A multi-faceted, user-centric approach to the web experience

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy

With a mutual passion for promoting Canadian art, bv02 and the Canada Council for the Arts formed a partnership with the goal of changing the way art is accessed and interacted with online.

When the Canada Council for the Arts came to bv02, they found themselves challenged to engage their audiences with an outdated website. What they sought was a strategy that would provide direction on developing the right content and digital tools to communicate with artists and help them fulfill their mandate as a significant supporter of the arts in Canada. bv02 was chosen as the team to provide the guidance for this major multi-divisional initiative.

As planning kicked off with discovery sessions, it became clear to bv02 that the Council was struggling with an outmoded approach to content delivery. The current website focused on the organization rather than its audience, which did not encourage exchange and discussion. As a result, content was only relevant at certain times of the year due to alignments with their funding process. Instead, they needed to become a relevant source of information on an ongoing basis, in order to make that deeper connection with their audience. The Council recognized that this was an opportunity for change, and were open to new ways of expanding their reach with researchers and applicants for grant funding.

bv02 recommended a multi-faceted approach that puts the user at the centre of the web experience, and recognizes the many audiences of specific disciplines. This included developing a digital strategy for the website and the Council’s social media channels, as well as a content strategy for maintaining the site over time. Keeping the content evergreen would be a major factor for success.

The focal point for this content strategy is the Harmony vs Collision concept. It was clear that the Council website needs to compel the arts community to come to the site with searchable, relevant content that matters to them, and for there to be a place for dialogue. Content should not be “middle of the road”; rather, the audience should have passion for the stories told there to prevent them from losing interest. The website should be a hub where ideas gel and differing opinions could be discussed.

This concept puts the Council in charge of making that content relevant. Each of the disciplines for the Council has a content lead, a line of business owner who knows the space really well. They know the people, place, brands and events that could create conversation, and would make sure we got the right content to the right users. Harmony vs Collision was designed to help talk about how content could be placed. Where some content is important for some audiences, for others it offered less interest and less importance. This was part of the content strategy to make sure we choose to produce content with purpose that could be combined with aggregated public content. Online content could have as much impact as a live event if well placed with purpose.

In tandem with the notion of careful content curation, we looked to the artists themselves to provide content for the site. The Council’s audience was made up of more than a dozen artistic disciplines, each with large communities underneath. The idea was that the Council shouldn’t always create the content for them, but instead should listen to what those communities are saying and integrate it on the Council’s site. This means aggregating content from RSS feeds, blogs and videos from the artists who are already out there making an impression themselves. The outcome of the strategy process was a levelling of content dissemination over time to maintain relevance.

The strategy progressed through a new information architecture and wireframes for the website, using the user-centric model of engagement as their focus. This drove the site from a research-based presence, to a site that is a mobile and context-aware platform. The infrastructure was conceptualized as a search-based platform to federate content and facilitate the multi-point access model. If an artist were to come through a page other than the homepage, then it would be personalized to their interests and needs.

The new user-centric vision would become the driver for website implementation, as bv02 and the Canada Council for the Arts moved into the next phase of the web initiative. The Harmony vs Collision content strategy provided them with the tools to create and aggregate content, making this website a compelling place for dialogue and exploration of the arts.

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