Evans Jones are surveyors in Cheltenham who specialise in disabled access, planning, building and architectural surveying. Their clients include household names like Siemens, HMV, HSBC Bank, Bovis, Travelodge, Epsom Racecourse and Liverpool City Council to name but a few. The project was initially proposed as a web log enhancement to the web site we built for them in 2005.
We work as closely as we can with our clients to understand how technology can best benefit their organisation; it became obvious to us that a completely new interface would better enable visitors to navigate and use the new content the enhanced web site would hold. Luckily they took our advice and now they have a gloriously new web site with some great features we’re very proud of.
We created a brand new ‘elastic’ interface to hold a professional, business web log and the fresh content written specifically for the new design. Here are some of the highlights:
The site features the latest version of our own web log publishing application. Evans Jones have embraced the idea of sharing their knowledge and expertise through their web site to inform clients, communicate with colleagues and encourage debate. To help them share relevant information with visitors we’ve used the web log tags feature to enable the administrators to attach specific keywords or phrases to any article they publish. These ‘tags’ then determine where that article will appear in the rest of the site, making sure that visitors see relevant and useful headlines from the web log wherever they happen to be.
The tag set is flexible and can expand to include more key words or phrases over time to publish on an infinite variety of topics as required. The blog itself (dubbed ‘news’ by the client) has a fully featured interface to enable visitors to access articles, vacancies, case studies or press releases in multiple ways depending on their preference: Search (standard or advanced, for the whole site); browse articles by year, month or day; browse by tag or browse by author.
A fully featured and accessible dashboard powers the web log enabling administrators to upload and manage images, links, events and authors. To create articles the dashboard features our own content editor, developed specifically for the web log application. Key features include the ability to insert small (inline) or large (full width) images, the automatic formatting of typographically correct special characters and the ability to preview articles in the live design before full publication. A release version of our web log application will be coming soon for everyone to download and use.
Evans Jones is an experienced disabled access consultancy, so the accessibility of the web site was a core component of the project. With that in mind, all text and images on the site stretch depending on visitors default browser text size — commonly called an elastic design. This follows through to images that may be uploaded by administrators for use in web log articles and even the logo itself. Try this for yourself by visiting the site and enlarging the text size using your browser controls. (Hold down CTRL / Command and press + in Firefox, Safari or Opera; select View → Text Size → Largest from the main menu in Internet Explorer.)
Technical testing for accessibility was continuous throughout as budget and time allowed. We’ve strived to ensure that we built a web site that was accessible as possible for as many users as possible. However, we recognise that accessibility is a subjective experience and would encourage anyone who has specific issues with any part of the site to contact Evans Jones so they can pass those concerns to us if appropriate.
A specific aim of the design was to orientate users no matter what page they land on for the first time, or happen to find themselves in. Good breadcrumbs, consistency both in the placement of menus and calls to action all helped this come about. Additionally, we used four stock images and four different header colours to group pages within the access, planning, building and architectural sections giving users an additional visual way of intuitively knowing where they are in the site at any time.
The design is deliberately simple and clear with special focus given to excellent readability throughout the site. Typography and sizes were chosen specifically for this task. To enable visitors to move easily from topic to topic each page features a sub menu of related pages, inline links to further information on specific terms and headlines of blog articles that relate to that section. Each service page also features a call to action to contact the specific individual within the organisation who can provide more information off site.
Article headlines are pulled from the blog based on their relevance to any given page. This means that visitors can move easily through related pages but always see relevant information at every stage to research the knowledge and experience of the company in further detail. We combined that with access on every page to a friendly, personalised approach to contacting the company with specific inquires.
Information architecture, design and accessibility was delivered by the author. Web log functionality, modifications and all other development features were delivered by Paul Whitrow, with web log enhancements by Jon Gibbins. However, the final result would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of Evans Jones partners Ian Eggleton, David Jones and Nick Bevan. Then in the latter stages, Karyn Middleton, Evans Jones’ new Head of Marketing. Our thanks go to them for entrusting us with their web site for the second time and we wish them all the best with their future publishing.
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