Project: Website User Experience
Release Date: September 14th 2015
Contributors: BIGWIDESKY in St. Louis, MO
View Website: forwardthroughferguson.com
The Ferguson Commission was formed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on November 18th, 2014 as a group of volunteers who would work to create a report on how to move forward from the events that had happened in the previous year after the death of Michael Brown. From the beginning, they knew the report needed to be published digitally so that it could be read by the entire St. Louis community and hopefully, the rest of the world. BIGWIDESKY was chosen as the agency to help make the website for the report and make sure it was accessible, functional, but most importantly, human.
A tall order.
We knew we had only a few months to complete this project. We knew the written report wasn’t going to be finished until after the site was completed. We knew we had to create something that was understandable for the common person but also functional for politics. We knew we were working with a large group of volunteers that had a limited amount of time and experience working with each other. We knew our project was going to be seen and judged all around the world and set the grounds for real change. But most of all, we knew we had a great story to tell.
I worked heavily on the UX of this project to make sure the concept came to life in a real way. I also found solutions for the many challenges that came up during the entire process. I executed wireframes, architecture, and a prototype to demonstrate possible solutions to discover and resolve challenges before we entered design or development.
A real sign of hope and progress.
This project felt huge because the amount of people who wanted this to be the start of some real cultural changes. The passion and heart of the project was nothing like I had ever worked with before. It was clear that this passion and heart had to be the center of the concept. The official report is a legal document listing out the priorities and the 200 calls-to-actions to make them reality. It left little room for the stories of real people and their experiences. So while the official report couldn’t do those things, we knew the website could, a real advantage to using a digital platform over a flat and dry printed report.
We fortunately had on our team Lindy Drew, the curator of Humans of St. Louis, the second most popular “Humans Of” Facebook page. This reliable source made it possible for us to confidently design our concept and trust that it would be executed beautifully for the entire lifetime of the project.
What came about was a collection on the site called “Stories” of real people telling their experiences from every point of view. Every legal initiative could be paired with a a real person that inspired that initiative. This legal report became a little more human.
Designing the platform for the report was the real challenge of the site. Making a 190 page report user friendly is not something I’ve ever had to do before. I knew I wanted to design it so anyone who looked at it could get something out of it. Which meant it had to work for the average St. Louisian who only wanted a basic understanding and for the politician who would use it to create new policies and laws.
The solution was a funnel like approach. For every topic, we would start with a summary at the top and continue to become more precise and detailed as the user read down the page. For those who wanted a quick skim of every topic could move through the pages horizontally and quickly learn the basics. For anyone who wanted the specific details on a certain initiative, could dive in deeply and use tags to find relatable topics.
Beautiful inside and out.
Providing a user-friendly CMS for the Commission was very important because a variety of people were involved in adding the content. It had to be easy to manage by multiple people so that it remained consistent and on point. WordPress was chosen as the backend CMS for its customization abilities and our team’s expertise with the platform.
Everything we hoped it would be.
The success of the project was immediate from the very launch. The New York Times, CNN, The Atlantic, Newsweek, NPR, The Hill; Business Insider; PBS; NBC; Huffington Post; The Guardian; and the Wall Street Journal all commented on Forward Through Ferguson within the first week. Nearly 15,000 unique visitors from 77 countries visited the site in the first 10 days of its existence.
“The report, “Forward Through Ferguson,” is a sprawling project, laid out in a slickly designed website and a 189-page document. It offers detailed recommendations for reforming the police, the courts, and the education system with an eye toward racial justice.”
“It sets itself apart from these past works by not just investigating the region’s unrest and listing recommendations but by also studying underlying issues and sharing a narrative about the area.”
Mariah Stewart; Huffington Post
— Pierce McBride (@McBrideMusings) September 14, 2015
Visit the site at http://forwardthroughferguson.org/