Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation merged into a national organization in 2011, after six decades of serving as a federation of different entities set within the provinces. But merging so many entities into one made for plenty of challenges. As recently as 2015, they had more than 25 websites intended to provide information, advocacy, and research on two critical health issues—which meant the way it was presenting information to the public was not particularly forward-thinking. A quick tour through the main website the foundation used earlier this year shows an unwieldy home page stuffed with dozens of pages and sub-pages under various headers, packed full of information that visitors may not have even been looking for. Heart disease is the second-leading cause of death in Canada, and one of the keys to surviving and minimizing the damage from a stroke is response time. But the urgency these issues require was lost in a website with little imperative and pages upon pages of difficult navigation.
Public health foundations aren't necessarily known for their design sense, but the Heart and Stroke Foundation tapped the Toronto office of Brooklyn-based agency Huge (along with design firm Pentagram, which designed the foundation's new brand identity) to create a new platform for the organization to more effectively reach people who needed its resources.
"We had a massively complex dinosaur site that pushed content at constituents causing confusion and indecision, had a 44% bounce rate, and wasn't mobile or tablet optimized," says Heart and Stroke Foundation chief marketing officer Geoff Craig.
When Huge came in, they had substantial work to do. They were tasked with creating a user-first digital experience, facilitating long-term relationships with users that would make it easier for them to become sustaining contributors, and developing an integrated, seamless way for the organization to connect on both a regional and national level.
"The key messages of the Heart and Stroke Foundation were often completely lost in the volume of content, so it was imperative that we elevate certain information and remove unnecessary noise," says Huge designer Derek Vaz. "With that in mind, we first determined how to provide users with more information as they delved deeper—we had to understand where users were on their journey, and then tailor the content for the individual."
To do that, they created "groups" within the site, where users could pick a keyword that identified their interest in visiting the platform—"donors," "volunteers," "health seekers," "heart," or "stroke." Then they worked to humanize that content by including medical information with personal stories, images, and video.
"We used the voices of the people at the Foundation to tell Heart and Stroke's story for them," Vaz explains. "After deep user research, one thing became clear—people were ultimately looking for a connection. Whether they were a stroke survivor seeking out other survivors to help them through their recovery, a donor wanting to help make a real difference in someone's life, or a volunteer looking to do good in their community, they all wanted to feel connected. We realized that the Heart and Stroke Foundation had to shift its role to become a greater connector, and that the Foundation was better when it brought people together."