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Interview: AIIM Prioritizes Usability with a Redesign on Sitecore CMS

Welcome to Episode #5 of BrightTakes.

In this video series, I cover different elements of creative design, along with answers to frequently asked client questions I receive as the Creative Director at Brightfind. If you have a burning question that you'd like me to discuss, leave it in the comments section. Enjoy! 


Vince: Hi, and welcome to BrightTakes. My name is Vince Tardy and I am the Creative Director at Brightfind. And today, I have the pleasure of talking with Peggy Winton, the interim President and CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM.) Brightfind and AIIM recently partnered on a website redesign. Peggy, thank you very much for being here.

Peggy: My pleasure. It’s great to see you again Vince, and we have lots of things we can share.

Vince: Well, that’s fantastic. First question:

How did you know when it was time for a redesign? 

Peggy: Two big reasons. The one that hurt the most was in sales. We quickly realized that we were probably doing everything we could to make it harder for people to find and ultimately buy one of our products. We sell rich subscriptions in terms of exclusive content and we also have a lot of different flavors of training programs. The second reason was that our own internal users had difficulty finding their key assets. AIIM really prides ourselves on enabling our own business users and avoiding having to involve IT in many things, but we would get to the point of doing some web editing when we couldn’t go any further because of a lousy setup - in terms of tables and folder structure - and we had to ask IT. We didn’t like that at all.

Vince: Makes sense! So redesigning your website is a daunting undertaking.

Where did you begin?

Peggy: We had entertained a lot of different options and talked to a lot of specialty organizations and everybody seemed to want to lead with a technology discussion or design discussion. We just had to stop and ask, “What is the business objective that we are really trying to achieve?” I don’t know if you remember that first kickoff meeting when you all came in and didn’t start with one thing about technology or design. Instead you asked us what we were driving towards. And you told us a lot of things we hadn’t even realized. We do a lot of free programing that we are able to monetize with the solution providers in our space, and those are largely drive by other activities - a lot of outbound messaging and social - and yet we were devoting most of our web real estate to those things. You quickly pointed out that we shouldn’t be doing that because it wouldn’t affect the outcome either way, and instead, we should be leveraging and optimizing those things that we wanted to sell. That was a real eye opener for us and we appreciated that.

Vince: That meeting was great because AIIM was shifting its thinking from an organizational “naval gazing” perspective to viewing things from the user’s perspective.

Peggy: You guys clearly specialize in that, and that’s hard. That’s a really hard thing to do when you are a small to medium sized organization and think you can do everything in-house. A lot of us have been around this for a long time and we think we know what’s right. I can’t remember who said, “It doesn’t matter what you think, it’s what your users think.” That was really helpful too. You insisted that we do a card sort and even helped us run that. It was eye opening in terms of what our audiences were expecting of navigation and what they wanted to find under what categories, and we would not have necessarily thought that same way. And nicely, their decisions were unanimous.

Vince: That’s fantastic. I guess they were onto something!

Who was involved in this process?

Peggy: I said we are thinly spread, and we are. Some poor wonderful soul was chosen to be our project manager. She happens to be our director of all membership and rich content programs, Jessica Lombardo. I don’t mind mentioning her name because she’s just been a superstar. She would never consider herself a technologist or techie in any way, but she stepped up the plate. We thought she would be a great candidate because of enthusiasm, but mostly because she sees the big picture and how our content aligns with our constituents, and ultimately, conversions. Jess headed things up for us and we let her pick her team. She tried to get as broad a cross section of business owners as possible, so our major revenue centers all had a place in this group. We did have our token IT representative (no disrespect there). We had a very small bench where IT is concerned, and great guys, but this was led by the business owners. With your help putting together a project timeline that was manageable, folks did this in their spare time. It was amazing, really, and that’s what gives us such a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Vince: Earlier we talked about thinking about things from a user perspective. That’s easy to say, but

How did you know what your visitors wanted?

Peggy: The card sort was very helpful. We did a lot of interviews. We certainly relied on the perspective that you guys brought to us, serving so many other associations with a very diverse clientele and constituent group. That was really, really helpful. At the end of the day, I think associations often fall into a trap of doing a lot of “nicey nice things” because they’ve always done it that way and that’s not going to help the industry that they’re representing. It’s not going to enable their long term sustainability.  We had to talk about business, what keeps the lights on, and how we can create an incredible customer experience but know that it would ultimately lead to revenue.


Would you consider your new site to be successful, and if so, why?

Peggy: We only launched recently, so I think it’s probably too soon to draw any huge conclusions. I will tell you that we have regained the support and respect of our internal team. Again, that skepticism from failed projects is not something easily overcome, and everybody is impressed with how they as a team pulled it off. And we did it ourselves, in addition to carrying a really heavy other workload. And we did it with minimum IT involvement. I think that represents the way small and medium sized businesses should be purchasing and implementing IT in the future; it’s got to be led by the business. That is the customer for IT purchases.

I didn’t mention that we use Sitecore. We had that originally and upgraded. We stuck with what we did. It’s never about the technology, it’s the bad way you implement that causes things to fail. Or lack of training.

Now any of us, yours truly included, love playing around and going into the page editor. You all showed us, through the use of some really good templates and intuitive structure, how to do it. Sitecore is probably not different than other CMS systems out there. It’s all componentized now; you build widgets and you can clone out to wazoo, so you’re not necessarily starting from scratch. It’s empowering. It really is. So that’s been a huge success. All I can say is we have had a great two quarters after we launched, and if that’s due to the website, that’s fantastic. Let’s revisit this as we have more time.

Vince: I think that’s an absolutely fantastic idea. Peggy, thanks for taking the time to come and talk with us. Hopefully folks watching have gained a little insight into the website redesign process. It can be a little daunting at first, but I think Peggy had some great tips and insight for making that as smooth as possible. Thank you so much.

Peggy: You are so welcome. It takes a good partner, and you guys were partners with us. And I’m happy to talk with any of you out there who are contemplating a similar move. Happy to share with you what we learned. Thank you so much for having me, Vince.

Vince: Thank you so much. And thank for watching another episode of BrightTakes. We’ll see you next time.

Vince Tardy

Written by Vince Tardy