Being the one that others turn to for advice, compassionate support and the occasional hard truths, whilst developing a thriving business, can be pretty hard on your own.
Fortunately, Slimming World invests heavily in providing extensive training, supporting literature and equipment to give its Consultants, who run Slimming World's groups, the knowledge and tools they need.
The Consultant intranet, Our World, is an important tool in that offering. It provides up-to-date guidance and business management tools to maximise their franchise and the service they provide to members.
Unfortunately, over time it had become difficult to maintain (most content was not in a CMS), important information was hard to find and was looking a bit dated. It needed a fresh start.
The first phase of this enormous task was to move over from Classic ASP to ASP MVC 4. We also decided to trial using the Umbraco open source CMS to manage the manuals, policies and news features.
The visual design needed to be redefined and front-end code started from scratch, however, the management team didn't want the new site to be too unfamiliar for Consultants.
It was decided that, whilst the site would be a responsive build, it would largely mirror the look and layout of the previous version. Subsequent post-launch phases would then further develop the look and functionality, once a solid foundation has been built.
Wireframing and design exploration
Whilst my brief was to maintain the existing look and feel, I still used the opportunity to add more readable typography, increase white space and a create a more consistent colour palette.
After approval of wireframe layouts of the key page templates, we quickly moved onto creating HTML versions. I skipped any kind of Photoshop work that we traditionally would have done, seeing it as an opportunity to embrace a more iterative browser-based design process. This helped us solve responsive layout issues quickly as we were easily able to show people how content would flow on smaller screens.
By closely working with the lead back-end developer to learn how Umbraco’s templating system worked I was able to, not only expand my own knowledge, but also save development time as I could do more on my own.
Throughout the development, we allowed time to document our processes, provide short training sessions to the writing team (who would maintain the content) and produce front-end style-guides for reference. As we knew the site would grow and be maintained over time by different team members, we had to ensure that we were building a solid foundation of reusable, modular code.
One of the biggest challenges with this project was the sheer number of articles, policies and manuals which needed to be manually added to the new CMS, since the previous site was all static content.
We undertook an audit of content and organised a system to ensure that nothing important was missed. We created a workflow which meant the bulk of content could be added by any staff, in order to free up the front-end team to focus on adding styling and functionality.
The first phase of the build is now complete and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from Consultants and the management team.
The site is being actively developed with new functionality and improvements to the existing core features.