Building a new website at CIPD

There’s a general understanding amongst colleagues that CIPD’s current website is no longer fit for purpose. That it no longer meets our users’ requirements, doesn’t deliver the kind of web experience we’ve all come to expect over the past couple of years. I think many of us would even go as far as to say that it falls well short of delivering an online experience that aligns to the new CIPD, its brand, its ambitions and its purpose.

It is, as my silver surfer mum, who’s a keen observer of web trends, dryly puts it, ‘like it’s 1999’. (She also wants to know what I’m going to do about it!)

Things have moved on a lot since the last big website project in 2011. Not least the rise of mobile. Earlier this year Google announced that the volume of search queries from mobile overtook that from desktop for the first time.

We expect to be able to access and interact with a site and its content across different screen sizes – it should be just as compelling and intuitive on a huge SmartTV as on a mobile phone screen (or even a Smart Watch). We expect to continue tasks across different devices. We expect websites to remember us and to deliver up content and offers that reflect our previous interactions.

The current site, the underlying architecture, but also the way we’ve constructed and governed it, means that we just can’t do any of those things presently. And as a consequence, we’re letting ourselves down and our community down.

To tackle that we are embarked on a programme of work to develop a new, modern website. And in December 2015 the website redesign project team met two early stage but major milestones that aim to address the issues on the current site and shift CIPD to a much more customer-centric online experience.

Joe Philips, our Web Content Strategist, presented a review of the content and structure of the current site and recommendations for the new site. And Holly Spice, Online Dvelopment Manager, presented recommendations for the Information Architecture for the new site – particularly the navigation structure.

The main findings of Joe’s content strategy audit and discovery work were that

  • content on the site is not ‘web-friendly’, generally not very engaging, not customer centric and not aligned to CIPD’s brand values and messaging
  • There is no governance of the content on the site; content is published to the site before evaluating how it addresses CIPD’s and our users’ needs
  • We have lots of inaccurate, outdated, even irrelevant content
  • Content is difficult to find,
  • Content is difficult to use and to understand – and by extension (in our customers’ minds) so is CIPD
  • The structure and organisation of the site is illogical and confusing
    • based on internal business divisions (sometimes jokingly referred to as ‘showing your corporate underwear’)* and a print-centric mindset
    • rather than being structured around users’ requirements

* If you don’t believe me, Joe shared the ‘Customer Focus Calculator’ to the team the other day. According to the calculator, is 73% self focused and 27% user focused. Sobering stuff. (Try it with your site. Go on! I dare you!)

Information Architects, according to Peter Morville, father of IA, ‘help our users to understand where they are, what they’ve found, what to expect and what’s around’, the organisation of and the orientation within a website. When it’s good it’s intuitive, when it’s bad it’s confusing and disorienting.

My colleague Holly Spice is leading the IA work. The current site suffers from a very flat navigation structure, choice overload in fact, rather than a navigation structure that reflects user requirements (and works better on smaller screens)

Holly’s recommendations are to

  • Create a site that’s broadly organised according to the needs of our key audiences
  • Build user- and task- specific sub-sections
  • Build an IA that facilitates customer and segment-specific messaging, calls to action and user journeys

The proposed new navigation structure addresses all of those recommendations and has been extensively tested across wide and representative customer group using optimal sort and TreeJack. Broadly speaking the recommendation is that we develop a site architecture that represents a person’s career/development journey.

  • For those early in their career there’s a ‘starting out’ section, housing all the resources they would need
  • For those at mid-level career there’s a ‘learn, develop and connect’ area, and a
  • Knowledge base’ – where users can go for practical advice and commentary on trends and insights
  • organised and delivered thematically, not by content type – because people don’t think ‘I need a ‘factsheet’ or I need an ‘FAQ’ but rather ‘I’m looking for something to help me with the recruitment process, what have you got for me?’
  • For HR and business leaders and the media there’s a fourth area of the site devoted to news, views and latest thinking – where we can present a strong and compelling voice on current and emerging issues

CIPD also have a large CRM (Customer Relationship Management) project underway. And once that CRM system is in place we’ll start to be able to deliver the kinds of personalised customer experiences we’re familiar with on other sites where content is served up according to users’ previous interactions. But for now we will personalise at a relatively straightforward level. Being a membership organisation, that personalization will focus around whether – or not – someone is logged in as a member. Membership options and content (how to become, or how to manage your membership) will then be tailored to whether you’re logged in or not.

The team had our first workshop with Building Blocks – our friendly Mancunian development partners – this week. And it was clear that the thinking that’s already been done on customer personas, the navigation structure, content strategy and user experience mapping dovetailed nicely with their approach and made the second stage of the workshop – choosing the components and templates we will need – pretty straightforward. And lots of fun! Christmas came early as we chose the wizards and heroes, montages and content cards we wanted for the new site.

We’ve a hard journey ahead of us, but as the year comes to a close, I’m confident that the team have the solid foundations in place to build a modern, customer-centric and compelling website.