When we share we win

Case Study

Lighting up the Commons: Large-scale WordPress Redesign

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that allows people to share their copyrighted works via free legal tools. Their work has evolved over the years, as sharing open license content has become a global movement. Current areas of impact include: arts and culture, open access, open science, education/OER, policy and advocacy, open data, and technology.

They were seeking a full redesign of their website, and to significantly simplify their information architecture to support their goals. Big picture, they needed a site that represented the personality of the commons (connected, vibrant, full of ideas, grassroots), fostered a sense of inclusion and community, and made it easy to accomplish top calls to action.

Creative Commons before the redesign
Creative Commons before the redesign

The dynamic, passionate team at Creative Commons has deep knowledge about online communication. The expertise Affinity Bridge brought to this project was to convene a collaborative process that helped prioritize their content/ideas and allowed them to feel emboldened to simplify. A simpler structure, clearer messaging, and a bright, vibrant design made the site feel fresh and approachable, helping to invite a wider audience into the conversation about open licensing, while making it easy to do your business on the site; sharing, finding CC works, donating, reading recent news, or signing up for emails.

The problems to solve:

There were a series of problems to solve and goals to strive for in the scope of this project. Some of the most important ones included:

  • Reflecting the vibrancy and depth of the commons - there are so many great resources and creations in the commons, and the community is huge and amazing, so the site needed to show that.

  • Making the site easy to use by making it responsive, simplifying the sitemap, and allowing for fewer dead ends.

  • Updating the language on the site to be less eclectic to help users with less subject matter expertise feel welcome.

  • Simplifying key aspects of what Creative Commons is about (their mission and vision) and what it provides (licenses, search, and access to creative work).

  • Asking for donations at the point where the user has been inspired or has found a useful tool or resource by integrating the donation system with the main site instead of taking people off site.

Our strategies

On this project, we started with an exhaustive content audit, cross-referencing analytics. Using the results of that analysis we then liaised with a global distributed team to collaborate on a shared vision for the updated site. We presented a navigation that is based on user tasks of sharing/getting content/learning more. From there, we built a series of wireframes, working with subject matter experts and stakeholders, to ensure full alignment with the plan.

You were adept at taking in a ton of information and opinions and distilling them all into a series of clear and manageable steps/decisions and then ultimately into one cohesive vision/product.

Rebecca Lendl, Director of Development

Our designer created a look which is clean and uncluttered, with crisp lines and clear delineated sections, minimal text, and use of ample white space--helping the site feel easy to navigate. We encapsulated the personality of Creative Commons through a warm, bright, vibrant, daring and loud palette. The orange conveys warmth, excitement, joy, action – it’s edgy, brave, dynamic, and impactful. The bright blue expresses confidence, honesty, integrity, reliability. The yellow also adds warmth and vibrancy.

Affinity Bridge included a feature which collects works in the commons with an infinite load, helping highlight some of the 1.1 billion works in the commons.

When you work with a distributed team across an extensive web ecosystem, an internal development team, and many moving parts to their work, the challenge is to learn enough about the system to understand the pieces while still maintaining momentum. In our discovery work we documented and prioritized CC systems and processes, while keeping a steadfast focus on the objectives of our current project. This holistic approach allowed us to set a roadmap for future development, while not getting bogged down or diverting budget from implementing our key deliverables.

It’s challenging to keep the pace up while coordinating input from many stakeholders. We made a commitment to Creative Commons to launch a site in 6 months—and we kept it. An important ingredient that allowed us to honour this commitment was a willingness to proxy the client when needed. Our team did a deep dive on getting to know Creative Commons, so when key decisions were needed on a tight timeline, we were able to effectively honour their needs. Another import aspect was a good relationship with a strong executive leadership. When we sought input to resolve ambiguity, CC staff were always willing to make a decision.

Seeing Great Results

In our original audit we noticed that there was a surprising amount of traffic on pages that pointed users to CC content or resources. The new Use and Remix section was born, which makes it simple for people to get the content they want. Now a frequently visited page, this opens an opportunity to build a closer relationship with these users.

Another win on this project was bringing the donation forms onto the site, with a donate button in the header and a donate form in the footer on the homepage and blog pages. This has allowed closer control of the donation experience, enabling Creative Commons to both ask at the right time inline and optimize the experience to make it seem simple for users. It also has laid the foundation for the year-end giving campaign we’re about to launch--making an easy flexible to extend and optimize.

An updated design has been a great victory, as it’s made the website feel inline with Creative Common’s culture and aesthetic. More than that, the website has become an effective tool for engaging and connecting with their community.

I cannot tell you how excited we are for today's launch and the amazing work you all have done!!! We appreciate the care and expertise your team has brought to this project. The website is beautiful and engaging and donating feels easy! We've come so far in such a short time and we can't wait to get started on the next phase.

Rebecca Lendl, Director of Development