Streamlined navigation, enhanced user experience, and effective communication of value proposition
Ann Arbor SPARK (“SPARK”) is a nonprofit organization that serves as a catalyst for economic growth in the Ann Arbor region. The vibrant college town is located in Michigan and is an innovation hub with a talented workforce.
With the highest concentration of engineering talent in the nation, Ann Arbor offers a rich tech-driven R&D ecosystem and a world-class university research network. With its steady pipeline of STEM graduates, Ann Arbor is growing in popularity with those looking to start or further their careers in the tech industry.
SPARK provides support to businesses in the area by connecting them with resources and opportunities, including funding, talent, and real estate. This nonprofit organization also focuses on promoting the region as a hub for innovation and technology in order to attract new businesses and investment to the area.
SPARK approached 3.7 Designs seeking a website overhaul.
In addition to finding the current website difficult to navigate and manage, SPARK noticed that the site was not optimized for SEO and not effectively communicating their value proposition to potential clients.
SPARK’s marketing team faced several challenges on a regular basis, including:
- Difficulties managing and editing content.
- Poor navigation and UX for various target audiences.
- A lack of flexibility withing content editing tools that prevented building different types of page layouts.
- Minor changes and updates were difficult due to a limiting and overly complex theme.
- 301 redirects were not working as expected.
SPARK also needed support promoting and managing events, including optimizing how they provided detailed information, enabled registration, and managed event submissions.
In other words, the nonprofit was seeking a website that is:
- Easy to navigate.
- Simple to manage.
- Designed to effectively communicate the value of its services to the right people at the right time.
- Streamlined so managing and editing content can be done in less time.
- Optimized for organic search engine visibility.
Fast & Efficient Action
3.7 Designs proposed a custom WordPress website for SPARK that would effectively communicate the organization’s value proposition and be easy to navigate and manage.
To achieve this objective, 3.7 Designs conducted research on the target audience through a “Saturation Dive” — essentially a design discovery process into the organization, its target audience, and the industry.
Based on the insights gained from the discovery process, 3.7 Designs created a detailed 90-page website strategy that outlined the project goals and the best approach to achieving them.
The strategy included the following direction-setting tools:
- Buyer personas: Serving as fictional representations of the target audience, they help to understand their goals, motivations, and challenges. They provide a deep understanding of the target audience, guiding the design, messaging, and marketing efforts for SPARK.
- An industry audit: This is a comprehensive analysis of the industry and competition, including the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Using this, they can identify areas of opportunity for the organization and ensure that they are positioned in a way that establishes trust with the community.
- A site map: A visual representation of the website’s structure and organization, it helps to plan the website’s content hierarchy, navigation, and overall user experience. A well-structured site map helps to ensure that users can easily find the information they need and can help to improve the website’s search engine optimization.
- Page strategies: Outlined are the purpose, goals, and target audience of each page on the website. They help to ensure that each page is designed to effectively communicate with the target audience and achieve specific goals.
- Call-to-action strategies: These are designed to encourage users to take a specific action, such as filling out a form, making a purchase, or signing up for a newsletter. They help to drive conversions and engagement on the website, and increase the overall effectiveness of the SPARK website.
The strategy guided the user experience design phase, where 3.7 Designs created high-fidelity mock-ups. These emphasized the SPARK brand, communicating the brand message and providing a flexible framework for the WordPress templates built to manage the site easier.
3.7 Designs also approached the website development project with a focus on four important aspects:
- Maximizing usability.
- Creating intuitive and easy-to-use content management tools.
- Optimizing the site for quick load times.
- Using search engine optimized code and accessible coding best practices.
Once the website was built and tested, 3.7 Designs deployed the site to a live environment and conducted final testing and training for SPARK’s staff.
They optimized the website for organic search engine visibility through the use of SEO best practices. They also built it on the user-friendly and customizable WordPress content management system. Now the process of updating the site is much more efficient for the team, and the dashboard is significantly easier to navigate for the user.
Custom. Engageing. Easy.
The Ann Arbor SPARK website was updated and redesigned to reflect the organization’s brand values. They deployed the new website one week after final review and approval.
The launch occurred in the evening during the week or on weekends during the day. Prior to that, The 3.7 Design team recommended, selected, and configured a new hosting environment. They also scheduled a final training to cover adding new functionality and maintaining the website.
The various changes made to the Ann Arbor SPARK website elevated the way the organization is able to communicate its value proposition. Now it’s much easier for potential leads, donors, and partners to navigate the site and engage with SPARK’s offerings, thanks to these outcomes:
- Creating a custom WordPress theme with a custom page builder was an essential step. This allowed for easy management and content creation without sacrificing page speed or design flexibility.
- A thoughtful design research and strategy was important for the success of SPARK. By creating user models, customer journey and empathy maps, and by conducting a competitive audit, the 3.7 Designs team had insights into the design and functionality of the website. These insights enabled the team to design a highly user-friendly and intuitive interface throughout the site.
- A properly managed development phase was also necessary. The website was designed to be responsive and accessible, targeting the most common devices and resolutions. A series of stackable modules were built that allowed for the creation of dynamic pages, and the website was integrated with various tools and plugins such as Google Tag Manager, Yoast SEO, and Jetpack, among others.
- The content integration phase was also crucial. 3.7 Designs’ content management training for the content administrators helped to ensure that the content was well managed and up to date, while the content duplication feature made it easier to add new pages.
Overall, the website redevelopment project was a success. It pushed Ann Arbor SPARK out of its typical mold and allowed them to reach an audience that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to engage.
The redesigned site now showcases the organization’s unique value proposition to clients in a very strategically effective way. The organization has achieved its goals of increasing conversion rates and expanding the organization’s reach.
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