Designing for Good: Some of the world’s most talented designers are inspiring others, provoking change, and even saving lives for nonprofits. In this series, we chat with these innovators about their inspirations, challenges, and favorite tools.

This week, we’re talking with Ryan Chung, Bo Bell, Sol Salgar, and Carla Perez of Central Park Conservancy (CPC) in New York City.

After talking with the designers of CPC, I found the diversity of their projects a little staggering. Print design, visual design, graphic design, illustration, product photography, park kiosks, mobile apps, and all things webby are managed by their team.

Here some of the pearls they shared:

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT DESIGNING FOR A NONPROFIT?

Carla: I think the biggest difference is that the culture and the goals are just completely different from profit-driven companies. We are not selling products, instead we are creating a connection to Central Park.

Sol: I think the scope of the designs we produce is also huge. For CPC, you could be managing twenty or more projects at a time. You have to have great time management skills.

Ryan: And resources. We did a complete redesign of our entire site with a small team handling the design and development from start to finish. It’s  both challenging and very rewarding.

Central park Conservancy redesign from paper to finish

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PROJECT YOUR TEAM HAS DONE AT CPC?

Bo: We recently completed a full redesign of our website. An 18-month project really focusing on the user experience. From the background profiling of our visitors and understanding their needs to capturing the needs of our departments and stakeholders to the forefront experience which involved making everything responsive and adding new functionality for ticketed tours, donations, maps, and our calendar of events.

Ryan: Right. The biggest challenge for me in designing for a new responsive site was taking a heavy content-based site and linearizing it into a single column for the mobile design. Working with other departments to decide what to cut and prioritize while keeping navigation simple isn’t easy.

Central Park Conservancy's responsive story

Carla: We also integrated Google Analytics more deeply to allow us to better understand the needs of our users, set better goals for our traffic, and have more control in tracking those metrics.  For example, we never knew how important our “Guided Tours” page was for converting new visitors to potential customers and new possible revenue targets until we starting tracking conversions closer. 

My favorite part of the design process? Starting a project with a blank page. There is a world of possibilities out there! It’s both exciting and a little bit scary.

— Sol Salgar, Graphic Design Manager for CPC

WHAT ONE DECISION MADE A DIFFERENCE WHEN REDESIGNING THE SITE?  

Sol: Trying to bring Central Park to our website visitors. Fortunately, we work for one of the most beautiful Parks in the world, so the visual inspiration is endless.

Bo: Yes, making the site more image-driven. We identified early on that our social media posts that are image-oriented far outrank others in terms of likes, shares, and comments, and so decided to make our site very image-heavy. From the homepage slides that translate to mobile to the “top image” feature that changes on every page.

Carla: Discovering that almost 80% of our website visitors were new visitors was a decisive factor in creating a more user-friendly interface. We needed to create ways to help one time visitors navigate our website more efficiently.

HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT THE NEW DESIGN OF THE WEBSITE WAS SUCCESSFUL? 

Carla: We measured our website, especially before and after the launch, comparing the metrics with different traffic tools. We learned that our users were finding the content they needed in less time than before.

The engagement also increased around 20% in comparison with the last year. That means our users are spending more time reading real content. Not only just scanning the website. We also saw searches decrease after the launch but this process never ends. There’s always something that needs to be optimized to maintain a good user experience.

What inspires me? Web experiences that are seamless, functional, and beautiful.

— Bo Bell, Web Manager for CPC

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU FIND INDISPENSABLE?

Sol:  JIRA is an amazing tool to manage and track projects and tasks. Carla and Bo started using it for the redesign of the website, and now everyone in our Communications team uses it. You can also customize it for your needs, access it from anywhere, and it’s great for team projects. You can send updates or questions about a project to your team and have all the communication and files in one place to avoid searching for information buried in emails.

Mocked example of a heatmap from Crazy Egg

Carla:  JIRA is a great and also Balsamiq  for creating wire frames. Crazy Egg was also useful for generating heat maps of visitor’s clicks.

Crazy Egg told us that our mobile users clicked on images more often to find news on our “Virtual Tour” page than on our buttons. The desktop behavior is just different due to space. It was simple enough to make the images clickable after we had the data.

We try to minimize cost so the majority of analytic tools that I normally use are free resources from different blogs. The Kissmetrics blog is amazing for finding everything about web metrics. We are now focusing on using Google Tag Manager to help us use less code to get more feedback from our users more quickly. This is our next step.

Do you have a designer or organization you’d like us to profile for #DesigningForGood? Please share below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Granger curates @Design_for_Good and is a Senior Interaction Designer at Blackbaud for Luminate Online, Online Express, MobilePay, and other products. Brandon has been crafting user experiences for the web and mobile apps for nonprofits for 15+ years. He has a passion for user research, usability testing, high-fidelity prototyping, responsive design, mobile design, and web accessibility. Brandon graduated from the University of North Texas with an undergraduate degree in Film Studies. You can follow him at @bkgranger.

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