Amnesty International USA
Note: Amnesty International USA redesigned again in April 2007. The work was done by another agency. The present Amnesty International USA design is not the work of Happy Cog.
Happy Cog redesigned the site of leading human rights organization Amnesty International USA. Amnesty performs research and takes actions to end or prevent abuses to human rights around the globe—from violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa to the execution of minors and mentally ill prisoners in the U.S.
Problem: too much content
Amnesty is the definitive resource for people who want to make a difference. But, like many large content sites, Amnesty’s had grown organically and somewhat haphazardly over the years, its architecture dictated by circumstance and internal priorities rather than by an analysis of user needs.
Although the site offered unsurpassed information and support, not everyone who visited could find what they were looking for, reducing participation and diminishing new memberships.
With a standard corporate budget, the solution would have begun with detailed research, and ended with a thorougly overhauled architecture (and a new publishing system to support it). But Amnesty is not corporate; they lacked resources for that level of rethinking. What to do?
Solution: commitment-based navigation
Happy Cog distributed Amnesty’s content along a three-part arc based on the visitor’s level of commitment—from the merely curious (LEARN) to the passionately engaged (ACT). The categories and their relationship to each other are transparently intuitive, making it easy for first-time and experienced visitors alike to “know where to look.”
We also worked with Amnesty to establish rules for aggregating content—and for pruning unrelated content and needless imagery that confuses users instead of helping.
This quick, inexpensive solution has proven remarkably effective at connecting site users to the content they seek, and at increasing conversion from the curious to the committed.
Problem: lackluster branding
Amnesty is internationally recognized, as well known to its opponents as it is to its many supporters. The site’s visual design did not reflect its strength as a brand. Illustration and other traditional methods of brand enhancement were out of reach financially.
A coherent brand identity was further undercut by random visual variations between sections: one section might use three columns while another used four, and so on. Moreover, the site’s reliance on photography submitted by disparate journalists, while it brought home the urgent realities Amnesty tackles, unfortunately also contributed to the lack of cohesion, impairing usability and further diminishing the brand.
Solution: brand enrichment
Happy Cog gave the Amnesty brand its due by fearlessly promoting a limited palette of strong brand colors and by enforcing visual consistency across the site’s varying sections via crisp templates and rules-based design. We also devised a method to bring visual consistency to disparate photographs, no matter where, by whom, or under what lighting conditions they were taken. We encapsulated these recommendations in a brief, clear style guide.
Like most sites that have been around a while, Amnesty’s relied on outmoded, nonsemantic, bandwidth-intensive front-end markup that made the site inaccessible to some visitors and browsing devices, and also caused pages to take far longer to load than they needed.
Solution: web standards
Happy Cog gave Amnesty semantic, lightweight markup and clean CSS layout, thereby increasing accessibility while reducing bandwidth overhead and load times. Third-party content and publishing tools mean not every page of the site achieves compliance; from a validation perspective, few pages are perfect and some are pretty ragged. But most content is semantically marked up and nearly all presentational elements are properly handled by the optimized style sheets Happy Cog delivered.
Limited usability analysis and information architecture, graphic design, user interface design, CSS/XHTML template development, style guide development. Launched September 2004.