UX | UI | Website Development (Customising WordPress)

Designing and building a platform for an EU-funded initiative facilitating an international network of researchers and partners to share and analyse data for rare diseases

Challenge: An intuitive and appealing interface to solve complex needs

RD-Connect is an EU-funded initiative with a mission to collect and analyse data on rare diseases for a global network of researchers and partners.

I joined the team in 2017, handed the challenge of making a more intuitive, structured, and appealing website. The website needed to be useful and easy to navigate for many different stakeholders, all with different needs and different interaction goals. The site had a cumbersome mega-menu linking to a number of pages stacked with lengthy information, with a lot of potential for simplifying the layout and building solutions for filtering and data management. 

Solution: Rebuilding an intuitive, bright, and easily manageable site  

The new site has far fewer pages, all carefully structured with purpose and based off analysis of the user groups and their goals. The design has been made bright with references to a clear blue, further working to prevent the sense of clutter and complexity that often persist in complex sistes like this. I also made a customised set of icons to further help communicate the complex information, all which have been widely used in marketing material in newsletters, social media, and resource materials. Finally, I trained the team to use the page. By modifying WordPress, the new page is easy to update and edit for the core team, even those that have no experience coding.

Strategy and Architecture planning

The website serves a number of purposes, hosts a breadth of information from several directories, and have a variety of user types. The first step thus entailed a detailed inventory of the old site, map all of the stakeholders and their needs, and identify the action-goals for the different visitor types.

Wireframing for UX

This then allowed a more detailed suggestion for a new website infrastructure that could be tested on the team and advisors. The pages were reduced to a fraction, but were still plentiful. More pages were used than stricktly necessary, but adding more clicks also made the process of navigation far easier for the users. 

Easy management

A critical part of making the site more functional, was making it more useful for the staff in the initiative. Handling such extensive information had turned cumbersome and counterintuitive. Resultantly, information were occasionally duplicated in different places. There was a clear need for simplifying the process, making a more streamlined process so that the information would end up in the right place and with the same look as other information. Finally, changing the way information was uploaded also meant I could integrate a filter function so that visitors could far easier find what they were looking for instead of scrolling endlessly. I used WordPress, an intuitive and widely used content management system, and changed it for the project. The staff’s management needs were planned as carefully as that of the visitors, and can now easily upload publications, partners, documentation, and a breadth of information – perfectly streamlined and without scope for doing it wrong.

Design and visual presence

Besides being more intuitive, a key goal was to enhance design to make a bright, academic, and scientifically credible design. The minimalist approach was also used strategically to minimise the sense of overwhelming information, stripping back the information to facilitate the planned UX flow.

Custom icons

Alongside the website design, I designed 12 tailored icons to communicate the central functions of the organisation. This further added to better display complex information in a more simple and intuitive way. They are colourful, and stand in nice contrast to the otherwise bright and minimalist design.

RD-Connect is an integrated platform connecting databases, registries, biobanks and clinical bioinformatics for rare disease research. Andrea’s main responsibility was to re-develop our project website (rd-connect.eu) improving functionality and design. Andrea proved herself to be diligent and dependable throughout her time working with us. Her enthusiasm and passion for the project was evident and she was willing to go above and beyond to ensure the work was completed within a restricted time-frame. She worked well with all of the staff and team members and carefully took on board all feedback and recommendations. I would be happy to work with Andrea if our team had future web development needs and would confidently recommend her for similar positions.

Libby Wood

Project Director, RD-Connect at John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre