I managed RAGOM website content and user experience from 2017 through 2019. Contact me for more samples of my work.
Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest (RAGOM) has rescued and re-homed more than 9,000 Golden Retrievers and Golden mixes since 1985, and is one of the largest Golden Retriever rescues in the United States.
In 2017, RAGOM expanded their reach beyond Minnesota to include additional midwestern states (and changed their name from Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota to Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest). To support their rebranding effort, RAGOM secured a grant to cover the cost of an update to its Drupal website platform.
Although RAGOM is highly regarded in the animal welfare community, their legacy website (PNG) languished over the years. As it grew, navigation links were simply tacked on to a burgeoning menu. Information was difficult to find. Readability was poor; paragraphs were too long and the writing verbose.
Potential adopters found it challenging to evaluate dogs; details about suitable homes and the dog’s background were not presented consistently. This caused issues for the placement volunteers who screen applicants because many people applied for dogs that were not a good fit for their family.
Like all nonprofits RAGOM relies on donations and volunteers, but the legacy website lacked clear calls to action (CTAs). Details about the many ways to support the organization and its dogs were difficult to find. Volunteer content was confusing and lacked information about current opportunities or how to sign up.
And although analytics indicated that almost 60% of RAGOM’s site visitors were mobile users, the legacy website was not mobile friendly.
Information architect, UX writer, content writer
I kicked off the relaunch project by auditing legacy content and working with volunteer team managers to identify missing information. RAGOM volunteers know a great deal about their roles but aren’t comfortable writing about them. So, I either interviewed volunteers or asked them to provide notes or bullet points.
The updated RAGOM style guide set the tone as “humble, friendly, and engaging” with a “knowledgeable, approachable, and dependable” personality. Language was specified as “simple, direct, and nonjudgmental.”
In addition to writing new content and optimizing all existing content for readability and SEO, I overhauled the information architecture and navigation. I then created wireframes and a prototype for a fully responsive website. A visual designer specified type treatment and header/footer elements.
By researching the websites of several well-known rescue organizations, I validated terms that were commonly used and would resonate with site users. These rescues also employed a fairly consistent navigation pattern, and I adapted the RAGOM menus to align closely with this standard.
Primary goals for the new RAGOM website:
- Help potential adopters evaluate suitable dogs
- Increase donations and support
- Recruit volunteers
EVALUATE SUITABLE DOGS
I worked closely with RAGOM’s placement team—the volunteers who handle adoption inquiries and applications. They often have the unpleasant task of telling applicants why they won’t be considered for a particular dog or explaining RAGOM’s strict requirements for former breeder dogs (the majority of dogs surrendered to RAGOM).
The new version of the Adoptable Dogs list page visually highlights the dogs still available for adoption (and not in hospice, closed to new applications, or pending adoption).
To help potential adopters create a “short list” of dogs that are potentially a good fit for their lifestyle and home, I introduced filters and a sort option on the Adoptable Dogs page.
As each dog’s page is viewed, the dog’s thumbnail photo, name, and high-level details are added to the “You Recently Viewed” panel, a feature I introduced.
To help users evaluate dogs, I designed the dog bio page template to consistently present myriad details (age, weight, breed, gender, foster location, and adoption fee). I also introduced icons to draw attention to the dog’s requirements (children, other dogs, cats, fence, and exercise).
For example, a family with a resident cat can easily identify a “cat-friendly” dog by the smiling cat icon. The desktop view displays explanatory labels next to the icons. These same labels appear on mobile devices when an icon is tapped.
We discovered that some users reviewed a simple list of a dog’s requirements but didn’t read more detailed content—and vice versa. The new template includes both content types at the top of all dogs’ bio pages.
The AT A GLANCE section prominently presents the many details in a format that is easy to consume. The new PROFILE section includes the reason the dog came to RAGOM and explains the dog’s requirements in more detail.
A dog’s bio page also includes foster updates regarding the dog’s health, progress, and recommendations for a home environment best suited for the dog’s needs and personality. The most recent update appears at the top (legacy site users had to scroll to the bottom) and can be expanded and collapsed.
To help RAGOM’s foster families provide information for the dog bio pages and the placement team, I designed a Google form. I also established readability guidelines for writing dog updates, such as using short sentences and paragraphs, and replacing RAGOM acronyms and rescue jargon with words the general public will understand.
INCREASE DONATIONS AND SUPPORT
The Ways to Give page includes strong CTAs and communicates the many ways to support RAGOM. I also collaborated with the fundraising and CRM technology vendor to minimize distractions during the donation checkout flow.
RAGOM would not exist without its dedicated volunteers and must continually recruit new volunteers as its reach and services expand. The Volunteer landing page features primary volunteer functions, links to other roles and openings, and Why We Volunteer content to encourage interest.
In addition to the information architecture, content, and UX work, I collaborated with the Drupal developer to align my content model with CMS templates to efficiently distribute relevant content across multiple pages.
We tested the new information architecture, navigation, and key content pages with two primary groups: dedicated RAGOM supporters familiar with the old site and users who had never visited the site.
This exercise helped fine-tune the new navigation. For example, all dogs (adoptable, adopted, and deceased) and adoption information fell under the same primary navigation label, which I originally labeled “Our Dogs.”
However, both test groups found this confusing and weren’t sure where to look for the dogs available for adoption. (Yes, I scratched my head over this one.) When we changed the label to “Adopt” users easily found the dogs and the adoption content.
Dedicated donors, former RAGOM adopters, and fans who follow RAGOM dogs all praised the ease of finding—and reading—the new site content. Mobile users were particularly thrilled.
Because the new Adoptable Dogs list page visually highlights dogs that are actively available for adoption, the number of potential adopters submitting apps for unavailable dogs has dropped dramatically.
The consistency and clarity of a dog’s details presented in the new dog bio template helps potential adopters select dogs that fit their homes and lifestyles. This reduces frustration for placement volunteers and potential adopters.
It was difficult to attribute increased donations and volunteer sign-ups entirely to the new website launch, because social media fundraising and volunteering campaigns ran at the same time. However, once donors or volunteers become aware of RAGOM, they find a website that is easy to navigate and read.
See more samples of my work below. In addition to writing/editing, I selected and formatted all images (sourced from RAGOM volunteer photographers).