What was the scope of their involvement?
We went through several brainstorming sessions. A project manager from the Institute oversees coordination between agencyQ and in-house teams to make sure the project receives the resources and commitment that’s needed. The agency presented to our senior leadership once we had decided on the site design direction. They presented our concept and, once we received approval from senior leadership, agencyQ started creating design mockups, initial page wireframes, and a site map--they pulled those pieces together.
The agency has come in several times to present for us. They’ll be coming in September when we do our first all-staff presentation—we’ll show the homepage, a representative top-level landing page, and answer questions about the overall site development progress. Throughout the process, agencyQ has been right there along with us.
We found early on that things work the best when the people who make the decisions meet face-to-face. We hash it out together and move on with implementing those decisions. Otherwise, you can go back and forth on email until you’re dead and buried.
We have worked very closely with agencyQ the whole time. The site map kept morphing based on internal discoveries and input. It took about six months to get the initial site map and then to decide on a color palette and a look and feel. Most of the pages and components are designed, at this point, and are being input into a CMS that is new to us and to agencyQ.
Concurrent with creating the visual design and the site structure, including the UX and UI, we were doing audits of the present site and finding massive amounts of technical landfill—old content that needs to be dealt with. We are deciding what to keep, revise, archive, or delete. At the same time, the in-house team and agencyQ are working with stakeholders to make decisions about the new site. We’ll figure out what we need to keep from the past, but our focus is on what we need for the future.
We are not just taking this current site and putting a new face on it with a new CMS. The site is totally being restructured and new functionalities are being developed by agencyQ. Multiple dynamic components have been created. One example is the “drawers” that look like little bars. When you click on them, they expand to surface more content on the page. That’s something we’re doing to accommodate a large amount of content in a small amount of space. The whole site is going to be responsive, and that’s new for us. We are pulling in news releases and images from a separate Ruby on Rails site through an API built to bring in the three most recent news releases. These will auto-update based on date. We’re also pulling a small image gallery on the homepage directly from the news center image galleries, are also in the Ruby on Rails application. In the human resources section, we will have rotating employee testimonials that can be easily updated manually through the CMS.
Dynamic components that can be reused throughout the site are being developed by agencyQ. These either auto-update or can be easily changed. The events section is complicated. On the current site, there is no central location for all events; they are all over the site and are difficult to find. We’re building an events section that has a summary page of all events by date with a short description. Events are tagged with a category for filtering and each event listed on the summary page links to a detail page with in-depth information as well as related assets, which can include numerous PDFs, PowerPoints, etc. The page will display all that content; if there is no content available in a certain area, it simply will not show.
Microsites are going to be nested within the scientific community section. We’re reworking things so they blend with the site, but the navigation schema will be different from the rest of the site—they aren’t secondary or tertiary pages and each microsite will have its own special landing page. They can send these links out to scientists or they can link scientists into it who are only concerned with one project.
We’re building in the CMS now and some of the pages are starting to be completed. We will be rolling out phase 1, which is the homepage and the top navigation landing pages toward the end of the calendar year or first quarter of 2018. We will build out on that core. The website must be up and running in 2018 to accommodate the new project at the Institute. Last year, we built a small, separate “starter site” for the new project. That small site will be integrated into the new organizational site. At first, the project leadership wanted to keep the small site design, but about two weeks ago they reviewed the new design for the larger site and they are now very happy to be on board with the site agency designed.
What is the team dynamic?
Our developers are working directly with the agency developers. The two development teams work together and have weekly sync-ups. Every now and then they get together face-to-face, but generally, they are in different locations. The agency developers send code to us and we iterate. There are 2-3 developers on the agency side. Krista [Open Source Web Developer, agencyQ] was leading the project to start with and she is working with Gretchen [Frontend Web Developer, agencyQ]. I believe Gretchen was involved from the beginning, but Krista is the lead.
How did you come to work with agencyQ?
There are a lot of requirements when you work with the government; some companies back away from it simply because of that. Four out of 10 companies we reached out to submitted a bid, but agencyQ went through the process and won the RFP. They were the most compelling bid both in what they could do and in their perspective of the entire project. Their viewpoint really synced up with what we thought we needed because they looked at the website holistically, both frontend and backend. We talked a lot about navigation and architecture, which is what I was really concerned about, along with redoing functionalities. We also require ADA compliance, and agencyQ was on top of how to implement those elements.
How much have you invested with them?
I would like this to remain confidential.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started working together February 2016 and the work is still ongoing.