Glenn Gould Foundation: content inventory and redesign

Front page of the Glenn Gould Foundation

The Glenn Gould Foundation administers Canada’s pre-eminent prize for artistic excellence and innovation, produces a stand-out podcast of conversations with some amazing people, and serves as a marker of sorts to trace and commemorate the pianist, broadcaster and innovator himself.

They’ve been at it a while and, like so many other websites, have been producing a steady stream of content. Without looking back.

And where some might applaud their audacity, adventurous spirit and forward-facing outlook, the Google search index and their visitors would not.

Content inventory and audit

So first up on the agenda was a content inventory and audit. The foundation has done some amazing stuff over the years: events, concerts, street performance, the list goes on. Plus they’ve documented the life of one of Canada’s most celebrated musicians and the work of artists Gould has inspired.

I enjoyed reading through all these pieces and learned a lot about all things Gould. The site has some great content.

So the challenge was finding a way to keep the site’s content focussed on its mission, and findable without sacrificing all the gems buried in the depths of the WordPress database.

It took a strong and involved collaboration with and among foundation staff to get there. And I think it’s fair to say we did — down to about 100 pages from more than four times that many. Yet they got to keep the quirky bits, the stories, and the creative bits.

The design

The site needed a stronger visual hierarchy to allow the Foundation to draw attention to its current priorities and pre-eminent events. Its branding and colour scheme needed adjustment and it needed a clean, minimal and professional look commensurate with its stature.

As ever, the main design goal was to get out of the way and let the content shine through.

The engineering

The project sponsors were particularly frustrated by the former site’s back end which used a commercial page builder. These make it possible to turn every page into a spectacular wedding cake, but add needless complexity to the routine posting of site content. The site’s pages had all been built as static entities. So adding a new podcast episode or news item also involved adding a blurb and a link to the new content to both the home page and the content landing page. That had to be changed. And it was.

Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy: new look, new system

The Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy certainly needed a new website. But more importantly, its administrators needed a new registration system.

And not just any registration system. This system had to privilege the user experience of stressed parents signing their kids up for music lessons.

The answer for the website was WordPress. But for the registration system? Not so clear. There are plugins for everything, but when you put them all together they work much like a junior string ensemble might sound.

So Connexxions Consulting and I went with Amilia. This software-as-service is born for this. Whether it’s a dance school, soccer league, swim lessons, after school program, Amilia works brilliantly. It manages activity schedules, instructors, room bookings, sells merchandise, accepts donations etc etc.

It has some shortcomings — its ‘store’ is not so great at selling tickets, its mass communication tools need help — but for the cost of a few program registrations a year, a tiny, underpaid, overtasked admin team can sign up with Amilia and watch a ton of administrative overhead and busywork just fade away.

A look to match the mandate

In addition to having contemporary sizing, mechanics and visuals, the OYOA site needed to convey welcome and warmth. The site’s publishers wanted to emphasize the welcoming and encouraging aspect of music for young learners. Yes, there are auditions, yes some of its students have ambitions, but OYOA is about bringing all children and youth into the world of music.

So warm colours, reduced emphasis on black and white dress outfits and typography that eschewed orchestral discipline. But above all, design that gets out of the way to show young musicians and get parents quickly to where they want to go.