Case Study by Scott Christie RGD, Partner & Creative Director, ClarkHuot Toronto
The Ireland Park Foundation (IPF) is a charitable organization that was established to celebrate and commemorate the Irish presence in Canada. The new website design offers a complete transformation and was needed for several reasons, the main being to encourage donations that will help build and expand on the Foundation's future plans for the park and surrounding area.
ClarkHuot was selected for this project because of an existing strong working relationship with the founder of IPF that dates back to 2002.*
There were four main goals for the site to achieve in order for it to be successful:
- Visually capture the emotion of the Ireland Park story
- Engage the community
- Encourage financial donations
- Support the foundation's vision
The site planning, visual exploration and content integration took place over 5 months, from May to September. The final site launched late September 2014. When all was said and done, the budget came in exactly as expected, however due to the foundation's charitable mandate we provided a 50% discount.
*Scott started to design the Foundation's initial brand representation back when he was a partner at Pylon.
Most thorough projects, including the creation of a website, have about seven phases: planning, content development, design exploration, production, development, activation and future requirements. Within these phases you’ll find research, brief writing, benchmarking, presentations, collaborative meetings etc. The results are delivered in a very clear presentation process that our clients expressively enjoy and appreciate — the result of which always reveal a clear winner.
The options and recommendations outlined in this presentation are provided within a context that will help the client understand the reasoning behind each direction we put forward. In essence, we take them through a comprehensive journey starting with the objectives outlined, the attributes listed, a visual of the current branding components at our disposal, best-in-class scans (benchmarking) and an exploration of each idea, broken down by font choice, colour choice, layout, etc.
Our recommendation is based on the design's ability to hit the clients’ objectives and goals for the final product. If all parties agree to the recommendation, a development site is built for testing before all final decisions are locked down and final content is populated. This is the stage where clients usually start to get excited about the project, because it is the first time they can actually navigate the site in real-time in their own environment.
The IPF consists of eight active board members, all of whom needed to approve each step of the site’s design process.
Of all the ideas explored, the direction that was selected resonated the most because of its ability to convey strong emotion and it had the added advantage of bringing the park experience to life digitally.
No project is without its challenges, and the Ireland Park Foundation’s website was no exception. The most difficult test was the process of shooting the opening screen video, and completing it within budget. The opening shot took about five hours to complete over a two-day period with a handheld camera. In the end, we used a rope tied to a tripod that helped us swing around the sculpture steadily and consistently.
Beyond this, the actual approval stage and content gathering went smoothly and the client and board members were excellent to work with. We have since completed one other website and two print projects for IPF.
The finished site is much more organized and maximizes all of the client's great imagery, as well as being adaptive for multiple platform viewing. Site visitors can now engage with the site on multiple levels and receive better location details, a stronger understanding of the park's history and purpose, and a better idea of what to expect at the physical park. It also includes an easy-to-use Wordpress management system for the client to edit and post updates, as well as integrated Google analytic tools.
Google analytics is important because it provides clients with insightful information on how users are interacting with their website, what buttons are most clicked on, what pages are visited the most etc. This helps clients plan future changes and/or capitalize on popular areas of the site to increase usability and relevance. Upon launch, the site reached close to 500 visits within one day, which we view as a strong start considering there was no media launch or marketing to facilitate site visits.
"When Ireland Park Foundation engaged ClarkHuot to redesign our website, we had a site that was nearly eight years old and no longer fit our purpose. ClarkHuot helped streamline our message and built both a beautiful and accessible site. They guided our staff throughout the process and have produced a spectacular website that receives nothing but high praise from those who use it." - William B. Peat, Executive Director, Ireland Park Foundation
Process: PowerPoint, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and a relatively new program called Sketch were important tools during the concept development phase. The use of these programs might seem unusual for a web design project, but we have found that younger designers often get too caught up on the specifics of web design during the exploration stage, often worrying about grid alignment, layers, pixel perfect placement of assets etc. These elements become important once the site design has been approved, but during the initial stages it is helpful to take the technical considerations out of the equation and try out many different ideas in Illustrator or InDesign to see what works and what does not.
- Content: Gather the URL hosting info and content early, it will prevent delays later.
- Branding: It's not always necessary to have the organization's logo in the top left of the website. In this case the site branding is so strongly linked to other communication materials put out by the foundation that it was not necessary.
- Trends: The best advice I can share with a client would be to encourage your design team to avoid off-the-shelf trends. Your site is an investment in how your business is understood and perceived. The more related to your current brand representation it is, the longer it will last.
- Planning: Encourage detailed planning to avoid multiple additions, changes or frustrations down the road. While it is true that a website is digital and items or features can be added, too many changes can lead to a build up of additional fees.
Interested in submitting a case study to appear on the RGD website? Download 'Guidelines for Contributing Content' and email .