It’s difficult to ignore the role of Croatian Academic and Research Network CARNET in the development of ICT in Croatia. Today, the organization that made Internet available during the war, employs more than 140 people and works on providing Internet services, education, and information technology development.
In order to introduce the customers to the CARNET services at its best, a new website was needed, and the project of creating a new central internet homeplace for CARNET had recently been completed. So I talked to Krešimir Končić, director of Neuralab agency that created the site, as well as with Ana Smoljo, head of CARNET communications department, in order to find out what challenges were faced along the way in making a new website for such an important organization.
As I found out from Ana, the new website is a part of the overall new CARNET brand, and it has been modified not only to be in accordance with the new brand, but also to keep up with the times and provide easier access to all the services CARNET has to offer.
Given the number of services and the diversity of their users, Krešimir reveals how it was to work on one such system:
I think that such relevance suited the whole production team – the roles, the content and the target audience were specified, and the ultimate goal and the function of redesign were well defined. With CARNET’s new web, these strategic things were clearly organized, something most web projects are lacking, that is, they usually start headfirst with the design phase without considering the content and the end user.
50 content creators, 70 services, 100.000 monthly users…
Of course, cooperation could not even begin before the instructions, and Ana says that the technical conditions of the project were made quite demanding by CARNET, with the emphasis on making the website as accessible to a broad audience as possible. Neuralab, of all the providers, was the only one who met all the required conditions.
But that does not mean that the execution was simple. Kresimir explains that, to his agency, CARNET’s web was one of the largest and most demanding projects they have been working on so far, excluding “classic” portals in WordPress used by news teams. Namely, the amount of content on the CARNET pages is impressive, and the number of collaborators, editors and administrators working on the project from CARNET’s side was by far the largest.
It was a core team of about 15 people, while the overall number of people who worked on the content was close to 50. Ana illustrates the volume of the work with the fact that CARNET has through many years become one of the leaders in the digital transformation of education, but also other segments:
Currently, we offer our customers more than 70 services ranging from education and training, to multimedia, computer security and customer support, which brings with it a very large number of documents and content on the website. Switching from the old to the new web was challenging since we transferred most of the content and other materials manually.
Each month CARNET site is visited by about 100,000 unique users, and the new website should provide new features, as well as clear and easy navigation for those looking for specific services. On the CARNET web site, services and projects can be filtered by popularity, but also through different points of access – via electronic identity in AAI @ EduHr system, e-Citizens system, and services accessible to everyone.
Adapted and accessible to everyone
Krešimir says that the most demanding challenges he faced while working on this project were those concerning communication and cooperation, since it includes a great deal of work with an organization that has a multitude of departments that must work together on creating the new website.
The Neuralab team had to be acquainted with how CARNET works, the structure of their team, who is responsible for what, when and how. Namely, we usually have one or two persons on these projects who represent the client- the product owner, which is not the case with government projects. Here there were several product owners, each with their particulars- the IT team wanted certain functions to be executed in a specific way, the management wanted their own changes to the design implemented, while the editorial team had their own vision of interactivity.
One of the most important and crucial components of the new web is accessibility, that is, the adjustment of the layout of the page so that the largest possible number of people can use it. This includes color settings, font size, and special built-in dyslexia feature. Krešimir says they have been guided by the EU’s new Web Accessibility Directive, but also how the website was made accessible by the content itself. Neuralab has dedicated a special part of educations to image optimization, ALT tags and simply better semantics so that the text on the page can be better adapted to the screen readers.
WordPress ‘state of mind’ for CARNET
In order to use the new website, Neuralab also held special seminars for the CARNET team to get acquainted with WordPress and to begin to think like real WordPress users. While one part of the training was journalistic in nature, where the Neuralab experts explained how to work with images for the website, how to properly write for the web, etc., the second part was based on IT education:
This was education for the core part of the team where we went through WordPress content management concepts, menu management, how to categorize content, and how to manage all possible content units and authors, or who has (what) authority to edit content.
The seminars themselves were organized in groups of about 20 people in segments of four hours.
After so much hard work, there was no lack of feedback. Ana says that it was extremely good so far, and most compliments are due to the responsive page design. For the past three weeks, since the website had been published, the e-diary for parents, students, and teachers has been the most used, and by the end of the school year, users will be searching through other CARNET services, which there are plenty of.
By the way, if you are a WordPress developer and are interested in working on similar large scale WordPress projects, Neuralab is looking for you! Check out this job advertisement. 😉
Author: IVAN ŠIMIĆ, Netokracija
Original article available here in Croatian.