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Case study - Harvard University JCHS website

Informing Housing Issues & Policy Through Research
Front view of two houses and a residential building in the back

Project Overview

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) website helps leaders in government, business, and the civic sectors make decisions that effectively address the needs of cities and communities. Therefore was hired to ensure the JCHS website lived up to its mission.

Client

Harvard University

Industry

Higher Education

Type

CMS Website

Technology

Drupal, Wordpress, Apache Solr

Partners

Pantheon

Services Provided

UI/UX design, accessibility audits & remediation, digital strategy, technical architecture, MarTech and CRM integration, Drupal development, support & maintenance.

The Challenge

Therefore was initially brought in to perform an audit of the JCHS website. Key areas of concern that were noted prior to our audit were accessibility, maintainability, search result accuracy, security and  performance.

The audit revealed a number of high-concern issues that would prevent JCHS from achieving its future state vision with the current implementation of the website. It was determined that a complete rebuild using the latest Drupal CMS platform and a power search service would be needed.

The key goals of this project were to:

simplify content navigation;

implement an enterprise search service to provide superior search functionality and accuracy for site visitors;

meet WCAG 2.1 / section 508 accessibility compliancy standards;

build the website using a flexible and highly capable, yet easy to use content management system;

build the site for long-term maintainability and as a platform for future-state evolution.

JCHS website page screenshot
JCHS website page screenshot on a mobile phoneJCHS website page screenshot on a mobile phoneJCHS website page screenshot on a mobile phone

The Solution

Informed by our audit of the JCHS website and with our understanding of key success objectives for this project we delivered a successful rebuild of the JCHS website on time and on budget.

Some highlights of our solution deliverables are detailed below:

Powerful Search

Therefore developed an Apache Solr integrated faceted search tool that greatly increased the utility and accuracy of site search results. Users are able to segment results based on publication type, research focus areas, and across a defined date range. JCHS site administrators can tweak result priority and weight relevancy based on keywords and context.

JCHS website search results screenshot.

Drupal CMS

A well architected data-model and content governance workflow ensures content is accurate and timely. We designed and delivered a collection of UI components that are used by content managers to build pages with consistency and predictability. Our landing page building empowers JCHS to build custom pages without the need to go back to our development team.

Please watch a short demonstration of how a content editor can easily build a complex layout using our Drupal based UI component page builder:

Accessibility

It was a critical factor to the success of this project that the JCHS website meet and where possible, exceed all government accessibility standards. Nothing was off the table, including making changes to the JCHS brand and logo to ensure compliancy.

A perfect 100% lighthouse score for the JCHS website.

Thanks to the flexibility and cooperation of the JCHS team, we were able to achieve a Lighthouse 100 accessibility score for the JCHS website.

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