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OHCHR

The Challenge

Improve the experience for a range of different audiences for a collection of websites housing vast amounts of content for the world’s human rights authority.

The Insight

Rich and extensive content will only serve users if it can be discovered or found using language and organization that makes sense to them.

The Solution

Improve taxonomy and create structures for content creation and management so users can easily find content and managers can easily update it, while migrating more than 65,000 pages from Sharepoint to Drupal 8.

In early 2020, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the leading UN entity on human rights, asked Blue State to take their current website system into a new era.

At the time, they had three separate websites managed by separate teams within the organization. The content was vast, complex, and difficult for the user to navigate and access. 

OHCHR’s primary audience is made up of individuals who work in the human rights sector – professionals who have a high tolerance when it comes to digging through complex content. Other audiences who frequent the site include high school or college students, looking for information for reports or projects on human rights. Because this group’s tolerance for sorting through dense content is much lower, it was crucial that every decision made would accommodate the goals and experiences of all visitors. 

Assemble the right team

A project of this scale and complexity – involving 65k+ pages migrating from Sharepoint to Drupal 8 – required close collaboration over a period of many months from multiple teams with unique domain expertise. Chief among these stakeholders was our clients, the OHCHR communications team, who brought a deep understanding of the content requirements and the process for incorporating input from stakeholders across the organization. 

We brought together and led a diverse team of experts from across the globe, with Blue State creating the product requirements, UX, and visual design. We teamed up with Axelerant, a team of Drupal specialists based in India, for the CMS architecture, migration strategy, and development. We also worked with Dovecot, a taxonomy consultancy based in Canada, and Dot-Connection, a content strategy agency based in France. 

Don’t forget about findability  

With an ever-growing amount of content on the web, ensuring findability of digital information is essential to successful website planning and design. Site visitors want to find the information they need quickly and easily. They also need the ability to browse and discover new information they may not have been explicitly looking for. Low findability is not only frustrating for users, but can undermine the performance and credibility of any site. 

When we began our work with OHCHR, they had already engaged Dovecot and Dot-Connection for taxonomy and content strategy work. Because that work was in progress, it enabled us to tackle extensive content needs in collaboration with that team. 

A robust taxonomy strategy was developed to bridge all areas of the site, including site search, related links, dynamic content pages, and other taxonomy-driven elements. As part of our work, we streamlined the previously disjointed user experience by bringing in large sets of human rights documents into the website, allowing them to be indexed and, in turn, found.

Lists of topics were previously long and difficult to scan, without white space and guiding UI or faceted search capacity. The new design works to make complex information easier to navigate, both visually and technically.

New designs give prominence to OHCHR’s activities using expressive images with templates that provide direction for users so they understand content and options more readily.

The content strategy informed our approach to template design, allowing us to wireframe and test our designs with users for indexes and information formats that would be used to present the work of hundreds of entities that appear on the OHCHR website.

Exploring opportunities within the brand

Before we teamed up with OHCHR, they had just completed a brand refresh. It was our job to take the existing creative and think innovatively about how we could employ different design elements that would elevate the new user experience. 

We utilized hand-drawn elements and the energetic color combo of black and yellow to differentiate the activism hub of the site from the more institutional pages, while still sharing common design elements like typography.

We utilized hand-drawn elements and the energetic color combo of black and yellow to differentiate the activism hub of the site from the more institutional pages, while still sharing common design elements like typography.

screenshot from OHCHR's website after partnership
Throughout the project, we looked for ways to tie the purpose and identity of the users to the goals of particular content. Here, subtle shifts in color and layout were used to make campaign options stand out from the heavy and sometimes highly technical content elsewhere on the site.

Make space for information management

Migrations of this magnitude are never easy. If your organization is sitting on old technology and facing similar findability issues, the key is to plan ahead and take things in phases. 

Going into a website project with the sole goal of fixing findability issues usually brings up a slew of other components that you’ll want to address. Carving out time to develop smart content strategy, taxonomy, a component design system, and technical shifts will be key to your project’s success. 

Result

  • 65,000 pages migrated
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