Case Study by Evelyn Csiszar RGD, Graphic Designer at Public Good Social Marketing Communications
The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) is the statutory governing body for dentists in Ontario, protecting the public’s right to quality oral health services through self-regulation. Public Good developed the RCDSO brand and was contracted to update its website. The website is the organization's primary resource for communicating with their 9,000+ dentist members and the public.
2012 - First website redesign
In the fall of 2012, we launched the first redesign of the website. This was a drastic overhaul of an older website, which was created in the early 2000s and lacked efficient navigation, branding and cohesiveness. Public Good’s Creative Director, Rex Eng, and I worked together on restructuring the site’s architecture to simplify the complex content into easy-to-use navigation and an optimized user experience and flow.
We used the organization's branding and corporate colour throughout the design and added photography and complementary graphics to bring warmth and personality to the content-heavy site. Feature pages for each type of user were created to highlight relevant information for these groups. Features include an archival resource library, online tools for members, guidelines and standards.
A separate mobile site was developed which was connected to the site's Content Management System. This allowed the administrator of the site to upload graphics that were optimized for desktop and separate graphics that were optimized for mobile. The content stayed the same on both screen sizes, but it was reshuffled and resized to fit better on mobile screen sizes. This solution was developed to allow for graphics to be optimized for both desktop and mobile screens, meanwhile making content management easy for the administrator by uploading all the content in one place.
In the spring of 2014, RCDSO approached us once again to create a fresh new homepage design that would represent the evolution of the College’s mission and brand. The new website would showcase important resources and links all in one place, rather than dividing relevant links between three types of users. It would be a hub of professional and educational resources for the dentists of Ontario as well as the organization’s primary connection to the public, reflecting their values of transparency, integrity and trust. The rest of the site’s pages would be updated with the new masthead and a secondary menu design, while keeping the existing content intact. The project began in the spring of 2014 and the website launched in September of the same year.
The design process started off with wireframes supplied by the client that outlined the information to be displayed on the new homepage. With the client’s needs in mind, we interpreted and adjusted the wireframes to create designs that used the same content but introduced more visual variety in the way the information was presented, taking into consideration the RCDSO brand, visual hierarchy and an optimized user experience. An improved navigation system was introduced, including a drop down menu that highlighted featured topics from each section of the site.
Accessibility was also considered through the incorporation of options to increase type size and contrast into the new design. The strong, grid-like layout made the design easily adaptable to mobile, allowing users to browse through the content on multiple screen sizes. Three design concepts were presented to the client. Each design had a unique branded look which used the corporate colours but handled the layout and graphics differently. Each concept conveyed a different personality for the organization. The client choose the concept which best suited the organization's current philosophy and approach to both their members and the public.
Using stock photography of dentistry that may not accurately reflect real-life procedures or equipment posed a problem, since the members would immediately be turned off by errors in these photos. It was difficult to find good quality photography, not only for the website, but for all of RCDSO's corporate communications.
Many dentistry topics can be complex or abstract, such as anesthesia and public consultations; or sensitive, such as filing a complaint or dealing with addiction, which meant the way we expressed these topics visually had to be carefully considered.
With these limitations in mind, we created colourful icons to identify the various sections of the site. These icons added visual interest while avoiding the difficulties associated with stock photography. The graphics unify the homepage elements and create a clean, contemporary design.
The website is inviting and transparent, providing users with an easy to navigate hub for valuable resources. The success of this project can be measured by the response from RCDSO's members and from similar organizations and regulators in the health profession sector.
In 2013, the RCDSO engaged Harry Cayton and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care in London, England to conduct an independent assessment which benchmarked their performance in relation to other regulators internationally. The report ranked the College in excellent standing and included positive feedback on the effectiveness and transparency of the website and ongoing corporate communications. This new website builds on the site architecture and information hierarchy, and now also incorporates a new, fresh, contemporary design. At this point, the new design has only been live for one month, but it has already received much positive feedback from the organization's members and other regulators in the health profession.
- Thoroughly understand your client’s needs, goals and challenges for each and every project. If you don’t understand these three things, a visually great design could immediately fail because you’ve overlooked the client’s requirements and expectations.
- Don't be intimidated by complex content - even if the subject matter comes with a lot of restrictions, you can still create a visual representation that is creative and unique.
- Content is king. Make sure your design accurately represents the content you’re designing for, otherwise both you and your client risk losing credibility.
- Do your best to communicate your needs and desired outcomes for the project to your designer, who can take this information and come up with unique ways to deliver results. The more information they have, the better.
- When you’re not happy with something, let the designer know why you’re not happy. Give them a problem to solve, rather than trying to offer a design solution. More often than not, your designer will come back with something that you may not have thought of.
- Keep in mind that your designer is not an expert in your field of work. Be sure to give them any additional information they may need as early in the design process as possible, to ensure that the designs will be accurate and effective.
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