September 2010. Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Bridge Education Group is a leading language company. An ever expanding company, with a whole family of websites managed by a five-people web team based working remotely in Argentina.

As designers and developers, our mission was to keep those sites updated with the latest news, dates, and pricing. Classes and job opportunities change daily, so the different product owners relied on our quick action.

Distance, language barriers, and the fact we also were working on fixing bugs and generating marketing material created a bottleneck in which all those changes were piling up in a very long story backlog. Furthermore, the number of services didn’t match the personnel capacity. And the need of updating dates and course information was critical.

Time is a resource, much like money or autonomy, which can be invaluable or can be squandered.

Chris Gabrieli

Redesigning a way of thinking

One of the flagship products, BridgeTEFL, needed a new face since its technology and design were becoming to look out of date. Online certifications, classroom courses, and job posting changes came to us via email. These emails used to get lost in translation very often.

So when we were asked to redesign the user interface, at the web team decided to raise the stake. We wanted to work as well in turning BridgeTEFL into a content management system based product.

We believed that developing a CMS-based website for the company staff would achieve a reduction on the tasks assigned to the web team. And with this, we could streamline the process of content updating.

The price of autonomy

We all knew what content management systems were. But at the same time, we didn’t have experience developing them. At that time all of the company’s sites were static, so all the information was modified manually.

Since our commitment to the web team was to create the CMS on top of also the redesign of a whole new UI, time was not something we had in our hands. The learning curve was steep, and it wasn’t our only task in the plate.

After understanding the importance of building a solid structure, the first step was working with an experienced consultant. Not only someone capable of coding but also of architecting large-scale websites. On top of that, he needed to be part of the stakeholder interviews to understand their priorities and their needs.

By the time the meetings with all the people involved were happening, we also discussed the design with the president of the company and the marketing team. Mixing those two worlds -stakeholder needs and marketing- let Bridge define the future of the product better.

A new system for all of us

There was a learning curve to learn how to manipulate the content. Designers discovered the capabilities of the system. Developers had adopted a new coding language. Stakeholders were required to get to do something entirely new. The responsibility of updating the content was now theirs. But at the same time, they had so many other tasks and honestly login into a system, and navigating through it could be a very time-consuming task.

Many times the web time would become still the number one resource for consultation. We were answering questions on how to use the CMS, even though there was a thorough documentation available. There was still a need for stakeholders to communicate with other people to get their job done.

Changes take time

After some time fixing bugs and educating the product owners, the idea of gaining more autonomy over their products started to appeal more and more to them. Last minute changes now could be easily tweaked from any computer. We no longer needed technical skills to update the content.

As a result, this impacted in the market feedback. The fresh and updated information allowed sales representatives to discuss prices accurately and make corrections on the go. This sense of autonomy made the company more competitive and aware of the current state of the product.

From the web team end, there was a reduction in the number of tickets with text changes. Having more time allowed us to focus on creating promotional content and improving the overall state of design.

Collaborating in the workspace and listening to all the voices was crucial for taking this holistic approach.

Even though the redesign of BridgeTEFL was never actually deployed, this was the pilot project to turn the rest of the websites into CMS. The win was not so much on the user interface, but in the improvement of the speed and quality of the management of content across the entire company.

In conclusion, creating ownership not only increased people’s motivation but also gave them a driving purpose and the desire to perfect their craft.

Additional reading