NDS’s members (non-government disability service providers) range from huge to tiny, and the organisation’s services are equally varied. Access to tons of useful content, of all different sorts, is governed by complex rules about membership levels. New members had to be able to join up easily on site too.
Our mission: forge clear navigation paths that members – both old and new – could follow.
At the same time as we were weaving our magic on the site using Joomla as our Content Management System, NDS were moving to Microsoft Dynamics as its Customer Relationship Management system. Our CMS had to talk to the new, customised CRM for NDS staff to add content, so NDS had someone else developing an API. (Yep, we love an acronym.) In plain speak, different people from different organisations were working on different parts of the whole, and just as the systems had to communicate, so did the different teams. Our mission: forge a clear path for the project itself.
To give you a feel for the mind-bogglingly hugeness of this project, our Agile project management log shows that we completed 1,472 individual pieces of development work. That’s a lot.
Pages per session up 35%
Average session time
WCAG 2.0 to AA
But even more important was easy-to-understand user pathways.
Multiple menus were a must because of the complexity, so we differentiated clearly between the different levels. The most popular or current stuff also appears in large blocks on the home page. We’ve even colour coded different types of content like news, policy, info about events and training. Users may not notice straight up, but it’s a subtle way to guide them.
First up: working out how we were going to work. Agile was the obvious choice, because we needed to be flexible – agile even – in our approach with priorities changing fast.
Agile meant the client had input and we found that getting constant feedback through showcase meetings meant we got things right early on.
Sorting out the IA was a big part of the project. Members needed to find content by following pathways and also through searches.
We introduced tagging, working closely with NDS to figure out how many tags there should be, and what they should be. This was a big deal, what with 765 pieces of content being tagged.
Given the client, following WCAG guidelines was a must. We built to WCAG 2.0 Level AA, keeping WCAG in mind for both design and development. This meant extra coding, but thankfully this is the kind of challenge our developers love.
What we loved
We loved being pathfinders, working closely with NDS to turn a labyrinthine mess into a beautifully clear structure.
What they loved
We’ll just let you read these very lovely words from NDS’s project lead Pradeep Wickramanayaka…
‘The outcome was fantastic and everyone was extremely happy with the new site. The team who made it happen, including Brad and Arash were helpful and cooperative, from designing to developing. The project management was exceptional. We are so glad that we made the right decision by selecting Butterfly.’
We also had to make sure we didn’t lose people while they were waiting for the CRM to sort through all that data. We spent a lot of time on performance optimisation to get complex pages to load quickly.
WCAG threw up extra challenges, especially in a responsive environment and with the site needing to work on all browsers, including IE7. All this means our developers had to write more code. 45,000 lines all up. And with all that extra code we used a PHP Mess Detector as a quality controller to tell us if the code wasn’t of high enough quality, or it was too complex, either N-Path complexity or Cyclomatic complexity. We were after simplicity – not just for elegance but because it makes the code more maintainable and easy to change. Simplicity in a complex environment actually takes more time and effort. But it’s so worth it.