Custom eCommerce and Flexible Content
The Omega Institute’s mission is to cultivate a community of lifelong learners exploring issues ranging from sustainability to mindfulness to social justice issues. Their community works together to affect positive growth in each other and the world.
Workshops and online courses are a core part of how Omega fosters learning and growth. Their beautiful campus in Rhinebeck, NY, hosts an ever-changing lineup of great thinkers and doers from across the world who come there to teach. In addition, participants can book stays in on-campus cabins and live and eat as a community as they attend workshop sessions.
Omega’s old website was outdated and sprawling. Users had difficulty finding and registering for the workshops and on-campus stays that are responsible for a large portion of the institute’s revenue. Its integrations with its payment and back-of-house systems were precarious. And the design didn’t adequately represent the institute as a thriving center for interdisciplinary learning and conversation.
A complete redesign and re-architecture was needed. We had worked with Omega on various projects over the years, so Omega entrusted us with guiding them through the process and delivering quality results.
Our first step in embarking on this project with Omega was to come together in-person as one team to understand current frustrations and calibrate goals and priorities. We led hands-on workshops with the large, cross-departmental stakeholder team and built consensus and momentum towards solutions to a variety of questions—everything from how to reorganize the site’s content to which directions to explore in visual design.
We also spoke with workshop participants who were staying on campus at the time. This allowed us to learn from end-users about their frustrations spanning the entire user journey—from first hearing about Omega to looking for workshops to the registration and payment process, to officially arriving at the campus. These insights influenced many important decisions as we worked to make the new site as intuitive as possible.
We worked closely with a smaller stakeholder team during the wireframing and design phases. Iterating with mid-fidelity wireframes, we established a system of content types and modular components that would efficiently support all of their content needs. This flexible system empowered Omega’s content editors with a toolkit of building blocks they can use to craft pages and ensured the design supported their content instead of requiring content to be fitted into templates.
Our visual design process was also iterative, and we explored many directions to triangulate the right approach. As a result, our designs ensured that the workshops took center stage and that users always knew the next step in their journey.
Moreover, the design was resilient, so each page would look great regardless of how editors stacked their building blocks.
Homes for Subsites
There are two centers within Omega—the Women’s Leadership Center and the Center for Sustainable Living. Each needed to have a discrete presence within the main website. We designed and built a system that created these unique spaces and allowed editors to automate or curate feeds of relevant workshops and articles from the sea of the institute’s content. We linked the centers to the main website through an intuitive meta navigation.
A Digital Catalog
Every year, Omega mails a highly-designed catalog book to its members and attendees to showcase the coming season’s workshops, themes, activities, and amenities. In transitioning to a digital-first approach to their marketing efforts, they challenged us to build a way for them to recreate this catalog online every year.
The catalog was organized into chapters for each month of the year, with additional chapters for thematic and overarching content. We built a system of components that allowed them to build an equivalent experience within their website. Editors can curate workshops into thematic sections on individual month pages that are tied together sequentially to create a new lens through which attendees can explore the coming year.
A powerful search was one of the primary requirements of this redesign process. Using React and Solr, we built a progressively decoupled search that allows users to calibrate their search parameters intuitively. Search results are rendered as cards that use a very intentional design language of colors, labels, and layout that helps users quickly parse through results.
The Omega product offering is complex and integrally tied to its external systems. Workshops can have multiple instances, be collected into discount bundles, have various tiered pricing levels, be available to members only, and have numerous sets of workshop-specific add-ons and fees. As part of the workshop registration flow, users can also browse and request accommodations that are subject to availability and have their logic around discounts and add-ons.
Furthermore, users can make optional donations or even sign up for full membership in this same flow.
In addition to managing this information flow between the website and other systems, we had to design this complicated process in a way that made it easy for all users. Therefore, we paid extra attention to the usability of every element within this flow to make all of the functionality understandable at first glance and correctly set user expectations every step of the way.
Omega’s old website had an extensive archive of articles and other content and thousands of user accounts that needed to be moved into the new website. We worked to find the right balance of making older content accessible, searchable, and enjoyable to read while prioritizing the flexibility of new content using a flexible, modular approach.
Whenever there’s a large project with many moving parts, you need a team that can break things down, make a plan, accurately estimate the hours and calendar days required, and deliver. Savas Labs has a skilled multidisciplinary team with broad experience providing a variety of projects. This breadth and depth of experience informs our project planning, helping us accurately scope projects and identify and mitigate risks along the way.
Large stakeholder groups can pose their challenges. Sometimes you can’t avoid having many teams and voices at the table. When that happens, you need a team that can serve as the ringmaster with an arsenal of tools to guide the conversation towards consensus and build project-enduring momentum.
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