Case Study: 826 Valencia Website Redesign
Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2012 “Justified” competition, in which an esteemed jury identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on specific metrics.
826 Valencia is dedicated to supplementing the education of local San Francisco students ages 6 to 18, and helping teachers get their students excited about the literary arts. The project goal was to both update the look and feel of the 826 Valencia identity and build a site with an extensive back-end system for managing volunteers, workshops and students. 826 Valencia is the flagship organization in a fleet of 826 nonprofit tutoring centers across the nation, and the client wanted the site redesign to reestablish the San Francisco location as the premier 826 outpost. It’s a very deep site, with rich content aimed at parents and kids, and an air of fun. Click on Mr. Blue and he might tell you,“Your parrot is drab and inarticulate.” The site was launched to rave reviews and has greatly improved the organization’s ability to engage with its audience. Please visit the actual site at: http://826valencia.org.
None of your business, but it was basically pro bono.
We had two workshops with 826 Valencia staff, volunteers and students to pinpoint their specific frustrations with the previous site and their needs for the new one. We attended many of the different workshops and sessions 826 offers to get a sense of the overall vibe of the place. There was also extensive testing (with changes made even after launch) to improve functionality and user experience.
The largest challenge was to build a very customized, very robust back-end that was easy to use, since most 826 volunteers were not computer savvy—a back-end that encompassed all of the various 826 programs and the functionality needed to manage them. At the same time, the CMS design required a lot of clear parameters and limits so that the overall look and tone of the site was maintained no matter what kind—or length—of content needed to be added. Oh yeah, and all of this for very little money.
“Eric and his team at Volume Inc. have been incredible! So smart, so visionary, so talented, so professional. You really ‘get’ 826 and have done a fantastic job of reflecting our character and priorities on every page. Thanks for being such a dream to work with.”—Leigh Lehman, 826 Valencia executive director
“It looks FANTASTIC. I am bowled over by it. It is perfect, encapsulating everything that you do and stand for, both philosophically and aesthetically. Great job Team 826! Wow. I have to confess I've just written a long gushy email to the design co-op working on branding/designing my little start-up’s logo and its website and have told them in no uncertain terms that I covet the look and style of your site. It must have been a huge project and I can’t tell you how fantastic it is.”—Eugenie Teasley, former 826 Valencia staff member
Leigh Lehman also remarked that just about every other 826 chapter contacted them about the site and how great it is. Before she left her post this past January, she remarked how much smoother the organization is running and how much more awareness there is of 826. SF Weekly even awarded it best nonprofit website of the year.
Lastly, if making more people aware of—and making it easier for the volunteers to manage—what is probably the best educational organization in the Bay Area, if not America (our humble, and probably biased, opinion) isn't a home run for people, culture and these so-called Living Principles, I don't know what is. It’s not just how you create and deliver a design, it’s the design projects you choose to take on in the first place.
The Valencia Street elevation at the bottom of the home page changes according to the time of day. Don't forget to get some advice from Mr. Blue!