Strategy, Design & Development
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London. The institute is a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world for all.
Chatham House, with support from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, have launched an interactive directory of experts from Russia, the Eastern Partnership and Central Asia region to re-energise media conversations with a more diverse set of voices.
Political developments in the region reverberate beyond its borders, but only a small pool of local voices have had the opportunity to shape international media reporting on the region.
In 2012-2020, the Robert Bosch Stiftung Academy Fellowship at Chatham House has done a great deal to address this by raising the profile of 18 emerging experts (nine men and nine women) from the region. Chatham House has chosen to build on this work by launching a digital directory to amplify the influence of fresh voices in international debates and policy responses.
We were tasked to build a public, open-source directory of experts to be managed, curated and promoted by Chatham House.
In addition to being modern, responsive, accessible and efficient to maintain, the solution, to be named 'Eksperty' needed to:
What is a design sprint? A design sprint is an intensive process of designing, iterating, and testing a prototype over a 4 or 5 day period.
Our design sprint team featured: A UX Designer as the Facilitator, a Strategy Lead, a Tech Lead, two Chatham House Product owners, and seven different 'end-users'.
We began by talking about the problems and agreeing on a problem statement. After which, we carried out four workshops.
"We want to create an expert directory that pushes a new generation of experts in front of the media, because:
As part of the design sprint, we built and tested a prototype. Prototyping and testing ensure our idea is valid before investing in the build. The rapid turnaround also preserves as much budget to build the correct solution, not the first solution.
We took the sketches and storyboards from the workshops to develop an interactive prototype. The prototyping phase takes just one day and balances function and form, with enough detail to validate in testing while keeping costs low.
We conducted remote user testing by asking five participants to partake in cognitive walkthroughs of the one-day wireframes.
The participants included a BBC reporter, Chatham House conference coordinator, international journalist at the City University of London, and an expert in political analysis.
Here is an example of a scenario we used: “Imagine you're a journalist, and you require an expert to talk about domestic politics in Belarus on a TV interview via an online conferencing tool. You come to the Chatham House Expert Directory website to find that expert.”
With enough positive feedback, we moved forward and incorporated any changes into the next round of wireframes and the eventual build.
Already familiar with Drupal 8 from the core Chatham House website, we worked with stakeholders to re-validate that Drupal 8 was the best choice for the directory. Its enterprise-level content management and open-source code base provided the right level of control and flexibility required for the project at hand, and the expanding possibilities the directory might need to handle within just a few years.
Utilising Chatham House’s brand guidelines we built a clean, accessible, user-friendly Drupal front-end and back-end, giving both site managers and users comprehensive, but protected, control over site content.
The Drupal 8 platform was also built with Drupal 9 in mind, ensuring the platform would be ready to upgrade with little effort once the latest version of Drupal met our standards of usability and stability.
Search is prolific across the web. You drop keywords into a database and see results. No issue, right? But if that’s the case, why can search be so painfully frustrating? We regularly see users give up or settle for the sub-par options presented.
When it came to surfacing experts on the political and social issues of the REPCA region, we needed to ensure users could access the most relevant expert, and not be led to contact an expert by the mere featuring of a keyword.
For the search we utilised a Solr search back end integrated with Drupal 8.
This gave us access to the following features:
With these features, we have been able to develop a user-centred search function.
Intelligent keyword matching and user-tested filtering enable journalists and political leaders to see how many experts are available, what are their areas of expertise and quickly narrow their search results down to a manageable set of results.
Through caching, we are also able to maintain fast, responsive searches as the directory grows. Pre-cached search results will grow over time as the solution is used, meaning results are ready as soon as our user hits the search button.
The search listing provides key headline information by showing an expert’s photo, their key areas of expertise, their current location and current role in the space below the search interface. So even at the results page, the listed experts are quickly able to attract a researcher’s attention.
When attempting to create what could essentially be a shop window for some of the brightest minds across the Russia, the Eastern Partnership and Central Asia region, we needed to embed a sense of self-branding. We needed to give users the tools to present and constantly evolve their profile and image. And we needed to make it enjoyable to use.
Experts are able to create a profile, complete with a wide range of media to demonstrate their experience and expertise on the stated areas of expertise, including:
All of our projects undergo rigorous testing, throughout the software development process. In order to deliver the utmost quality for clients and their respective users, our in-house QA team ensure that all end products perform accurately and reliably under normal and abnormal conditions. Testing is followed by continual monitoring of software performance, to prevent reoccurrence of any issues and to ensure efficient ongoing operation.
As such, we were able to confidently deliver a well-designed, scalable and technically stable result.
Chatham House's new Eksperty directory features multiple experts, complete with media rich profiles and an intelligent search function.
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