Childhood Disability LINK is a non-profit research group within Montreal Children’s Hospital, McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The group’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of children with disabilities as well as their families. They aim to do so through providing information for caregivers, practitioners, and families of children with disabilities.
We’ve been working with Childhood Disability LINK since 2012. For this project, they asked us to modernize their website’s visual design, make the site more engaging to its visitors, and improve the information architecture all the while combining and condensing the content from two other micro-sites.
- improve site’s engagement metrics
- create visually compelling design for text-heavy content
- combine content from three websites and organize it in an easy-to-navigate way
- ensure that site features align with audience and organizational goals
- 20% reduction in bounce rate
- 87.20% increase in session duration
- 36.80% increase in pageviews per session
Whenever faced with the challenge of making a website more engaging we prefer to base our work on data gathered from real users in the site’s target audience. This isn’t always possible due to budgetary or time constraints, however, in the case of the Childhood Disability LINK redesign we were able to not only conduct preliminary user research but also user testing on the new design’s prototype. This project’s results speak to the impressive power of these activities.
First and foremost, we conducted an ethnography study with the site’s audience of clinicians and parents of children with disabilities. Our goal was to find out what obstacles they face, what technology they’re using, as well as their mental models and their goals when they’re searching for information online.
This information allowed us to determine the most helpful ways to categorize information for Childhood Disability LINK’s audience to be able to find information easily and quickly; the essential site features to develop and the most pertinent information to include for the audience to achieve their goals and have a positive experience using the site; as well as to develop a number of guiding principles to keep in mind through the design and development process.
Content Strategy & Information Architecture
In developing information architecture (IA) we addressed the need to combine content from three websites by focusing on audience goals. We were able to test and improve our original strategy through user testing.
While formulating the content strategy, the major guiding principle we kept in mind that parents of children with disabilities have very limited time for doing online research as their time is generally occupied with care for their child, even more so than an average user or parent. This lead us to focus on succinct summaries for all content displayed on the website with a link for further, more in-depth information for those visitors to want to, or are able to, delve deeper.
We also discovered that many clinicians appreciate the ability to print or send simple PDF documents when sharing information with parents of children with disabilities. With this in mind, we included a summary PDF document for each article that’s shared through the Childhood Disability LINK website.
Finally, we included engaging video content that allows parents to quickly grasp more complex therapeutic practices and concepts. We also created a section for displaying online communities where parents can find support and feel connected to a community of folks with similar experiences.
Usability & Interface Design
In order to keep the design visually engaging, we developed a system of simple to understand icons for easily scanning through content in search results. An optional featured image can be applied instead of the standard icon when such an image exists (rare in the case of clinical research).
We applied the organization’s brand colours to create a few colour conventions that bring visual interest while allowing for easy scanning through mixed content types. The same iconographic and colour system was applied to social media share images to bring more visual interest when content is shared around the web.
In the interest of quickly serving up relevant information, we offered two basic methods for locating information: by diagnosis and through a prominent search feature. We’d found in our research that the site’s audience prefers to search for content based on a specific diagnosis so, we developed a filtering system that allows them to do just that. Content type archives, as well as search results, offer site visitors a way to filter by diagnosis and/or another pertinent taxonomy.
While viewing any specific diagnosis archive, site visitors are able to sign up for RSS-based notifications when new pertinent content is added. A valuable tool that keeps them informed with minimal effort while allowing Childhood Disability LINK to continue engaging with their audience directly in their mailboxes.
Further keeping in mind organizational goals, we included features like newsletter sign-up forms and social media account links. We also created a convenient way for visitors to suggest interesting content for inclusion in this directory of links, a feature that essentially crowdsources the content of the website. We also included a simple way to report any broken links which will save the organization time on upkeep and maintenance.
Finally, we offered a way for the organization to highlight their achievements and news about their work without the burden of running a full blog.
To finish things off we conducted two rounds of usability testing to confirm that we properly applied our findings from the ethnography study. We then did one last round of revisions that addressed issues identified in the first round of testing and confirmed that we indeed solved those issues with the second round of usability testing.
The final website was rated 4.33/5 by our usability testing participants (5 being extremely easy to use and 0 being extremely difficult to use). We were also able to decrease the average task completion time by 64% when compared with the first round of usability testing.
We used industry best practices to develop our designs into a fully functional, bilingual, and responsive website that’s a pleasure to use on a wide range of devices.
As with all of our website, we build the new Childhood Disability LINK website to use WordPress as it Content Management System (CMS). We applied our user-focused design process to the creation of a simple to use content organization for ease of maintenance and update.
Training & Launch
With the final website fully tested to ensure the site performs consistently well across a wide range of representative devices and browsers, we conducted a CMS training session for current site authors. As is our regular experience, they were able to start using the CMS system to craft content after just the one training session that took about an hour.
Finally, we worked with Childhood Disability LINK’s existing hosting provider to launch their new website.