Align 25+ client stakeholders behind a shared vision and launch an entirely reimagined member experience for a 75,000-strong professional community.
The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is the global trade association of the shopping center industry, spanning over 100 countries. ICSC came to VSA in need of an ecosystem and platform redesign that would cement the organization as the voice of the retail real estate industry. The site was a sprawling, 10,000-page, 9-tab experience challenged by an overly complex information architecture, a confusing and structurally inconsistent experience, and behind-the-times branding. Check it out here.
Before we could bite in, we recognized that one of our first and most important challenges would be to build alignment and buy-in from nearly 30 stakeholders from different parts of the business. We needed to establish that the new website would not be for them, or for us, but for our users. We also needed to quickly establish credibility and rapport. The first order of business? Get everyone in the same room. In order to immediately engage their participation and break the ice, we started out by asking: what's one word to describe what you envision for the new ICSC.org?
Our discovery research consisted of 30 stakeholder interviews, a user survey, conversations with folks in the field, and a competitive review. I developed personas early in the process in order to help summarize and communicate our research insights. They were intended to generalize common behaviors, needs and pain points. Our Personas were a critical tool for helping both our internal and external teams build empathy for our end-users and remain focused on their needs. We used them as shorthand throughout our process.
In addition to our personas, I created three user journeys and married our user and business insights to craft a collection of Experience Principles to provide us with an articulated set of values to guide and inform the website design. Framed in response to the core challenges we identified, we used these principles to clarify our focus areas, direct our work and align our objectives.
Some key opportunities we identified, which we reflected in our Principles, included: creating focus knowing that 80% of our users used 20% of the site; considering their real-life workflows and recognizing the need for mobile-optimized experiences and mobile-first content strategies; and inspiring trust and engagement through a consumer-grade design and experience.
Entering the design phase, our small and nimble team of content strategy, technology and UX was equipped with a focused, unified vision for ICSC's reimagined member experience – plus a roadmap for getting there. After culling through what amounted to 10,000 pages of content, we undertook audits and card sorts to inventory, then reimagine the information architecture. The goal? Strengthen the signal of three critical site areas: ICSC events, the member directory, and its thought leadership hub.
I presented three organizing models to ICSC's leadership, landing on an lean, audience-focused IA that cut the primary menu down from 9 to 5 tabs. The goal was to reduce the amount of choice and make it easy for visitors to scan, and understand, their options before diving deeper. From there, we began mapping out the information design of these key site areas through collaborative sketch sessions.
As the UX lead on our team, I translated our sketches into wireframes for different target device sizes. I privileged responsive-friendly design patterns, and as a team we planned to refine and resolve responsive behaviors in browser. From a design perspective, my goal was to establish a clean, app-like look and feel through the use of generous white space and large, touch-friendly UI controls. As a team, we were energized to bring the best of consumer-grade event, social network and publishing experiences to this professional community.
I teamed up with our technology team to define an approach for the build. We put together a point of view on the benefits of creating a Progressive Web App. We also recommended using Pattern Lab to create a robust atomic design system to enable us to efficiently build, preview and troubleshoot components across different device sizes, plus capture them in a single library. This would enable the web and application architecture to stay up to date over time, and would give ICSC greater flexibility in assembling new pages. We were confident this would be a major efficiency boost.
Check out our my to-do's from that busy time here!
The new ICSC.org launched in October of this year, and was unveiled to attendees at NY National Dealmaking in December.