Multilingual CMS Website
Custom Member Database

Built for global sharing

The business of ICA Housing is global — members are national housing organizations in 19 countries around the world. To enable these organizations to share information openly and across barriers of language, ICA approached the web community for help developing a website centered around member-submitted articles. These articles are then reviewed by ICA staff before publishing live on the site.

Through conducting client interviews, creating user personas, wire-framing, and an iterative user-centric design process, key business objectives and three core requirements were identified for a successful redesign of the ICA Housing web presence:

  • Unite co-op housing players around the world;
  • Provide a center of reference for sharing articles of importance to housing co-ops; and
  • Make it easy to use, intuitive to learn, and interactive.

Beautifully simple design

Over the years the online presence of ICA Housing grew to include multiple systems hosted in different locations and environments. This ad-hoc setup was necessary to meet growing needs with limited technical resources, but often created disparity in brand application and navigation. The resulting site presented inconsistent branding and dead-ends, creating confusion and sometimes frustration in users.

The web designer explored a series of wireframes tailored to the needs of site users by considering common user goals, for both site administrators and public visitors. During initial meetings with ICA, it became clear that an online library of articles sorted into six themes would help make finding articles easier and more interactive. A custom icon set was created to visually communicate this taxonomy to readers and submitters alike.

Beautifully simple design
Quicklink Icon Design
Content Management System

Content Management System

When ICA Housing gave their project briefing, they clearly defined the need to author, upload, and manage their website themselves — without relying on a technical consultant for content updates. Specifically the vision of enabling user-submitted content and global sharing required a system with multiple user roles and a built-in approval process for reviewing articles before they are published. By asking questions to explore business needs, resource availability, budget, and scope, a set of core requirements were identified and picked apart with meticulous attention to detail. Assumptions were validated, and a final decision was made to build the site in the popular open-source platform: drupal.

Integrating the designer’s vision for a clean and colourful user interface with the structure imposed by an off-the-shelf solution was a task within the wheelhouse of web developers. By carefully considering each piece of functionality as an individual component within a system, a transparent technology layer was coded to tie the two together. The resulting site feels familiar to staff with previous drupal experience, while providing power users with additional features not available in the default system configuration.

Custom Member Database

ICA housing came to the table with a database of members that was difficult to access, manage, and maintain. Besides residing in a separate environment which required integration with the rest of the website, there were opportunities to empower members to contribute and self-manage their own content. In addition, profile information collected by ICA on each of the 22 members could only be edited by a single site administrator, creating a bottleneck whenever new profile information became available for publishing.

These critical success factors required formalizing member attributes and actions into a custom taxonomy. A customized member content type was created in the CMS that includes fields for organization branding, contact information, geographic location, area of expertise, and uploaded photo galleries of member projects. This enables individual members to login to manage their organization profile, add images to their gallery, and share documents with other members around the world.

The results were presented at a meeting in Cape Town, South Africa to over fifty representatives present from member organizations around the world. This new website functionality has sparked cross-cultural resource sharing in an increasingly small world.