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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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Forklift to Drupal 7 in 8 weeks

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
  • XP
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings

Leveraging a small multidisciplinary production team and agile methodologies, LCM migrated SUNY Potsdam from their self-hosted legacy CommonSpot CMS to Drupal 7 on Acquia in just 8 weeks.

The small team at the SUNY Potsdam Office of Public Affairs had been managing the proprietary CommonSpot CMS since its implementation in 2008. It was inflexible and the team struggled with reliability issues, so SUNY Potsdam was looking for a more useable, stable, efficient, and scalable solution. They chose Drupal 7, Acquia, and Last Call Media.  

SUNY Potsdam partnered with Last Call Media and Acquia to migrate their site to Drupal 7. Leveraging the scrum methodology, LCM broke down and organized the major site features into a prioritized backlog, groomed for two-week iterations. While planning and backlog refinement was ongoing several times a week, the core development team at LCM met with Potsdam every other Friday to review work completed, provide training on the new CMS, and to facilitate the feedback-gathering process.

Since SUNY Potsdam had recently gone through a redesign, the project required the new site to maintain the existing look and feel. We began with an in-depth audit of all the different page types and page elements. Instead of doing this manually page by page, we first looked for a programmatic solution. Since CommonSpot did not provide a way to generate this information within the CMS, LCM used its HTML Crawler tool to programmatically crawl the existing production site and analyze the various HTML tags to determine page elements (such as slideshows, feeds, etc), including where and how often they appear. This provided tremendous visibility into the site’s underlying structure, which was critical in planning our approach to the migration to Drupal.

Potsdam Art Page

 

After reviewing this data with SUNY Potsdam, we began the process of consolidation– instead of building one-off page elements, we consolidated similar elements into single widgets that behaved differently based on where on the page it was placed. This helped reduce the vast number of options a content author has to choose from, making it easier for them to do what they need to do: focus on the content. To achieve the desired platform flexibility, LCM built a repository of flexible and adaptable widgets to allow the marketing team at Potsdam to build custom pages. 

The migration included several different page templates and tens of thousands of pieces of content, which required writing and testing a series of migration scripts to get all the content from one CMS to another without downtime or a lengthy content freeze. Since the CommonSpot installation did not have a concept of structured content, LCM used it’s HTML crawler tool again to programmatically identify page content and then map it to its new location in Drupal. Once the custom scripts were written and tested, the migration took only 15 minutes for tens of thousands of pieces of unique content and the associated metadata, such as date published, authoring information, and URL

Potsdam Events Page

 

The new site also pulls in events automatically from their event management system, SOGo, and tags the event to the relevant department or office in the CMS so that it appears on that organization’s page.  

Lastly, in order to make it as easy as possible for content authors to login to the site, we leveraged the identity management service at Potsdam, Active Directory, to allow users to use their domain credentials to authenticate with Drupal.

This project addressed several internal pain points with the SUNY Potsdam main website, allowing the marketing team to move from maintenance and support tasks to other organizational priorities. The site loads blazingly fast on Acquia, and Potsdam continues to work with LCM in an ongoing support relationship.   

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A Hub for Emergency Preparedness.

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

San Francisco takes emergency preparedness seriously.

As the fourth largest city in California, the city also serves as a center for business, commerce and culture for the West Coast. To support the City of San Francisco’s commitment to emergency preparedness, the Department of Emergency Management designed and developed a campaign to drive citizens to better understand how to be prepared in the event of an emergency. And in the unfortunate event that disaster does strike, the platform transitions to a communication platform where citizens can find the most up to date information directly from the City.

DEM had invested significant effort into creating a very engaging website to communicate to the public about emergency preparedness. However, the site was developed in a way that did not facilitate quick and easy content changes - a critical need when up-to-the-minute accurate information is needed. The site also fell short on a number of accessibility metrics.

How we did it.

Profile picture for user Jeff

When it’s business as usual, the site serves as a platform to generate awareness for how someone can better prepare themselves and their family in the event of an emergency. Visitors can download checklists, and complete forms, in addition to reading about how to prepare for different kinds of disasters, like an earthquake or tsunami. However, in the event of an emergency, the City can quickly enable a separate emergency home page which presents visitors with vastly different dynamic content updated in real time specific to the emergency, including an embedded interactive Google Crisis Map that displays information aggregated from a variety of external sources managed by the City.

Last Call Media provided a direct replacement of the existing site in Drupal 8, leveraging the out-of-the box D8 accessibility features and the user-friendly D8 in-place content editing interface. We also reduced the maintenance burden by bringing the blog, which had been a separate site, into the main site.

Our accessibility audit revealed that the original color palette used for the site designed relied heavily on colors that did not meet WCAG 2.0 contrast requirements. We were able to identify a compliant color scheme that remained within the existing brand guidelines for the new site. The site also relied heavily on icon fonts which were not taking advantage of Unicode’s private use area, and the HTML elements displaying the icons did not use appropriate ARIA attributes. Rebuilding the icon font and HTML markup to take advantage of those tools helped to greatly improve the screen reader experience for the site.

Another area that needed improvement was general accessibility related to interactive elements. Sections like flyout menus and tabs were difficult to navigate via keyboard, and were missing ARIA attributes that make them easier to understand and use. During the rebuild we switched away from using mostly-homegrown CSS and JS, and leveraged the Foundation CSS/JS framework instead. This change provided a couple of benefits - many of the missing accessibility features are included in the components provided by Foundation out of the box, it helped keep the nuanced details of the styling more consistent across different areas of the site, and it expedited the development process as well.

The City of San Francisco now has a means of communicating its emergency preparedness message with a site that is engaging, nimble, and robust.

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Let’s make moves!

Team Leadership
  • Senior Development
    Chelsie Johnston
  • Art Director
    Molly Taaffe

This summer, Last Call Media teamed up with Blackboard to build a new customer-facing site, using a component-based design system that could afford content editors novel flexibility while still reaping the benefits of a content management system. 

In building out Blackboard.com in Drupal 8 this summer, we found a fresh opportunity to position Blackboard as a user-friendly, customer-focused, and modern brand — the big idea was to introduce subtle elements of motion design into the theme in order to create a more engaging user experience. 

So, once we’d built out the new site architecture, components, and theme, we shifted our focus to visual refinement; our goal was not only to guide users through their experience through the use of animation, hover effects, and motion design, but also to delight visitors in subtle, unexpected ways by thoughtfully introducing some of these elements into the theme.

Goals

The main goal of this effort was to liven up the site and encourage users to interact with elements on the page. As an unintended consequence of implementing a highly flexible component-based theme — in which pieces of content could be mixed and matched in basically unlimited ways on any given page — the overall look and feel had come out very clean and organized, but at the same time more boxy and “dull” than we’d anticipated! Alongside this, there was also the challenge of giving the theme an institutional, educational feel that still felt friendly and helpful instead of overly corporate and austere. 

Process

The first step in the process of adding microinteractions was to make sure the interactions were unified in their intent. For example, a rise on hover means the item is clickable, and if implemented on something that doesn’t click, would confuse the user.

Hover is a near universal sign for “this is clickable”, so we utilised a hover effect with shadow for the menu. For buttons, we opted to change from a simple color fade on hover, to a left to right swipe to change the color. This is more engaging than a simple color change, but it isn’t distracting from what the call to action is asking the user to do. It also matches the movement exhibited in the menu when items are hovered over. This addition of motion design to the menu helps users better understand where they are in a detailed navigation, and have a stronger understanding of the menu and product hierarchies.

menu interaction example

Some other elements of movement added, purely for aesthetics and to engage the user, were a hover effect where the background shapes move behind a product shot when moused over. This added interest to otherwise somewhat repetitive images of computers, and hopefully caused the user to take a second look. Another was a fade and slide in of images, from the side the image is on. This creates a very welcoming feeling as you scroll down the page. In addition, we added a video background to the banner area of the homepage, tinted Blackboard blue so as not to distract from the text and call to action button over it.

pause video example

In order to maintain our accessibility standards we had to think about users that may not be comfortable with the video at the top of the homepage, so we included a pause button to stop it from playing.

pause video example

Results

The team at Blackboard is happy with the results of this effort, and it brings a really fresh engaging experience to the site. We would love to do another round of user testing (link to solution story about that) to see how or why these additions add to the site for users.

Microinteractions are a great way to engage the user, and add a wow factor to your site. However, we believe that handling these specifically and thoughtfully is the only way to achieve an effect that really makes sense to the user, rather than just a decoration. This means that every movement and reaction should be consistent and rational, with a meaning and result that are predictable to the user after a short period of interaction. We look forward to bringing what we learned here to anything we work on to add another level of sophistication.