The National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Network) provides materials and guidance for STEM Educators and a network of museum members around the US. They first came to Capellic for ongoing support and maintenance of their existing website. Once they had a partner they knew they could rely on, they decided to move forward with a substantial website refresh.

The Challenge
The legacy NISE Network website was hard to maintain, and even harder for key audiences to find the resources they were looking for. Part resource library, and part community of practice hub for science museum staff, the site solved neither problem particularly well. In addition, the organization was going through a transformation. Previously primarily “resource” oriented, they wanted to become more oriented towards empowering their network’s community engagement, equity, and professional development. Navigating this change while continuing to support existing audiences presented challenges to solve through effective change management, content strategy, and design. Two additional challenges – familiar to nearly every project – were budget and timeline. In this case, the project was underwritten by an institutional funder, which required that work be completed within the fiscal year and an extremely tight budget.

The Solution
What to do with a changing core mission, an immovable aggressive timeline and a tight budget? Make a plan, of course. By getting everyone in the room early to clearly envision the narrow path towards an outcome everyone could be happy with, we were able to tackle foundational choices early, and avoid pitfalls that we knew the project could not afford. Not everyone on the NISE Network team always agreed on the specifics of what site should be, or the process we should use to get there. But having a solid plan to refer back to, and providing a clear and predictable path for stakeholders to walk together proved extremely important, especially when time was tight.

Tactically, we started with research on key audiences, to understand their needs and the problems the site needed to solve for them. This gave the team a close understanding of where a given user was likely to be in their engagement journey at key points on the site, allowing them to talk to users appropriately – with the right information to the right audience at the right time on their website journey. We then identified a handful of key areas of the site for complete User Experience redesign. With our work on those key areas, we were able to apply new design patterns more widely, so the whole site benefited from the visual design improvements.

The Results
We have a happy client. The site is more appealing, inviting, and intuitive, which serves the increased emphasis on supporting and showcasing community engagement. Several backend updates which were put in place with the relaunch have greatly improved site performance and load times. Visitors can now find museum resources much more easily. With a greater emphasis around content storytelling on the Homepage and key landing pages around the site, visitors who have come looking for professional development and a greater sense of community during this time of extreme isolation can better find those too.

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