A website that’s packed full of information shouldn’t be a compromise between style and substance. We believe that it’s easier to inspire change in human behaviour when people feel delight, intrigue, and surprise — and a beautiful, intuitive design can inspire these feelings. If the objective of research is to influence human decision-making, presenting it in a more beautiful way is the logical next step in delivering it to the people who can put it to good use.
We’ve been working with GRID-Arendal, an organisation that transforms environmental knowledge into world-changing action, on a redesign of their website that reduces complexity and maximises visual appeal. GRID-Arendal wanted to make their research into today’s most important environmental issues easier to explore and discover. It was an opportunity to help people feel more connected to conservation efforts and with an extensive collection of publications, news stories, and images to share, the challenge was to create a network that links all these resources in a meaningful way.
Creating multiple bilateral connections between each piece of content on a website is a great way to encourage people explore and discover information that’s relevant to them. By ensuring content never appears by itself on a page, it’s possible to guide people on a path that leads them to new knowledge. Project descriptions lead to publications, that lead to news stories, that lead back to other projects or onwards towards staff profiles. It’s a never ending voyage of discovery!
When creating a path to follow, it’s important to provide a beautiful view to admire along the way. The right images can elicit deep, emotional reactions and we were fortunate that GRID-Arendal has a carefully curated collection of almost 4,000 photos that illustrate the places, species and issues that their research covers. Juan Carlos, the designer who created the website’s new look, made sure to take full advantage of this collection. Each page is a visual feast of big, beautiful images of mangroves, mountains and sweeping plains that bring each project, publication and news story to life.
To illustrate the global reach of GRID-Arendal’s work, Juan Carlos sorted through the photo collection and created templates of colours and images that reflect each of the continents they work in. Each time someone visits the homepage, one of the themes will be randomly selected, adding an extra element of surprise and interest to the home page. It’s little touches like this that delight users.
Of course, any complex network must be maintained if it’s to remain useful and accessible to the people who use it. When many team members have responsibility for adding and editing content, it’s best to stick to a simple Content Management System (CMS). For GRID-Arendal we created a customised CMS that will help their team keep the website up-to-date and relevant. The CMS smoothly integrates Flickr and Exposure, which GRID-Arendal had already been using for their images and storytelling, avoiding the need to learn and adapt to any other new publishing tools.
A website that combines world-changing research, beautiful design, and intuitive exploration delivers both style and substance. People will be delighted and surprised as they explore the website, uncovering knowledge that is new to them. Explore the GRID-Arendal website and discover a more beautiful way to present research.
If you’d like to see another example of how research can be beautifully presented, read my blog about Investment in Nutrition — a website that equips fundraisers with the information, research and data they need to ask governments and foundations to invest in giving millions of children a better start in life.