case study

New Mormon.org

In the next couple of days, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be releasing a new version of its missionary site, Mormon.org. This new site is meant to introduce the church to friends and family and to the world.

The new Mormon.org has been years in the making as I will share what has been our process and our experience. We hope that this post could benefit designers visiting our site. Honestly, this is motivation for me to record what has been done to make such a site.

Classic

1. The Research

Research began a couple of years ago in order for us, as a Church, to understand who our audiences are. We know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all but we also understood the limitations of our reach online and in media (TV, radio, print). The results from the research included some good and some bad perceptions of Mormons. Many studies were done that I cannot enumerate but it was, for sure, comprehensive. The creative team was not part of the research, as we were not part of the project yet until about 10 months ago, which at that point we learned of the research findings.

2. The Discovery Phase

The discovery phase started with a core creative team that included two designers and a front-end developer from our department (ICS), a creative director, a designer, and a researcher from Sapient, whom we partnered with. Two more researchers from our research division assisted us during this phase. A project manager and program manager were also available. And our product manager also spent a lot of time with the creative team.

The first thing we did as a team was to have fun. Because we were not always in the same location, we spent a lot of time with each other and played a lot (of foosball) when we were. Looking back, this really helped break down barriers that sometimes hybrid teams have.

Classic

During this phase, our work was divided into three parts: research, wireframes, and mood boards. We wanted to do additional research on visitors of Mormon.org so an online questionnaire was developed and then put on the site for a few days. The wireframes were created based on the research we’ve found, the current site, and from our own brainstorming exercises. Lots of sketches and ideas were proposed. The ball was rolling.

wireframes

During this time, several mood boards were put together and gave us different flavors to look at. Several became a few, then a couple.

mood boards

We also started to form the information architecture based on the content that was being discussed. Our first pass? People, Basic Beliefs, and Visit. Then it became: People, Faith, Values, and Visit. Our last iteration before testing was: Our People, Our Values, Our Faith, and Visit Us. We wanted to be clear that these are our perspectives and did not want to impose on other people’s beliefs.

sitemap concept

Additional wireframes were created as we grouped all ideas. Now using our mood boards, we created comps of main sections for review with the stakeholders. Feedback was immediate. We had a good idea of where we needed to go “visually”.

Prototyping in HTML/CSS/JS (with a little bit of PHP) was now in top gear. We had three weeks before the prototype testing. Preparations were being made throughout this phase as we were ready to go out and test the prototype.

3. Prototype Testing

Two locations within the U.S. were selected for our prototype testing: Los Angeles and Atlanta. For our prototype testing, we wanted to know more than anything if what we’re proposing would help improve perceptions of people about Mormons. We took our participants through several scenarios to help them explore the site. (There was a part of the test where we left the participant on their own for a few minutes and watched them click around the site. That was revealing.) We tested the visual design, tone of voice, information architecture, and interaction.

What we learned is that people did not know very much about the Mormons nor that we are a very diverse church. We also learned that people wanted to know what we believe in and, unfortunately, what we’ve prototyped was not enough. They wanted more. They also wanted to know some answers to frequently asked questions about the Mormons but didn’t know where to go. At the end of the session, each participant was asked if their perceptions of Mormons have changed after reviewing the prototype and most, if not all, said yes, on the positive.

Some of our assumptions were confirmed but there was work still to do. We came home energized.

testing

4. The Discovery Phase Part II

There was a clear direction on the visual design from the team on how we should proceed. People in LA and Atlanta had a different idea of what Mormons look like. What we showed them changed their minds. I think it helped to show what Mormons look like six out of the seven days of the week. That has helped set the visual tone of the site.

More comps and more prototyping were finished. We added FAQ to the main navigation.

screens

5. The Writing

All throughout the discovery and prototype testing, the creative team either wrote the copy or copied stuff from existing resources. If we were to do it over again, we would have hired professional writers.

So we did. We looked at several writers and we decided on a woman and a man to help write for the site. We knew we needed Mormon writers because they understand our beliefs but we also wanted the outsiders’ perspective.

The creative team provided a content style guide that focused on voice and tone, grammar, and avoiding Mormon slang. We said: “The voice and tone should mimic a relaxed conversation with a friend about the gospel in a safe and comfortable place such as your home.” We wanted it to be conversational.

We also provided the writers outlines of each page. These outlines came from the existing site and other materials or talks from Church leaders. The writers got started. Much of the new site was written by these awesome writers that we have.

6. The Detail Design Phase

As the pages came back from the writers, the design team started putting it all together in detail. At this point, we picked up another designer to help keep up with the schedule. Each page was meticulously designed to help present the message well. The design team also arranged for photo shoots with our own Audio Visual department. Other photos came from our own media library or stock photo websites. Our front-end team (there were two now) took these detail designs and finished the pages.

screens

We also finalized our style guide to help coordinate the many designers, developers and producers involved in the project. Here’s the style guide:

wireframes

7. The Video Production Phase

Right on the heels of detail design was the video production. Several teams went out and started producing videos for the site and media advertising. These included interviews of Mormons and their stories. You will find these videos under “Our People” and also throughout the site. They are powerful.

screens

8. The Development Phase

The development phase started at the beginning of this year. We have six developers, three quality assurance engineers, and two infrastructure support engineers. Development kicked off as we now have pages ready. Our development team is solid and always ready to help.

9. User-Generated Content

One of the first major development pieces was our user-generated content. A big part of the new site is Mormons sharing their stories and answering frequently asked questions. About three months ago, we started inviting members of the Church to create their profiles and helping with user-generated content on the site. We wanted to launch with at least 1,000 profiles. We have since surpassed that.

There has been a lot of great excitement on this ability to share your stories and testimony. I will definitely be sharing mine with my friends and family who may not know what my beliefs are.

Mormon.org profile

10. The Final Stage

Now that all this research, discovery, testing, writing, detail design, video production, development, and user-generated content has come together, we have been spending a lot of time crossing t’s and dotting i’s. I don’t think I ever anticipated how time consuming it is to make it all “finished”. But, of course, the site will never be finished. However, in a couple of days, all this work from the last couple of years will be available to the world.

Mormon.org profile

11. Conclusion

In all of my five years of working for the LDS Church, I have yet to find a project that is exactly the same as the last one. And as much as we want to “streamline process” or “develop a resource model”, it will never be the same for each project. But here’s a short list of what I have learned from this project:

Good Planning. Good planning allowed for different groups as diverse as this project had to see what is needed and when. A good plan will focus on actual work produced and not administration milestones. Short meetings were also set everyday to report status and progress of assignments.

Strong Teams. Whether it was the creative team or the development team, developing strong relationships helped us at those times when we were in a bind or “crunch mode”. The idea of roles went away. We just focused on getting the job done. Lots of team members did “unusual” things throughout our project.

Enough Resources. Having enough resources helped with this project. There were times when we needed additional creative help. There was still resistance to this but we prevailed and was able to add to the team in the middle of the project. Sometimes you just have to ask.

Hiding From Scrutiny. Because of the significance of the site, there were many outside of our project who wanted to know everything that we were doing. Our product manager was smart enough to know that that would slow us down and not help us. So we were hiding from scrutiny most of the time during this project and only reported to the necessary people. Those who simply wanted to know just had to wait. At the end, it was for the best of the project.

12. An Invitation

Our main mission as a Church is to help all to “come unto Christ”. As imperfect as we, Mormons, are, we are striving to follow Him in our own lives. Our hope is that the new Mormon.org will help others see who we are and what we sincerely believe in. We hope it will improve people’s perceptions of Mormons.

If you are a member of the LDS Church, we invite you to create a profile on New.Mormon.org. Think of your profile as a personal invitation to your family and friends who may know you’re a Mormon but not understand what you believe in. It’s a non-confrontational invitation. Once they read your profile, they are then able to explore the rest of the site.

13. The Credits

Every magazine, book, or movie always give credit to those involved in its creation, so why not a website? Here’s the Mormon.org Team:

Product Management
Scott Swofford, Ron Wilson

Design Team
Bryan Bishop, Gilbert Lee, Brent Stewart, Matt Carlson, Paul Mayne

Front-end Team
Craig Hobson, David Max Hicken

Writers
Gail Newbold, Jake Wilhelmsen

Program Management
Ted Marshall, Lauren

Development Team
Colin Lewis, Kip Armstrong, David Steiner, Jake Trent, Bryson Spencer, Steve Olson

Quality Assurance Team
Greg Patterson, Steve Hatch, John Hauptman

Infrastructure Support
Dean Householder, Ron Ulloa

Film Team
Tara White, Eric Morgan, Christian Lambert, Justin Jones, and many other directors and producers

Research Team
Chris Korintus, Sam Sturgeon, Linda Charney

Interns
David Gary “Digger” Godfrey, Carl Canlas

Support
Tom Jackman, Brandon Jackson, and many other students from BYU

Bonneville Communications
Brandon Burton, Eric Morgan, VondaKay Warshaw

Many thanks to others from the Missionary Department, ICS Department, AV Department, and Bonneville Communications who helped make this happen!

more group pictures

“Ditto!”

posted by Gilbert Lee on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010
tagged with mormon.org launch


25 comments

Looks great, but i’m disappointed in the team being composed almost entirely by men. You’re missing out on the opinion and skills of half the population.

comment by MJo one day later

Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for sharing the process.

comment by doug one day later

@MJo I couldn’t agree more. Women bring balance to every project they’re on, regardless of the field. However, since I meet so few designers who are women, I would change that statement to read “They’re missing out on not choosing a profession in design and/or development.”

comment by Gary Benson one day later

all the women are on the LDS.org team.. ;)

comment by Jason Lynes one day later

Great job, it’s very interesting/inspiring to learn more about your process and how all of the departments and talents work together.

The site looks great, I can’t wait for it to launch and start using it at as a missionary tool. :)

comment by Joshua Giblette one day later

Wow, it looks incredible.

I am really impressed and appreciate the timeline / reflection / process you shared; definitely an aspect of my design work I would like to improve.

comment by Joe about a day later

@mjo: Yeah I wish there were more women in the team, too. We do have five and more from the MTC support but technology is way heavy on men.

Thanks everyone! I’m exhausted but totally energized with the launch! We’re going to be live tomorrow.

comment by Gilbert Lee about a day later

This site is slick! Really great work by your team – this is easy to use and easy to share – thanks for your outstanding work here.

comment by Jeff about a day later

I am so interested in the nuts and bolts of creativity. Being a writer myself I tend to work in solitary splendour, so seeing how a team meld, mesh and produce is fascinating. Thanks for the insight. I shall check out the site soon.

comment by YVonne Aston about a day later

Please! Periods and commas go inside quotation marks.

comment by Julie about a day later

This is going to be an incredible resource that I can share withl my non-member friends I’ve “accumulated” over the years. This is definitely going to impact our member missionary experiences.

comment by Laurel Lee Pedersen about a day later

Great work. And I do mean great.

comment by Nathan Philpot about a day later

Errr… just a suggestion. In the Our People section. You might not want to have the whole list alphabetized, with the exception of placing “Caucasian” above African American and Asian. And I’m not sure what a Black person from England, or Guana should be…

comment by Chris about a day later

Fantastic move to gather together public profiles from Mormons and make connections! Hopefully, this will spark real relationships and conversations. I appreciate the team sharing the process behind this project as we work on creating an environment for internal global leadership development.

comment by *Noah Sparks about a day later

But I don’t want to be all down sounding… (sorry about that). The site is totally awesome and ground breaking. It should definitely win some kind of award in web design competitions.

comment by Chris about a day later

This new site looks great cant wait to use it

comment by Jane Stewart about a day later

Hi guys! Wow. This looks like quite a process! I am curious about your design methodology- what kind of personas did you create? What were the results of user-testing with non-LDS people living outside of Utah?

comment by Amy Middleton 2 days later

It’s really cool to see the Church progressing (yes, progress!) in terms of art and creative achievement. I score this one as a high win in effort and success. (We still have a long way to go, but that’s another topic…)

As a UI Developer who works daily in Boston with a team very much like this one you’ve described, it’s fascinating to see the parallels and differences. I had never heard of a mood board before (this surprised me!), though most of the other processes are identical to ours.

I’m really grateful the Church cares about art and creativity. I do hope that we continue to improve and think more externally, as this site does so well.

For example, I can still see hints of the kind of inward thinking that we sometimes have habit for in our delivery, but this site was so well planned, that so much of that insulated feeling is turned outward.

Great job!

I’m excited to see us evolve, and where we’ll go next. This is just plain terrific. The prophecies about the Church rising out of obscurity are actually beginning (just beginning) to make sense to me. Fun!

p.s. Hi Noah Sparks from your old BYU computer friend!

comment by American Yak 2 days later

Great work! As a fellow web designer I’m really excited to see the church embracing new technologies to further the kingdom. I think the research and being sure to frame the site for the average Joe and to try and dispel misconceptions will do wonders. I’m from Georgia and there are still a lot of people that think we are amish types or not even christian. I like the organization of the site as well, the IA was well thought out. And bringing in member profiles was a stroke of genius. It is a great opportunity for members to contribute and it helps outsiders see a genuine faith. With all the testimonies and personal stories I’m sure it’s generating I’m sure the site will have a important element that is not a part of most websites, the spirit will testify to and teach users.

May I suggest to make it really easy for people to share their profile/testimony with others by giving them some embed code for a badge or something to put onto their own site or facebook.

comment by Evan Mullins 2 days later

Brilliant article!

I’m both a Mormon and a Project Manager at an interactive agency here in Boston. I know what it takes to lead a successful project, and I APPLAUD your efforts on every front to do it, and to do it right. Double kudos for the user testing done in varied locations.

As for those commenting on the team’s gender make-up; relax. This is completely reflective of the industry.

My content strategist friends are already blown away by the quality content coming from site users. A model other companies only WISH they could employ!

Again, excellent job. Something I’ve already spread through my Twitter feed and with my geeky web friends.

comment by Natalie 2 days later

I love the new site. It is very web 2.0 and that will help it accomplish everything it sets out to do. Encouraging involvement. If this had been in existence when my inlaws were investigating the church, they would have had an easier time locating us than when they just showed up to a meeting house in the middle of the week looking for someone to help them join the church.

comment by Sterling Newkirk 5 days later

As a female designer and developer, I give the site two thumbs up. Great job!

comment by Heather Newall 6 days later

Any ideas on how long it takes to get a profile approved. I filled out mind almost a week ago and still haven’t heard anything.

comment by Shane 13 days later

Great job with the site design. Please work to speed up the approval process for profile edits/new answers to questions as it has been several weeks without approval.

comment by Daniel Ortner 15 days later

Thanks everyone for the great comments! I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, tweets and facebook comments and many people are surprised with the new site. It’s a good thing. People are seeing Mormons in a new light. It’s changing some people’s minds.

For those of you still having trouble getting your profile approved, send me an email to leegg@ldschurch.org and I will see what I can do to help! Thanks again for checking out Mormon.org!

comment by Gilbert Lee 15 days later

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