Ohio Insurance Agents (OIA) is an association that supports independent insurance agents with educational resources, advocacy, professional development programs, and a wealth of resources that allow them to better serve their customers while championing the value of insurance and the professional advice and guidance that only an independent agent can provide.
“Willow’s team was GREAT! Their expertise and guidance through this process was exactly what we were looking for in a partner when we went through the selection process, and I’m happy to report that they’re exactly what we hoped they’d be.”
Our friends at Computer System Innovations (CSI) in Illinois came to us with an intriguing opportunity. Plan the site architecture and design the front end of a dynamic, user-friendly, website for an Ohio association who had recently rebranded and changed their name. Then, (and here’s the tricky part), hand the designs back to them to develop the backend to integrate with iMIS, a cloud-based engagement management system (EMS) that combines the member database with web publishing.
Three states, one website, and custom integration. Who are we to say no to that?
The teams at OIA and CSI were fantastic to work with (must be the acronyms!). The leadership at OIA were super-focused on creating a positive experience for their members and, as it would turn out, their member’s customers. This would be especially challenging since the existing website was a maze of content. Too much of a good thing made it hard for visitors to know where to start.
Collaborative research and analytics showed that OIA was actually serving two very different audiences—the independent insurance agents who were members of OIA and consumers who landed on the OIA website while searching for an insurance agent. This search engine happenstance presented OIA with a real Ah ha moment and a unique win/win opportunity to educate consumers on behalf of their member agents. To do that, they’d need to avoid distracting consumers with member resources that weren’t relevant to their needs.
We used card sorting exercises to organize the site’s content and help OIA make decisions about what should be kept, discarded, added, merged, reorganized, or renamed. The teams sorted through loads of duplicate and outdated content—some from the 90’s that should have gone away with frosted tips and beanie babies. Usually one of the most stressful parts of building a new website, the card sorting process made content vetting a fun exercise in perspective for the OIA team.
With our goals in focus and content mapped, we set out to create a separate site experience for agents and consumers, each group with unique navigation, menu structure, and user paths to guide them toward the resources they needed. While some content was shared, the experience was made more meaningful by offering only content that was relevant to that audience. A Member’s only section gave independent agents access to unique industry resources, training, advocacy news, and events.
We used web-based tools for collaborating across state lines and keeping everyone on the same page, able to visualize the site architecture as we moved through the planning and design process. The team at OIA could easily add and edit content, which we then optimized for search, and CSI could see the logic behind our choices.
With the content map created, we designed digital wireframes and mood boards that reflected OIA’s new brand. After the final design concepts were approved we designed tons of unique page templates and design elements to make it super simple for CSI and OIA to keep the site looking great no matter what content needed to be added in the future.
When our work was done, we handed “our baby” over to CSI for back-end development and iMIS integration with total confidence in their team. Consulting with CSI along the way, providing clear direction to their team, and the trust that grew between all three teams during the planning and design process made for an easy hand-off.
The whole three-state collaboration thing went off without a hitch, thanks to technology and ninja-like project management. Web conference calls, screen sharing, emails, and good old-fashioned phone calls bridged the gap between in-person meetings and kept everyone working in sync. The new website looks great and we can’t wait to take a test drive when CSI wraps up their work. We’ll be sure to provide some follow-up so you can check it out for yourself.