The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is the leading professional organization for astronomers in the USA. They brought us on to redesign and build their website after undergoing a rebrand late last year. The new site is an extension of the AAS rebrand and reflects their growing community, high-quality events, and continuous curiosity.
Complete Redesign and Build
AAS came to us for a complete overhaul of their existing website. They were in need of a modern site that conveys the quality of the organization and serves as an extension of the AAS brand. Our objective was to create a site that features a cleaner, more efficient navigation and user experience (UX). There was also a need to better communicate the Society’s offerings by way of more user-focused messaging and an emphasis on what AAS can do for members of the community.
In order to increase membership enthusiasm, it was crucial to highlight the benefits of membership and evoke a sense of community via the site’s messaging and content structure.
Foster a Sense of Community
In late 2018, AAS underwent a rebrand, so we designed the site to serve as an extension of the new AAS brand system. Our strategy was to incorporate aspects of the society’s history in tandem with a modern look and experience so as to meet the needs of existing members and welcome younger, or new astronomers to the community.
On both the backend and the frontend, we built the site with users and members in mind. Overall, we aimed to empower users to seamlessly access all of the tools and resources that AAS has to offer. With this approach, we focused on improving browsing capabilities as opposed to relying on search to present specific information and we set up the site to convey a clear content hierarchy. Meetings, for instance, are a high priority among the community as they are where scientists share major discoveries and announcements. So, we built out more thorough “Meetings” pages that evolve based on where AAS is in the meeting life cycle and listed “Meetings” as the second navigation item, preceded only by the “About” tab.
In addition to enhancing the member experience, key to our approach was restructuring the site to better serve the advocacy and amateur astronomer audiences while continuing to foster an inclusive sense of community for all interested parties.
Improve the User Experience
Our designers took a user-focused and contemporary approach to designing the site. While nods to the society’s history are present throughout, we also built in modern features such as the homepage animations, image sliders, and responsive hover states. Updating the site’s navigation was a top concern, so we gave the menu a cleaner look and clearer structure.
Our developers migrated the existing AAS site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, which essentially meant building the new site from scratch in Drupal 8. We also restructured the sitemap and conducted the necessary content migration. In order to give site editors more flexibility, we restructured the backend of the site and enabled more versatility within the templates. We created a seamless experience for site editors to easily customize and enter new content using Drupal’s “Paragraph” modules. The Paragraphs module improves the author experience (AX) and makes it easier for the large number of AAS content editors to enter and edit content as needed. Our goal was to create a robust system that is simple to use from an editing perspective.
For members, we began syncing data from iMIS (software for membership groups) to give members the opportunity to log in to AAS.org and view member-only content. For members who are interested in submitting events or content, we created a moderation workflow so submissions may be moderated and potentially published.
Effective Messaging and Structure
The new site better reflects the Society’s quality and assets by presenting content strategically and efficiently. With this update, the site is more welcoming to a new generation of members and more effective for existing members. Content creators now have more flexible editing options, allowing for fresh content to be published as needed, which in turn better serves the overall community of members looking to engage and discover new information.