You may call your site audience your “users,” but ultimately, they’re just people. Imperfect people with imperfect lives — sometimes to an extreme degree.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a massive rise in domestic violence. This type of violence can take many forms, including technical abuse, where technology is used to control, harass, or intimidate someone. It can look different in various situations, from an abuser constantly sending phone or text messages to controlling the sites or devices their partner can access. Even sharing a store rewards phone number can have unintended consequences. The range of opportunities for abuse is endless.

In the book Design for Safety,” author Eva PenzeyMoog cites an NPR survey that found “85 percent of shelters they surveyed were helping survivors whose abusers were monitoring their activity and location through technology.” This is an alarming statistic. Domestic violence prevention isn’t something that is taught in schools — how would people know how to protect themselves before it’s too late?

As professionals creating digital products, it’s our responsibility to create “for good.” How can we be advocates for safety in design? According to Design for Safety, as an advocate, you must “support vulnerable users to reclaim power and control.” A website could have an easy-to-use interface but still provide pathways for users to experience abuse from domestic perpetrators. Ultimately, this leaves victims vulnerable while giving them a false sense that they have more control than they genuinely do.

During the website creation process, you should aim to design for safety. A key step is to identify “ways your product can be abused, then ways to prevent that abuse.” For example, to help address any abuse or harassment captured while on a call, Google Meet has the function to “report abuse.” You can attach a video clip when you report, and they will investigate and then take action on their end. By proactively planning around safety, your organization can deepen trust with users while doing your part to prevent domestic violence.

Case Study

This past year, Oomph worked with a nonprofit website, which helps the general public understand their legal issues, to perform a user experience discovery and redesign. The site provides individuals with low incomes and limited English with local laws written in plain English. Users visit the site for legal information on various topics, including evictions, government benefits, domestic violence restraining orders and family law. A subsection of the audience uses the website to look for resources dealing with domestic violence.

When designing for this audience, we needed a way to support users who may need to exit a page quickly if they are interrupted by a potential abuser while scrolling through sensitive information, such as divorce or domestic violence resources. The site had previously utilized an “Escape” button on pages that dealt with those sorts of topics. When approaching the redesign, we wanted to ensure this button would always appear but wouldn’t interfere with other audiences, such as someone looking for information about traffic tickets. It had to walk a fine line between in-your-face and too subtle to be helpful to ensure users could see and interact with it.

When dealing with “trauma-informed” design, designers must “prioritize comfort over technological trends” (Design for Safety). Our challenge was amplified by a lack of standards for a quick exit button’s function, especially for a site with multiple audiences. Since these buttons are a relatively new best practice and little research on them exists, we were careful in our strategic approach. A quick exit button is not ingrained in a user’s mental model, making its intended action new to most people. Those who feel they might need it have to recognize its function as soon as possible.

Approach to the Quick Exit Button

While designing the quick exit button, we considered its placement, colors, and typographic style to ensure that:

Our first wireframe called the button “Quick Exit.” When we tested the prototype, all five participants did not understand what the exit button meant. This emphasized how important the language on the button is. For those who have dealt with domestic violence, even the word “escape” could be harmful to hear. Additionally, since audiences view the website in different languages, we wanted to ensure that the button’s translation would not adversely affect the layout.

The top of the first mobile wireframe depicts our first attempt at the quick exit button.

On our next iteration, we tried using the term “Exit” with the icon globally known for “external link.” But this still wasn’t clear enough for our users: Where would the exit bring you? To a page called “Exit”?

The second version of the quick exit button.

We needed to explain exactly what the button did, so we opted to use the universal external link icon with “Exit Site” as a label to best communicate what the button would do. Although it does not describe where you will end up, it clearly explains that you will leave the website.

The third version of the button language based on user testing.

To further help users understand what the button was for, we then created a pop-up at the start of the user’s journey that educates people on the button’s purpose:

An example of a pop-up message upon entry to the site.

Overall, there was a delicate balance we had to achieve in managing all audiences that typically view the site. We wanted to ensure that we were educating all users but not preventing users from getting help for other topics, such as information about the right to an education or disability. The pop-up, however, had additional considerations we needed to weigh as well: What if their abuser sees it upon landing? What if the user who needs it ignores it?

An alternate approach focused more on domestic violence victims is the California Victims Resource Center’s (CVRC) website, 1800victims.org. When landing on the site, visitors are first educated with a pop-up, which includes reading the website’s Terms of Use and agreeing to the terms before they can enter.

Entryway pop-up on 1800victims.org.

Additionally, when the user clicks the escape button (or uses the keyboard short-cut “Delete”), they are brought to a new tab that displays ABC News. The 1800victims site is changed to Netflix — with all traces of the CVRC gone. According to Columbia Health, this follows best practice because “a blank history can raise suspicion from your abuser.” This would be the safest approach for users.

Designing for Safety

We must consider how users dealing with domestic violence may feel when they are visiting a site with sensitive content. By including information to educate users upon landing, we can help more people understand how to use a quick exit button if they find themselves in a situation where they need to swiftly leave a website. As an advocate for user safety and domestic violence prevention, you can proactively create a safety net for others by starting to review your work through the lens of how it may be abused prior to releasing it into the world.

This article is just one look at how organizations can design for safety using a quick exit button. By talking about these issues and advocating to protect users in your own design process, we can all take a step toward helping prevent domestic violence. Even if one person is helped or informed by Oomph’s quick exit button design on the website, it will be a success in our eyes.

Need help incorporating safety-focused design into your website or mobile apps? Let’s chat about your needs.

In good times and bad, healthcare is deeply ingrained in our lives. From the beginning to the end, our providers monitor our growth, treat our illnesses and injuries, and keep us as healthy as possible.

But healthcare organizations can no longer take that provider-patient dynamic for granted. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more patients than ever distrust the healthcare system. The healthcare industry is also working to recover from the $206.2 billion hit it took in 2020, driven largely by forced delays in preventative care and elective surgeries.

As the healthcare sector finds its footing post-COVID, providers have a tremendous opportunity to build stronger patient relationships than ever before. In 2022, 83% of healthcare consumers said they wanted to make their health and wellness a priority again, while another 37% said they wanted to be more engaged with their healthcare. So where should providers start? With a laser focus on user experience (UX).

As telehealth and retail disrupters like CVS and Amazon gain momentum, it’s easier than ever for patients to get a flu shot or a test for strep throat – a convenience that patients love. These healthcare disruptors also have a leg up in the virtual world, since they’re powered by the modern digital platforms that patients have come to expect.

To find a way forward, traditional healthcare organizations need to focus on creating a strong UX and digital presence that can both compete with disruptors and satisfy the regulatory requirements unique to healthcare (we’re looking at you, HIPAA).

Why Your Patients Expect Better UX

Once upon a time, patients believed that doctors knew best. They went to the healthcare provider down the street and trusted that the provider had the expertise to resolve their health woes.

In 2023, patients are informed consumers. 60% of patients research online before choosing a provider, many of whom consult the healthcare organization’s website. If this isn’t reason enough to revamp your digital footprint, 40% of patients also say they prefer to book appointments online.

Together, these statistics illustrate a growing demand among patients for more robust, patient-friendly digital experiences. The issue is that this is exactly what healthcare organizations have struggled to do for years. At Oomph, some of the most common challenges we see among healthcare brands include:

Yet there are exciting examples of innovation across the industry, too. Forward-thinkers like the Cleveland Clinic are proof that healthcare UX can and should be innovative — largely because better digital capabilities enhance the patient experience, fueling stronger relationships that benefit providers and the patients they serve.

Our healthcare team at Oomph works with providers of all sizes to uncover digital solutions that make sense for their size and structure, budget, and patient needs. Here, Oomph UI Designer Alyssa Varsanyi shares best practices they’ve developed in partnership with our healthcare clients.

Our 4 Healthcare UX Best Practices

1. Be Accessible and Inclusive

Accessibility is non-negotiable for any digital experience. It’s even more important for provider sites, which are likely serving people with a wide range of conditions — all of whom need and deserve complete and immediate access to healthcare.

To create a healthcare UX accessible to all, healthcare organizations should:

2. Create a Safe Space

In healthcare, protecting patient data is table stakes. To create a safe space, you have to think not just about patient confidentiality but also about building trust. A thoughtful digital environment with inclusive language can go a long way to helping patients feel seen, heard, and cared for.

Websites like Cedars-Sinai are a great example of how websites can be built around trust. Their platform exemplifies how language can be the foundation for a credible site, especially when paired with supportive modules like sources and testimonials.

To take the same approach to your site:

3. Make Navigation Easy

Many patients come to healthcare systems with an immediate need — a parent needs to find an open appointment NOW for their child’s pre-season sports physical, or a cooking enthusiast needs to locate an urgent care on a Sunday to patch up the new chopping-related cut on their hand.

In either scenario — and countless others that people face daily — it’s critical that patients can easily find the right information at the right time and in the right way.

To make this a reality, healthcare organizations should strive to:

As technical as these tactics are, don’t forget to show empathy, too. It is possible to show compassion online, like how Stanford Health poses the question, “What can we help you find?” Emotional asks like this can illustrate an organization’s genuine desire to be helpful to their patients.

4. Build Responsive Experiences

Healthcare needs don’t wait until patients are sitting in front of their computers. Think about an adult child peeking over their senior parent’s shoulder while they search for a specialist, or a new parent scrolling through their phone at midnight while cradling their sick baby.

Now imagine those people frantically pinching at the screen so they can read the entire text block or find the right button. Stressful, right?

Patients should be able to seamlessly access healthcare anytime anywhere, which means designs must be responsive. Keep in mind:

What does that look like in practice? Consider the Summit Health website. Its simple navigation makes it easy for patients to find what they’re looking for, while the responsive design enables patients to engage on the go.

Healthcare UX Is a Journey, Not a Destination

At Oomph, we’ve seen firsthand how these healthcare UX best practices transformed the patient experience of our many healthcare clients. Even still, it’s important to note that UX isn’t one-size-fits-all. A national network of hospitals may need a very different digital patient experience than an owner-operated group of general practice clinics.

So how do you start building a UX that works for you and your patients? Research and testing.

UX audits, user research, and usability testing are all keys to the lock that is an effective UX strategy. By identifying what’s working and what’s not, what your patients want and what they don’t, you can put your organization on an evidence-based path to world-class UX.

Interested in exploring ways to improve UX for your own patients? We’re here to help.

Humans encounter thousands of words every day. As a website owner, that means your site content is vying for your user’s attention alongside emails from their colleagues, the novel on their nightstand, and even the permission slip scrunched at the bottom of their kid’s backpack.

How do you cut through the clutter to create site content that people actually want to read?

While you may already be choosing topics that are the most interesting and relevant for your audience, the structure of your writing may not be optimized for how people read. By understanding your audience’s reading behaviors following best practices for readability and accessibility, you can make sure your content works with people’s natural tendencies – not against them – to create a more engaging digital experience. An added bonus: Google shares many of those same tendencies, so content that’s designed well for humans is also more likely to perform well for organic SEO.

As a digital platform partner to many clients with content-rich sites, Oomph often works with brands to redesign their content for digital success. Here’s a look at the basic principles we apply to any site design – and how you can use them to your advantage.

How People Read Online

When we dive into a book, we typically settle in for a long haul, ready to soak up each chapter one by one. But when we open up a website, it’s more like scanning a newspaper or the entire bookshelf – we’re looking for something specific to catch our eye. We quickly scan, looking for anything that jumps out at us. If we see something interesting, then we’ll slow down and start reading in more detail.

Think of it like an animal following an information “scent,” identifying a mixture of clues that are likely to lead to the content you’re looking for. Most people will decide which pages to visit based on how likely the page will have the answer they’re looking for and how long it’s going to take to get the answer.

Users need to be hooked within a few moments of looking at a website or they’ll move on. They need to be able to identify and understand key factors like:

  1. The point of the information and why they should keep reading
  2. Whether they can trust the information and the source
  3. The type of content provided and any action expected from them, like signing up for an event
  4. How visually engaging and readable the content is

The takeaway for brands? Writing with your readers’ needs in mind is a way to show them you care and want to help them solve their problem. It’s also the key to achieving your site goals.

Your site content does more than just convey information – it’s about building trust, establishing rapport, and creating a connection that goes beyond the page. Whether you’re trying to sell a product or promote a cause, crafting content around your audience’s needs, desires, and preferences is the most effective way to compel them to take action. Here are four ways to set your website content up for success.

1. Put your data to work.

If you’re looking to refresh your current site, data can help you make informed choices about everything from your content strategy to your layout and design. Use digital reporting tools to answer questions like:

Google Analytics is a go-to tool for understanding the basics of who is visiting your site and how they’re engaging with your content. You can track metrics like session duration, traffic sources, and top-performing pages, all of which can help you better understand what your audience is looking for and what you want to tell them. (If you haven’t made the switch to Google Analytics’ latest platform, GA4, jump-start the process with our 12-step migration guide.)

Additional tools like Screaming Frog and Hotjar can give you even deeper insights, helping you track content structure and real-time user interactions.

2. Create a simple and consistent content structure.

When it comes to site content, consistency is like the foundation of a house (minus the power tools and hard hats).

A well-structured site not only helps users navigate and understand your content more easily, but also enhances the visual appeal and flow of the site. Think of it like a dance floor – you want your users to be able to move smoothly from one section to the next, without any awkward missteps.

That means focusing on shorter sentences, bullet points, and clear subheadings, all backed up by engaging visuals that serve as resting points for the eye. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to declutter your content — users don’t want to wade through a sea of unnecessary words just to find the nuggets of gold.

Ask yourself: Does this content flow smoothly, is it easy to scan, and does it make my key messages stand out? If the answer is yes, then you’re on your way to successful content.

3. Make sure visuals and content play nicely together.

When it comes to enhancing your content with visuals, the key is to strike a balance between style and substance. Your design should complement your content, not compete or distract from it.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, well-designed visuals are important for creating a sense of credibility with users. Think back to the concept of information scent: If your design looks sloppy or inconsistent, users are less likely to trust the information you’re presenting. So make sure you’re using design elements wisely, creating ample white space, and avoiding anything that makes your content feel like a sales pitch.

4. Focus on accessibility.

When it comes to site content, accessibility can’t be ignored. Content should be engaging and informative and also conform to the , Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Tools like SortSite can help identify these issues and guide you toward accessibility success.

There are a number of things all sites need to consider:

Designing Engaging Content Doesn’t Need To Be a Full-Time Job

If you already have a library of content, auditing the content that already exists can be daunting. And sometimes, you need a little help from your friends. That’s where third-party experts (like us!) come in.

During our website discovery process, we use strategies like content and analytics audits, UX heuristics, and user journey mapping to help position client sites for success. We’ll help you identify areas for improvement, highlight opportunities for growth, and guide you toward achieving content greatness.

Ready for a fresh perspective on your content? We’d love to talk about it.

Have you ever tried to buy tickets to a concert and experienced the frustration and eventual rage of waiting for pages to load, unresponsive pages, unclear next steps, timers counting down, or buttons not working to submit — and you probably still walked away with zero tickets? Yeah, you probably had some choice words, and your keyboard and mouse might have suffered your ire in the process.

As a website owner, you strive to create a seamless user experience for your audience. Ideally, one that doesn’t involve them preparing to star in their own version of the printer scene in Office Space. Despite your best efforts, there will be times when users get frustrated due to slow page loads, broken links, navigation loops, or any other technical issues. This frustration can lead to what the industry calls “rage clicks” and “thrashed cursors.” When your users are driven to these actions, your website’s reputation, engagement, and return visits can be damaged. Let’s dig in to discuss what rage clicks and thrashed cursors are and how to deal with frustrated users.

First of all, what are Rage Clicks?

Rage clicks are when a user repeatedly clicks on a button or link when it fails to respond immediately — the interface offers no feedback that their first click did something. This bad user experience doesn’t motivate them to return for more. These clicks are likely often accompanied by loud and audible sighs, groans, or even yelling. “Come on, just GO!” might ring a bell if you’ve ever been in this situation. Rage clicks are one of the most frustrating things a user can experience when using a website or app.

Rage Clicks are defined technically by establishing that:

  1. At least three clicks take place
  2. These three clicks happen within a two-second time frame
  3. All clicks occur within a 100px radius
rage-click

Similarly, what is a Thrashed Cursor?

A thrashed cursor is when a user moves the cursor back and forth over a page or element, indicating impatience or confusion. Various issues, including slow page load times, broken links, unresponsive buttons, and unclear navigation, can cause users to exhibit these digital behaviors. It can also indicate the user is about to leave the site if they cannot find that solution quickly.

Thrashed cursors are defined technically by establishing that:

  1. There is an area on the page where a user was moving their mouse erratically
  2. An established pattern of “thrashing” occurs around or on specific elements or pages
  3. Higher rate of user exits from the identified pages

Why do Rage Clicks and Thrashed Cursor happen?

Common reasons rage clicks and thrashed cursors happen are:

  1. Poor Design: Poor design is one of the most common reasons for rage clicks and thrashed cursors. If the website has a confusing layout or navigation structure, it can be frustrating for users to find what they’re looking for. Or, they may assume an element is clickable; when it’s not, it can be irksome. Underlined text is an excellent example, as users often associate underlines with links.
  2. Technical Issues: Technical issues such as slow loading times, broken links, or non-responsive buttons can cause rage clicks and thrashed cursors. Users expect the website to work correctly; when it doesn’t, they can become annoyed or frustrated. If they click a button, they expect the button to do something.
  3. Lack of Clarity: If the website’s content is unclear or poorly written, it can cause confusion and frustration for users. They may struggle to understand the information provided or find it challenging to complete the intended action. Content loops can be a good example of this. Content loops happen when users repeatedly go back and forth between pages or sections of a website, trying to find the information they need. Eventually, they’ll become frustrated, leading to this user leaving the website.
IT Crowd Monitor Throw

How do you resolve issues that lead to Rage Clicks and Thrashed Cursors?

Now that we know what rage clicks and thrashed cursors are and why they happen, how do you resolve it, you may be asking. Here are a few things an agency partner can help you with that can significantly reduce the risk of your users resorting to these behaviors.

Use Performance Measuring Tools

By employing performance measuring, you can analyze the data collected, gain valuable insights into how users interact with your platform, and identify areas for improvement. For example, if you notice a high number of rage clicks on a specific button or link, it may indicate that users are confused about its functionality or that it’s not working correctly. Similarly, if you see a high number of thrashed cursors on a particular page, it may suggest that users are struggling to navigate or find the information they need.

Tools that support Friction or Frustration measurement:

  1. Clarity (from Microsoft)
  2. ContentSquare
  3. Heap
  4. HotJar
  5. Mouseflow
  6. Quantum Metric

Conduct User Experience Exercises and Testing

Identifying the root causes of rage clicks and thrashed cursors can be done through a UX audit. An agency can examine your website design, functionality, and usability, identifying areas of improvement.

  1. User Journey Mapping: User journey mapping involves mapping the user’s journey through your website from a starting point to a goal, identifying pain points along the way, and determining where users may get stuck or frustrated.
  2. Usability Testing: Usability testing involves putting the website in front of real users and giving them tasks to complete. The tester then looks to identify issues, such as slow loading times, broken links, or confusing navigation.
  3. User Surveys: User surveys can be conducted in various ways, including online surveys, in-person interviews, and focus groups. These surveys can be designed to gather information about users’ perceptions of the website, interactions with the website, and satisfaction levels. Questions can be designed to identify areas of frustration, such as difficult-to-find information, slow page load times, or confusing navigation. It’s wise to keep surveys short, so work with your agency to select the questions to garner the best feedback.
  4. Heat Mapping: Heat mapping involves analyzing user behavior on your website, identifying where users are clicking, scrolling, and spending their time. This can identify areas of the website that are causing frustration and leading to rage clicks and thrashed cursors.

Focus on Website Speed Optimization

A digital agency can synthesize findings from UX research and performance-measuring tools and work to optimize your website for quicker page loads and buttons or links that respond immediately to user actions.

  1. Image Optimization: Optimizing images on your website will significantly improve page loading times. An agency can help you optimize server settings and compress images to reduce their size without sacrificing quality.
  2. Minification: Minification involves reducing the size of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files by removing unnecessary characters such as white space, comments, and line breaks. This can significantly improve page loading times.
  3. Caching: Caching involves storing frequently accessed website data on a user’s device, reducing the need for data retrieval and improving website speed.
  4. Content Delivery Network (CDN): A CDN is a network of servers distributed worldwide that store website data, improving website speed by reducing the distance between the user and the server.
  5. Server Optimization: Server optimization involves optimizing server settings and configurations, such as increasing server resources, using a faster server, and reducing request response time. Website owners frequently skip this step and don’t select the right hosting plan, which can cost more money through lost users and lower conversions.

Resolve Technical Issues

A web agency can help resolve any technical issues that may be causing frustration for your users. These issues may include broken links or buttons, 404 errors, slow page load times, and server errors. Technical issue resolution can involve various activities, including code optimization, server maintenance, and bug fixes that work to ensure that everything is working correctly and address any issues that arise promptly. The resolution of technical issues will improve website performance, reducing the likelihood of user frustration and rage clicks.

Next Steps

User frustration can negatively impact user satisfaction and business outcomes. Partnering with a digital agency can be a valuable investment to mitigate these issues. Through the use of tools, UX audits, user surveys, website speed optimization, and technical issue resolution, a digital agency can identify and address the root causes of user frustration, improving the overall user experience — leading to an increase in user engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty, which means improved conversion rates, higher customer retention, and ultimately, increased revenue for your business.

If your customers are hulking out, maybe it’s time to call us!

With low-code and no-code development tools, anyone can be a developer. Right?

Oprah You're a Developer

That depends. While working in low-code/no-code tools may feel like you’ve unlocked the power of the digital universe, there are still many projects that require traditional full-code solutions.

According to Zapier’s recent no-code report, over 50% of no-code users started in the past year, many of whom are self-taught. Industry analysts also expect that by 2025, over 70% of the applications organizations develop will rely on no-code/low-code tools. That’s not surprising, given that these tools lower the barrier to entry – and the cost – of developing new sites and apps.

With a slew of effective low-code/no-code solutions on the market today, the question isn’t whether you should use no-code/low-code tools to evolve your digital footprint. It’s how and when you should use them so that the tools work for your organization, not against it.

What Is Low-Code/No-Code?

There are three ways to build websites or apps: full-code, low-code, and no-code. Developers hold the keys to the proverbial full-code city, but low-code and no-code open the door to people without a coding background.

While it’s tempting to brush off low-code and no-code as “same same but different,” the differences do matter. Understanding what they are and how they work will help you choose the best route for whatever digital property you need to build.

Low-code development

Low-code development uses APIs, drag-and-drop tools, code and process templates, and more to help build websites, apps, and workflows. These tools typically require some coding skills, but nothing like what you’d need to create a full-code solution. That makes it much quicker and easier to create a product using low-code development than writing all of the code from scratch.

No-code development

No-code development uses visual builders and other simple tools that allow people without any coding skills to build digital experiences. Through drag-and-drop, visual flows, and templated plug-ins, you can build something beautiful without having to touch the code at all. They’re one step more accessible than low-code solutions, making them compelling options for organizations that need fast and cost-effective development.

Pros and Cons of Low-Code/No-Code Development

Low-code/no-code tools take a lot of the time, cost, and aggravation out of traditional development – but they’re not a cure-all for your coding challenges. Before you dive in, keep their strengths and limitations in mind.

Pros of low-code/no-code

Cons of low-code/no-code

When Should You Use Low-Code/No-Code Tools?

For simple projects where hitting budgets and timelines is more important than highly customized design, low-code/no-code tools can be a great solve. They’re especially good for:

What Should You Look For in a Low-Code/No-Code Tool?

Before you choose a solution, consider whether anyone on your team has basic coding skills. If yes, low-code tools may be up your alley. If not, consider narrowing your focus to the many no-code tools around.

Whichever route you go, look for these features in both low-code and no-code tools:

When Should You Bring in an Agency To Build a Full-Code Solution?

Sometimes, only a custom or full-code solution will do. The more unique you want your digital property to be, the more likely it is that you’ll need to call in an expert. We also suggest you look for support if:

Get Help Leveraging the Right Tools for the Right Projects

You wouldn’t build a house on shaky ground, would you? Then why build an experience on a platform that might not actually be able to support it?

Though no-code/low-code tools certainly democratize the web development market, they aren’t a silver bullet. If you know that whatever you’re building is simple enough that a no-code/low-code tool and your existing team can support it, we say go for it.

But if you’re even a little uncertain, consider getting an outside opinion on how to lay a strong foundation for your next development project.

Want help deciding whether no-code, low-code, or full-code is best for you? We’d love to talk with you about your needs.

Among enterprise-scale organizations, from healthcare to government to higher education, we’ve seen many content owners longing for a faster, easier way to manage content-rich websites. While consumer-level content platforms like Squarespace or Wix make it easy to assemble web pages in minutes, most enterprise-level platforms prioritize content governance, stability, and security over ease of use.

Which is a nice way of saying, sometimes building a new page is as much fun as getting a root canal.

That’s why we’re excited about Site Studio, a robust page-building tool from our partners at Acquia. Site Studio makes content editing on Drupal websites faster and more cost-effective, while making it easy for non-technical users to create beautiful, brand-compliant content.

In this article, we’ll explain what Site Studio is, why you might want it for your next Drupal project, and a few cautions to consider.

What is Site Studio?

Formerly known as Cohesion, Site Studio is a low-code visual site builder for Drupal that makes it easy to create rich, component-based pages without writing code in PHP, HTML, or CSS. Essentially, it’s a more feature-rich alternative to Drupal’s native design tool, Layout Builder.

How does Site Studio work? Site developers lay the groundwork by building a component library and reusable templates with brand-approved design elements, such as hero banners, article cards, photo grids, buttons, layouts, and more. They can either create custom components or customize existing components from a built-in UI kit.

Content editors, marketers, and other non-technical folks can then create content directly in the front end of the website, using a drag-and-drop visual page builder with a full WYSIWYG interface and real-time previews.

Who is Site Studio For?

In our experience, the businesses that benefit most from a powerful tool like Site Studio tend to be enterprise-level organizations with content-rich websites — especially those that own multiple sites, like colleges and universities.

Within those organizations, there are a number of roles that can leverage this tool:

Content owners

With Site Studio, marketers and content editors can browse to any web page they want to update, and edit both the content and settings directly on the page. Rewriting a header, swapping an image with a text box, or rearranging a layout can be done in just seconds.

Site builders

Using Drupal’s site configuration interfaces and Site Studio’s theming tools, site builders can easily create Drupal websites end-to-end, establishing everything from the information architecture to the content editing experience.

Brand managers

Managers can define site wide elements, like headers and footers or page templates, to ensure that an organization’s branding and design preferences are carried out. They can also create sub-brand versions of websites that have unique styles alongside consistent brand elements.

IT and web teams

By putting content creation and updates in the hands of content authors, Site Studio frees up developers to work on more critical projects. In addition, new developers don’t need to have expert-level Drupal theming experience, because Site Studio takes care of the heavy lifting.

What Can You Do With Site Studio?

Site Studio makes it easy to create and manage web content with impressive flexibility, giving content owners greater control over their websites without risking quality or functionality. Here’s how.

Go to market faster.

Site Studio’s low-code nature and library of reusable components (the building blocks of a website) speeds up both site development and content creation. Creators can quickly assemble content-rich pages, while developers can easily synchronize brand styles, components, and templates.

Site Studio provides a UI Kit with around 50 predefined components, like Text, Image, Slider, Accordion, etc… Developers can also build custom components. Change any component in the library, and all instances of that component will update automatically. You can also save layout compositions as reusable ”helpers” to streamline page creation.

Build beautiful pages easily.

While we love the power and versatility of Drupal, its page building function has never been as user-friendly as, say, WordPress. Site Studio’s Visual Page Builder brings the ease of consumer-level platforms to the enterprise website world.

This intuitive, drag-and-drop interface lets users add or rewrite text, update layouts, and change fonts, styles, colors, or images without any technical help. And, it’s easy to create new pages using components or page templates from the asset library.

Ensure brand consistency.

With Site Studio, you can define standards for visual styles and UI elements at the component level. This provides guardrails for both front-end developers and content creators, who draw on the component library to build new pages. In addition, Site Studio’s import and sync capabilities make it easy to enforce brand consistency across multiple sites.

Get the best out of Drupal.

Because Site Studio is designed exclusively for Drupal, it supports many of Drupal’s core features. With Site Studio’s component library, for instance, you can create templates for core content types in Drupal. Site Studio also supports a number of contributed content modules (created by Drupal’s open-source community), so developers can add additional features that are compatible with Site Studio’s interface.

What Are Some Limitations of Using Site Studio?

There’s no doubt Site Studio makes life easier for everyone from marketers to web teams. But there are a few things to consider, in terms of resource costs and potential risks.

Start from the ground up.

To ensure the best experience, Site Studio should be involved in almost all areas of your website. Unlike other contributed modules, it’s not a simple add-on — plan on it being the core of your Drupal site’s architecture.

This will let you make decisions based on how Site Studio prefers a feature to be implemented, rather than bending Drupal to fit your needs (as is often the case). Staying within Site Studio’s guardrails will make development easier and faster.

Be careful with custom components.

With its recent Custom Components feature, Site Studio does let developers create components using their preferred code instead of its low-code tools. So, you can create a level of custom functionality, but you must work within Site Studio’s architecture (and add development time and cost).

If you decide instead that for a given content type, you’re going to sidestep Site Studio and build something custom, you’ll lose access to all its components and templates — not to mention having to manage content in different systems, and pay for the custom development.

Rolling back changes is tough.

A standard Drupal site has two underlying building blocks: database and code. Drupal uses the code (written by developers) to carry out functions with the database.

When a developer changes, say, the HTML code for a blog title, the change happens in the code, not the database. If that change happened to break the page style, you could roll back the change by reverting to the previous code. In addition, most developers test changes first in a sandbox-type environment before deploying them to the live website.

By contrast, with Site Studio, most changes happen exclusively in the database and are deployed via configuration. This presents a few areas of caution:

That’s why Site Studio requires meticulous QA and careful user permissioning to prevent inadvertent changes that affect site functionality.

One Last Thing: You Still Need Developers

While it’s true that just about anyone in your organization can create pages with Site Studio’s intuitive interface, there are still aspects of building and maintaining a Drupal website that require a developer. Those steps include:

However, once the components have been built, it’s easy for non-technical content owners to create beautiful pages. In the end, you’ll be able to launch websites and pages faster — with the creativity and consistent identity your brand deserves.

Interested in learning whether Site Studio is a good fit for your Drupal website? Contact us for more info.

Not a lot of people get excited about creating an annual report. Yay! Let’s dive into last year’s operational metrics! If you and your colleagues fall into that camp, this statement should help stoke a little enthusiasm:


A compelling annual report can make the difference in reaching your goals for the coming year — and maybe even exceeding them.


Your annual report (also known as an “impact report” at many nonprofits) can be pivotal in earning the trust and support of key stakeholders. Read on to learn how a strong story, good design, and the right format can transform your company data into an invaluable outreach tool.

Why the Quality of Your Annual Report Matters

A good annual report communicates more than just financial performance and forecasts. It provides stakeholders with a deeper understanding of what you do, why you do it, and how well you do it — and gives them a reason to trust, invest in, and/or work with your brand.

This is crucial for nonprofits that rely heavily on fundraising or volunteers, or for-profit companies that need to attract and retain investors and employees. In the health and wellness sector, it’s a key opportunity for organizations to show how they’ve followed through on their commitments to contribute to the health and wellness of communities.

With an engaging design and thoughtful content, an annual report can be a powerful tool for fundraising, marketing, and recruiting. Done well, it’s also a good way to strengthen your brand reputation.

By contrast, a poorly done annual report can downplay your strengths and successes. It can also diminish your brand image, particularly if your website and other channels are more thoughtfully designed. In that case, the annual report may feel like an afterthought to readers who rely on its information.

How Your Annual Report Can Engage Key Audiences

While current and potential donors or investors tend to be the primary audiences for annual reports, there are a number of other stakeholders to take into account. Employees, customers, alumni, partners, and community leaders are all part of the ecosystem that benefits from, and drives value for, your organization.

Creating a multi-faceted report with content that speaks to different audiences can help you earn the trust and support of a range of key stakeholders. Here’s how.

Strengthen your investor or donor base

With an easy-to-digest record of accomplishments and impact, your annual report can help convince current and potential donors, sponsors, or investors that your organization is a solid investment. It’s also a great way to recognize those who helped you achieve your goals over the year or to reconnect with disengaged supporters.

Motivate your employees or volunteers

An engaging report can congratulate your team on their wins and highlight the innovation, commitment, and cooperation that underpin your success. By showing people how their work affects everything from stock value to community impact, you’ll reinforce why the work they do every day makes a difference and how they fit into the bigger picture.

Capture more customers or clients

Whether they’re buying your products or receiving the benefits of your services, most people want to do business with brands that genuinely care about them. Your annual report can include stories and visuals that showcase your mission and core values, as well as highlighting initiatives that put customers or clients first.

Enhance vendor or partner relationships

External partners want to know what they can expect from you and what’s expected of them — and just about everyone wants to feel appreciated. Your annual report can leverage data to show your financial strength and longevity while highlighting the level of quality and commitment you expect from vendors and partners. It can also spotlight those who went above and beyond, reinforcing those relationships.

6 Best Practices for an Engaging Annual Report

It’s not easy to distill an entire year’s worth of data into a single report that’s digestible, engaging, and convincing. The best annual reports tend to combine clear and purposeful storytelling with a little creativity.

Choose a unifying theme

One of the best ways to craft a cohesive narrative for your annual report is to choose an overarching theme and create relevant content around it. Centralizing your accomplishments around a main message will keep the report focused and better support your core objectives.

Some organizations anchor their reports by opening with their mission statements. Others use marketing-driven catchphrases like “Poised for the 21st Century.” We love the 2021 annual report from AIDS Foundation Chicago — it’s built around the theme “A Better Normal,” opens with a leaders’ letter, and includes a list of strategic priorities linked to different report sections.

Use visual elements to express impact

It’s easy for a message to get lost if it’s not presented in the right way. Design matters! Use things like photos, infographics, and other visual elements to bring your goals and successes to life. This will also help keep readers engaged with your content. In a nutshell: aim for more visuals and fewer words.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island 2021 Annual Report does a great job of using impactful imagery and colorful visuals to illustrate their mission and key accomplishments.

Make it interactive

At the end of the day, you want people to read what you’ve put together. One of the best ways to keep readers engaged is to create an immersive experience with interactive features. Let your audience click through slides, watch videos, or expand graphics for more information.

TOMS’s 2022 Impact Report combines videos and dynamic visuals with lots of clickable content to cover a ton of info without making readers wade through long blocks of text.

Create a web page, not a PDF

While PDFs are easy to share online or in print, they can be clunky to interact with, they’re hard to read on mobile, and they’re notoriously inaccessible.

Here are some important advantages to building a web page instead:

Plus, since they’re native to web browsers, web pages make it easier for readers to navigate to additional resources or take action. And, well, PDFs just aren’t as much fun to scroll through as the 2020 Mailchimp Annual Report.

Employ data visualization

Numbers alone are easy to skim right over. Visual representations of data, however, get readers to think about the content in a more constructive way, like identifying trends or significant changes. Visualizations also help transform complex data into easy-to-understand information that’s more enjoyable to read.

Start Network’s 2019 Annual Report shows how to use color, graphics, and animation to bring life to your data.

Connect the data to real people

This is especially important for nonprofits and for-profit social enterprises, where it’s crucial to convey the impact of your work. You can humanize facts and data — and make an emotional connection with readers — by including stories and images showing how your product or service impacted the lives of real people.

For a wonderful example of how to incorporate real stories, check out Fairtrade Foundation’s 2019 Annual Report.

Why It’s All Worth It

Think about all the marketing and outreach methods your team uses to attract support for your organization. Of all those methods, the annual report provides a unique chance to showcase the full breadth of your value and impact. To unabashedly brag about yourselves, if you will.

For health and wellness organizations in particular, an annual report is a great opportunity to share community impact over the past year and highlight important investments or initiatives that impact the health and lives of the individuals they serve.

Is it a significant investment? It can be. But if you invest in making your annual report as engaging and compelling as possible, it can pay for itself by helping to fulfill your fundraising or recruitment goals — and spotlighting the crucial role your organization plays in the world at large.

Need help crafting your next annual report? Reach out to us today.