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New England Aquarium

The Challenge

Bring two stories together seamlessly - visitor information & ocean conservation impact.

The Insight

For new visitors to be inspired by their conservation work & mission from the outset.

The Solution

An easy-to-use platform that brought together the urgent need for ocean conservation with the playful side of a fun family day out.

From awareness to advocacy 

Welcoming over a million visitors each year, the New England Aquarium is a leading Boston attraction. And, as a nonprofit research and conservation organization that has protected and cared for the ocean and marine

animals for over 50 years, the NEAq team felt that they had the opportunity, and responsibility, to connect more audiences with their mission.

They were keen to showcase the breadth of their conservation efforts while encouraging engagement and inspiring visitors to join NEAq in taking action for the ocean. This included combining two websites into one: the Aquarium’s website and a research center’s website. With a team of 40 scientists, NEAq’s research arm, the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life (ACCOL), uses pioneering marine research to protect animals and help others use the ocean responsibly.

We were invited to pitch for the opportunity of this new website with a clear objective – to bring together both halves of their story (visitor information and ocean conservation) into one seamless digital experience. Historically both had lived separately and, as a result, awareness of NEAq’s conservation work and its impact was relatively low outside of the academic community.

After a competitive process, we were delighted to be selected as their web partner to translate their mission into a new platform that could better serve audiences.

Forming the basis of a community

Embedded in this project was the need to reposition NEAq from an attraction to an ocean conservation organization. This was about the lifecycle beyond a day trip—the chance to be part of something more that could have a positive impact on the environment. The goal was to shift the emphasis from tickets and events to the Aquarium’s conservation and purpose work.

Our approach was to find out all we could about the current and potential audiences be it parents, schools, volunteers, academics, tourists or policy-makers. Our site user survey reinforced the need to bring together both initiatives into one experience – over three quarters of site users were not familiar with the work of the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life (ACCOL).

From here we crafted a content strategy to bring all journeys and stories together to help build an engaged community to advocate for the ocean environment with greater levels of public awareness and discussion.

Making impact accessible and playful

The website is central to NEAq’s day-to-day business (planning visits, buying tickets, etc.) so a crucial part of our approach was to ensure we created continuity for that as well as building out the broader story and opportunities for our audiences. 

The NEAq team had a vision for design and we were keen to collaborate closely together as we brought it to life in visual terms. We recognized the need for this design to communicate the right tone about impact and positive ocean progress but also wanted to tap into the visitor insight of the fun the aquarium offered for them as a day out—this came to life in the form of the visual wave on the homepage.

And, when it came to development, we needed to prioritize accessibility—technical and design solutions couldn’t get in the way of a clear and functional experience for all visitors. This is a public institution that needs to be welcoming to all. This hugely influenced both design and development. This wasn’t about creating the flashiest experience or grabbing a moment of attention—this was about ensuring everyone can find the information and journey they are seeking.

And we needed something that worked on any size screen particularly given that 68% of the current site visitors were using mobile devices. 

A lot of time and input went into making information both easy to find and easy to update. We wanted the NEAq team to be able to make site updates without it feeling like a complex technical task such as embedding videos in a graphical way—which you could do by simply adding a YouTube url.

The first step to become a ‘conservationist’

Once our work on the design and development sprints was complete, we launched the new site at the beginning of the 2023 summer season and it performed above and beyond.

“We are so proud of the new site. It’s not only easy to use and navigate, but it represents the full breadth of the Aquarium’s work—from animal care and research, to advocacy and community engagement. Blue State listened to our needs and worked with us to deliver a site that is both easy to use and impactful. Building a new website from the ground up is a huge task and the project team was there to guide us through every step along the way.”

Michelle Muccini, Creative Director, New England Aquarium

We’ve designed and built a beautiful experience that is also simple to keep up to date. Each page template and feature has a lot of flexibility to allow the NEAq team of content editors to be able to do more and users to experience more. 

And, NEAq are just getting started, this platform will allow them to partner with audiences to take them on a journey to be potential advocates, with a community and more active voice to contribute to the work and impactful projects NEAq builds out from this point.

Total page views and views per user have both risen as a result of the redesign. 


  • 5.7m page views
  • +63% Increase in page views
  • +46% Increase in views per user
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