AER Website Redesign - More Effectively Helping Soldiers to Help Their Own
Challenge: Founded in 1942, Army Emergency Relief (AER) is a non-profit, charitable organization independent of, but closely associated with, the United States Army. It's motto is Soldiers Helping Soldiers, and it offers aid to military members and their families through financial assistance, interest-free loans and scholarships.
The immediate challenges facing the existing AER website were as follows:
No online assistance application, forcing soldiers and their families to go to phsysical AER office locations
Lots of complicated, non-actionable procedural content
Lack of timely content coupled with and overall dated and static appearance
As such, AER was looking for a website redesign which would not only allow it to more effectively communicate with soldiers and their families, but would strengthen its overall brand and make it a trusted resource for active and retired military personnel.
Solution: Create an online presence that connects with today’s diverse AER audience(s) to increases applications for assistance, scholarships and donations by:
Communicating the AER story in a way that relates to the individuals needs and reinforces the AER brand of “helping soldiers”.
Promoting AER as the go-to option for individuals seeking emergency assistance, making donations to support soldiers, and applying fo scholarships for military families.
Positioning AER as a partner and trusted adviser in soldiers' financial well-being.
Specifically, this meant creating a website that would become the personality and face for Army Emergency Relief which would:
Offer compelling content that resonates with audiences
Have a modern look and feel that is strong but honest and approachable
Be actionable, offering online applications, timely news and social media, and simple yet effective navigation
Use staggered calls-to-action and messaging to help increase conversions
Utilize effective methods of promoting AER's key differentiators to educate and grow their audience
Redesigned Website: http://www.aerhq.org/
Competitive Analysis Charting
Working off of of a comparison matrix that I developed, I charted AER against its competitors in the areas of scholarships, donations and financial assistance.
Competitive Analysis Screenshots
I visually captured examples of what I had described in the comparison matrix to give the client an idea of what competitors were doing on their websites.
I spoke with AER Officers who work at the local AER offices about their processes, their clients and what they thought of the existing website and how it could be improved.
Existing Site Content Audit
I conducted an audit to help me assess what changes had to be made to site contact during the redesign to improve organizational messaging to its clients.
The heuristic analysis allowed me identify potential usability issues that we would need to solve when we did our redesign.
By looking at user statistics, I was able to formulate four distinct personas in order to reliably and realistically focus on the major needs and expectations of the most important user groups.
Once I had established the personas, it was time to map each of their journeys through their experience with AER in order to closely examine all the facets of that interaction.
I examined the existing AER website and mapped its structure and page relationships in order to understand what content would have to be accounted for in the redesign, and how it could be restructured to better let AER reach its customers.
Brainstorming and Prototyping
I and my colleagues did sketches and more sketches on paper and on whiteboards, trying to nail down ideas on what the redesigned site would look like.
Once the design phase started, almost all of my work revolved around wireframe ideas for both the desktop and mobile versions of the AER site.
In order to show you some of the ideas we worked with.
Even More Wireframes
We also needed to consider the use of online forms on our site.
Iterate Until It's Right
A wireframe we actually showed at a client meeting.
We also had to consider how our wireframes would translate to hand held devices.