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A Labour of Love: The Story of the Accountability Initiative Website – Part I

7 Apr 20160 Comment

When the Accountability Initiative reached out to us and asked us if we would help them overhaul their website we were delighted.

The Accountability Initiative is the arm of the Centre for Policy Research that works on tracking fund-flows. We know that the government collects taxes in order to function and keep the country running. We know that every year when the budget is announced, funds are allocated across sectors with the aim of improving public services such as transport, education, garbage collection… that sort of thing.

But we never really know what happens to all the money once it’s been budgeted. That’s where the Accountability Initiative steps in.

The Accountability Initiative – or AI – tracks these funds and how they move through the government machinery, focussing on when (and if) they reach their intended destinations and what the roadblocks or challenges are when they don’t.

They do this through intensive research and field-level surveys where they track quality of service delivery, improvement in services provision, challenges faced by stakeholders and beneficiaries and so on.

Intensive research can only mean one thing – extensive research output. And it was with precisely this brief that AI approached us to overhaul their website.

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AI’s initial brief was one of the clearest we’ve ever received. Apart from knowing their content inside out, they were also crystal clear as to what the purpose of the site was, and what type of content held what priority.

For AI, the website was to be more than just a pretty face – we were going to build a sentient being.

The stages of the website creation process became were apparent soon enough. Given the scale of content we were working with, the first point of order was to create a site map. This was to help both AI and us grasp and categorise the content we were working with. It was also the basis on which we determined the overall site navigation.

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Once we were settled on the site map and the user journey, it was time to move on to design. Usually, we would approach this aspect of a project from a ‘page-type’ perspective i.e. by identifying how many pages there were on the site grouping similar pages into templates. This allows us to not have to recode individual pages. In fact, during the wireframing process, we were convinced that we wouldn’t need more than 8 templates throughout the site.

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However, the content on each page of the site was so unique, and its functionality so specific, that we ended up creating a different page type for each of the 30 pages on the website.

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For a lot of us, the first thing we think of when we think about creating a site (and don’t pretend you’ve never thought of having your own website – even if it’s just a blog!) is how it will look. Not so with AI. While design was important, AI was absolutely clear – at the heart of this website was its functionality.

Which is why, the final approval on the page designs didn’t mean we were nearing the end of the project. It meant we had just made it to the halfway point.

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Stay tuned to find out how we created a site intelligent enough to do justice to our client’s work in next week’s episode of ‘The Story of the Accountability Initiative Website’

In the meantime, click here if you want to poke around the Accountability Initiative website yourself!

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