The Brief

New Drupal, New Design

Migrating a massive site like healthdata.org is challenging enough, but implementing a new site design simultaneously made the process even more complex. IHME wanted a partner with the digital expertise to translate its internal design team’s page designs into a flexible, functional set of components  — and then bring it all to life in the latest Drupal environment. Key goals included:


The Approach

The new healthdata.org site required a delicate balance of form and function. Oomph consulted closely with IHME on the front-end page designs, then produced a full component-based design system in Drupal that would allow the site’s content to shine now and in the future — all while achieving conformance with WCAG 2.1 standards.

Equipping IHME To Lead the Public Health Conversation

Collaborating on a Comprehensive Content Model

IHME needed the site to support a wide variety of content and give its team complete control over landing page layouts, but the organization had limited resources to achieve its ambitious goals. Oomph and IHME went through several rounds of content modeling and architecture diagramming to right-size the number and type of components. We converted their full-page designs into annotated flex content diagrams so IHME could see how the proposed flex-content architecture would function down to the field level. We also worked with the IHME team to build a comprehensive list of existing features — including out-of-the-box, plugins, and custom — and determine which ones to drop, replace, or upgrade. We then rewrote any custom features that made the grade for the Drupal migration.

Building Custom Teaser Modules

The IHME team’s design relied heavily on node teaser views to highlight articles, events, and other content resources. Depending on the teaser’s placement, each teaser needed to display different data — some displayed author names, for example, while others displayed only a journal title. Oomph built a module encompassing all of the different teaser rules IHME needed depending on the component the teaser was being displayed in. The teaser module we built even became the inspiration for the Shared Fields Display Settings module Oomph is developing for Drupal.

Creating a Fresh, Functional Design System

With IHME’s new content model in place, we used Layout Paragraphs in Drupal to build a full design system and component library for healthdata.org. Layout Paragraphs acts like a visual page builder, enabling the IHME team to construct feature rich pages using a drag and drop editor. We gave IHME added flexibility through customizable templates that make use of its extensive component library, as well as a customized slider layout that provides the team with even more display options.

You all are a fantastic team — professional yet personal; dedicated but not stressed; efficient, well-planned, and organized. Thank you so much and we look forward to more projects together in the future!

CHRIS ODELL Senior Product Manager: Digital Experience, University of Washington

The Results

Working to Make Citizens and Communities Healthier 

IHME has long been a leader in population health, and its migration to the latest version of Drupal ensures it can lead for a long time. By working with Oomph to balance technical and design considerations at every step, IHME was able to transform its vision into a powerful and purposeful site — while giving its team the tools to showcase its ever-growing body of insights. The new healthdata.org has already received a Digital Health Award, cementing its reputation as an essential digital resource for the public health community.

It’s no secret: Higher education institutions are complex. 

Between multiple campuses, multiple audiences, and a high volume of content, higher ed marketing and communications teams have a ton to juggle.

And that’s before you throw a new website into the mix.   

Not long ago, the team at Oomph partnered with the University of Colorado (CU) and Keene State College (KSC) to redesign sites for each institution. While their asks – and end products – were unique, the processes had a lot in common. So much so that we’re peeling back the curtain on our discovery process to give other higher ed institutions the tools to deliver websites that meet business goals and audience needs. 

In this article, we’re turning our lessons learned into a discovery playbook that can help higher education institutions set the stage for a successful site redesign. 

The Projects

University of Colorado Giving Platform 

The University of Colorado has an active and engaged alumni network that loves supporting all things CU. The university came to Oomph because it needed a donor funds platform that could keep up. The goals of the discovery process were to:

While CU had a gut feeling about what it would take to meet internal expectations and keep prospective donors happy, gut feelings aren’t enough to build a website. CU knew that a professional perspective and data-backed analysis would lay a firm foundation for the site redesign. 

Keene State College Main Website

KSC, a public liberal arts college in New Hampshire, wanted a refreshed main website that would resonate with prospective students, current students, and alumni alike. For KSC, key goals during discovery were to:

The team came to Oomph with ideas but wanted research validation and guidance to nurture those ideas into a strategic design plan. 

The Approach

For both projects, Oomph utilized our in-depth discovery process to validate assumptions, clarify priorities, and gain buy-in across the organizations. 

KSC and CU both had a good sense of the work they needed to be done. But having a feel for the floorplan doesn’t mean you’re ready to build your dream house. Whether it’s a home or a website, both projects need an architect: an experienced professional who can consider all the requirements and create a strategic framework that’s able to support them. That work should happen before deciding what paint to put on the walls. 

In our initial review, Oomph found that both sites had similar challenges: They struggled to focus on one key audience and to easily guide users through the site to the desired content. Our question was: How do we solve those struggles in a new website? 

To answer it, we led KSC and CU through discovery processes that included:

  1. An intake questionnaire and live sessions with key stakeholders to understand the goals and challenges holding the current sites back. 
  1. Defining strengths and areas for improvement with methods like a UX audit, a content and analytics audit, and a cohort analysis.
  1. Creating user journey maps that rolled audience, website, and competitive insights into a unified vision for the new user experience. 
  1. Delivering a final set of data-backed recommendations that translated needs and wants into actionable next steps, equipping both teams to secure organizational approval and move the projects forward. 

The Insights

Discovery isn’t a one-size-fits-all. However, our experiences with KSC and CU highlighted some common challenges that many higher-ed institutions face. Our insights from these projects offer a starting point for other institutions kicking off their own website redesigns

  1. Start with your audience’s needs.

Who is your primary audience? Figure out who they are, then really drill down on their needs, preferences, and desired actions. This can be uniquely challenging for higher education institutions because they serve such a wide range of people.

Data is how you overcome that hurdle. As part of discovery, we: 

When you do that work, you get a birds-eye view into what your audience really needs – and what it’ll take for your website to be up to the challenge. 

Take KSC. The existing site attempted to serve multiple audiences, creating a user journey that looked like this: 

Sample of a current user Journey Map

We identified a primary audience of prospective students, specifically local high school students and their parents/guardians. When you speak directly to those students, you get a simpler, cleaner user journey that looks like this: 

Sample of an ideal user Journey Flow
  1. Define organized and clear navigation to support user journeys. 

Your navigation is like a map. When all the right roads are in place, it should help your users get where they want to go. 

That makes your navigation the starting point for your redesign. Your goal is to define where content will live, the actions users can take upon arrival, and, equally important, the content they won’t see at first. This then informs what goes where – the header nav, the footer nav, or the utility nav – because each has unique and complementary purposes. 

With both KSC and CU, discovery was our opportunity to start building a navigation that would serve the primary audience we had already uncovered. For CU, the current navigation: 

Current CU navigation: 

During discovery, we created an updated navigation that would appeal to its primary audience of prospective donors, while still meeting the needs of secondary audiences (returning donors and giving professionals).  

Proposed CU navigation: 

Proposed information architecture map for the Colorado University Giving site
  1. Find an optimal blend of branding, design, and content – especially for the home page and other high-visibility areas.

The design and content you choose for your site should resonate with your target audience and enhance the navigation you already defined. In that way, your home page is like your storefront. What will you put on the sign or display in the windows so people will actually walk inside? 

That’s the secret sauce behind this part of discovery: deciding what your primary audience really needs to know and how best to showcase it. 

To help KSC speak to prospective students, we recommended: 

CU wanted to connect with prospective donors, so we suggested a design that: 

  1. Probe additional areas where needed (and skip where it’s not).

Our hot take: There is such a thing as too much data. If you’re wading through pools of information that isn’t relevant to your end user, it can muddy the waters and make it harder to identify what’s worth acting on. 

With that in mind, this step will change from project to project. Ask yourself, what else does my audience need to feel like they got what they came for? 

For KSC, that involved additional strategy work – like the information architecture – that helped the institution gear up for later design phases. CU, on the other hand, needed significant technical discovery to address the level of custom code required, limited page building capabilities and clunky e-commerce integration. We recommended an updated tech stack, including a new donation platform and payment gateway, that would improve security, simplify maintenance, and enhance the user experience. 

  1. Plan for a system that allows for easy updates later.

As they say, the only constant is change. This rings especially true for higher ed institution websites, where content is plentiful and multiple stakeholders need to make site updates. 

To make sure CU and KSC’s sites continued to work for them long after our projects had ended, our discovery included suggestions around:

Start Your Redesign on the Right Foot

A thorough, well-researched, and well-organized discovery is key for designing a website that meets all of your – and your audience’s – needs. 
Need a fresh perspective on your higher ed site redesign? Let’s talk about it.

Have you ever waved to someone and they didn’t wave back? Awkward, right? But are you sure they could see you and recognize you? Was the sun in their eyes? Were you too far away? Were you wearing a face mask?

There is a similar situation with your branding on your website. On a smaller mobile device, is your logo legible, or are the words shrunk down and too small? Are the colors high-contrast enough to be seen on a sunny day? Is there consistency between your social media avatar and your website, between your print materials and your digital advertising? Can customers recognize your brand wherever it might be displayed? 

For your brand to be the most successful, it takes a little extra effort to think through all of these possible scenarios. But it’s worth it, or your customers will give you the cold shoulder, whether they intended to or not. 

This extra bit of strategy and planning around your brand is called “Responsive Branding.” Just like responsive design, where your website’s content adapts to the device a customer is using, responsive branding adapts to the device, the medium, and the platform while also considering situations like low light, high light, animated, or static.

Oomph works with organizations across industries to build or refresh responsive brands that serve and delight their users across the full spectrum of digital experiences. Here’s what we’ve learned about responsive branding and our tips for creating one that works. 

What Is Responsive Branding?

Let’s first start with what you’ve probably already heard — responsive web design. Coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010, the “responsive” part came to mean that a web design responded to the size of the screen, from a phone to a tablet to a widescreen desktop monitor. 

Then came responsive logos. These take the elements of the main logo and adapt them for different sizes and use cases. A logo might have too much detail to be legible as a small social media icon, for example.

Responsive Branding blends these ideas and looks at the design system holistically. A successful responsive brand may include:

Why Responsive Branding Matters

Your business makes a huge investment in building a brand that stands apart from the competition while communicating your personality and value. You are building trust with customers through every interaction. When your brand works well in one situation but not another, it erodes trust. 

A strong brand will be clear, understandable, and memorable for all users in all situations. Whether you have physical locations or digital ones, the brand works with the same consistent strength and message every time.

When you invest in a responsive brand, you: 

3 Elements of a Responsive Brand

A responsive brand is more than a shape-shifting logo. The most responsive brands make strategic use of these three elements: 

1. Logo

Your logo is the first piece of your brand that customers will recognize. Using a single-state logo can compromise that impression — a logo that looks great at a large scale is often unintelligible as a small icon. 

Responsive logo designs help ensure your logomark is clear and impactful no matter where you apply it. Beyond the size considerations we mentioned, it should include different formats like horizontal, vertical, and square to support many different digital, social, and print platforms. 

Some other techniques we use to create scalable logos include:

Oomph Tip: It’s okay to take several design rounds to get it right. Iterating helps uncover where you’ll use the logo, what it must convey, and which colors and iconography can best support that purpose. We went through several design iterations with our client AskRI before settling on a bold, simple font and clear chat bubble icon that plays off the state of Rhode Island’s distinctive shape. 

Color Palette

A responsive color palette is less about picking complementary shades on a color wheel and more about creating an experience that works in all situations. People with visual impairments and people on low-lit smartphones, for example, rely on high-contrast color combinations to engage with your brand. 

Start by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which include specific recommendations for color contrast ratios. Colors that meet that standard include light text with dark backgrounds, or vice versa. 

Depending on where your brand appears, you may need to adjust your color palette for different settings. For example, your full-color logo might look stunning against a solid white background but becomes illegible against bright or dark colors. A single color logo is useful for some digital use cases like Windows web icons and iOS Pinned Tabs. In non-digital spaces, single color logos are great when color printing isn’t an option, such as with engraving or embroidery. Build out alternate color variations where necessary to make sure your palette works with you – not against you – across your materials. 

Oomph Tip: If your brand palette is already set in stone, try playing with the brightness or saturation of the values to meet recommendations. Often your brand colors have a little wiggle room when combinations are already close to passing corformance ratios. Check out our article about this issue for more pointers.

Typography and Layouts

Responsiveness is also important to consider when structuring web pages or marketing collateral. The most legible layouts will incorporate adaptable typography with clear contrast and simple scaling. 

When selecting a font, be sure to think about: 

Oomph Tip: Don’t go it alone. Tools like Typescale and Material UI’s The Type System can simplify typography selection by recommending font sets that meet usability and scalability requirements. And the U.S. Design System has some suggestions as to which typefaces are the most accessible.

How To Get Started With Responsive Branding

To create a responsive brand that resonates, you first have to identify what elements you need and why you need them. That second part is your secret sauce: finding a balance between a design your users can recognize and one that inspires them. 

A design audit can zero in on the needs of your brand and your audience, so you can create a responsive design system that meets both. Not sure where to start? Let’s talk.

Change is the only constant in life, and the same goes for accessibility. Our understanding of how to create truly accessible websites is always evolving, and so are the standards for measuring if we’ve succeeded. 

The most recent update to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — released on October 5, 2023 — is the latest attempt to help brands make their digital experiences more accessible for all users.

Don’t panic, WCAG 2.2 isn’t an overhaul. But it does shift the previous standards, delivering more specific and, in some cases, more realistic guidelines that make compliance easier (good news, website managers!). While WCAG 2.2 isn’t cause for alarm, it is something to get out in front of. Here’s what to know about WCAG, the ins and outs of the latest updates, and what it all means for your website.

What Is WCAG, Anyway? 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set the standard for accessible website design. WCAG first issued design guidance in 1999, but the 2008 WCAG 2.0 laid the groundwork for accessibility today. Those standards created a framework for designing websites that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for people of varying abilities. 

2018’s WCAG 2.1 wasn’t a radical departure from its predecessor, but it did add criteria related to mobile devices and users with vision and cognitive impairments. By 2023, accessibility had become widely understood and embraced as essential for inclusive design. That shift helped usher in WCAG 2.2, an update based on multiple years of research and review.

WCAG 2.2 adds nine new success criteria split across three different levels, A, AA, and AAA:

The WCAG 2.2 update didn’t just add criteria; it made some criteria obsolete, others weaker, and still others more essential than ever. Specifically, WCAG 2.2 promoted 2.4.7 Focus Visible from Level AA to Level A, which means all websites will need visual indicators that show which page feature is in focus. It also changed the recommended size of touch targets, making it easier for designers everywhere to comply.

What WCAG Standard Am I Required to Meet? 

The standard you’re required to meet depends on your industry: 

Though there is no official standard in courts, the DOJ has referenced WCAG 2.1 Level AA in past filings. We expect the courts to slowly start referencing 2.2 as cases catch up, but it might take another year for version 2.2 to become the standard. 

While wanting to stay out of court is understandable, legal requirements are only one reason to adopt WCAG. Millions of users around the world use screen readers and other assistive devices. Those users have buying power and they want to engage with your organization, whether that’s registering to vote, signing up for a class, or making an appointment with their healthcare provider. When your website is accessible, you’re able to connect with the broadest audience possible — likely earning more loyal users in the process.

WCAG 2.2 Checklist

While achieving inclusive website design is an exciting prospect, the nuts and bolts of getting there can feel anything but. Here, we help you visualize what the new guidelines mean in practice. You might be surprised by how accessible your website already is. 

Guideline 2.4: Navigable

The standards under guideline 2.4 address anything that will make it easier for users to move through your website.

2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (AA)

2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (AAA)

2.4.13 Focus Appearance (AAA)

Guideline 2.5: Input Modalities

An “input” is an action a user takes to elicit a response from your website — think clicking a button or dragging and dropping a feature. These standards govern the design of those inputs. 

2.5.7 Dragging Movements (AA)

2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (AA)

Guideline 3.2: Predictable

This guideline covers repeating features that may appear across your web pages, such as email sign-up forms or support widgets. 

3.2.6 Consistent Help (A)

Guideline 3.3: Input Assistance

Many websites include elements that help users take certain actions. This could include directing a user to re-enter information or to make sure two fields match. Guideline 3.3 addresses this type of assistance, increasing WCAG’s support of those with cognitive disabilities. This puts the onus on developers to provide simple and secure methods for all users.

3.3.7 Redundant Entry (A)

3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (AA)

3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (AAA)

Walking the Walk of WCAG

A commitment to accessibility is two-fold. It requires understanding what the most recent guidelines are (the talk) and putting those guidelines into practice (the walk). 

While it might seem like Level AAA accessibility is the way to go, the reality is that accessible websites are nuanced. Some level of accessibility is non-negotiable, but the ideal level for your site very much depends on your industry, your users, and how mature your website is — all factors we can better assess with an accessibility audit. 

If you’re building a new website, embedding WCAG principles is smart. But if you’re WCAG 2.1 compliant and a refresh is a year or two off, WCAG 2.2 may be able to wait. Curious about where your website stands? Let’s talk about it.

The world of digital accessibility can be daunting. There are many regulations and ways in which a website can be accessible or inaccessible. Many of us don’t understand what a good or bad experience looks like, and we think we can’t possibly understand people who rely solely on assistive technology to use the web. 

It doesn’t have to be daunting, though. And with anything, the key is to start small. To those who create websites or own/manage one, the first step to understanding accessibility is empathy. If more people used assistive technology, more people would understand the difference between a terrible experience and a great one. Don’t be scared of learning about accessibility tools, because you might already be more familiar with them than you realize.

Have you ever broken your dominant hand and been forced to use a keyboard instead of a mouse or trackpad? Have you tried to complete a payment form really quickly to snag concert tickets, and figured out that using the keyboard can be much faster? 

Have you been in loud surroundings and tried to watch a video? How great are captions? Have you realized that captions are assistive technology? There are alternate modes of consuming content and using a digital product that are beneficial to a much wider audience than the audience it was created for. 

With some instruction, we hope more people feel comfortable using a keyboard to navigate a website. We also hope that more of you are brave enough to try a screen reader as well, or at least watch our video to experience what that experience can be like. 

Video Tutorial

Our video is 37 minutes and we provide a break-down of the different minute-marks below if you’d like to jump to a certain area. (All cookies must be accepted for the video to play. You may also view on YouTube directly.)

Table of Contents

  1. 00:00 — Using a Keyboard
    1. 02:00 — The tab key
    2. 02:20 — A “Skip to Content” link and why that is so useful
    3. 03:40 — “Focus ring” style
    4. 04:20 — An example of an inaccessible drop-down menu
    5. 05:40 — An example of an inaccessible link (no focus ring)
    6. 07:40 — Common article card patterns and how they work with a keyboard
  2. 10:45 — The Screen Reader Experience
    1. 11:10 — Invoking VoiceOver with Command F5
    2. 12:35 — Tabbing through interactive elements
    3. 12:54 — Skip to Content link
    4. 13:07 — Company logo
    5. 13:55 — Projects link
    6. 14:31 — Topics
    7. 15:55 — About Us link, inaccessible to keyboard users
    8. 16:16 — Reading of non-interactive elements with Control Option arrows
    9. 16:50 — Reading content, Headings, links
    10. 18:50 — Visually hidden heading but screen reader accessible
    11. 19:55 — Alt text image examples
    12. 20:06 — Kittens, no alt tag present
    13. 21:06 — Doggos, empty alt tag
    14. 23:00 — Squirrels, descriptive alt text
    15. 23:48 — Article content examples
    16. 23:53 — Article 1 example, too many links
    17. 25:37 — Article 2 example, too much content
    18. 26:32 — Article 3 example, hidden content
    19. 27:44 — Article 4 example, alternate pattern
    20. 30:02 — Voiceover’s Rotor Feature, control option U
    21. 30:15 — Headings menu
    22. 30:55 — Empty heading element
    23. 31:50 — Other Rotor menus
    24. 32:18 — Non-visited Links menu
    25. 33:01 — All Links menu
    26. 33:40 — “Click here” and “Read more” link text
    27. 35:09 — Landmarks menu
    28. 35:25 — Form Controls menu
  3. 36:06 VoiceOver off and wrap up

For those who want to learn a little more, below we collect a few keyboard command cheatsheets for navigating a webpage or using VoiceOver on a Mac. Links to additional resources for setting up and getting started with VoiceOver are also included.

More Resources

Keyboard User Cheatsheet

VoiceOver Cheatsheet

These key commands reflect the default set-up for Mac OSX — I have not made any modifications. Of course, power users will modify these commands to fit their needs. 

The default VoiceOver key command combination is ^Control ⌥Option. This combination is used to ensure key combinations do not conflict with other quick key commands through the OS and Apps.

Many key commands for navigating a webpage are the same as a Keyboard user. Return, Spacebar, and Arrow keys all work the same.

Additional Resources to Start Using VoiceOver

Conclusion

With some practice, we hope you might find that using a keyboard to navigate can be your superpower. When filling out forms, for example, I use the keyboard almost exclusively to quickly move from one field to another and to find my state in a long drop-down list. Unless, of course, I run into another poorly coded form that is not accessible. Lucky for me, I can go back to using a mouse. But some do not have that option, and for them, our empathy should turn into empowerment and we shall demand better from our design and development practices.

For questions or to discuss how to make your next project more accessible, please contact us anytime.


More in Our Accessibility Series

Notable articles from the Accessibility category:

There’s a new acronym on the block: MACH (pronounced “mock”) architecture. 

But like X is to Twitter, MACH is more a rebrand than a reinvention. In fact, you’re probably already familiar with the M, A, C, and H and may even use them across your digital properties. While we’ve been helping our clients implement aspects of MACH architecture for years, organizations like the MACH Alliance have recently formed in an attempt to provide clearer definition around the approach, as well as to align their service offerings with the technologies at hand. 

One thing we’ve learned at Oomph after years of working with these technologies? It isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many degrees of MACH adoption, and how far you go depends on your organization and its unique needs. 

But first, you need to know what MACH architecture is, why it’s great (and when it’s not), and how to get started. 

What Is MACH?

MACH is an approach to designing, building, and testing agile digital systems — particularly websites. It stands for microservices, APIs, cloud-native, and headless. 

Like a composable business, MACH unites a few tried-and-true components into a single, seamless framework for building modern digital systems. 

The components of MACH architecture are: 

  1. Microservices: Many online features and functions can be separated into more specific tasks, or microservices. Modern web apps often rely on specialized vendors to offer individual services, like sending emails, authenticating users, or completing transactions, rather than a single provider to rule them all. 
  2. APIs: Microservices interact with a website through APIs, or application programming interfaces. This allows developers to change the site’s architecture without impacting the applications that use APIs and easily offer those APIs to their customers.
  3. Cloud-Native: A cloud-based environment hosts websites and applications via the Internet, ensuring scalability and performance. Modern cloud technology like Kubernetes, containers, and virtual machines keep applications consistent while meeting the demands of your users. 
  4. Headless: Modern Javascript frameworks like Next.js and Gatsby empower intuitive front ends that can be coupled with a variety of back-end content management systems, like Drupal and WordPress. This gives administrators the authoring power they want without impacting end users’ experience. 

Are You Already MACHing? 

Even if the term MACH is new to you, chances are good that you’re already doing some version of it. Here are some telltale signs:

If you’re doing any of the above, you’re MACHing. But the magic of MACH is in bringing them all together, and there are plenty of reasons why companies are taking the leap. 

5 Benefits of MACH Architecture

If you make the transition to MACH, you can expect: 

  1. Choice: Organizations that use MACH don’t have to settle for one provider that’s “good enough” for the countless services websites need. Instead, they can choose the best vendor for the job. For example, when Oomph worked with One Percent for America to build a platform offering low-interest loans to immigrants pursuing citizenship, that meant leveraging the Salesforce CRM for loan approvals, while choosing “Click and Pledge” for donations and credit card transactions. 
  2. Flexibility: MACH architecture’s modular nature allows you to select and integrate individual components more easily and seamlessly update or replace those components.  Our client Leica, for example, was able to update its order fulfillment application with minimal impact to the rest of its Drupal site. 
  3. Performance: Headless applications often run faster and are easier to test, so you can deploy knowing you’ve created an optimal user experience. For example, we used a decoupled architecture for our client Wingspans to create a stable, flexible, and scalable site with lightning-fast performance for its audience of young career-seekers.     
  4. Security: Breaches are generally limited to individual features or components, keeping your entire system more secure. 
  5. Future-Proofing: A MACH system scales easily because each service is individually configured, making it easier to keep up with technologies and trends and avoid becoming out-of-date. 

5 Drawbacks of MACH Architecture

As beneficial as MACH architecture can be, making the switch isn’t always smooth sailing. Before deciding to adopt MACH, consider these potential pitfalls. 

  1. Complexity: With MACH architecture, you’ll have more vendors — sometimes a lot more — than if you run everything on one enterprise system. That’s more relationships to manage and more training needed for your employees, which can complicate development, testing, deployment, and overall system understanding. 
  2. Challenges With Data Parity: Following data and transactions across multiple microservices can be tricky. You may encounter synchronization issues as you get your system dialed in, which can frustrate your customers and the team maintaining your website. 
  3. Security: You read that right — security is a potential pro and a con with MACH, depending on your risk tolerance. While your whole site is less likely to go down with MACH, working with more vendors leaves you more vulnerable to breaches for specific services. 
  4. Technological Mishaps: As you explore new solutions for specific services, you’ll often start to use newer and less proven technologies. While some solutions will be a home run, you may also have a few misses. 
  5. Complicated Pricing: Instead of paying one price tag for an enterprise system, MACH means buying multiple subscriptions that can fluctuate more in price. This, coupled with the increased overhead of operating a MACH-based website, can burden your budget. 

Is MACH Architecture Right for You? 

In our experience, most brands could benefit from at least a little bit of MACH. Some of our clients are taking a MACH-lite approach with a few services or apps, while others have adopted a more comprehensive MACH architecture. 

Whether MACH is the right move for you depends on your: 

  1. Platform Size and Complexity: Smaller brands with tight budgets and simple websites may not need a full-on MACH approach. But if you’re managing content across multiple sites and apps, managing a high volume of communications and transactions, and need to iterate quickly to keep up with rapid growth, MACH is often the way to go. 
  2. Level of Security: If you’re in a highly regulated industry and need things locked down, you may be better off with a single enterprise system than a multi-vendor MACH solution.  
  3. ROI Needs: If it’s time to replace your system anyway, or you’re struggling with internal costs and the diminishing value of your current setup, it may be time to consider MACH. 
  4. Organizational Structure: If different teams are responsible for distinct business functions, MACH may be a good fit. 

How To Implement MACH Architecture

If any of the above scenarios apply to your organization, you’re probably anxious to give MACH a go. But a solid MACH architecture doesn’t happen overnight. We recommend starting with a technology audit: a systematic, data-driven review of your current system and its limitations.

We recently partnered with career platform Wingspans to modernize its website. Below is an example of the audit and the output: a seamless and responsive MACH architecture. 

The Audit

  1. Surveys/Questionnaires: We started with some simple questions about Wingspan’s website, including what was working, what wasn’t, and the team’s reasons for updating. They shared that they wanted to offer their users a more modern experience. 
  2. Stakeholder Interviews: We used insights from the surveys to spark more in-depth discussions with team members close to the website. Through conversation, we uncovered that website performance and speed were their users’ primary pain points. 
  3. Systems Access and Audit: Then, we took a peek under the hood. Wingspans had already shared its poor experiences with previous vendors and applications, so we wanted to uncover simpler ways to improve site speed and performance. 
  4. Organizational Structure: Understanding how the organization functions helps design a system to meet those needs. The Wingspans team was excited about modern technology and relatively savvy, but they also needed a system that could accommodate thousands of authenticated community members. 
  5. Marketing Plan Review: We also wanted to understand how Wingspans would talk about their website. They sought an “app-like” experience with super-fast search, which gave us insight into how their MACH system needed to function. 
  6. Roadmap: Wingspans had a rapid go-to-market timeline. We simplified our typical roadmap to meet that goal, knowing that MACH architecture would be easy to update down the road. 
  7. Delivery: We recommended Wingspans deploy as a headless site (a site we later developed for them), with documentation we could hand off to their design partner. 

The Output 

We later deployed Wingspans.com as a headless site using the following components of MACH architecture:

  1. Microservices: Wingspans leverages microservices like Algolia Search for site search, Amazon AWS for email sends and static site hosting, and Stripe for managing transactions.
  2. APIs: Wingspans.com communicates with the above microservices through simple APIs. 
  3. Cloud-Native: The new website uses cloud-computing services like Google Firebase, which supports user authentication and data storage. 
  4. Headless: Gatsby powers the front-end design, while Cosmic JS is the back-end content management system (CMS). 

Let’s Talk MACH

As MACH evolves, the conversation around it will, too. Wondering which components may revolutionize your site and which to skip (for now)? Get in touch to set up your own technology audit.

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.

Feel like you’re seeing a lot more website pop-up banners these days asking about your cookie preferences? Those cookie banners are here to stay, and they’re a vital part of compliance for websites of all sizes. 

As global standards for consumer privacy and data protection continue to climb, businesses are burning more time and resources to keep up. One VentureBeat article pegged the cost for a business of maintaining data privacy compliance at an eye-popping $31 million — and the costs of non-compliance can be even higher. Failing to stay on top of this complex patchwork of regulations can trigger real consequences, from steep fines and penalties to the indirect costs of reputational harm and lost business. 

Cookie consent is one part of a holistic data privacy strategy — and an increasingly important one. Global privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD), require companies to inform visitors about the data collected on their website via cookies and provide them with granular choices about what they’re willing to share. Cookie consent management solutions help users manage cookie preferences when they enter your site, presenting a banner  that informs users about how cookies are used and letting them decide which information (if any) they want cookies to collect. 

Cookie consent management solutions are rapidly evolving to keep up with changing data privacy standards. CookiePro is a solution from OneTrust designed specifically for small to medium businesses, offering a more automated way to ensure website and mobile applications stay compliant with cookie consent and global privacy regulations. At Oomph, we’ve helped several clients integrate CookiePro into their sites in recent months and think it’s on track to become an industry standard for cookie consent management. 

For organizations that are already juggling multiple site integrations, does it make sense to add another? To answer that, let’s take a look at why cookie consent matters, how a tool like CookiePro can help, and if it’s right for you. 

Why Do I Need a Cookie Consent Solution?

To comply with privacy laws and provide a transparent experience that builds trust, many website owners are rethinking how they manage compliance. Adding a cookie consent tool to your website can improve the experience for you and your users. 

Ensure Compliance

Not taking data privacy seriously can cost you. In December 2022, Meta (the parent company of Facebook) agreed to pay $725 million to settle several class-action lawsuits that found Facebook had let third-parties access users’ private data and their friends’ data without user permission. Oracle has been sued for collecting 4.5 billion personal records from consumers who have specifically opted out of sharing, and Starbucks is potentially facing a lawsuit for continuing to “track customers ‘after they’ve declined all but required cookies.’” 

While big-name companies get most of the bad press around data privacy, you don’t have to be a global enterprise to face similar consequences. In 2022, the total value of settlements for class-action lawsuits set a new record at $63 billion — and data breach and privacy class action settlements were among the top 10 settlement categories. Instead of risking a costly settlement, a much less expensive approach is to invest in a solution to help manage the work of compliance.

Build Trust

Beyond protecting your organization from legal action, demonstrating that you care about compliance helps your business build trust and long-term relationships with users. Data privacy is becoming more important to consumers of all ages, with 74% of people ranking data privacy as one of their top values

A cookie consent solution lets users know that they’re in charge of their own data. It clearly discloses which information your business collects and uses, putting the power in their hands to control the data they share. If users want to change what they’re comfortable sharing later, they can easily update their settings. That level of transparency helps set the tone for your customer interactions, turning users into loyal brand advocates. 

Optimize Efficiency

If your website serves users in multiple states or countries, keeping up with the patchwork of state, federal, and international laws is virtually impossible without software. Eleven states have unique data privacy laws in place right now, and 16 states introduced privacy bills during the 2022 to 2023 legislative cycle. 

Factor in international regulations like GDPR, and it would take more hours than there are in a day to curate the individual preferences of your customer base. Plus, which of your team members is watching in case any regulations change? The most efficient approach is to use an automated cookie solution to curate consent requirements based on the user’s location and more. 

What Is CookiePro?

Developed by OneTrust, which offers more robust data privacy solutions for enterprises, CookiePro started as a product in the OneTrust platform. After recognizing the need among small and medium businesses for a turnkey consent tool, OneTrust spun off CookiePro as a standalone solution.

CookiePro offers plans starting at around $40 per month, making it a budget-friendly alternative to enterprise solutions like OneTrust (or the cost of a lawsuit settlement). CookiePro comes with core compliance features like user-level consent management, acceptance customization, data mapping and recordkeeping, support for over 250 user languages, and additional security features. 

After helping several of our clients implement CookiePro, there are a few key features that stand out for us:

Beyond CookiePro, there are a growing number of other cookie consent solutions on the market, such as Termly and Cookiebot by Usercentrics. The right choice for you will depend on your existing tech stack, budget, and goals  — the most important step is to put something in place to protect yourself and your users.  

Where Should I Start?

Taking a proactive approach is key to ensuring data privacy for your users and avoiding costly consequences. Educate yourself on the different regulations and requirements, figure out the gaps in your compliance approach, and invest in tools that can help reduce risk and manual effort for your team. 

Feeling overwhelmed or need a fresh perspective? Oomph’s accessibility and compliance audit is a great place to start. We can help you go beyond cookie consent to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and other regulatory standards, helping you mitigate risk and deliver on user expectations. Reach out to us to schedule your site audit. 

What’s been holding you back from migrating your website off of Drupal 7?

Maybe your brand is juggling other digital projects that have pushed your migration to the back burner. Maybe the platform has been working well enough that migration isn’t really on the radar. Or maybe (no shame here) you’ve been overwhelmed by such a massive undertaking and you’re feeling a little like Michael Scott:

Michael Scott, a character from NBC’s show The Office, says
“I don’t wanna work. I just want to bang on this mug all day.”

We get it. Whether you’re migrating to a new version of Drupal or a different platform, it’s a time-consuming process — which means now is definitely the time to get started.

While the Drupal Security Team recently announced it would extend security coverage for Drupal 7 from November 2023 to January 2025, those extra 14 months are ideally the time to plan and execute a thoughtful migration. Giving yourself ample time to plan for life after Drupal 7 is something Oomph has been recommending for a while now, and we’re here to help you through it.

3 Reasons To Start Your Drupal 7 Migration Now

1. Because Migration Takes Time

Migrating your site isn’t as simple as flipping a switch — and the more complex your site is, the more time it can take. Imagine two boats changing course in the water: It takes a massive container ship longer to turn than a small fishing boat. If your site is highly complex or has a lot of pages, it could easily take a year to fully migrate (not including the time it takes to select a partner to manage the process and kick off the work).

Even if your site isn’t so robust, you’ll do yourself a favor by building in a time buffer. Otherwise, you could risk facing a security gap if you run into complications that slow the process down. Some of the major factors that can impact timeline include:

2. Your Site Performance Is Less Than Ideal

Yes, Drupal 7 sites technically have security coverage until 2025. But if you’re still on Drupal 7, you’re missing out on the best that Drupal currently has to offer.

First, Drupal 7 is not fully compatible with PHP 8, a new and improved version of PHP that many websites are built on today. While Drupal 7’s core supports PHP 8, some contributed modules or themes on your site might not, which could create hiccups in your site performance.

In addition, the Drupal community is constantly putting out new features that aren’t available on Drupal 7. Some of the most exciting ones include:

Sticking with Drupal 7 means not only missing out on this new functionality, but also on support from the Drupal community. Interest and activity from web devs on Drupal 7 continues to wane, which means your team may find it harder to get help from others to deal with bugs or other issues. You’re also likely to see fewer new features that are compatible with the older version – so while other sites can keep up with the evolving digital landscape, a Drupal 7 site is increasingly stuck in the past.

3. To Save Your Team’s Sanity

Odds are good that if your site is still running on Drupal 7, your team is already having trouble trying to make it work for your needs. Starting your migration now is key to getting your site running as smoothly as soon as possible — and sparing your team from unnecessary misery.

Consider these pain points and how your team can address them in your migration:

Options for Life After Drupal 7

Now that Drupal 7 is officially winding down, what’s next for your website? Deciding whether to go Drupal-to-Drupal, Drupal to another CMS, or a different route entirely depends on your technical needs and resources.

Drupal 10

If Drupal 7 has served your team well in the past, then Drupal 10 is the logical choice. The newest version of Drupal is ideal for more complex sites with extensive content modeling, varying user roles, and workflow requirements. To make things easier, you can leapfrog over Drupal 8 and 9 and migrate your Drupal 7 site directly to the latest and greatest version.

Many of our clients at Oomph are going this route, since Drupal 10 offers both a range of new features and familiarity for Drupal-versed teams to cut down on the post-migration learning curve.

WordPress or Another CMS

Not sure if Drupal 10 is the best fit? If your site is on the small side or if you don’t require lots of functionality, then Drupal may be more than you really require.

In that case, moving off of Drupal altogether might be in your best interests, helping you streamline your ongoing development needs and reduce maintenance and hosting costs. Here are a few alternatives for Drupal 7 users looking for a less robust platform without sacrificing a great web presence:

An Internal Stopgap

Depending on your organization, now might not be a good time to migrate or rebuild your site. This is especially true if you’re already invested in an ongoing site redesign or rebuild. If you’re still trying to figure out your digital future, consider temporary measures you can take to stay protected once Drupal 7’s security coverage ends.

One possibility to consider is rolling up your site under another digital property in your organization. Even if it’s only an interim solution, it can help you buy time to make the best long-term plan for your website. Another option would be to develop a smaller static website with a refreshed design that would eventually be replaced with the upgraded CMS.

Tips for a Successful Migration

As your site’s technical foundation, Drupal delivers plenty of horsepower. However, the digital home you build on that foundation is what really counts. It’s crucially important to make sure all the pieces of your site work together as one — and a migration is a perfect opportunity to assess and optimize.

Over time, websites tend to accumulate “cruft” — the digital equivalent of dust and cobwebs. Cruft can take many forms: outdated, unnecessary, or poorly written code; deprecated site features; or obsolete or outdated content, files, and data. Whatever cruft exists on your site, migration is a chance to do some digital spring cleaning that can improve site performance and reduce maintenance time.

Beyond digital hygiene, evaluating each element of your site strategically can help you get the greatest business value from your migration.

No matter what you plan to tackle alongside your migration, it’s a big project. An experienced guide can make all the difference. Our team of die-hard Drupal enthusiasts has led many Drupal-to-Drupal and replatforming projects for clients, including complex e-commerce and intranet sites. For us, a successful migration is one that’s grounded in strategy, follows technical best practices, and — most importantly — can support and evolve with your brand over time.

Need a hand deciding which route to take for your Drupal 7 migration? We’d love to talk.

Finding yourself bogged down with digital analytics? Spending hours just collecting and organizing information from your websites and apps? Looker Studio could be the answer to all your problems (well, maybe not all of them, but at least where data analytics are concerned).

This business intelligence tool from Google is designed to solve one of the biggest headaches out there for marketers: turning mountains of website data into actionable insights. Anyone who’s ever gone down the proverbial rabbit hole scouring Google Analytics for the right metrics or manually inputting numbers from a spreadsheet into their business intelligence platform knows that organizing this data is no small task. With Looker Studio, you can consolidate and simplify complicated data, freeing up more time for actual analysis.

With so many customizable features and templates, it does take time to set up a Looker Studio report that works for you. Since Google’s recent switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, you might also find that certain Looker Studio reports aren’t working the way they used to.

Not to worry: Our Oomph engineers help clients configure and analyze data with Looker Studio every day, and we’ve learned a few tips along the way. Here’s what to know to make Looker Studio work for your business.

The benefits of using Looker Studio for data visualization and analysis

Formerly known as Google Data Studio, Looker Studio pulls, organizes, and visualizes data in one unified reporting experience. For marketers who rely heavily on data to make informed decisions, Looker Studio can save precious time and energy, which you can then invest in analyzing and interpreting data.

Key benefits of using Looker Studio include:

How Oomph uses Looker Studio

As a digital-first company in the business of helping other digital-first companies, we’re big fans of Looker Studio. We think the platform is a great way to share trends on your websites and apps in an easy-to-digest way, making monthly or quarterly reporting much more efficient.

Whether you’re looking for basic insights or need sophisticated analysis, Looker Studio’s visualization capabilities can support smarter, more informed digital decision-making. Here’s a peek at some of the metrics we monitor for our own business, including:

Oomph Looker Studio sample dashboard

We also use the platform to drill deeper, comparing trends over time, identifying seasonal fluctuations and assessing the performance of specific campaigns. We leverage features like dashboards and filters in Looker Studio to give our clients an interactive view of their data.

How Looker Studio Works With GA4

Google Analytics, now known as GA4, is one of the primary tools we connect to Looker Studio. GA4 is the latest version of Google’s popular analytics platform and offers new features and functionality compared with its predecessor, Universal Analytics (UA), including new data visualization capabilities.

As many companies migrate over to GA4, they may be wondering if reporting will be similar between GA4 and Looker Studio – and if you need both.

While GA4 reports may challenge Looker Studio’s capabilities, Looker Studio provides a variety of features that go beyond what GA4 can do on its own. While GA4 dashboards and reports just include GA4 data, Looker Studio can import data from other sources as well. This means you can use Looker Studio to track trends in your site’s performance, regardless of the data source.

Looker Studio also has a unique feature called “LookML,” which allows users to create custom data models and transformations. This means you can tailor your data to your specific needs, rather than being limited by GA4’s built-in reporting. Finally, Looker Studio’s robust sharing and collaboration features allow teams to share data and insights easily and efficiently.

If your company set up Looker Studio before switching to GA4, you may notice a few metrics are now out of sync. Here are a few adjustments to get everything working correctly:

How To Set Up a Looker Studio Report

  1. Choose a template for your dashboard or create one from scratch. If you’re not sure, you can browse through templates to get an idea of what Looker can do.
A view into the Looker Studio template gallery
  1. Connect your data source. Looker supports a long list of sources, including Google, MySQL, AWS Redshift, and more. Don’t worry if your data isn’t in Google – Looker will likely be able to connect to it regardless.
Add data to a report using built-in Google connectors…
…or search for specific Conectors, some of which are provided by partners
  1. Choose your metrics. These are the specific data points you want to track and analyze in your report. You can customize your metrics to fit your specific needs.
  2. Build your dashboard. You can add charts, tables, and other visualizations to help you understand your data. Looker makes it easy to drag and drop these elements into place.
  3. Share it with others. You can either create a share link so that others can access the dashboard directly or you can set up automatic updates to be sent on a regular basis. This makes it easy for others to stay up-to-date on changes and progress.
Reports can be eamiled to participants on a schedule using Looker’s scheduling tool

A Powerful Path To Data Insights

The digital landscape is growing more fragmented and complex by the day, but tools like Looker Studio make it infinitely easier to find your path forward. Taking the time to configure and customize the platform can deliver major ROI by helping you understand user needs, pinpoint website strengths and challenges, and craft the right digital strategy.

Crunched for time or not sure where to start? Oomph can help take the hassle out of data analysis by setting up and monitoring your Looker Studio dashboards. Get in touch to chat about your needs.

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.

On the hunt for the right vendor to help with your website refresh or app launch? Creating a request for proposal (RFP) is often an essential – and even required – first step. But much like digital experiences themselves, RFPs can range widely in quality.

At their best, RFPs clearly educate potential partners about your needs and help you compare your choices more easily. At their worst, RFPs are vague, complicated, and time-consuming for everyone involved. That can prompt some vendors to bypass them completely, leaving you with a less-than-stellar pool of options.

Many agencies see RFPs as a high-risk, low-reward business development strategy and are selective about responding, since they can eat up so much time. Case in point: The average company spends 32 hours and has 9 team members work on each RFP, yet wins less than half of them.

Despite all this, RFPs aren’t going anywhere. So how can you create an RFP that will actually attract the type of partner you want?

At Oomph, we review hundreds of RFPs every year to find the projects that are best suited for our skills. After sorting through the good, bad, and truly ugly, we’ve established an internal scoring system for potential RFPs — and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Here are nine key factors that can help ensure your RFP stands out from the rest.

1. Embrace open communication.

By establishing open lines of communication from the outset, you can build a sense of trust and clarify questions to ensure the proposed solutions meet your needs.

If holding calls with individual vendors isn’t an option, hosting a pre-bid call is one effective way to gain face time with several prospective partners at once. Connecting live can give you a sense of how your two teams will mesh. For example, if an agency flakes on the call, those issues will likely only get worse during the project itself. On the flip side, a vendor who gets your goals and needs can often give you a more customized and accurate estimate.

2. Be as transparent as possible with your budget.

Ah, the million-dollar question: How much will this all cost? Some organizations decline to share a budget in their RFP, either because they’re not allowed to or because they don’t want vendors to inflate their price to match the stated budget. But omitting a dollar figure can quickly lead to frustration on all sides: You don’t want to waste time sorting through responses that aren’t in your budget, and agencies don’t want to respond to potential clients who can’t meet their rates.

By providing a targeted cost, you build trust with potential partners and avoid wasting time on solutions that are out of your price range. When including a budget, be clear on how vendors should respond. Do they need to list every expense as a line item or can they group costs? Should they include additional items that they think could enhance the project?

If you’re in an industry where you can’t share a budget, consider at least including a not-to-exceed figure. Otherwise, be prepared to sift through huge swings in costs. This is one instance where getting specific about your desired solution can actually be a good thing. Noting that you’re looking for a templated website vs. a custom build, for example, can help you avoid getting some proposals that come in at $20,000 and others that come in at $200,000.

3. Give ample time during the process.

RFPs are a lot of work and you don’t want to rush. A hasty process can increase the likelihood of mistakes, omissions, or incomplete responses from potential partners.

If you’re accepting questions on your RFP, make sure you leave enough time after answering them for agencies to formulate their response. If you have a second round, create some breathing room for agencies to prepare, especially if you’re expecting a presentation.

4. Provide the basics on your company.

Vendors want to know who you are and what you’re about. This includes basic details like the products or services you offer, your location, and your audience.

You should also include details on what makes your organization different. What sets you apart? What’s your mission? This will help vendors better understand your company’s goals, allowing them to tailor their proposals to your specific request.

Finally, let vendors know who will be spearheading the project on your team. Are there multiple decision-makers? Will your board need to sign off? Sharing information on your working style can help attract vendors who are a good fit and ensure they plan for the right level of collaboration in their scope.

5. Focus on your project goals, not the solution.

When creating an RFP, it’s easy to get caught up in the specific deliverable you think you need. But try to think big picture.

What do you want to accomplish? What was the impetus behind this work? For example, if your online leads are slowing down or it’s been ages since you last refreshed your design, share the details in your RFP. Make sure to include any project constraints as well, like if you want the winning firm to use your existing technical setup or if you’re open to new solutions.

By focusing on challenges and goals vs. proscriptive solutions, you allow potential partners to propose ideas that you may not have considered — but could be more effective than your initial solution.

6. Let applicants know which response formats are (and aren’t) OK.

List out the required elements you want to see in a proposal, like solution overview, a proposed timeline, and relevant work samples. Providing a standard framework can make it easier for agencies to assess the effort involved before deciding whether to respond and help you compare the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches. If any items are high-priority, be clear about where you expect applicants to spend the most time.

While providing details on what you’d like to see in the proposal is a smart move, be flexible if possible on how agencies deliver their response. If your project involves design work, allowing agencies to submit a PowerPoint deck instead of a written response can give you a glimpse at their design skills and how they interpret your brand based on the RFP. If you need proposals submitted in a specific format, go digital if possible. Most agencies will click “Pass” on any RFP that requires submitting 10 printed copies of a 30-page response.

7. Be clear on what will set applicants apart.

Think about what would make your partner a perfect fit for your organization. Is it experience in your industry or working with your preferred CMS? Is hiring a woman- or BIPOC-owned firm important to you? Are you eager to find a local agency that you can collaborate with in person?

By explicitly stating what will set top-tier candidates apart, you not only motivate vendors to put their best foot forward, but also give them the guidance they need to do so. Providing specific evaluation criteria in your RFP can also help ensure that the vendors who respond are the ones best suited to your project’s needs.

8. Consider your invites carefully.

The RFP process is meant to help you choose a single partner to meet your needs. Finding your ideal match requires carefully considering their expertise, proposed solution, and alignment with your company’s culture and values. So when you send your RFP, aim for quality over quantity in responses. Reviewing proposals from vendors who lack the necessary skills or who are a poor fit can lead to wasted time and, ultimately, a less successful project.

Beyond posting your RFP across your channels, think about how to proactively find the best partner for the job. Doing research in your industry and even asking competitors or affiliates who they’ve worked with can help narrow down your search.

9. Hold off on those references.

We get it – it’s helpful to get a second (or third, or fourth…) opinion when choosing a partner. However, it’s best to wait until you’ve narrowed it down to a few potential partners before reaching out to their references.

Why? You don’t want to waste your time contacting references for vendors who may not end up being a good fit for your project. Some vendors also may not want their clients contacted over and over again for early-stage RFPs. By waiting until you’ve narrowed down your list, you’ll likely have better, more specific questions to ask the references based on the vendor’s proposed solution.

Creating a Win-Win RFP Process

With the help of a well-crafted RFP, you can attract top-tier vendors who will be eager to flex their creative muscles and propose solutions that achieve your project’s goals. By prioritizing transparency, setting clear expectations, and valuing communication, you can establish a strong foundation for a productive and successful collaboration.

Need a fresh perspective on your digital project RFP? We’d love to talk about it.