Everyone at The Mailbox is deeply committed to helping teachers make a difference in the lives of their students. And as an industry leader for the last 40 years, they're well positioned to do so. Recognizing the need to shift their business from traditional print publishing to outstanding digital experiences, they came to us to make an even bigger difference.
A shift of this magnitude requires careful research and planning. The team at The Mailbox had done some fantastic preliminary research about their customers, and we stepped to determine what it meant in terms of digital experiences.
We took all of the reports, surveys, spreadsheets and market research The Mailbox had from the last year and set about turning that data into actionable insight for this project. We supplemented this with competitive research to develop a deep understanding of what The Mailbox customers needed, holes in the current industry and how The Mailbox could become a game changer.
Based on this insight, we worked side-by-side with The Mailbox team to brainstorm an expansive set of potential features. We focused on understanding what users could do and how things should feel.
All of this information informed a strategy document that guided our next steps with clear goals and priorities to ensure common understanding among all team members.
We use a multi-step process to design the best possible interactive experiences.
The first step of taking what we know about our end goals and user behavior is to develop basic sketches and wireframes. This helps us hash out how core functionality will work and determine interactive relationships as well as content priorities.
Once we've worked out a solid approach to primary features, we put our theories to the test with real users. Teachers who fit our demographic profiles were asked to complete a series of task so we could ensure our solutions worked for them and see places where tweaks would improve the design.
With a clear understanding of the most important interactions, we could start developing the finer points of the experience and the aesthetic of the site. Starting with what we call Style Tiles, we developed an aesthetic that represented The Mailbox personality and values and applied it to everything from font choices to the color palette of the site.
After working through the visual design of key pages and interactions, we can extrapolate this to a "kit of parts" that provides style to use across the site. In combination with a CMS, these templates allow anyone to create pages that fit with the rest of the site with pre-fabricated elements.
For all of this great design to truly shine in the real world, we depend on the expert skills of our developers.
We built this site with the future in mind, taking care in building not only pristine HTML5-based front-end code, but also applying the kind of polish (like sophisticated transitions) that would put The Mailbox leaps and bounds ahead of its competition.
Back-end Development isn't exactly the kind of thing you think of when you visit a site, but it is where a lot of our effort lived.
Due to legacy systems that had to remain in place, we were challenged with the task of accommodating for a number of complex integrations. The trick was getting outdated technology to play nice with more modern programming.
You know what they say about assuming—which is why we test our sites both programmatically and manually. We did our very best to break things, developing a rigorous testing protocol just for this site. We even created a ranking system to ensure we were always working to resolve the highest value issues we discovered during testing.