Solutions.

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Delivering a high stakes MVP.

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Tom Fleming

Following a branding initiative, Designow worked with Last Call Media to build and launch the initial release of a complex crowdfunding platform on Drupal.

When we began, initial prototyping and feature development had already been started. As is often the case, much of the prototyping had made its way into substantial portions of what was now the project’s foundational work. It had become difficult to determine exactly what was completely done, what was partially done, and what requirements had been left out along the way.

We used our expertise in Agile methodologies to bring order to complexity and the product to launch. We began by building and prioritizing a backlog of tasks, and getting high-priority tasks into a ready state by defining appropriate definitions of done. We focused on implementing strategies for limiting the work in progress present in the project when we started. We forecasted a few sprint goals, informed by our backlog development and resulting strategies, and quickly went into heavy development.

Immediate visibility for stakeholders into development progress became of major importance for their own ability to make quick business decisions concerning their investment. In order to maximize the value of the work, we adapted our initial Scrum iteration approach into shorter, one-week sprints of continuous delivery to get small groups of completed tasks out faster. This soon evolved into more of an ideal Kanban flow, allowing a continuous awareness and continuous delivery of the right value.

Since the initial release, LCM and Designow have continuously measured and inspected valuable feedback. Our work is ongoing, as the product is currently receiving regular releases of new features and refinements.

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Drilling down to an education.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Jeff Landfried
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

Education sites are huge and contain a lot of information. There are many different personas who frequent these sites, and they’re all looking for a wide variety of resources.

After getting the right personas to the right area of the site, faceted searching was one of the solutions Last Call Media implemented to help visitors drill down further into the specifics. In this case, it was WPI’s areas of study.

We developed a faceted search tool for their degree and certificates catalog to solve the challenge of drilling down through the options to get to a specific area of study. By structuring and categorizing the information of this catalog appropriately in the database, we were able to implement faceted searching functionality for the areas of study across Bachelor, Minor, Certificate, Master, and PhD programs.

Site visitors are able to use this implementation to drill down to very specific information, so this work has substantially increased engagement, as well as conversions.

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A new design for PVPC.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Colin Panetta
  • Art Director
    Colin Panetta

The Pioneer Valley Planning Committee, the regional planning body for the Pioneer Valley region, which encompasses 43 cities and towns in the Hamden and Hampshire county areas of Massachusetts, asked LCM to redesign their aging Drupal site with a new look and feel and to also be compliant with new government regulations surrounding content and site accessibility.

Working with PVPC 

We took the project from initial discovery and strategy through information architecture, design, and development. We were able to deliver a compelling, modern, and effective design, with PVPC’s target users in mind. Our discovery and strategy informed a new design for improved site navigation and menu structure, re-working the existing navigation system to create a more fluid experience visiting the site.

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Consortium Assault Services app.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Rob Bayliss

In response to growing concerns and attention around Sexual Harassment and Assault Nationwide, Amherst College needed a tool to serve students of the Five Colleges with rapid access to Title IX office information and emergency services.

LCM and Amherst College worked together with student advocates, Title IX, LGBTQ, and other campus offices and organizations to design and develop an iOS App that puts valuable information, from a Drupal site Amherst can administer, into the hands of students. The major feature of the app was to direct assault survivors to emergency contact information, help services, and other advocacy groups, anonymously and quickly.

The app was announced to all incoming and returning students during new school year orientation. Information about the app has been circulated through the Five Colleges on promotional materials and “get help” brochures and posters.

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Looking before we leap.

Team Leadership
  • Art Director
    Colin Panetta

After working with Blackboard—the largest education technology and services company in the world—on restructuring and retheming their corporate site Blackboard.com, we knew we needed to test our efforts in order to iron out any problems before the site went live. Normally we may conduct remote moderated user testing for this (watching users navigate the site over a video call to gauge how well it works for them), but Blackboard’s annual user convention, BbWorld, provided a perfect opportunity to conduct this testing in person.

Goals

We wrote a list of goals for our user testing that included learning about user behavior, whether the site was intuitive to navigate, whether free trials were easy to find, and what users thought about the new design. We worked with the team at Blackboard to define these goals and to ensure we were all on the same page about what we would hope to learn from these interviews. We then constructed our interview questions around meeting these goals, asking users to complete tasks that would ultimately give us the necessary insights for the next phase of work.

Testing setup

On-site at BbWorld, we used Formstack to conduct our user interviews. This gave us an adaptable setup that enabled Blackboard staff to conduct testing right alongside us, even though many of them had never done so before. Speaking directly to users about the site gave Blackboard staff a higher level of empathy with their users than if they had just read a report, giving them deeper insight into how users viewed the site. We also made screen recordings of our interviews, for later reference.

The BbWorld attendees we interviewed consisted of institution technologists, instructors, academic leaders, corporate partners (resellers, ed tech vendors), and trainers, mostly in higher education, as opposed to K-12, government, or business. Most were influencers or decision-makers when it comes to purchasing education software for their institution—a valuable perspective to be sure! In the end, we facilitated almost 70 total interviews over just a couple of days! 

There were a number of initiatives in place to encourage people to test the site. These included push notifications from the BbWorld app, a $15 Starbucks gift card that was given at the end of the testing, and an event-wide “passport” attendees could only complete by visiting our table. Most of the people we spoke to came to us for one of these reasons.

Original Blackboard.com site with dark interface and many links
The old Blackboard.com

Learning about the old site

The majority of people we spoke to at BbWorld said they had used Blackboard.com before. We were particularly interested to hear from these experienced users, so we could establish a baseline experience using the old site, to later compare their experience using new site. Measuring these experiences against each other would tell us whether or not the restructure and retheme was an improvement. For example, if someone used the site for gathering specific information about Blackboard, did the new site make it easier or harder for them to do that?

Here’s what that baseline experience looked like:

  • Half of the people we spoke to said the current Blackboard.com was easy to use, with a quarter each saying it was hard or neutral.
  • Most common uses for the site included navigating to Blackboard’s Community site, reviewing the Higher Education section for language on products, or seeking help or support.
  • Finding things or navigating the site were listed as the most common difficulty, although some thought it worked well!
  • Opinions about the navigation were mostly negative.
  • Testers felt that site was clean, but some thought it presented too much information.
  • Most people said they access the site by typing the url in their address bar. (A sure sign of an experienced user!)
  • Almost universally, people accessed the site from a desktop computer.
Redesigned Blackboard.com site with brighter interface and consolidated links
The rethemed Blackboard.com

Learning about the new site

Moderated user testing is often the first time people outside of your team sees your product. While this can be daunting, it’s important to be open to constructive criticism big and small—after all, that’s the point of user testing! So while we were prepared (as always) for negative feedback, the overall response to the new Blackboard.com was extremely positive. Whew!

While we walked into testing thinking that, visually, the new theme was more of a small facelift than a full redesign, people were enthusiastic about the design of the new site. Before we could even ask about the design, many people immediately stated that they thought it was a big improvement, using words like “clean,” “modern,” and “professional” to describe it.

Many people also liked the new navigation structure. Comments about it included “All the overwhelming links are gone. Now I can digest what the navigation is offering. It’s highlighting the important information,” and “Navigation is simplified and to the point. More intuitive and easy to navigate, it will take a shorter time to get to what I want.”

Despite having a high level of familiarity with Blackboard, two thirds of the people we spoke to said that they learned something new about Blackboard during their brief time on the new site. Blackboard is working to let the public know that they’re more than just an LMS, so we were happy to hear the site is now aiding in that. Blackboard’s recruiting, safety, and social media management services were among the things people most commonly cited having learned about. 

After performing a few tasks on the new site, half of the people we spoke to said the new site was easier to use than the old site, with a quarter each saying it was harder or the same.

But of course there was still room for improvement. Things that people thought could be improved included:

  • Many people thought the site wasn’t doing a good job of explaining who Blackboard is and what they do.
  • While the new navigation worked well for many people, some expressed confusion over the specifics of what it was presenting. Specifically, they were unsure what was a product and what was a service, and confused about the word “community” being used in two different places to indicate different things.
  • Users would often miss the button for free trials, sometimes not seeing it at all until we pointed it out.

Results

The thing that gives our partners the most pause when pulling the trigger on user testing is that you don’t always know what the results will be ahead of time. How can you justify dedicating time and resources to something when you don’t know what you’re going to get? But that’s the point of testing—to find out things you don’t know. We’ve never walked away from testing without valuable insights that went on to inform the rest of the project, and our Blackboard testing was no exception.

One small but impactful result was that we changed the color of the free trial CTA. We made this pivot quickly in the middle of testing, which enabled us to gauge the impact immediately. People started noticing the button more, and thus the issue was resolved immediately — no muss no fuss! It was gratifying to have something so small make an immediate positive impact and we all laughed at how long we chatted about that button color prior to testing! Post-launch, this CTA is used six times more than it was before the redesign, and the page it links to is now the third most viewed on the site, leading more users to this essential content.

Following user testing we did an extensive redesign of the homepage, and the feedback we received stating the site should tell users who Blackboard is and what they do was our guiding light. The new Blackboard homepage is a top to bottom narrative that tells the story of Blackboard starting with a broad overview, then moves into some specifics, and then shows what Blackboard does in action. Post-launch, Blackboard has seen a decrease in the bounce rate of their homepage, meaning more users are engaging with it.

What we learned in user testing also informed the new site navigation. The site structure had been massively rearranged, shifting from being market-based to value-based. The feedback we received about certain parts of the navigation being unclear helped refine the language used. Post-launch, more Blackboard users have been getting to their destination in 0-2 clicks, meaning they’re using the new navigation to find what they’re looking for faster.

The insight that user testing provides can come in the form of reassurance. Since people were enthusiastic about the new site being easy-to-use, we could move forward with the confidence that there were no big missing pieces. Furthermore, since the new theme was so well received, we realized the visual changes provided a larger impact, shifting our perception of it from being a “facelift” to something closer to a redesign.

Blackboard.com subsequently relaunched and, with the help of the insights we gained in user testing, is seeing a decreased bounce rate on the homepage, more users finding their destination quickly, and a dramatic increase in traffic to the free trial page, meaning teachers and students worldwide have better access to some of the best digital learning tools on the market.

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Annual Fund’s 25th Anniversary Campaign.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership

The Advancement Department of Amherst College needed an updated brochure to support their efforts of encouraging donations to the Annual Fund’s 25th Anniversary Program campaign. Last Call Media was excited to build upon our technical experience migrating Amherst to Drupal and in building the Title IX iOS App with a project that could showcase our marketing strategy and design talents.

How we did it

The twenty-fifth anniversary year is an important one for advancement activities. Alumni have generally attained career and financial stability by this time, and it is an important moment in which to encourage a lifetime habit of giving to Amherst College. Amherst needed an accessible and compelling visual that would explain a complicated funding program. Working within existing guidelines and style templates, we worked with the Annual Fund to build a tri-fold brochure that plainly communicated the benefits and procedures of giving during the five years leading up to and including an alumnus’ twenty-fifth anniversary reunion year.

brochure 2

brochure

Staff reported that the leave-behind brochure was incredibly helpful for both their volunteers and donors, and twenty-fifth anniversary giving broke fundraising targets and records in 2015 and 2016.

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Custom tailoring Haverford.edu.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Jeff Landfried
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

When LCM got the call from Haverford about redoing their site in Drupal, we thought it was going to be a redesign. After an initial conversation we agreed to do a Discovery and Strategy engagement first, to determine what the true needs were and then develop a strategy for solutions. We conducted stakeholder interviews and developed the User Personas of who our work was to be for. Interestingly, none of these personas ended up being an anonymous site visitor, but instead were different types of content editors and administrators.

Haverford didn’t need a redesign; their site looked great already. The biggest issue they needed to solve was not having enough time to do new feature development themselves. They were a smart and capable team and over many years had developed and maintained a large custom PHP implementation for college’s website needs. They were finding, however, that too much of their time was being spent updating pages for college members and groups. Their hope was for us to build them a site that looked and functioned like their current site, but built on a modern CMS with exceptional user management and publishing workflows.

Once we had alignment on their needs and a strategy for solutions, we built out a Content Model, Product Backlog, and Information Architecture. The project was completed with Drupal in steady collaboration with the Haverford Communications team, in 5 development Sprints, and launched on the Acquia Infrastructure.

The Haverford Team really jumped in and took off with it. It was really great!

You can read more about this project as LCM’s Acquia Certified Grand Master Developer, Jeff Landfried shares details of his experience here.

Since then, Last Call Media has continued to work with Haverford on an ongoing basis as part of our dedicated Continuous Delivery relationship, where our dedicated team of developers helps to keep their site secure, up-to-date, and assists as needed with anything from strategy to design to development.

The migration of Haverford to Drupal on Acquia remains one of our favorite projects to date, and it’s a great source of professional pride for all of us. We look forward to a long partnership with Haverford as we continuously evaluate how their online experience is meeting the needs of the College.  

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Fun and impactful design for inclusive tech event.

Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht

The New England Regional Developers Summit (NERDS) came to Last Call Media for a site design that would support their inclusive, educational agenda for their upcoming 2017 event.

Strategy

Last Call employed a few different site strategies in order to best serve NERDS and their users. First, we boiled their content down to short bursts that either told site users everything they needed to know or linked them to where they need to go to complete an action (like signing up for the email newsletter or submitting a session).

We then decided to present each of these pieces of content in a slide of their own, leveraging this modular strategy to organize content depending on audience. We made sure that each slide was flexible and could be updated as needed as the event draws nearer (as “Submit a Session” turns into “Session Schedule,” for example).

Lil NERDy

To give NERDS an immediate, personable (and literal) face, we decided to develop a mascot. The feel of the NERD logo evoked the 70’s to us, and we decided to use Mr. Men, one of that era’s most famous cartoons, as inspiration. The result was Lil’ NERDy. Lil’ NERDy is memorable and adaptable, meaning she can be used in a variety of ways at any size to instantly remind people of the friendly and inclusive nature of NERDS.

Round, green cartoon character with glasses.

 

Site Design

Using Lil’ NERDy as an asset, the site strategy was then implemented to produce a bold, fresh site design. The design uses strong typography and bright colors to create an impactful and informative experience.

NERDS Homepage design.

 

NERDS walked away with a fun, efficient site that keeps users informed and delighted as their event draws closer.

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Healthy U Portal app.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Rob Bayliss
  • Art Director
    Colin Panetta

Cooley-Dickinson Hospital offers an incentive-based healthy lifestyle program to their employees. As employees participate in exercise activities, healthier eating habits, and education classes to learn life-enhancing techniques, they gain points— which translate to greater discounts to their benefits contributions. CDH was tracking this participation program on paper and in Excel for over 1000 employees. Last Call was hired to transform the program into an interactive digital experience to increase participation and automate much of the workflow of managing the program.

We provided an easy-to-use interface to minimize the barrier of entry for users. Maximized by a Mobile First approach, we condensed how much information was presented to allow users to quickly access the main features of the program, which included entering exercise activity. While also accessible through desktop and laptop computers, the primary use case for the app was on the go, from a mobile device, for a user to track their progress. LCM went further, implementing QR Code functionality, allowing CDH to post flyers notifying staff of special activities. Scanning the QR Codes on those notices would transition the user’s experience to the relevant area of the app.

Things went really well with the program, it met all of our needs really well and the employees loved it.

Sam Blasiak, Cooley Dickinson Hospital

The program has been met with amazing reception both from administration, and employee participation. The program is being further expanded and developed to be modular and rapidly deployed at partner healthcare facility partners.

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Redesigning the College of Biological Sciences.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Tom Fleming
  • Senior Development
    Tom Fleming
  • Art Director
    Colin Panetta

Developing a digital media strategy with measurable results.

Challenged to increase enrollment, the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota looked to Last Call Media for ways to develop a digital media strategy with measurable results. Last Call Media focused on increasing engagement with CBS’ primary audiences— prospective and current students— by implementing fresh designs with improved pathways and navigation. LCM also coordinated the final migration and deployment of the site to the University’s Acquia platform.

Working with CBS, we took the project from initial discovery and goal validation through information architecture, design, and development.

We were able to deliver a compelling, modern, and effective site. With CBS’s target users in mind, Last Call Media improved site navigation and menu structure, re-working the existing navigation system to create a more fluid experience visiting the site.

The site was launched in summer, in time to function as an active recruitment tool for the school year. After receiving consistent positive feedback, CBS and LCM received an award for the design and functionality. The CBS team has continued to add and manage new content on top of the sound foundation built by Last Call Media.