As they begin their exciting transition into a National Centre for Writing in 2018, the Writers’ Centre Norwich needed a new, inspirational site that reflected the scale of their future work and ambitions.
Since it was born in 2004 as the New Writing Partnership, the Writers’ Centre Norwich has slowly grown under the leadership of it’s current chief executive, Chris Gribble, into England’s leading literature organisation.
Unfortunately their website, first online in 2008, had become dated and unfit for purpose. It had become so unusable that their staff were reduced to using Google to find content on the site. Only 20% of the site’s pages were visited, reducing visitor engagement and hindering the important task of growing a new audience. Marketing and fundraising suffered too, as the newsletter sign up was complicated, often failed and the donation button wasn’t prominent enough. As a charity which depends on donations, this was a real problem.
The site had to be usable again, beginning with re-establishing successful revenue streams from tickets sales and donations. All information had to be easily discoverable, with nothing more than three clicks away. The visual design had to be bold, modern and compelling yet not date quickly, as it still had to look strong once the Writers’ Centre Norwich became a National Centre for Writing in 2018. Above all, the site had to be enjoyed as a place of inspiration, communicating the Writers’ Centre's mission to put literature at the heart of contemporary culture while supporting the artistic and professional development of writers and literary translators.
After successfully winning a highly competitive pitch to redesign the site, we began the research phase by studying the site’s traffic and analytics. We then conducted interviews of key staff, stakeholders and users to discover their needs and how to address them.
The Events calendar was an integral part of the site, helping the users to easily find Events & Courses
USER EXPERIENCE (UX) / DESIGN BREAKDOWN
Only the dates for Events & Courses are displayed, keeping them prominent in the Calendar
The dots represent the number of Events or Courses on any day. We’ve used a subtle dot and colour combination to differentiate between Events and Courses. This follows the successful model used in many mainstream calendar programmes, retaining a familiar visual pattern for users
Special rollover state helps indicate interaction
Obvious 'Next' button indicates more dates
We made strong user journeys our first priority in order to adhere to the ‘three click rule’. Using an early prototype, we tested our ideas on volunteers using our state of the art UX lab next door to our studio. This informed our decisions in organising content and naming the main sections and calls to action.
Events and Courses blocks enabled visitors to clearly see what was on, when and where
USER EXPERIENCE (UX) / DESIGN BREAKDOWN
Different colours for Events & Courses aided discovery and made the dates clearly visible
The typeface Phosphate was used for bold, prominent titles
We designed clear calls to action, with subtle design differences between the ‘Find out more’ and ‘Buy tickets’ buttons
We gave users the ability to add events to their calendar or to share on social media
Booking information is clearly displayed
Icons categorise important information
Once we were satisfied that people could complete the site's main objectives easily, we moved onto visual design. We were told repeatedly how important it was for the interface to look as exciting, attractive and accessible as possible. Our solution used a subtle nod to the Writers’ Centre colour palette, with a clear, bold layout and a heavy headline typeface called Phosphate. Both increased legibility and established solid hierarchies on each page, allowing users to easily find important information.
Once the visual design was approved, we started to build the site adding the Writers' Centre's requested features, including a unique advanced search function and bespoke events calendar with filterable categories, both created from scratch. We integrated our proposed easy-to-use content management system, Symphony, with the Writers' Centre’s legacy database and ticketing system (Cloud Venue) and created the facility to easily upload YouTube videos and SoundCloud files to the site. Social media integration was improved with the ability to share articles on Twitter and Facebook as well as the ability to bookmark items to read later on Pocket and Instapaper. By default, the new build included many of the other items of the Writers' Centre’s features list, such as cross browser compatibility, responsive design, accessibility and the inclusion of Google analytics.
Visitors to the Writers’ Centre Norwich can now easily find what they need, on a clear, contemporary looking website. Whether they need to know how to become a professional writer, book an event or a course, sign up for the newsletter or make a donation, the new redesign has made all of this simple to achieve. A Fine Studio has received positive glowing feedback from staff, board members, and more importantly, the users themselves, something which we are understandably proud of.