Bringing out the uniqueness of Validia – also in digital form
“Each life is valuable.”
For physically or mentally disabled people, having a life that “looks like them” is sometimes reached through the support and help of others. This is what the professionals at Validia Housing and Validia Rehabilitation set out to achieve already decades ago. To ease the users’ lives also in the digital regime, it had become obvious that some modernisation and restructuring needed to be done to the websites as well.
User needs in focus
As it so happened the Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities, that both Validia Housing and Validia Rehabilitation are part of, had just renewed their website in partnership with Exove and were willing to share the codebase to be used by Validia. This meant that all the basic functionalities could be conducted cost effectively and focus of the project could be directed to the user needs and how the content is presented.
With the core features already taken care of, the goals for the project were determined to be
- Ease of use
- Great user experience
- Creation of sales opportunities
“How do we ensure that not only our customers, but their families and also municipal level decision makers, will find the information and services that is most relevant to them?”
Professional and caring at heart
Usability and accessibility were identified as key focus points that would help us reach the project goals. As such it was only natural to involve the users from the very beginning. This meant engaging customers, their loved ones, municipality level decision makers and Validia staff into a co-creation process that included tools such as one-on-one interviews, workshop sessions and intensive prototype testing days.
Throughout this process we were able to define that which makes Validia unique – a high level of professionalism and caring atmosphere in which the services are provided. These core values were turned into design drivers, that together with mobile first approach, challenged the whole project team to prioritize and simplify both the content as well as the features that were developed for the site.
Thea Reikko: “I’m especially happy with how broadly you took into account the different wishes of each company. The solution-oriented taken by Paavo and Nelli when approaching tricky challenges and the ability to solve them was impressive.”
Accessibility, ease of navigation and simple functionalities
The site built upon the results of the co-creation process is truly based on the user needs but at the same time also takes into account the business goals. With generous cross-linking and carefully placed highlights we were able to keep information intuitive and easy to find throughout the site. The structure of the site is easy to learn as most of the elements are kept simple and consistent – vital for users with disabilities. The impact and value of the provided services are communicated using carefully created stories, images and service descriptions.
As with the Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities the platform for this project was Drupal 8. Throughout the co-creation process the technology stack and features already developed in the previous process were kept in mind. This way we were able to reuse as much of the solution as possible with minimal tweaks, such as content types, SOLR search and integrations to the Laura recruitment system. Taking this approach from the start, along with a rigorous use of agile development methods, we were able to pack an impressive amount of features into the site all while keeping it accessible as per WCAG AA, user friendly for both editors and visitors and the project itself both on budget and schedule.
“This was one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on during my Exove career.”
Our team of experts were asked what they found interesting during this project. Here are the top highlights:
Paavo, Tech Lead:
“For me as a tech lead, it was technically interesting to build a Drupal multisite”
Nelli, Frontend Developer:
“Yeah and making one theme to work with two (or actually three!) sites. Also the fact that we used the Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities site as a base meant that we didn’t need to invent the whole wheel again but could focus on improving the site where it was necessary, making it more efficient for us and cheaper for the client. I also enjoyed being part of the project from day 1 and having the possibility to get to know the client and even some of the end users.”
Teemu, Visual Designer:
“For me the ways of working and the intensity of the design phase was exciting. Having hands-on workshops and user testing days, where we actually got to know the final users and their needs was a joy and gave the insight needed to make working designs.
Jonathan, Project Manager:
“Getting to work with two companies as clients on one project was an interesting challenge and balancing act for all of us. While quite similar there were of course minor differences that needed to be figured out and taken into account. From a project management perspective this was one of the smoothest projects I’ve been a part of, a testament to taking a co-creation and partnership approach, involving client, design and development, from the get-go.”
Heidi, Service Designer:
“Actually seeing how using the mobile first approach helped our clients to not only prioritize but also simplify the content so that it would respond to the user needs and not only be the organizational jargon.”
Challenging the team to really meet the user needs
What really made the most out of the user research, the prototype, and eventually the sites was the “deam-team” setup with constant communication, suggesting of solutions and solving problems together. For us at Exove one of the notable takeaways of the project was hearing all those stories of how Validia has helped people to get better or have a life that is theirs to live with the help they need. It has been inspiring and a great honour to work for such an important matter.