James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
How do you tell the story of saving a 2,000-year-old language over 9 decades, using fragments of tablets and inscriptions on ancient winged bulls to reveal a 6,000-year-old culture? Or tell the story of 100 years of research exploring 10,000 years of history?
This was our charge when we took on the responsibility for creating the Oriental Institute’s centennial site. To tell the stories that are the beginning of us, our lives as humans, together.
Founded in 1919, The Oriental Institute (OI) at the University of Chicago is a leading research center and world-renowned museum devoted to studying the civilizations of the ancient Middle East. The OI Museum exhibits one of the largest collections resulting from archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East, including more than 350,000 artifacts with roughly 5,000 on display on the University of Chicago campus.
Originally funded by a handful of visionaries including James Henry Breasted and John D. Rockefeller Jr., the OI has been a groundbreaking institution for over a century.
With a centennial approaching and over 10,000 years of stories to tell, the OI had a new challenge: find an interactive storytelling way to share the wealth of information uncovered over the years as well as present new expeditions and discoveries going on today. The OI needed a partner to create a digital experience celebrating its Centennial year and showcasing its 100 years of connecting ancient places, people and issues. The OI selected Sandstorm to lead this effort.
Sandstorm and the OI team underwent a thorough UX and creative UI process while leveraging the new branding that was being designed specifically for the Centennial and the rebranded identity for the OI itself. The primary goal was to deliver an interactive, high-touch, narrative experience while showcasing the incredible depth of research projects and overall work of the OI.
In addition, a key goal was to drive users to engage with the OI: registering for the Centennial Gala, donating, becoming a member, visiting the museum, or even adopting a dig. Making sure these CTAs and conversions link back to the main OI site was key, while also elevating the Centennial as a major milestone for the organization.
Sandstorm implemented a new Drupal 8 instance for the OI centennial site and configured the CMS for design flexibility in the future. Over the course of a few months, Sandstorm transformed key content related to the OI’s history, research projects, fieldwork, and museum collection into a well-curated, digital microsite experience.
“The OI needed a website that would display a wide range of media types with pictures and videos but we really wanted to focus on interactive elements as well and find the most engaging way to display their research to users,” said Jeff Umbricht, lead developer of the Centennial site. “With work all over the world, we decided to create an interactive map that presents a visual navigational tool to explore key discoveries.”
To encourage museum visits and membership, Sandstorm also included an easy to access events page for visitors to experience OI events throughout the year.
Key elements of the experience:
- Emphasis on displaying a wide range of information in a concise, scannable way.
- Extending Drupal modules and features for strong content editor control and flexibility.
- Interactive map to display research efforts in key locations in the Middle East. The solution provides an ideal balance of performance and interactivity.
- Mobile-first approach that ensures the user has the same level of interactivity and scannability from any device.
- Built targeting WCAG 2.0AA accessibility standards
With the website complete, the University of Chicago has begun promoting the Oriental Institute’s Centennial, which kicks off in September with a Centennial Gala followed by a public event and includes activities throughout the 2019–2020 academic year.
Visit oi100.uchicago.edu to learn more and be sure to visit the museum in person on the University’s campus in Hyde Park Chicago.
“Sandstorm’s work creating a digital experience for our Centennial celebration is a key element of our year-long effort focused on sharing not just the legacy and historical impact of the OI in understanding, revealing, and protecting the earliest human civilizations, but also recognizing that through our ongoing research and public outreach we can offer new ways of thinking about what connects us and why.”
- Dr. Kiersten Neumann, Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum, and Research Associate and Communications Associate of the Oriental Institute
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is the leading association of medical professionals who advocate and oversee the health of workers, the safety of workplaces and the overall quality of environments.
ACOEM’s website and several related microsites utilized an outdated technology, an ineffective user experience that did not reflect the mission of the association nor the user needs of the occupational and environmental medicine community. The content was extremely deep and relied on a poor search experience, which often led to users contacting the help desk, putting unnecessary strain on their staff, or abandoning the site.
Goals of the redesign included: ensuring the site informed users about occupational and environmental medicine (no tree-doctors need apply); Single sign-on for critical member benefits; reaching emerging professionals entering the workforce (career ops, connecting with peers, educational content); and offering special interest communities to connect and increase member engagement.
The new site needed to be clean, intuitive, mobile-first with integrated faceted search, while delivering a robust administration experience for ongoing content management by ACOEM staff.
ACOEM wanted the new site to work from the existing marketing materials, but not be a slave to the printed brand. Sandstorm knew going straight to visual UI layouts would not give the teams the opportunity to work together—to “Yes, And”, which is one of Sandstorm’s guiding principles for our creative work. Because of this, Sandstorm began the UI process with brand/mood boards in order to gain alignment on the visual direction. Once a brand/mood board was selected, Sandstorm quickly transitioned into visual user interface designs with a mobile-first strategy.
We also identified the navigational structure was going to be broad and deep resulting in a dense navigational structure. ACOEM was extremely motivated to use a unique mobile-first drawer pattern for the navigation on all viewports. This innovative navigation resulted in a very clean experience that was user-friendly and unique within the association space.
Sandstorm’s UX and Kentico-certified development team worked collaboratively to build the page layouts using a form-based model instead of an open structure. This approach enabled the site to embody a consistent user experience while making site content and image updates intuitive and easy to manage for the ACOEM team. Knowing search was fundamental to the overall user experience, we leveraged Kentico’s tagging, categorization, Google sitemap, and Smart Search to significantly improve the relevancy and findability of key content; in addition to integrating with Fonteva’s AMS to deliver a personalized member experience.
The website was a critical part of ACOEM’s overall digital transformation journey led by our partner, .orgSource, as they helped modernize the technology landscape including new software for the AMS, finance and workflow analysis.
The dotCOMM Awards honored the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Sandstorm with a Gold award honoring excellence in web creativity and digital communications in the association space. Check out the new ACOEM site.
The 2019 dotCOMM Awards is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), one of the largest, oldest and most respected evaluators of creative work in the marketing and communication industry.
Since launch in January 2019, ACOEM has seen significant improvement, including:
- User interactions (sessions) increased 32%
- Return visitors increased 18%
- New users (no prior sessions) increased 13%
Sandstorm continues a strong partnership with ACOEM and provides ongoing UX/UI improvements, development and AMS integration support and maintenance for the site, including data analytics in order to drive key insights for optimization. In addition, to further extend the Kentico platform, Sandstorm is underway with building much improved Member and Find a Provider searchable directories that leverage key user data stored in Salesforce (Fonteva), as these are highly visible (and highly utilized) features of the site.
The National Business Institute is a professional association providing continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys and paralegals for over 35 years and delivering over 18,000 in-person and on-demand resources.
While NBI’s live seminars and OnDemand resources lead the industry, their website and subscriber experience were trailing behind. NBI partnered with Sandstorm—to create a personalized, user-centric (and most importantly, revenue-driving) experience for existing subscribers, transactional customers, and prospects.
Sandstorm began with user research that identified the motivations and expectations of each type of customer. Then, we crafted a myriad of user flows based on user groups, extensive site map, navigation, wireframes and creative to align each step in the purchase process with those expectations.
By conducting usability testing, we uncovered user needs, expectations, and insights, including:
- The use of key statistical information vs. the use of customer testimonials on the homepage was much more impactful to key audiences.
- Including specialty credit details in the search results, since this is a key identifier in the selection of a course and purchase process for users.
- Users wanted stronger use of colors throughout the experience, but still honoring the blue that NBI was well-known for.
Because findability and conversion were primary goals, we needed to determine how to best integrate a robust search throughout the experience. The final site includes multiple layers of search exposed within the experience to ensure users can quickly and easily find desired courses and find them in the format they wish to consume them.
Personalization was also key. Sandstorm worked closely with NBI’s development team to build in targeted courses based on a users’ geolocation and schedule (recommended courses, happening soon, and best sellers).
As NBI was shifting its business model to more emphasis on a subscription model vs. one-off courses, the conversion path to becoming a subscriber needed to be clear and slightly varied experience from an individual visiting the site for the first time.
And, knowing the mobile experience was critical to these users, we crafted and deployed a fully responsive designed experience, including personalization based on returning users vs. new users to the site.
Finally, we extended the user experience and creative via front-end development and collaborated closely with NBI’s in-house development team to ensure the experience seamlessly integrated with NBI’s back-end CMS, technology and complex e-commerce systems.
The Hermes Creative Awards honored the National Business Institute and Sandstorm with a Gold award for the agency’s redesign of the NBI website.
The 2019 award winners were announced by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), which administers the annual Hermes Creative Awards international competition.
In addition, the website has experienced significant improvement, including:
- Organic SEO positioning has increased by 20%
- Conversion rates are up 12% year over year
- Experienced higher search and filtering traffic that converts at a much higher rate than the prior site experience
- Received extremely positive feedback from its subscription-based customers via the streamlined and much-improved checkout flow
“Thank you for your help. The site looks great and we couldn’t be happier with what you did for us.”
Jim Embke - Managing Director, National Business Institute
The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is the pre-eminent association for the actuarial profession. With over 30,000 actuaries as members, the SOA’s mission is to advance actuarial knowledge and the ability of actuaries to provide expert advice and solutions for financial, business and societal challenges.
In line with their mission, the SOA wanted to take the conceptual idea of an Actuarial Toolkit and bring that to life in Drupal 8 as a web application. The SOA's existing Glossary App needed to be redeveloped into a web app, in addition to incorporating data from multiple websites.
The SOA kickstarted the project internally with some baseline requirements and initial design mock-ups to support the reimagined Actuarial Toolkit. Sandstorm was able to quickly collaborate with the SOA and build upon the work completed, in order to begin transitioning into more detailed user experience and technical requirements.
The SOA partnered with Sandstorm in order to build an interactive web application that delivered a variety of online resources for actuarial candidates, actuaries, and actuarial analysts. We identified with the SOA that Drupal 8 would be the optimal platform that would offer a high level of flexibility and a scalable development framework to support the desired interactions along with a robust mobile experience.
With a Drupal-based solution and our proposed technical architecture, we were able to provide a scalable framework for the SOA to expand and grow to support the other SOA applications. The goal was to make it simple for the SOA to build out new solutions over time, without significant investment each time. The architecture also supports opportunities to transition to a headless Drupal solution (if desired in the future), which could be used to drive native mobile apps.
In addition, the Actuarial Toolkit supports the longer-term vision and consolidation of its online tools to support the Actuarial Profession.
The Actuarial Toolkit includes the following features:
- Interactive Actuarial Glossary including over 500 peer-reviewed definitions, concepts and practice area terminology for those working with Actuarial Science
- Bookmarking to save favorite pages in the toolkit
- Flashcard function to display glossary terms saved for quick access and review
- Main hub for practice areas, giving users access to pre-defined mathematical definitions and data templates used in the profession including curated live illustrations of actuarial and mathematical concepts using R
- Integrated Single Sign-On experience with the SOA’s Association Management Software system and website so users can move seamlessly through the entire web experience
The SOA launched the new Actuarial Toolkit after working for many months curating the content and finalizing the industry definitions and terminology to ensure a highly usable, high-touch, personalized experience. Overall feedback has been incredibly positive from the SOA membership and community, not only offering an interactive suite of tools to advance learning in the profession but also giving the users even more personalized experiences that they can control.
The Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) is the authoritative source for the treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal injury. So when they came to us with an underperforming website, we made sure they got the best treatment possible.
OTA’s website exhibited a lot of the traditional symptoms of an aging online presence: disorganized content, a lack of information architecture (IA), overall poor member experience, and outdated design and functionality. They were struggling to come up organically in search and it was critical that OTA engage a partner who could quickly get them where they should be in site rankings, and keep them there. OTA planned to rely upon their selected partner not only to redesign their site, but also to help them maintain their site moving forward in a manner that would promote SEO.
Based on OTA’s website goals, technical requirements, API integrations, SEO concerns and content authoring needs, we determined that Drupal 8 would be the recommended content management system (CMS) for the OTA team. With Drupal, we were easily able to implement single sign-on (SSO) through OTA’s association member platform—ACGI. And by utilizing Apache Solr Search, we were able to make the search more robust throughout the site – improving the overall user experience for members.
To improve the overall usability of the site, and increase organic search rankings, we conducted keyword research and analysis to identify heavily searched terms applicable to their industry, and built the sitemap, navigation and information architecture around the research findings. We designed with user experience (UX) best practices while creating consistent branding throughout the site—expanding the color palette, identifying fonts the OTA brand could differentiate with, and utilized custom imagery. Altogether, this made content easier to find for users and easier to update for the association.
Within the first month after launch, OTA’s new website experienced unprecedented results:
- 986% increase in traffic from Google
- 497% increase in organic search traffic
- 54% increase in new users
- 65% increase in pageviews
- 22% decrease in bounce rate
“Planning and implementing a website redesign can be a momentous undertaking, especially for a small staff association. Sandstorm could not have made the process easier for our team.
Their exceptional technical and creative talent, along with the high level of customer service provided throughout the project, made the process as seamless as a website redesign can be. And our new (and very much improved) website has been well received by the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) membership!”
– Kathleen Caswell, CAE, Executive Director
Visit the new site: https://ota.org/
Over the past several years, DCLI has transformed itself and the intermodal transportation industry. As the largest provider of chassis in the U.S., they’re renowned for their industry-leading technology and logistics expertise.
But DCLI’s web and marketing presence was hindering the company’s growth. That’s why they turned to Sandstorm®.
Engaging Tool Increases Revenue
DCLI first asked us to help them solve an interesting challenge: reduce the burden of high sales-call volume while increasing revenue among potential clients. We jumped at the opportunity.
Through intense collaboration, we were able to develop an automated quote tool that seamlessly integrated into DCLI’s website. The result? Within the first month of its launch, the quote tool generated 49% of all marketing-influenced revenue.
Confident in our ability to deliver proven results, DCLI shifted their focus to two even more ambitious initiatives:
- Creating marketing campaigns where none had previously existed
- Designing and developing a new website to showcase their revamped brand
Building Creative Campaigns From the Ground Up
DCLI came to us with aggressive marketing goals. To help them achieve their objectives, we held a marketing workshop with key members of the company. This allowed us to gain insights into their business, and collaborate on a value proposition and strategy statement that positioned DCLI as the most agile intermodal partner around.
Building on this strategic foundation, we created ad concepts, event collateral, infographic, and sell sheets that drove the DCLI brand forward. Most important for DCLI, we implemented tracking within creative so they can begin measuring return on ad spend.
But our most ambitious collaboration was completely redesigning and developing DCLI’s website.
Reimagining DCLI’s Digital Presence
Creating DCLI’s new website engaged nearly every aspect of our expertise. Our unique approach benefitted DCLI in several ways.
Better Targeting of Customer Verticals
DCLI needed their website to talk to five separate user groups—motor carriers, ocean carriers, non-vessel-owning common carriers, beneficial cargo owners, and domestic shippers. We designed every aspect of the new website with these users in mind, making it easy for them to self-identify and find the tools and information that matter most to them. We even traveled to one of the nation’s largest terminals so we could showcase the breadth and depth of DCLI’s expansive chassis fleet to potential customers.
Content Optimized for Search Engines
To enable DCLI to capture as much organic traffic as possible, we analyzed current traffic and performed competitive keyword analysis. This allowed us to optimize all content across the new website, which resulted in a 27% increase in organic traffic in the first two months of the launch.
Integrating Marketing Automation
To capture leads at key touch points, we needed to successfully integrate the Pardot CRM platform. That required setting up tracking codes, incorporating the Pardot plugin within the CMS, and styling a custom form template within the CRM. The solutions were a huge success for DCLI, and in the first day of launch, the integration resulted in 7 leads.
In the wake of the successful launch, we’re continuing to test and optimize, and collaborate with DCLI to identify new opportunities across sales and marketing that elevate their brand.
We’re thrilled to help DCLI spotlight all of the innovative ways they help their customers keep cargo moving. See the new DCLI website for yourself!
Jelmar is most recognized for its broad range of cleaning products (CLR and Tarn-X) that have helped solve some of the toughest household cleaning problems... maybe you've seen their commercials to clean your showerhead?
The CLR Brands website was outdated and virtually unusable on a mobile device. There was also a great deal of confusion across the brands – parent company, Jelmar vs its flagship products (CLR and Tarn-X) and related products. The site did not provide a cohesive experience, nor was it intuitive for consumers visiting the site for more information or where to buy CLR or Tarn-X products. It also did not properly serve the needs of its distributors and retailers. Given the brand structure and Jelmar’s drastically different audiences, it was critical to have a modernized user experience that was cohesive while providing variations based on the two distinct user groups. Sandstorm was challenged with reinvigorating and personalizing the CLR brand experience integrating social, digital, marketing automation and the website; as well as utilizing technology to drive better business decisions – which is why the Kentico EMS content management system was ultimately selected.
Based on our in-depth user research, one of the primary goals for consumers was to identify where they could buy CLR products. Sandstorm completely overhauled the “Where to Buy” feature (formerly the Retailer Locator feature, which we renamed based on our usability study results). This tool incorporates a custom Product Search, including radius map in several key areas of the site to improve overall usability – check out the Where to Buy feature here. On the administrative side, Sandstorm developed a product management tool within Kentico, so Jelmar staff can easily manage updates to products in a single location, which propagates throughout the site. In addition, Sandstorm implemented Kentico’s Smart Search to drastically improve the findability of products, "How To" videos, FAQ spec sheets, blogs and news, etc.
Behind the scenes, Sandstorm utilized Kentico’s Staging and Synchronization features to manage development and testing in one environment, user acceptance and content editing in a second environment, and live production in a third, while ensuring that integration of code and content between the sites can always be easily managed and synchronized. From a content migration perspective, Sandstorm utilized Kentico’s import utility and custom scripts to map content into the new site, product details, images and related taxonomy. Sandstorm also leveraged Kentico’s features for tagging, categorization, Google sitemap generation, and other capabilities to improve SEO of the site.
The entire project included a complete redesign, in-depth user research, information architecture, usability testing, UX/UI development, Kentico install/configuration, Kentico web development, content migration, QA testing, analytics and launch. Additionally, upon launch, Sandstorm ran multiple email campaigns using Kentico’s Contact Management and Email Marketing features to deliver messages segmented for audiences interested in retail products separately from products for industrial/commercial uses.
End results? 380% increase in use with a 78% increase in site entrances directly to the new "Where to Buy" versus the previous "Retailer Locator". Overall 12% increase of pageviews, and an 11% reduction in bounce rate – within the first 30 days. Visit clrbrands.com.
At Sandstorm®, we take security seriously. For the not-for-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), that means preventing insurance fraud and theft across the United States. NICB turned to Sandstorm to design and develop a brand-new website that could better help them advance their mission.
The launch of this site represents a significant shift for NICB. The previous website addressed two audiences: the general public and current members. By focusing on non-member audiences, NICB can more clearly convey their message and raise awareness with common consumers.
With an iterative, user-centered approach that utilized usability testing to refine navigation items and page layouts, we designed an intuitive user experience that we developed in Drupal 8. By building in the newest version of Drupal’s content management system, we were able to give NICB a robust e-commerce platform with an intuitive administrative interface.
We are honored to help NICB raise awareness of their mission and help combat insurance fraud and theft. Check out the new NICB website for yourself.
At Sandstorm®, we thrive on designing and developing exciting new websites. But we also know how important a great event can be. That’s why we couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity in creating a site for ACG.
The Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) is the global community for business leaders focused on driving middle market growth through mergers and acquisitions. As a chapter-led organization, ACG is heavily focused on events, holding over 1,200 around the world each year for industry professionals and the association’s 14,500 members to network.
In order to drive their own growth, ACG turned to us to design and develop a website platform that provided individual sites for the global organization as well as its 58 chapters. Each site not only needed to be mobile friendly and visually appealing, it needed to be user friendly and easy to manage for each chapter, an objective we were able to achieve as a result of several efforts:
- Attending ACG’s annual event and conducting stakeholder interviews to hear directly from leaders and members what they needed from the new website
- By integrating the Drupal 8 content management system (CMS) with the netFORUM association management system (AMS)
- Conducting a usability study on the new design to ensure it was intuitive and easy to use
- Building a collaborative space for chapters and committees to digitally communicate and share essential documentation
We’re honored to help ACG continue driving middle market growth around the world. Check out the new ACG website for yourself.
At Sandstorm®, we know a thing or two about creating great user experiences. That’s why working with Raddon to develop their new website was such a perfect fit.
For Raddon, 2016 was a transitional year. Fiserv purchased the company, which gave Raddon the opportunity to create a new, visually appealing website that aligned with Fiserv’s look and feel.
With the launch, we were able to help Raddon:
- Build brand equity through beautiful web design that complements their parent company.
- Create a consistent experience for Raddon and Raddon Report visitors by combining the domains.
- Improve lead generation by implementing an e-commerce solution that makes it easier to purchase research reports and register for events.
We’re honored to help Raddon in their mission to improve financial performance through research and help financial institutions achieve sustainable growth. See the new Raddon website for yourself.