Building a digital universe for autism research.
Branding • UX & Editorial Experience Design • Content Platform, Migration & CMS Development • Responsive Design
The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is a go-to source for information on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that publishes everything from scientific studies to video op-eds.
But constant content creation is no small task—especially with stringent approval processes and a user-unfriendly site. When their editorial offerings outgrew the "News” tab, they needed a fresh identity and a new digital home to match. And so Spectrum was born.
While diving into SFARI's content, we imagined what a hub of this magnitude could look like. Spectrum needed to feel unique while complementing their parent brand. But it also needed a rich visual toolkit to keep content fresh and organized.
We devised the Spectrum logo, a prism, as a reference to autism spectrum disorders and a visual shorthand for the wide range of content Spectrum publishes.
Our prism concept allowed us to create a brand palette with a wide variety of colors. As we catalogued existing content, we assigned colors to content type, turning our back end organizational system into a user-friendly experience for Spectrum readers.
While evolving the branding, we worked closely with the Spectrum team to build their new editorial home. Our challenge: organize and elevate existing work while making room for additional content. Our solution: map the full user experience and build it from scratch.
Because shared content is the heart and soul of Spectrum, we built the site’s information architecture around these twin goals: make content easy to find and easy to read on every device.
We put the editorial team's days of labor-intensive hand-coding behind them, thanks to a flexible system of modular design templates and custom-built, auto-populating plugins. Now the Spectrum team uploads MS Word documents directly into WordPress and builds attractive articles using simple content blocks.
What about all the valuable content already published? We worked with the Spectrum team to develop and assign topical categories, tags, and related-article links for every pre-existing piece. Then we built custom migration tools to pull them (with comments) into the new site and template design.
We armed Spectrum's editorial team with modular tools—everything from pull quotes to media inserts—for designing an endless variety of compelling (and branded) content. The flexible build was essential for sorting existing content, directing the overall information flow, and tying the user experience to Spectrum's dynamic visual system.
We developed a responsive system that supported the information architecture, scaled to house future editorial content, and gave viewers an identical experience on desktop, tablet, and mobile.
To further draw viewers in and invite site exploration, we created custom, handmade article-specific illustrations and category iconography.
By building a unique editorial universe and breathing new life into their content, we helped Spectrum spur deeper engagement, capture new readership, and advance their mission to shed light on autism spectrum disorders worldwide.
Unique visitors since launch in September 2015
Average time spent on page per user
Honoree Webby Award: Best Science Site Design