Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre recently launched a new website that was many moons in the making. I had the pleasure of interviewing the project's lead designer, Nicolas Lemieux, about how it came to look and feel so sharp.
Eleanor: Why was aasman asked to re-design Beringia.com?
Nicolas: The Yukon Beringia Centre is a very important hub for the prehistory of the north, but their website was out of date, both in technological and content standards. It wasn’t responsive for mobile use, integrated with social media or easy to update for their staff. Plus, the 1997 brand identity itself needed a logo and colour pallete update.
Eleanor: What a difference — even in the logo! For the website itself, what were your guiding design principles?
Nicolas: As always, the audience leads the way. We had three target audiences to consider when building this site.
The primary is tourists who are visiting Yukon and are interested in its natural history. Mainly, we needed to convince them to visit the centre.
Second are Yukoners — from school groups to researchers and scientists — who have a pre-existing interest in the Beringia Centre.
Third are people from all over the world that are curious about Beringia. For them, the centre — and its website — is one of the best resources for learning about Beringia.
For all three, we needed to balance the design between piquing interest in Beringia itself and providing practical information, news and events up front.
Eleanor: Tell me a bit about the process you took to get here.
Nicolas: First, we reviewed the existing brand and made graphic standards recommendations including brand colours, templates and guidelines for in-house communications, to align with contemporary practices.
Second, we looked at the web analytics, which gave us insights into traffic sources (mainly from USA), and platforms (mobile and tablet traffic almost doubled from 2013 – 2015.)
Third, we flagged a list of issues and highlighted solutions: robust Content Management System (CMS) for easy updates; great mobile experience; flexible and user-friendly feed module for news, events and articles; customizable structure; social media integration, etc.
Fourth, we re-organized and prioritized content around three key components: the Ice Age, Beringia’s fauna and Beringia’s First People. We focused on finding the right balance between what the centre wants to communicate and what the user wants to see, then prioritized for easy access.
Art Direction began with a visit to the centre and a thorough review of what is on offer. We also looked into the material to see which colours and graphic elements would best reflect the Ice Age while giving it a modern look.
Next, our team researched web navigation for museums internationally, evaluating what works best, what doesn’t, and what delivers the best user experience.
The research helped establish our goal: getting people excited about the topic as much as about the events and exhibits. We structured the layout around that idea – the top of each page shows impressive images from the Beringian era, while practical information and details are just below.
Eleanor: Knowing what it takes to develop a site like this one, what differentiates this website from other websites you’ve worked on at aasman.
Nicolas: Instead of promoting a product, a service or a campaign, the focus of this website is getting people interested in the subject of Beringia. We did this by creating a museum-like feeling for the online audiences to explore the subject.
Beringia.com is also the first Drupal site we created at aasman – Drupal is a type of content management software. Now that this complicated site is finished we know the software really well. We can do simple or complex Squarespace and WordPress sites, custom work with ExpressionEngine and now we feel confident in Drupal as well.
Of course they’re all responsive for mobile use and they all allow our clients to manage the content themselves.
Eleanor: Like they say, go hard or go home – right? Now that it’s up and running, is there anyone you want to thank?
Nicolas: So many people. Tyler Kuhn was a great guy to work with and able to see the vision from the start. He set the project off on the right foot. Throughout the course of the project, we also worked with many staff members at Beringia. Christie Grekul, Lance Leeders and many interns were very helpful in gathering imagery.
Also, at aasman Steve Rennalls managed the transition between each of our contacts at Beringia and Nicolas Dory and Zeke Aasman did an incredible job working with Drupal to achieve the design. They are a great team.
Eleanor: It’s great to see such an important resource for Yukoners and history buffs around the world come to life in such a fine site. Ooh – their next event is about lightning. Check it out folks. Thanks for taking time out to read about a day in the life of a web design team.
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