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Empowering Communities: Sutherland Shire Council’s Digital Transformation

Outcomes:

  • Delivered three new sites within 7 months.

  • Supported 68,000 visitors within the first 28 days, to access information on council services and facilities, redirecting enquiries from other channels.

  • Created a reusable library of components with extensive styling capabilities to allow sites to be created with their own colour palette, while reflecting the overall Sutherland Shire Council brand.


Technologies

  • Squiz Matrix CMS

  • Funnelback Enterprise Search


Services

  • Business Analysis

  • User Experience Design

  • Creative Design

  • Front-end Development

  • Matrix Implementation 

  • Funnelback Implementation

  • Support


Project Overview

The Sutherland Shire Council, stretching across a large area to the south of Sydney, is home to over 218,000 residents. The Council manages and operates many facilities and services for the community. The Libraries, Leisure Centres and Hazelhurst Art Gallery are key Council facilities with significant visitation and high customer support requirements. The digital websites for the Libraries, Leisure Centres and Hazelhurst Gallery provide an important channel for residents to obtain detailed information and to make bookings. The websites play a vital role in managing the volume of customer service enquiries. Previously, these sites were delivered by an ageing Open Cities Seamless platform and had not undergone a significant redesign for a number of years. As a result, the three websites had a number of usability weaknesses and did not align well with the Council digital brand. 


Working with Harper Stone was simple and seamless with their professionalism and ability to respond quickly to our requests. Creating the Sutherland Shire Leisure Centres subsite from scratch gave us the opportunity to re-imagine how we service our community and provide information. The team at Harper Stone not only addressed the original scope but offered us lots of unique ideas and fantastic solutions in response to our feedback. Nothing was too much of an ask and the collaboration with James meant we were able to create a modern and easy to use website for the Sutherland Shire community.
Brianna Porter Sutherland Shire Council | Business Improvement Officer - Projects | Leisure Centres

Objectives

The core objectives of the project were to provide:

  • simplified content, imagery, navigation (information architecture),

  • an overall improved user experience, 

  • to deliver efficient and consistent digital communications and experiences across all Council websites, and

  • to provide a component toolbox that would allow for the development of future sites.



Design and Development Process

Harper Stone were selected to partner with the Sutherland Council to design and deliver the three websites. The services included business analysis, user experience design, creative design, front-end development, Squiz Matrix implementation, Funnelback implementation and ongoing support. 


The project kicked off with a round of workshops with each of the three groups, to understand their individual requirements. These were fed into the information architecture review and redesign, functional specification development and wireframing. 


The menu structure was validated through multiple rounds of online treejack testing with community members. We were able to work closely with the Council, who led end-user testing to validate the wireframes and gain valuable insights before moving into the creative design phase. 


The Council and Harper Stone teams worked closely together to iterate and refine components to ensure that they were functional and visually aligning with the Council brand. A core requirement was for the site to be highly accessible and inclusive for all people.


The creative design set out to create a brand link to the existing Corporate Council website, while providing a clear identity for each of the individual websites. Each website utilised a distinct colour palette and needed to support unique functionality and information display. The goal was to produce a comprehensive component library to meet all the individual site requirements and that would be reusable across many future sites. 

Technical Innovations

The completed project has delivered 33 individual customisable components for the Sutherland Shire Council, that can be reused to create an unlimited number of future sites. There were a number of advanced components designed and built to meet some very specific needs. 


One example is the What’s On component. The Library runs many recurrent events each week, such as Storytime. There are X Storytime events across all libraries each week. This means when you visit an event page, it would be likely for a user to see multiple pages of just Storytime events, which can make once-off events difficult to promote. The Library needed a way to still enable users to find information on frequent events (like Storytime), without swamping the event feed. The solution was to utilise javascript to allow users to toggle the recurrent events on and off. This limits the number of recurrent events displayed, which helps keep those once-off events prominent. Working closely with the Council, we were able to create a solution for an issue that would be otherwise impossible to achieve through standard Squiz Matrix event display.

The Council also wanted to be able to showcase events from the sub-sites on the Corporate site. We were able to use Funnelback Enterprise Search to surface events across the individual websites and include them directly into the Corporate site search results. The results are displayed seamlessly, and users can click through the search result to find more information on each of the individual websites. 


Outcomes and Impact

The overall project has delivered three stand-alone websites that tie each of the facilities together visually, while maintaining their individual brand identities. The project was completed in under seven months, through a great partnership between the Sutherland Shire Council Team and Harper Stone. Since launching all three websites, there have been over 68,000 visitors in just the first 28 days. 


Conclusion and Future Directions

The feedback button, featured on websites, empowers customers to share their thoughts on the digital experience. This tool provides the Council with a valuable opportunity to continually review and enhance the information provided through each website. Utilising the array of  components available, the Council can swiftly update content and pages based on this feedback, ensuring a responsive and user-centred digital environment.


The sites have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from residents and council staff. The complete suite of sites and the component library now provide a cost-effective approach to continue to design and implement new digital assets, to support the delivery of services for the Sutherland Shire community.



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