The idea for the AIGA Internet Kit began well before I arrived at an AIGA Leadership Retreat in 2003. The premise was to make available a tool, most likely a content management system, that would allow chapters to set up a website quickly and easily. “Easy” was critical because chapters are run by volunteers who have limited time to learn (and teach) new systems.
Feature lists are typically just as challenging as they are fun. Gathering requirements for this particular project, however, proved to be quite difficult since the features that had been requested for two years were never written down. A combination of interviews and mining mailing lists proved to surface the pertinent feature requests.
After working with the business and technology teams to prioritize the features, I used a sitemap to organize the system-level information. Although there were other ways to evaluate this information, a sitemap would be more familiar to the document’s audience: chapter members. My next step was to show the sitemap to chapter members to gather feedback about how useful the categories are.
Feedback on the sitemap proved invaluable in informing the wireframes. It was clear, from all the users I talked with, that users visited the AIGA chapter sites to 1) find out about events, and 2) find jobs. All other tasks seemed ancillary.
Importantly, the Kit is intended to a framework, not a prescription. Therefore, we created templates and stylesheets rather than a design system that chapters would implement. Although chapters can start using the Kit right away, they also have the option of customizing both the design and feature set. They can implement one of two standard stylesheets or modify one themselves.
I set to work helping to define the interaction model for the CMS. Because the system includes features and templates at a global as well as a local level, one of the key challenges was developing a visual design and nomenclature that helped distinguish these levels for the CMS users.
Eight months later, 23 chapters have registered to use the Kit, and five chapters and two communities have launched sites.