Breathing New Life into American Lung Association Website Redesign
In 2019, Rise began a partnership with the American Lung Association to complete a total redesign of its website, lung.org. As the leading nonprofit for lung health, the organization had specific needs related to its sector that its website had to reflect. That meant every aspect of the project—from page design to SEO to user experience—had to support its vision: a world free of lung disease.
But what does “a world free of lung disease” look like, practically, as a website? To find out, we conducted a series of in-depth workshops, interviews, and audits with the American Lung Association team to identify pain points with the current iteration of the site.
“Spending quality time with our client stakeholders at the beginning of the project is crucial to building a website that meets our clients' specific goals and driving maximum impact that will move the organization forward,” Joy Duo, Associate Director of Web Development, said of the process. It was this step, she noted, that helped us pin down—and, later, mobilize—our next steps.
After our conversations with the American Lung Association team, we aligned those discovered pain points, requests, and other observations with what we’ve learned from our experiences with other nonprofits. Each and every nonprofit is unique; meeting its needs in the present while building a strong foundation for the future is always our top priority. By reconciling these two realities, we landed on a list of must-haves. While we can’t give away all our secrets, we’ve distilled it into the following concepts:
- The site needs to serve the American Lung Association’s constituents, no matter where they were in the country.
- The site needs to display the vast amount of research and resources available in an easy-to-access, streamlined way.
- The site needs to have modern, scalable technology that empowers its internal stakeholders.
- And it has to do it all while being visually reflective of the American Lung Association’s stature and reputation in the industry.
By catering to the American Lung Association’s mission and responding to its needs as a nonprofit, we crafted a website that achieved the following results and more:
- 39% increase to total Year-to-Date traffic
- 51% increase in Average Session Duration
- 24% decrease in Bounce Rate
- 13% increase in total Year-over-Year traffic post-launch
- 5% increase in total ranking keywords improved after one month
- 10 second decrease in average mobile load time for key templates
Serving Constituents Through Streamlined Interfaces
The American Lung Association is a leader in lung health education, advocacy, and research in the United States; its constituency is as vast and diverse as our country itself. Which means there are a vast number of nuanced reasons a user could be visiting its site: to learn more about a disease affecting them or a loved one; to get involved in an event or sign a petition; to read up on the latest developments in lung health—and more. So, with that in mind, it was unsurprising that a high-priority pain point the American Lung Association highlighted was that many users experienced difficulties finding the content they needed on the previous iteration of its site.
“Whenever there are complaints about users not being able to find content, that is a sign that site navigation needs to change,” said Kelsey Fiegle, Lead UX Designer. She cited the creation of the navigation mega-menu as a key factor in the site’s eventual streamlining, along with the retitling and re-organizing of key initiatives. “Because [the previous “Our Initiatives” section] was phrased as more of ‘look what American Lung Association does’ rather than ‘look what we can offer you,’ users were not being exposed to a lot of very valuable and relevant content,” she said. “You'll see in the new site navigation we have moved those to the main navigation [as “Policy and Advocacy”] to really give them the attention they deserve, rather than hiding them within sub-levels.” This same forefronting was done to the Get Involved pages, to give them a prominent, easy-to-find location on the site.
To ensure the new site was easy to navigate both by users and search engines, our SEO team worked closely with UX throughout this process to reorganize the site’s structure and navigation. They also conducted a deep-dive audit of the entire site to determine which pages netted the highest traffic. In the American Lung Association’s case, pages with important symptom and management information for certain lung diseases tended to rank the highest. Then, we adjusted our strategy to protect those pages’ organic traffic as we conducted content migration.
“Prioritization was key…to make sure the high priority sections were secured and experienced no traffic loss,” Lynn Lee, Search Specialist, said. A technical SEO strategy meant the organization could still own the content of each page; the adjustments “behind the curtain”—like 301 redirects and page speed optimizations—helped that content remain easier for search engines to crawl and therefore easier for the organization’s audience to find.
Empowering Internal Stakeholders to Update & Control Content
In our discussions, a common pain point surfaced was the difficulty the various stakeholders at American Lung Association experienced in trying to update, maintain, and control content. Re-platforming its site to Kentico was already at the top of our list due to its speed and modernity, but the added benefit of an integrated, easy-to-use CMS meant that the new site would have even greater longevity.
“Their previous website required a large amount of development effort to create new pages and interfaces,” John Horton, Associate Manager of Web Development, said. Our team used Kentico’s PageBuilder setup alongside the new sitemap to build a series of templates on which existing and future content could be placed. That way, John elaborated, “content editors can create just about any page they need to in a matter of minutes.”
As the American Lung Association relies on in-person events to help drive awareness, fund-raising, and more, it was crucial that we applied that same strategy to the Events page. Considering that a large nonprofit like the American Lung Association often has multiple offices in multiple locations, and events that occur all throughout the country, it was especially important that internal stakeholders had the tools they needed to quickly and easily update events—as well as advertise them to potentially-interested users.
“To help with this we made some great improvements to the Events section of the website to help filter events and incorporated a map to show people their proximity to what’s going on.” John said. “We also worked on some features that allow them to easily display dynamic content on a page that updates based on the state that you're in.” That way, the site can pull the user’s location to target them with relevant event information.
Communicating Values & Reputation
At the beginning of our collaboration, the American Lung Association was just beginning to roll out its first rebrand in 100 years. (Yes, you read that right; one hundred years!) It was especially crucial that we leveraged this rebrand in our visual design for the site; not only to create visual cohesion, but to help communicate the organization’s mission and vision and improve people’s perception of the brand. Our design team’s task was to create a design that not only reflected the organization’s values, but resonated with its audience to build recognition, involvement, and action—and was strong enough to carry American Lung Association through the next hundred years and beyond.
“Our biggest focus was figuring out how to apply as much of their [new] branding as possible, while still pushing the limits,” Anthony Affinati, Senior Interaction Designer, said. It was a priority that people were inspired and energized by the page’s design, to help lead them to greater engagement and involvement with the organization. “We wanted people to say ‘wow’ when they opened the page.”
To do that, Anthony and team created a number of concepts that included “elements that felt very fresh and very them”—like angular icons that used the same radials as the angles in their logo—and worked closely with the American Lung Association team to reach the final concept. The result was a new and updated digital identity that was memorable and motivating, more representative of the present-day organization, and strong enough to withstand the test of time.
It wasn’t just enough to have a snazzy design, however. Every part of the new site needed to reflect American Lung Association’s reputation and expertise as the leading nonprofit in its sector. Meaning a thorough and robust Quality Assurance process was absolutely integral to the project’s overall success. Claudia Pozsgay, Senior QA Analyst, was involved from kickoff for that very reason.
“Involving our QA team earlier on in the project ensures everyone is on the same page when we move forward, so there is less back and forth during the development phase,” she said. The QA team’s involvement in the early stages of the project helped us better serve the American Lung Association’s need for better ease-of-use. Claudia noted that her team’s involvement from the onset of the project helped them become “a subject matter expert in support of the client.” That expertise made the QA team integral to the creation of the CMS manual, making it easier and more intuitive for internal stakeholders to use.
Helping Build a Healthier World
Using those initial conversations, data-driven investigation, and a lot of good old-fashioned hard work, the new American Lung Association site went live on March 23rd, 2020. And, as of today, we can see that the site is reaching more people (traffic has increased nearly 40% Year-to-Date and over 13% for Year-over-Year, plus keywords increased 5% after 1-month post-launch) and those people are staying longer (Average Session increased by 51%, Bounce Rate decreased by 24%).
But this project was and is more than just numbers to our Rise team. When we work side by side with a nonprofit like the American Lung Association, we’re not just making great digital experiences—we’re helping make a difference in people’s lives. For the American Lung Association’s users, a smoother, more seamless website experience means more people can more easily find information about lung disease, and can more easily get involved in the fight to end it. We’re honored to have had a hand in helping the American Lung Association build a healthier world, and we’re eager to keep helping. If your nonprofit is interested in working together, contact us.