In a time of political polarization, hyperpartisanship and factual distortion, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution realized its scholars could help young Americans cut through the fog and, hopefully, develop informed opinions in critical public issues.
So they decided to try to meet millennials — America’s emerging leaders — on their own digital turf. After researching 18-to-34-year-olds’ preferred learning styles, they called us at WebEnertia to help them create a website experience bristling with millennial-friendly features.
“We’re in Silicon Valley,” said Shana Farley, Hoover’s director of marketing and digital media, “so we wanted to be on the cutting edge, and we knew WebEnertia has a team of people who are at the top of their game. From the very beginning, they impressed us with their attention to detail,” Farley said. “They came in from the get-go with ideas.”
The Drupal based site we developed together — PolicyEd.org — looks and feels nothing like Hoover’s main site. Hoover.org was also built on Drupal, but aimed at scholars and thought leaders looking to delve into specific issues in which they already have deep expertise.
The PolicyEd project, by contrast, is designed for non-experts.
PolicyEd’s digital strategy employed a highly interactive “hook and pull” experience that lets users start off with a fun, bite-size taste of what’s on the site in five broad policy areas: civics, economics, health care, environment and national security.
Once hooked, users are pulled, through clever navigation techniques, through their selected subject areas, which are layered so that they can explore superficially or dive more deeply. Along the way, they can take quizzes on what they’ve learned (and compare scores with other users), access more research, debate issues, or engage in a guided discussion with the Hoover scholar who produced the unit.
Brand and Visual Style
Early on, our team and Hoover’s generated a multitude of names before settling on PolicyEd.org. Then WebEnertia began digging in on the digital identity. Our interactive director, Danny Halvorson, came up with the logo mark. The logo combines a person with upraised arms and a light bulb, suggesting the intellect and the sharing of knowledge within a community.
We’re proud that it was a very junior designer whose website concept was ultimately chosen for the whole site. We believe putting together teams that have varying levels of experience has some big advantages: It lets newer associates learn from more experienced ones while, at the same time, exposing experienced designers to fresh ideas. “Not every agency does that, and the result tends to be a house style that grows stale and flat over time,” Danny said.
“When you have three or four different people work concepts for the same project, preferably a diverse group of men and women, you see interestingly different takes on the same subject matter,” he said.
“This site is focused on a much younger audience than Hoover.org,” said Juliann Klein, WebEnertia’s director of client services. “It’s meant to be a little bit more playful, and that’s why the colors are a bit younger and fonts are little bit more fun. There was also a lot more UX and interaction design that we had to consider, solving different problems than corporate websites.” Hitting the right balance was critical.
Great Client + WebE Team = Great Results
We loved working with Hoover’s people as much as they did with us.
“They’ve been one of our easiest clients to work with, really fun people, very intelligent conversations,” Juliann said. “It’s nice to talk to folks that know what they are talking about, and are willing to listen at the same time.”
The site launched on Oct. 10, 2016, and had 22,000 registered users in its first 3 months — so many that we are already planning on optimizing the experience further.