World Resources Institute

A Sleek, User-Centered Platform for Complex World-Renowned Institute

WRI is a global nonprofit organization that works with leaders in government, business and civil society to research, design, and carry out practical solutions that simultaneously improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive.

Goals

  • Design and build a dynamic distribution platform that puts the best of WRI’s research, data, and analysis at the fingertips of the world’s government, business, and climate justice leaders.
  • Gain maintenance efficiencies, brand consistency, and controlled content sharing across sites.
  • Engage a host of complex stakeholders spanning teams and levels, including global locations.

Solutions

  • A refreshed user experience and content strategy allows users to understand what WRI can offer by their needs rather than the Institute’s program siloes.
  • An innovative engagement model underlies the entire platform’s technical functionality, including a sitewide filter, narrative taxonomy, and search strategy.

Results

+16% increase in Search Traffic
+24% in new users
+19% in email list conversions
+22% increase in research downloaded

We jump at the chance to work with partners like WRI on projects of this scale.

WRI’s new digital platform required a user-centered content strategy, a brand refresh, complex stakeholder engagement, and maybe most exciting of all, a turn-key solution for a distribution that would need to host both WRI.org as well as international office sites.

This project, made possible by a close working partnership with WRI’s expert team, showcases a sitewide issue filter, responsive navigation as a user moves deeper into their exploration, a user-centered narrative taxonomy system, and a refreshed, robust, and tightly managed design system. What’s more? The platform itself is built as a distribution, meaning that WRI’s team can spin up a new site with the same exciting functionality from WRI.org’s codebase—a feature that was a must-have going into this project.

WRI homepage shown on desktop.

Stakeholder interviews and cross-team discovery led us to remarkable insights and a clear path forward.

Over the course of two months, we interviewed editorial, marketing, communications, programs, and executive teams—and were guided by the investment of multiple project advisory working groups along the way.

From there, an aligned narrative emerged: The center’s seven program teams, each focused on a different issue—cities, climate, energy, food, forests, water, and oceans—and its four centers—business, economics, finance, and governance—would no longer serve as the pillars of a user’s experience.

Instead, a powerful story about the Institute’s world-renowned analysis, coalitions, and interactive, data-driven tools would take center stage, with the ability to filter the entire site’s content by issue or perspective at the snap of your fingers. To be sure we tracked towards aligned success, the team developed its very own Core Action Target, mapping KPIs to each other in order of priority, impact, and their overall efficacy in determining the platform’s success.

3-up mobile shot of WRI issue areas, cities, forests, and oceans.

User testing—from initial IA tests to moderated testing with design comps—validated our new approach.

With quantitative insights in hand and KPIs as our guiding light, our team moved forward with the confidence we needed to socialize the Institute’s bold new vision for user experience throughout the organization.

Still, we had to plan for another critical measure of success: In order to execute our new content strategy, we’d need to archive thousands of pages of old content, and at the same time, maintain the site’s impressive performance in Search. Most traffic came in from the site’s blog, a place where a skilled editorial team makes WRI’s impressive research, data, and tools accessible to journalists, corporate strategists, policymakers, and high-level change-agents around the world. To maintain search dominance, we decided to simplify the sitemap, clarify the site’s folding structure, and critically, rename internal-facing nomenclature to be clearer to users—humans and bots alike. Publications became Research. Blog became Insights. Data broke itself out of the more general Publications and stepped into its full keyword SEO power. Did it work? You know it. Since launch, the site’s search traffic is up by 16 percent!

WRI resources page showed on desktop and filter on a mobile.

Also a central focus in user testing and design: WRI.org’s new homepage.

The Institute is a prolific publisher, from analysis to research to data to tools—and the old homepage reflected just how much content was available. Our path forward required alignment across the organization—we’d be making enormous change. Thanks to a laser focus from WRI’s project teams and iterative design, we were able to craft a bold new homepage. Now, users experience the homepage as directed and depthful. The powerful impact of WRI is immediately understood through use of bold imagery and featured blocks. This clarity is made possible by an overlay menu system and sitewide filter that can organize and make all content available at the appropriate moment, rather than every moment.

WRI taxonomy naming system viewed on a desktop. Taxonomy links are highlighted green.

Building a distribution with filterable blocks with single file components isn’t easy, but it is really, really sustainable.

In order to bring the distribution to life in Drupal 8—one that would be easily configured through an admin interface—our lead engineers decided to leverage single file components in the build approach. Using SFCs means that essentially, we built out blocks of functionality for the platform that can be extracted or not used at all when new sites are spun up: The perfect kind of lego-style building system that offers maximum control and flexibility for new platforms and minimum risk when conducting maintenance or updates.

Another significant challenge in the build was the sitewide filter, made possible by a smart approach to automating content filtering and critically, a content strategy that stays simple on the surface and directs to a robust resource library landing page for deeper exploration. So how’d we make the sitewide filter a reality without sacrificing load time? Instead of requiring the javascript library to load automated content—which can be rough for accessibility needs and tough on site speed—we decided to set cookies for users, have views interpret those cookies, and then allow users to share those personalized pages with others. Trickier than it sounds? Yes. Worth it to create a personalized and fully accessibly platform? Absolutely.

3-up mobile view of WRI sitewide search, sitewide search narrowed down by issue area, and sitewide filter.

“ThinkShout was our partner in every sense of the word on the redesign of WRI.org. Considering the scale and complexity of that effort, we couldn’t have asked for a better team to see us through that process.”

~ Kevin Powers, Director of Digital Communications, WRI

What an accomplishment! Together, ThinkShout and WRI partnered to bring a new distribution, refreshed brand, tight design system, powerful user experience, and beautiful new WRI.org together in just 15 months. Bravo, WRI. The world needs your enormous impact, and we’re glad we could partner with you at such a critical moment in your journey.

16%
Increase in Search Traffic
24%
Increase in New Users
19%
Increase in Email List Conversions
Launch Site

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