implemented
The institute has a very wide range of activities : language learning, cinema, library, music, classical music, arts, talks, kids events, festivals, school activities, education cooperation, higher education, cultural cooperation, room hire, sponsorship.
The project started with a meeting with the Head of Marketing, to clarify why a redesign was wanted on a marketing & identity level. We established that for this part the priority was to present the institute as a commercial, independent, multi-disciplinary cultural venue while keeping an institutional dimension. And the second main priority was to restore a better balance between the departments (on the former website, only the events were really highlighted).
To understand the different departments, their communication needs and their users, my strategy was :
– First rough benchmark research to have a global view of the market
– First informal meeting with the stakeholder to discuss openly, understand the activity goals, identify the targeted users and business competitors, talk about the actual digital solutions & content, start to think of possible needs or evolutions
– Narrowing the benchmark and starting to establish users types, needs and goals, and with these needs, first architecture drafts
– Meeting(s) with the stakeholder to discuss, improve and validate the user goals and work on the architecture and possible content
– Content identification and production management
Depending on the department size and the state of the former web sections, the process could vary between 3 days and 3 months. For some departments a very useful solution was to meet the team members who are directly in touch with the users, for example the language centre receptionists, because it enabled us to have real and unbiased feedbacks on users behaviours and it was of great help to identify the users types.
At the same time I worked on ensuring a general consistency through the different sections, and once the goals & architecture were validated by the main departments and the marketing, I presented the project to 20 key stakeholders.
I presented the wireframes of the language centre, cinema, events calendar and library which are the main commercial / cultural departments. And I also presented two possible versions on the homepage.
The main issue with the former homepage was its lack of obvious hierarchy. There was three menus without a clear sign of their relation or hierarchy, and over 25 different items.
I choose to group the cultural events within the label “Events Calendar” and provide 6 clear entries :
– French Courses
– Ciné Lumière (Cinema)
– La Médiathèque (Library)
– Events Calendar
– About (institutional & cooperation parts)
Outcome & Next Steps
The new version has been released in December 2012. Since then the general traffic has augmented of 30% and the number of pageviews of 60% (45% and 80% for critical sections). Some departments are seeing a direct impact on their activities (clear increase of online bookings for school activities) and some other French institutes in the world are interested by the features and design of the website.
The next steps are :
– Development and integration of a fully responsive theme
– Gathering user feedbacks to continuously improve the user experience and general ergonomics
– Research and implementation of an online payment solution for the language centre
– Implementation of an online giving solution (sponsorship)