Case Study by Despina Zanganas RGD, 108 ideaspace
Lean In Canada is a community of professional women empowering each other to build purposeful and fulfilling careers. It was created by three women: Sarah Kwan, Christina Rupsingh and Despina Zanganas (me). What started as a local offshoot of Sheryl Sandberg’s international movement quickly became a robust, active community of Canadian professional women with an identity of its own. To develop further critical mass and reach out to potential members, the founders decided to put Lean In Canada on the digital map.
108 ideaspace became involved with Lean In Canada as a key sponsor, in part because of my affiliation as 108 ideaspace’s Creative Director. Not only does 108 have a history of innovation and excellence, it shares a commitment to empowering and supporting professional women and allies in the workplace and beyond. Overall, I felt this was a great partnership opportunity.
Working with Lean In Canada provided a set of new challenges and requirements for 108 ideaspace. This was a significant project, including a branding effort, a responsive website design, content development strategy, and ongoing consultation. As the organization was growing so rapidly, the branding and website had to be flexible and adaptable. The over-arching goal was to create a digital space where the Lean In Canada community could access resources, find event information and continue conversations after events. The site needed to engage existing and prospective Lean In Canada members: women and allies from diverse generations, cultures, professional fields and experience levels.
Web development began with core strategic work. 108 worked with the Lean In Canada leadership team to identify their target demographic groups and conducted a community and stakeholder strategy session to direct the goals of the process. The Strategic Target Analysis session included senior leadership from Lean In Canada, a sponsor representative, a volunteer representative, a speaker representative and media. As the Creative Director, I led the session in person and facilitated an interactive discussion using 108 ideaspace’s proprietary methodologies. The session helped us better understand Lean In Canada’s target audiences, business objectives, key messages and content requirements. Thanks to this session, we were able to incorporate all of these insights into the website design.
108 also conducted a competitive review, circulated a community survey and gathered feedback from attendees at Lean In Canada events. Each of these fact-finding strategies helped inform the website design.
Developing the design concept for the Lean In Canada website posed some interesting challenges. Because much of the Lean In Canada brand was pre-determined by the Lean In global brand, it was important that the Lean In Canada website maintain brand consistency with its parent organization while simultaneously distinguishing itself to its Canadian audience. To strike this balance, 108 featured the global brand's colour (red) and the same clean typography used across the global site, while also incorporating unique characteristics of the Canadian Lean In community.
The site uses splash pages, instant photos and integrated social feeds to engage the tech-savvy Lean In Canada community. The 108 team also injected designs with dynamic graphic content, using photographs from Lean In Canada events to convey the warmth and openness of the Lean In Canada community to visitors landing on the site.
During this project, I played two distinct roles: 108 Creative Director and Lean In Canada client. This was an exciting opportunity for me to bring both my passion for design and my commitment to empowering Canada’s community of professional women to this project. As Creative Director, I was supported by two excellent designers, Emily Demill Provisional RGD and Jessica Sergeant Provisional RGD. Together we strategized about Lean In brand alignment, developed wireframes and built out the site structure. Throughout the process, we focused on implementing a design that would mirror the characteristics of a Lean In Canada event: dynamic, welcoming, accessible and empowering.
The initial design thinking was done the old fashioned way: by putting pen to paper. We then moved to prototyping tools for the wireframe development in order to enable a collaborative work process between the design and development teams. This process helped us clearly communicate the design intention and functionality to our development team, minimizing rework. We used issue-tracking applications to maintain a running list of open issues that needed resolution before we moved from the staging environment to the live site.
It was really exciting to see the Lean In Canada website move through the design discovery, presentation and execution phases. Acting as the Lean In Canada client provided a unique opportunity for me to see this process in action through the client’s eyes. Sometimes clients are resistant to innovative design ideas. Because of my role as the client in this engagement, we had the opportunity to try new things and expand our design capabilities.
Beyond the dedicated team at 108 ideaspace, the Lean In Canada leaders attribute a significant part of the success of this project to our Lean In volunteers. These amazing individuals are integral to the content development process, to planning and running the Lean In events and to imbuing the Lean In Canada community with warmth and energy. Truly, our fast-growing community of professional women and allies never ceases to amaze us with their warmth and energy.
Regardless of how much you prepare for a project, there are always challenges. As mentioned previously, one significant challenge was the simultaneous alignment and differentiation of Lean In Canada from the Lean In global brand. Because Lean In Canada operates as a separate entity from LeanIn.org, there were no branding guidelines provided, nor was branding approval process required. Our focus as we designed the site was successfully linking the visual identities so that our Canadian audience would view Lean In Canada as an official partner of Lean In global. The 108 design team studied the Lean In global brand and made strategic design decisions relating to colour choice, font selection, incorporating click-through sliders and intentional use of white space, to consciously and subconsciously link the two brands.
In addition to the branding challenge, we came up against some functional requirements that pushed our designers and developers to expand the 108 wheelhouse. In particular, integrating a new visitor splash page that appears only when an IP address visits the Lean In Canada site for the first time pushed our technical team to explore new technical territory.
A third challenge we faced during the design development was striking the right balance between fun and functional. It was important that the Lean In Canada online brand be reflective of the organization’s values and be a credible go-to digital space for people interested in the Lean In Canada community.
When it came to working with the client, we were in a unique position. I had to balance my interest in the project as a client with realistic expectations for whether it would be possible to implement every exciting idea with the delivery deadline. Eventually, my co-founder Sarah Kwan and I were able to prioritize functionalities and design elements into two phases. Phase One included everything you see on the current site, which was launched in time for a meeting with Lean In founder, Sheryl Sandberg. Ideally, Phase Two will involve adding a Member Portal where Lean In Canada members will be able to access protected content and engage in a discussion forum.
Before the new site went live, we took baseline measurements to determine how the old Lean In Canada website was performing. After the new site launched, website traffic increased by 130% and the average session duration increased from 30 seconds to about two minutes. This significant increase in site traffic and visitor engagement demonstrates the effectiveness of the new design. Overall, the new site supported Lean In Canada in its goal of providing a community-focused hub that encourages community contribution and engagement.
We also found that the new website prompted a 68% increase in the Lean In Canada mailing list sign-ups and a 63% increase in ticket sales since the date of the new site launch.
Beyond the numbers, we’ve received positive feedback about the new website from our community and stakeholders. Most notably, we have been asked to present the new website as a Lean In Regional Leader to LeanIn.Org and other Lean In chapters around the world.
When we asked Lean In Canada co-founder Sarah Kwan for feedback about the new website, she shared these thoughts with us:
“The new Lean In Canada website truly represents our mandate of creating a space for our community members to celebrate each other, share knowledge and succeed in their careers. 108 ideaspace delivered an exemplary site within a strict target date, and was wonderful to work with from end to end. Their strategic, creative and innovative approach ensured that we built a website focused on our stakeholders and community, and we are incredibly pleased with the results.”
– Sarah Kwan, Lean In Canada co-founder
Design Learning Points:
- The value of authentic photography. Thanks to our team of dedicated volunteers, we were never wanting for great photographs! We’re lucky that a number of our community members are photographers and were able to use some candid, genuine pictures from Lean In Canada events on the website. Having photos that capture the energy of the community makes a huge difference – the authenticity of the images is clear and helps to effectively draw people into the site.
The importance of being clear and concise. Our community is made up of professional women balancing hectic work lives and personal lives. It was crucial to us to make the Lean In Canada website accessible and easy to navigate so that our community members don’t have to waste time hunting around for the information and content they want.
It’s all about the audience. Everything comes down to user experience. Is the design of the website engaging? Is the content easily accessible and compelling? Is the digital space reflective of the welcoming vibe of the Lean In Canada community? All of these questions were considered throughout the design and development phases. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the minutia of the project, but it’s crucial to step back and remind yourself that everything should work towards the same goal: effectively reaching the target audience.
- Don’t be afraid to dream big. Dream big and trust the design team. Designers love a creative challenge and thrive when clients trust their expertise and instincts. Give your designers a little space and prepare to be amazed!
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water. When a new project starts, it’s tempting to want to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. But not everything ‘old’ is bad. Make sure to take stock of what has been working for you and find ways to integrate these elements into the new project.
- Know your priorities. It can be very difficult to execute a project plan when everything is flagged as priority number one! Make sure you know what functionalities, design elements or initiatives are top priority for your business or organization so that your design team can give each the attention they deserve.
- Be adaptable. Projects evolve. It always helps when the client acknowledges the challenges of the project and supports the process by being as flexible as possible.
Agency: 108 ideaspace
Creative Direction and User Interface: Despina Zanganas RGD
Design Team: Despina Zanganas RGD, Emily Demill Prov RGD and Jessica Sergeant Prov RGD
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