The American Chemistry Council: A site redesign to elevate the voices of members
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is one of the oldest and largest trade associations in the U.S, representing more than 190 member companies engaged in the business of chemistry. Its work touches every facet of the $530 billion chemical industry, and includes policy advocacy, scientific research, and industry leadership on standards for safety and sustainability.
ACC executives recognized that their old website suffered from a confusing site structure and content that did not routinely meet audience needs. An organization with a complex network of internal departments and member-led and funded industry groups, ACC sought a site redesign to sharpen the consistency and impact of its messaging to key audiences: policy makers, regulators, and current and potential ACC members.
In particular they knew they had to address:
- A need to unite siloed teams and communications into one cohesive platform
ACC departments traditionally worked with significant independence—an approach that hampered cohesive messaging on similar issues across units.
- Complex scientific and technical content
ACC audiences vary dramatically in their technical expertise. Policy makers require quick content that’s very easy to understand, while industry and regulator audiences are comfortable in the weeds of thorny scientific and technical issues.
- Duplicative and outdated site content
The old site primarily functioned as a static repository for reports and updates, rather than a dynamic tool for achieving ACC business objectives.
Proliferation of disconnected technical platforms
Like many large organizations, over time ACC had amassed numerous subdomains and microsites to support various groups and campaigns. Combined with a disparate network of audience data across CRMs and email platforms, the new site needed to support a shift towards a single source of truth for audience data.
PTKO served as strategic product owner for the ACC site redesign. In this role, PTKO bridged the strategic needs of diverse ACC teams to define the project’s objectives, and worked to ensure effective, timely technical implementation.
An inclusive, consensus-driven approach to discovery and planning.
Given the multiplicity of departments with a stake in the redesign, a cornerstone of PTKO’s approach was building internal consensus on the most important audiences that would be served by the project, as well as the most critical organizational needs the redesign would address. PTKO forged unity and supported change management through:
- 24 stakeholder interviews with ACC staff across key departments and levels of seniority
- A half-dozen workshops to solicit feedback from leadership on critical design challenges
- Steady, patient, collaborative partnership with ACC management from start to finish
Ensure the need to modernize and update the visual design & digital brand didn’t derail the focus on a better audience experience
The existing site’s visual design and the technologies inflexibility had led to a pent up desire to modernize and update the digital representation of the brand. This area is often the most contentious during the design process, but can obscure or defuse focus on the key needs of a redesign, namely to ensure the website is improved as a business tool for the organization.
Managing technical implementation
The legacy CMS had such a steep learning curve that site editing for this huge organization had become the responsibility of one expert staff person. It was critical to the success of this project that not only was a more modern and flexible CMS technology selected, but that the configuration and implementation of that CMS was focused around creating a more open and easier to learn editing experience. This led to the selection of an enterprise class, commercially supported CMS with a long track record of success, Ibexa. This technology was combined with a flexible but sophisticated information architecture designed around how Ibexa manages content.
The Redesigned Site
The new AmericanChemistry.com takes a highly visual approach to telling the story of how the business of chemistry makes Americans’ lives better, healthier and safer. The redesign dramatically upgraded the organization’s technical capabilities, while featuring improved navigation and content strategy to ensure that key audience segments can quickly find the information they need, in the format and depth they need it.
“Web technology is always evolving and it can be difficult to stay ahead. After the redesign of AmericanChemistry.com, we are light years ahead in technology when comparing ourselves to our peers.”
-Jimi Skelly | American Chemistry Council
Senior Director, Marketing & Digital Communications
Highlights of the redesigned site
A laser focus on the needs of their audiences, resulting in a thorough reimagining of how content is structured and presented online
Before the redesign, there were few clear standards for how content was structured and presented on the site. A lack of clear swim lanes and calls to action for their primary audiences led to a dense navigational experience that tried to present all options at once. This forced many users to rely on Google Search to get the info they needed. Now, rather than mirroring ACC’s internally organizational structure, the site’s streamlined information architecture is focused squarely on the needs of external audience members. Thanks to consistent content tagging and intuitive taxonomy, relevant information is found easily and users are quickly driven to related content.
Personalized content for different member groups
The new site integrates Auth0 as a new single sign-on process that spans multiple web and data portals. Members can now easily navigate between the website, member portal, and data and metrics sites without being asked to log in. The new site also leverages user data from the CRM to enable ACC to deliver personalized content to different segments of users, based on their membership levels and areas of interest. This turns the website into a powerful complement to ACC’s existing email and 1:1 outreach—making sure that the right members see the right event invitations, information, and engagement opportunities across all channels.
Radical consolidation and prioritization of content to boost relevance
Reducing clutter and breathing new life into outdated materials was key in this redesign. The old ACC site was home to more than 20,000 pages; this was distilled down to nearly 3,000. Key landing pages were rewritten and refreshed so that the content was current, accurate, and easily digestible. Over 25 subdomains were also eliminated by consolidating the content into the main site—greatly reducing the administrative burden of managing the site, and making user navigation more intuitive.
Powerful data visualization capabilities
The redesigned site seamlessly integrates smart data visualization tools from Flourish. This technology makes it easy for ACC staff without specialized expertise to include compelling and brand-compliant interactive visualizations in their reports and materials—supporting the end goal of helping industry experts and government officials understand complex research quickly.
Flexibility and ease in creating new content (and making updates on the fly)
ACC’s new site gives staff members maximum flexibility when designing and building new content. PTKO developed 30+ placeable content blocks that can be used across 6 highly flexible page layouts, making site pages almost infinitely customizable. Content can be adjusted quickly and dynamically, and elevated across all key areas of the site in response to changing events.
Thoughtful democratization of content creation
Prior to the redesign, only one content editor had sufficient knowledge and expertise to be trusted making major changes to the old site. Fortunately, the new CMS is dramatically easier for casual editors. Now there are multiple fully trained internal users, and 30-40 different content creators—removing a huge roadblock to scaling up editorial capacity and producing timely content.
The new AmericanChemistry.com was delivered on budget, and met with broad acclaim from ACC executives and members. A few immediate results:
More staff time spent on what matters most, engagement
“Instead of focusing on site management we can now focus on site strategy”
-Jimi Skelly | American Chemistry Council
Senior Director, Marketing & Digital Communications
The new CMS interface has allowed the democratization of editing and content staging, while giving the whole team the confidence that their brand, audience experience, and engagement strategy will be preserved and maintained at a high level by the CMS. This has led to the team having more time to review analytics, create and execute outreach campaigns, and add polish and sophistication to content they previously wouldn’t have had time to address.
A successful redirect strategy to minimize loss of site traffic
With so many pages, subdomains, and microsites consolidated in this project, it became critical to preserve the existing site’s web traffic when the switch flipped from the old to the new site. PTKO implemented an aggressive 301 redirect strategy that redirected over 3,000 pages to brand-new URLs. This strategy was successful: High quality website traffic was preserved, while at the same time engagement (as measured by time per session) increased by 73% going form 1.4 minutes to 2.4.
More feedback and insights into what content is effective
The site isn’t just easier to use, navigate, and maintain, it also provides better feedback to the team on what’s working, and where they can optimize. Not only were three new event capabilities added, but thirteen dimensions to keep data clean were added as well. This allows for better top-line reporting and more granular reporting around programmatic insights. By building the website with a sophisticated set of analytics configurations and integrations, ACC staff can spend their additional time reviewing data and making data driven decisions on where to edit, reorganize, and experiment.