The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) has been helping cities thrive in the province for more than 40 years by providing business and advocacy services to a host of communities, whether large urban centres or seasonal villages. Through its work, AUMA represents more than 85 per cent of Albertans and plays a dynamic role in supporting Canada’s economy.
When Yellow Pencil was first approached by AUMA’s team to work on its new responsive design website the project was already well underway, but it had stalled and AUMA needed help getting it moving once again. There are any number of reasons why a project can start to veer off the rails but our role was to help get it back on track and complete the remaining work required.
AUMA’s goals for the project were simple, but significant. The team needed the Drupal site to be completed so it would be fully functional when launched. Two over-arching goals governed our work:
- Identify and resolve issues with the site’s functionality to bring it to a launch-ready state.
- Manage the project scope, time frame, and budget.
Since Yellow Pencil inherited the project while it was in progress, our main challenge was to understand what AUMA initially wanted to achieve — even before work had commenced. We needed to start from the beginning to analyze the thought process behind the site’s overall design and functional requirements, and identify how those mapped back to the original project plans. Although our role was to tie up loose ends, this deep research was particularly crucial to the project’s success so that we could deliver what AUMA needed — in the right way.
Second, we had to create some quantifiable project goals that would allow us to deliver high-quality work, while carefully managing the project scope and budget. Ultimately, we needed to nail down what it would take and how long it would take, to get the project across the proverbial finish line.
Our most important challenge was gaining a very clear understanding of AUMA’s needs — what elements were important versus “nice to have,” which we could address at a later date. This approach is one we take with all our clients, which lets us zero in on their holistic needs and help them better their businesses online, versus providing superficial features that don’t add value to the project. It’s about doing the right work in a way that translates to new capabilities.
We workshopped extensively with AUMA’s team to understand what requirements needed to be met within the project scope. First, Yellow Pencil performed an audit of the new auma.ca website to determine how far along the work was, and assess the quality of what was completed to date. As part of this process, we completed a heuristic review of the current site, identifying potential usability issues by evaluating the site against a list of established best practices.
Once we completed the research and planning, our objectives become clear and the rest of the project was relatively straightforward. Now it was a matter of executing each task systematically, while staying the course within the allocated hours and scope we had agreed on with AUMA’s team.
Design + Development
Picking up where other designers and developers left off can involve some detective work to reveal what works, what doesn’t — and why. Much of our work involved digging around behind the scenes and making adjustments to refine, fix, or finalize the work.
Extending the design
Most of the design had been completed by the time we came on board, so our work was fairly simple, such as building out pieces that were missed during the initial design. One of the larger parts of the project involved building a microsite for AUMA’s water management initiative. This site-within-a-site includes its own navigation and a set of pages nested within the main site. Here we dug into the main site’s UX patterns to see how they worked in order to extend them to the microsite while maintaining continuity with the branding and user experience.
Stabilizing the code
Along with building the microsite, our development work involved fixing features that didn’t function as intended or didn’t meet the project requirements, and stabilizing coding that was brittle. For example, code should be modular: when an update is made, everything else adapts. Instead, a lot of the code needed to be rewritten, since one small change could break the functionality.
We also provided added value to the end user by incorporating interactivity into the site’s membership form, which streamlines the experience. To accomplish this, we built a custom module that adapts depending on the values users select or input. Additional functionality was added to the homepage with an events calendar. Finally, an important element of development was creating user roles and permissions that enabled AUMA to limit who is able to view or edit content.
No project is complete until we test all the ins and outs and fix all the bugs to make sure everything works, not just seamlessly but in line with the requirements the site was intended to fulfill. We are experts in the Drupal CMS that the previous vendor had built the site on, but since every developer has a unique style it took a bit of time to get a good understanding of the site’s current features and how everything was supposed to work.
Continued communication with AUMA’s team was the key to overcoming this obstacle. It took some extra time, but we worked closely to identify bugs and confirm what fixes to prioritize within the project scope. In the end, AUMA agreed on some change requests that enabled us to go beyond the original project parameters to deliver a fully functional site where all the wrinkles had been ironed out.
The Drupal site completion project was a resounding success. We completed the agreed-on work on time and on budget, and are also providing managed hosting services. The new site fulfilled AUMA’s business requirements and more: It’s a project their team is proud of, so much so that Yellow Pencil is now AUMA’s vendor of record.
What’s up next
Yellow Pencil and AUMA are working together on several projects that are helping the organization build its online capabilities and expand its services with municipalities. We’re excited to partner with a longstanding organization like AUMA, which is making a positive impact in the province where we work, live and play.